Edinburgh Skyline



City Slickers – Scotland's Best Cities

Written by: Linda Jackson

scotland shopping
You can't beat Scotland
for shopping

Rich in history and heritage, Scotland boasts six cosmopolitan cities bursting with vitality. The most prominent are Edinburgh with its imposing castle centrepiece and Glasgow, a lively, stylish hub reflecting the vibrancy of a busy modern city. Further afield we find Inverness, capital of the Highlands; Dundee, the City of Discovery, Stirling, gateway to the Highlands; and Aberdeen, the majestic Granite City.

Declassified as a city in the mid-1970s Perth is currently making a bid to reinstate its city status and hopes this will take place in 2010 - the 800th Anniversary of the granting of the Royal Burgh Charter to Perth by King William the Lion of Scotland in 1210.

So be inspired, take a city break! Explore Scotland’s cities and experience history around every corner, an amazing range of galleries and museums, striking architecture, plentiful shopping opportunities and of course … the best in hospitality.


Aberdeen Town House

In a region that boasts more castles per acre than anywhere in the UK and with sparkling granite architecture, Aberdeen sits in the heart of whisky country and borders a fine two-mile white sand beach that stretches from the harbour entrance to the mouth of the River Don.

Known as the “silver” or “granite” city because of its architecture, Aberdeen has some impressive edifices including the turreted Town House in Union Street, the striking gothic Marischal College (world’s second largest granite structure) and the castellated Citadel at The Castlegate.

Known as the “silver” or “granite” city because of its architecture, Aberdeen has some impressive edifices

One of Aberdeen’s key attractions is Provost Skene’s House, a fine example of early burgh architecture (1545) housing a series of elegant period room settings; for a light snack, pop into The Cellar.

Other “must visits” is Aberdeen Art Gallery (1885) where free lunchtime concerts are also often held, and the sleek modern Maritime Museum with massive ships and floors of nautical history.

Aberdeen Union Street

For shopping, head for the “Granite Mile” (Union Street) with its individual outlets and indoor shopping centres, or the West End for designer shops and unique boutiques. A popular annual event is Aberdeen’s Winter Festival International Street Market (20-22 November 2009) featuring over 60 stalls with a wide array of products from the UK and Europe.

Stay at:

Prestigious Marcliffe Hotel, three miles from the city centre; a five-star hotel nestling in eleven acres of beautiful wooded grounds.


Dundee Law

The best way to see Dundee is from the top of Dundee Law, an extinct volcano formed around 400 million years ago. An Iron Age Hill Fort, prehistoric graves, and Roman pottery have been uncovered on its slopes and, at a height of 572ft stunning panoramic views can be enjoyed... well worth the climb.


RRS Discovery

Built in Dundee over 100 years ago, Robert Falcon Scott’s Antarctic exploration vessel, RRS Discovery (one of the last wooden three-mast sailing ships to be built in Britain) is berthed in the city harbour and in whose honour the city of Dundee is promoted as the “City of Discovery”. The Discovery Point Antarctic Museum with a fascinating array of historical artefacts is based around this impressive ship. Dundee is also famed for jute; discover its history at Verdant Works, a restored jute mill from the 1830s - a fascinating museum and heritage centre.

Dundee is also famed for jute; discover its history at Verdant Works.

Catch up with the City’s vibrant cultural programme at Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA). A well established part of Scotland’s art scene, the Centre is art-cinema-bar-restaurant rolled into one lively five-floor building. For shopping visit Dundee’s water-front City Quay for designer factory outlets and the pedestrianised High Street for shopping centres.

Stay at:


Edinburgh Castle

One of the most beautiful cities in Europe and the most spectacular of settings, lively cosmopolitan Edinburgh needs little introduction. The medieval lanes, elegant terraces, hidden kirkyards, stepped and narrow alleys beg to be explored by foot. Most of Edinburgh’s top sights, finest restaurants, best shops, are all within 20 minutes walk of the central station. 

Edinburgh from Calton Hill

There are fantastic vistas from the ramparts of Edinburgh Castle which dominates the skyline, and from Arthur’s Seat, a peak of 820ft, that forms part of Holyrood Park - a wild piece of landscape in the centre of the city.

The medieval lanes, elegant terraces, hidden kirkyards, stepped and narrow alleys beg to be explored by foot.

