The 7 Best Places to Live in Scotland
Scotland is a wonderful place to live – it’s got stunning landscapes, a rich history, and it consistently ranks the highest for quality of life out of all the UK nations.
Scotland also has great cuisine, home-made whisky, eclectic music, unique arts and culture on show, and some pretty friendly people. There's definitely more than one reason to move there. But where exactly should you move to?
If you find yourself overwhelmed by choice, then read our guide below. We’ll take you through the seven best places to live in Scotland – from cities to towns, Lowlands to Highlands.
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Best places to live in Scotland – at a glance
The seven best places to live in Scotland are: Edinburgh, Glasgow, the Isle of Bute, North Berwick, Dundee, Inverness, and Stirling. We’ve broken our choices down into what each place is best known for.
Check out a summary in the table below, or keep scrolling for more details.
|Edinburgh||Best for culture|
|Glasgow||Best for work opportunities|
|Isle of Bute||Best for island living|
|North Berwick||Best for retirement|
|Dundee||Best for families|
|Inverness||Best for accessing nature|
|Stirling||Best for affordability|
Best for: Culture
A view of the sun setting from Calton Hill in Edinburgh's Greenside Park
Scotland’s capital city is also one of its oldest. This means Edinburgh has a rich history, and some truly stunning architecture – from the famous Royal Mile, to the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
You’re never short of things to do in Edinburgh either. The city is home to great museums, such as the National Museum of Scotland, and is also known as the world’s leading festival city.
It hosts a number of festivals throughout the year, including the well-known Festival Fringe, an international arts festival that takes place in August. The Festival involves over 2,500 artists, and attracts up to 400,000 people each year.
There’s also a great nightlife scene, which is probably down to the city’s high number of students – they make up around 12% of the total population. You can find a variety of bars and nightclubs, such as Cabaret Voltaire for electronic music. Alternatively, if you’re after more of an intimate atmosphere, head to the Wee Vault – one of the smallest bars in the country.
Don’t want to miss out on Scotland’s natural beauty? Try climbing up King Arthur’s seat in Edinburgh's Holyrood park, or strolling along The Water of Leith, Edinburgh’s largest river.
|Lots of museums and cultural events||High living costs|
|Varied nightlife||Lots of tourists|
|Beautiful parks and architecture||Very competitive rental market so can be difficult to find a flat|
Best for: Work opportunities
Glasgow Cathedral in late spring
As the largest city in Scotland, Glasgow has a lot of job opportunities on offer, with various sectors to explore.
A little under one in four residents are employed in the public sector. Glasgow also has a large services industry that employs around 86% of residents. The fastest growing industries are the communications sector, and the science and tech sector, according to a 2021 Glasgow City Region report.
The city also has high salaries, with the median salary falling at £34,421 a year, not far behind London’s £41,900. The cost of living in Glasgow, however, is around 34% cheaper than in London.
Glaswegians aren’t all work and no play though. The city is also a cultural hub for its famously friendly inhabitants.
Glasgow was named a ‘City of Music’ by UNESCO in 2008 – the first in the UK. It hosts around 130 music events each week, from big events in iconic venues, such as the Barrowland Ballroom, to small intimate shows in local bars.
You can also find food from around the world in Glasgow’s many restaurants and cafes, as well as local favourites. The city even boasts some Michelin-star restaurants. It’s also one of the UK’s most vegetarian – and vegan-friendly cities – so there’s truly something for everyone.
|World-famous music scene||Public transport network can be limited in some areas|
|More affordable than other large cities in the UK||High crime rates compared to other Scottish cities|
|Lots of work opportunities||Local accent can be hard to understand for some expats|
3. Isle of Bute, Argyll
Best for: Island living
Rothesay harbor at sunset in the summer
The Isle of Bute is pretty dainty, measuring only 15 miles long and five miles wide – but it has a lot going for it.
Straddling the Lowlands and Highlands divide, Bute has an incredibly diverse landscape, including sandy beaches, grassy hills, moorlands, and forest.
If you like hiking, cycling, fishing, kayaking, or even snorkelling, then this is the place for you. Bute is also great for stargazing, and on clear nights on the east side, you might even catch sight of the Aurora Borealis (more commonly known as the Northern Lights).
The town and villages on Bute don’t disappoint either. Rothesay, the main town on the island, is a Victorian resort town that is still in full splendour. The west side of the island is less built up, but you can find several mediaeval ruins to explore.
There is a decent amount of shops, restaurants, and cafes on Bute, where you can buy local produce. And if you want a break from the island, you can easily take a 35 minute ferry ride to the mainland, and either take the train or drive from there.
|Beautiful beaches and greenery||Accessible for an island, but still a 35-minute ferry to the mainland|
|Peaceful atmosphere||Its seasonal economy means getting a job might be difficult during the winter|
|Fresh local produce||No highstreet stores or shopping centres|
4. North Berwick, East Lothian
Best for: Retirement
The sun shining on the houses by the beach in North Berwick
North Berwick is a coastal town, located to the east of Edinburgh. Although small, it has the advantage of only being a 30-minute train journey away from the big city, whilst also maintaining a peaceful, rural atmosphere, complete with beautiful beaches.
