In part one of our whirlwind guide to Scotland’s seven cities, we visited Inverness, Aberdeen, and Dundee. This time we meet the remaining four cities. Our small jewels, Perth, and Stirling offer up some wonderful delights, while our two big hitters, Glasgow, and Edinburgh have plenty to do and see. We also introduce you to Scotland's newest city- Dunfermline.
Grab your jacket – we’re ready to go…
Known as both ‘the Fair City’, and the ‘Gateway to the Highlands’, Perth has played a pivotal role in Scottish history. The city is Situated on the River Tay, in the heart of Central Scotland. It’s been a crossroads, a home to ancient Kings of Scots, and an important market and trading centre for generations.
Though it was only granted city status in 2012, Perth's residents have long regarded themselves as city dwellers. Now a centre for Scotland’s financial industries, its early wealth came from the production of linen, leather, bleach, and whisky.
Perth is a delight for food fans, named Scotland's first Food Town in 2018 by the Scottish Food Awards. Architecture fans won’t be disappointed either. The city features many fine Georgian buildings bringing both joy and symmetry to the eye.
Small, but vibrant, generations of Scots have carried the regions name and fame far. Cities in Australia, Tasmania, and Canada, all share the Perth name.
A wonderful place to work, rest, and play, it offers a fantastic range of independent shops, restaurants, and delis, as well as traditional pubs, serving up fabulous local fare.
When the sun shines, make a picnic, and relax in the riverside South Inch Park. You can follow the city’s Riverside Public Art Trail, or climb nearby Kinnoull Hill, for a spectacular view across the city and shire.
If the weather is less kind, visit the city’s Museum and Art Gallery, the Ferguson Gallery, or nearby Scone Palace, once the coronation spot for generations of Kings of Scots.
The city also provides a perfect base to explore more of Scotland. To find out more, and plan your visit, see: Perth City | Perth, Live Life Well | Explore Perthshire
Situated on the border between the highlands and lowlands, Stirling is both an ancient and a modern city. It sits on the banks of the River Forth, and was once a principal royal stronghold of the Kingdom of Scotland. The city is dominated by its magnificent Medieval castle, whose roots date back to the 1100s. Stand on the castle ramparts, and you can enjoy uninterrupted views all the way to the magnificent Wallace Monument.
Close to the site of the famous Battle of Bannockburn (1314) and boasting a fascinating Old Town, Stirling isn’t all about history. Its university, founded in 1967, is often cited as having one of the most beautiful campuses in the UK. There are 120 nationalities represented on the university campus, with 19% of students coming from overseas. It has grown into a major research centre, with its large Innovation Park now home to forty companies.
So scenic is the Old Town that, turn any corner, and you might recognise a location from one of the city’s many big-screen cameos. Culture lovers will enjoy a visit to the Smith Art Gallery and Museum. Architecture fans will love The Engine Shed, Scotland’s dedicated building conservation centre. If history is more your thing, The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Regimental Museum tells the story of one of Scotland’s most famous fighting forces.
For whisky, golf, or general outdoor fans, Stirling also provides the ideal base to explore the Trossachs. One of Scotland’s most scenic and historically rich regions, you should definitely take some time to explore all it has to offer.
Plan your visit at Stirling - Holidays, Breaks & Tourist Information | VisitScotland
Once the heartland of industrial Scotland, today, the country’s largest, most diverse city, Glasgow is a place of art, culture, and sport.
Glasgow is a friendly melting pot of peoples and styles and boasts some of the finest Victorian architecture in the UK. Known as the ‘Dear Green Place’ it is also a city full of parks, having the second-highest amount of green space of any UK city.
Globally famed for its art and live music scenes, the city boasts a wealth of world-famous municipal galleries and museums. Glasgow also has some of the UK’s top music and clubbing venues, including the famous Barrowland Ballroom, and King Tut’s Wah Hut.
Want to study? Glasgow boasts three world-renowned universities, the famous Mackintosh School of Art, and is home to over 50,000 students from around the world. Many overseas students who come to study fall in love with the city. They stay on to work, raise families, and build businesses in Glasgow. That explains why it has the largest economy in Scotland and the third-highest GDP per capita of any city in the UK.
It is Scotland’s biggest city for business conferences and events. In 2021 Glasgow hosted the globally important COP26 climate change summit and UEFA Euro 2020. The city has a wide variety of accommodation, from five-star hotels, and hostels, to small, family-run bed and breakfasts.
The city’s slogan is ‘People Make Glasgow’. See Visit Glasgow - People Make Glasgow to find out why.
Scotland’s ‘festival city’, and both the ancient and modern seat of government, Scotland’s capital city is a place of many moods, accents, ideas, and innovations.
Dominated by its famous castle, looking out over both the Old Town and the elegant Georgian New Town, a climb to the top of the Royal Mile is the best way to get your bearings in this most magical of cities (Harry Potter was written here!).
The city was the birthplace of the 18th century Scottish Enlightenment. The philosophical, social, legal, and economic ideas first formed in Edinburgh still make and shape our modern world.
The city's many historical and cultural attractions have made it the UK's second-most visited tourist destination, attracting over 4.9m visitors every year. Come festival season in August, the city’s population almost doubles, with performers, and audiences drawn in from across the world.
Affectionately nicknamed Auld Reekie (old smoky) for the many chimneys that once cast a cloud over the city, today, stiff breezes off the Firth of Forth scour the air and keep the skyline clean, revealing fabulous views towards Fife, the Pentland Hills, and down the coast of West Lothian.
Home to Scotland’s National Galleries, and Museums, Edinburgh packs a mighty cultural punch 52 weeks of the year. From the literary and artistic salons of the New Town to the poets’ and folk music pubs of the Old Town, push through the door, take your coat off, sit down – the city is always ready to offer you a warm welcome.
In summer, relax and explore the Meadows park, or the city’s famed Royal Botanic Gardens. In winter, find yourself a cosy pub, café, or restaurant in which to thaw out. There, you’ll hear voices and accents from around the world.
One thing’s for sure, once Edinburgh has cast its spell over you, you’ll want to come back, again, and again.
Make the most of our capital city by planning your trip at The Official Guide to Edinburgh - Forever Edinburgh
Scotland’s newest city is, by a quirk of history, also one of our most ancient. Granted full city status in May 2022, to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, the Fife city’s royal links run deep. It was the burial place of seven kings of Scotland, including Robert the Bruce.
These royal links date back to the 11th century when Malcolm III married the Anglo-Hungarian princess, Saint Margaret, in Dunfermline. For the next 300 years, Dunfermline would serve as the de-facto capital of Scotland.
One of Dunfermline’s most famous residents was the Scots/American industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919). He used his vast fortune to build more than 3,000 public libraries around the world, with the first Carnegie Library opening in his hometown – Dunfermline. And don’t think New York is the only city in the world with a Carnegie Hall; yes Dunfermline has a Carnegie Hall of its own.
Today, the city is a regional centre for banking and finance, and a dormitory for nearby Edinburgh. It’s also home to the largest Amazon warehouse in Scotland, responsible for dispatching parcels across the UK.
Find out more about Scotland’s newest city at Dunfermline Visitor Guide - Accommodation, Things To Do & More | VisitScotland.