Shop in George Street, one of Edinburgh’s smartest shopping thoroughfares; in Harvey Nichols; or in Multrees Walk the city’s ‘designer boulevard’. Take traditional afternoon tea in the Exchange Bar at the Sheraton Edinburgh Hotel or experience Hammams, Laconiums, rainforest showers and a rooftop Hydropool at the Sheraton’s One Spa complex.

Stay at:


Buchanan Street Shopping

Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art

Home to Scottish Opera and Scottish Ballet, Glasgow also boasts some of the country’s finest art collections. It is also home to Glasgow’s celebrated architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928) whose style adorns many attractions and who played a key role in shaping European Art Nouveau movement.

Visit the House for an Art Lover (Bellahouston Park); Scotland Street School (Kinning Park); and, in the heart of the city in Sauchiehall Street, the Willow Tea Rooms. Designed by Mackintosh in 1904, the tearooms offer all-day breakfasts, lunches and afternoon teas as well as scrumptious Scottish savoury and fish dishes. 

The newly refurbished Kelvingrove Art Galleries and The Burrell Collection are not to be missed.  

Glasgow’s main streets all house excellent shopping malls; do not miss St Enoch’s Centre, The Buchanan Galleries or the delightful Princes Square. First class café culture can be found at the Italian Centre, Merchant City and the Gallery of Modern Art. 

Stay at:


Inverness Footbridge

Spectacular scenery surrounds the small compact city of Inverness. Overlooked by the Castle (thought to be haunted) on one side of the river and, on the other, the Scottish Episcopal Cathedral, Inverness is justly proud of its reputation as Capital of the Highlands. To connect with the heritage of the Highlands, visit the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery at the foot of Castle Hill.

Easy to walk around with a wealth of historic buildings to explore, Inverness is picturesquely located on the banks of the River Ness


While Inverness does not compete with the large shopping malls of Scotland’s larger cities, the city’s quirky outlets in the Victorian Market in the Old Town are a real find. Leakey’s Second Hand Bookshop (and Bistro) sells old, rare second-hand books, maps and great coffee; and James Pringle Weavers, a working factory site mill shop offer the chance to stock up on tartans, knitwear and gifts.

Victorian Market in the Old Town

On a chilly day a visit to The Floral Hall, Gardens and Coffee Shop (a 30-minute walk from the city centre along the river bank) is a warming treat with its climatically-controlled glass house. This innovative attraction features winding pathways, sub-tropical plants and an award-winning range of succulents.

Stay at:

  • Rocpool Reserve Hotel in the centre of the city; it’s an exclusive modern, stunning hideaway.
  • Boath House (20 miles), an eight-bedroom Georgian mansion set in 20acres of gardens near Nairn.


William Wallace

The historical city of Stirling stands in a strategically important position on the River Forth. Its castle, mostly dating back to the period 1496-1583, sits high on a volcanic rock dominating the skyline.

When Scotland and England fought the Battle of Stirling Bridge, hero and patriot William Wallace led Scotland to victory.

Home of Stuart kings and Mary Queen of Scots, captured by Bruce, besieged by Bonnie Prince Charlie, Stirling Castle is at the heart of much of Scotland’s history and is visible from miles around. Allow several hours to explore the battlements, Renaissance courtyards, Royal apartments, and kitchens; and to enjoy the commanding views of countryside and over battlegrounds (Battle of Stirling Bridge 1297, and Battle of Bannockburn 1314).

The National Wallace Monument stands proudly on the Abbey Craig overlooking the city. Venture to the top of the Monument for breathtaking views of Ben Lomond, Forth Valley, the Ochil and Pentland Hills.

Stirling Castle

Stirling has several self-guided walks around the city: the ‘Back Walk’ runs along the 16th century town walls, through wooded slopes at the back of the Castle Rock, ending at the Esplanade; and the ‘Old Town Walk’, taken by cattle and kings in the past, passes the Church of the Holy Rude and Stirling Old Town Jail.

Walks range from history trails to ghost tours and a personal ‘guidebook’ can be created from the Official Guide to Stirling website.

Stay at:

Gleneagles Hotel, home to three top Scottish golf courses and a wide range of leisure pursuits, located 19 miles from Stirling in 850 acres of glorious countryside.


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