This small town is also known for being a close-knit community – ideal for retirees. It has lots of clubs for a variety of hobbies, including walking, gardening, and even photography. It also has a community centre that hosts a lot of activities and events throughout the year.
Visitors can explore its bustling high street, which has both chain stores and local independent businesses. It’s known for its eclectic mix of trendy cafes, classic pubs, and traditional fish and chips shops, owing to the town’s mix of both young and old residents.
Looking for a way to pass the time? Try walking along North Berwick’s stunning coastline, playing at its numerous golf courses, and visiting the Scottish Seabird Centre.
There are a number of retirement flats on the market, though North Berwick’s growing popularity has raised housing prices a little. The average two-bedroom cost around £225,000, which is more than Scotland’s average house price of £195,391.
|Close-knit community||Housing prices are slightly more expensive than the national average|
|Only a 30-minute train journey away from Edinburgh||No major hospital in the town|
|Beautiful coastal scenery|
Best for: Families
A view of the river Dundee's River Tay on a sunny summer day
Dundee is the fourth-largest city in Scotland, and is a favourite for new families for a number of reasons.
For starters, it’s affordable. The average house costs £176,635 according to Rightmove, which is below the UK average of £294,000. Its efficient bus network also makes it easy to get around, as it goes around the city with limited traffic on the roads.
There are plenty of green spaces in Dundee – the largest being Camperdown Country Park, where kids can enjoy outdoor activities. This is great, considering Dundee is Scotland’s sunniest city. If you’re looking for more activities to take your little ones to, you’ll be pleased to know there are also plenty of museums, such as the Dundee V&A, to venture round.
Dundee also has a large number of schools to choose from, 11 secondary schools and 35 primary schools. St. John’s RC High and Harris Academy are the best secondary schools in the city centre, and Monifieth High and Grove Academy are the highest-ranking schools in the outskirts of Dundee.
The downside to Dundee is that, like Glasgow, it has a high crime rate, compared to other Scottish towns and cities. However, but this really depends on the neighbourhood you’re located in.
|Lots of green spaces||High crime rate in some neighbourhoods|
|Affordable housing||Lots of schools, but no top-ranking ones|
|It’s the sunniest city in Scotland||Not much to do outside of the city centre|
Best for: Accessing nature
A view of the River Ness from Inverness Castle
Nicknamed ‘the capital of the Scottish Highlands’, Inverness has often been ranked as one of the happiest places to live in Scotland by Rightmove. It’s an excellent base for those wanting to explore nature but avoid the isolation of more rural areas.
Why is this city so great for nature lovers? For starters, Inverness is close to some of Scotland’s most spectacular landscapes, such as Loch Ness, the Cairngorms, and the UK’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis. And, because it's located near the Moray Firth, you’ll have access to both mountains and beaches.
Inverness is also well connected to other Highland areas, such as Fort William and Newronmore, and also has direct trains to Edinburgh and Aberdeen – though the journey can be between 2.5 and five hours long.
|Natural landscapes on your doorstep||Dark and cold winters|
|Low crime rate compared to other cities||Not as much to do within the city as other big cities|
|High quality of life||Several hours train ride to get to other major cities|
Best for: Affordability
Sunlight falling of the tip of a tree in Stirling's city centre
Stirling was ranked as one of the most affordable UK cities to live in by Halifax in 2021 – possibly one of the reasons why it’s reportedly one of the happiest cities to live in the UK, according to a Rightmove survey.
This popular commuter town is only a quick train or car ride away from both Glasgow and Edinburgh, with journeys only taking between 30 minutes and an hour. This means residents can enjoy the significantly lower cost of living in Stirling, whilst also accessing other major cities.
The average house price in Stirling is £214,570, which is cheaper when compared to the Edinburgh average of £331,722. Transportation is also around 20% cheaper in Stirling than in Edinburgh or Glasgow, as is eating out.
Sometimes referred to as a ‘miniature Edinburgh’, Stirling was once the capital of Scotland. The city also has some striking mediaeval and 15th-century architecture of its own – especially in the Old Town, where you can find Stirling Castle.
|Low cost of living||Not many nightlife options|
|Close to Edinburgh and Glasgow||Limited public transport network within the city|
The best place to live in Scotland: the verdict
Scotland has a lot to offer – whether you’re looking to get closer to nature, settle down with your family, or experience the excitement of Scotland’s vibrant cities.
Hopefully this article has given you some inspiration, and has helped you to choose your new home.
To recap, the seven best places to live in Scotland are:
- Edinburgh: Best for culture
- Glasgow: Best work opportunities
- Isle of Bute: Best island to live on
- North Berwick: Best for retirement
- Dundee: Best for families
- Inverness: Best for accessing nature
- Stirling: Best for affordability
Our top pick for the best place to live in Scotland is Edinburgh. Why? Although it’s an expensive place to live, its size and diversity mean it truly has something for everyone. It has quiet family neighbourhoods, lively bars and clubs, a coastline, and giant parks.
Once you’ve decided where you want to live in Scotland, you can use our short form to get free shipping quotes and find out how much it’ll cost to get your things out there. All you have to do is tell us where you’re shipping your belongings from and where you’re moving to, and our professional suppliers will be in touch.