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Historic Towns of Scotland

From the time of the 12th-cenury King David I onwards, towns in Scotland were given ‘burgh’ status. Some early burghs include Aberdeen, Elgin, Edinburgh, Peebles, Lanark and Inverness. These ‘royal burghs’ were decreed by the monarch and were given many commercial privileges by way of trading and markets. This, naturally, was in the interests of the Crown, as a source of revenue. In addition, later feudal lords were given the right to nominate their communities as ‘Burghs of Barony’ and keep some of the fees levied.

Some of Scotland’s towns still show key features of the old burghs, by way of street layouts, as in Elgin, St Andrews or Perth, and street names such as ‘Kirk Wynd’ (church lane) or in surviving words such as ‘pend’ meaning a vaulted passage.

Other symbols of the old burghs are the Mercat Cross (where Mercat is Scots for market) and the Tolbooth. The Mercat Cross was the commercial heart of the burgh - where markets were held and also where important civic announcements were made, as in Edinburgh to this day. The Tolbooth was usually part administrative centre, part prison. See interesting examples at, for example, Stirling and – especially picturesque – Crail in Fife.

Look out for Scottish towns with a different origin. Generally called ‘planned towns’ their street layout often shows a symmetry or grid pattern. Some were part of a (mostly) 18th-century trend by landowners to improve their estates – and ‘tidy up’ their tenants! Fochabers, Cullen, Aberlour and Inveraray are good examples. Other towns came about for specific economic reasons – for example, Ullapool and Tobermory were founded by the British Fisheries Society in order to exploit local fish stocks.
 

 

Shetland Orkney Northern Highlands Western Isles Skye & Lochalsh Inverness, Loch Ness & Nairn Aberdeen & Grampian Highlands Aviemore and the Cairngorms Fort William & Lochaber Argyll & Bute Perthshire, Angus & Dundee Loch Lomond, Stirling & the Trossachs Ayrshire, Arran & Clyde Valley Glasgow Dumfries & Galloway Kingdom of Fife Lothians & Borders Edinburgh

 

Tobermory

© Copyright David Hayes Historic Towns »

From the time of the 12th-cenury King David I onwards, towns in Scotland were given ‘burgh’ status. Some early burghs include Aberdeen, Elgin, Edinburgh, Peebles, Lanark and Inverness.

Towns & Villages »

Some still retain their mediaeval street-plan, others were built to the grand plans of ambitious lairds and landowners - discover the fascinating story of Scotland's towns.

Scottish Abbeys, Churches & Cathedrals »

From simple Norman chapels to splendid abbeys and handsome parish churches with fascinating graveyards - Scotland's Christian heritage covers over a thousand years.

Historic Sites & Monuments »

Great stone circles, elaborate burial cairns, rock faces carved with abstract designs and Pictish symbol stones - a permanent reminder of Scotland's past.

Castles & Stately Homes in Scotland »

Ancient strongholds, royal palaces, grand tower houses and great mansions all have played a part in Scotland's story.

Historic Buildings in Scotland »

Thatched blackhouses, buried ice houses, dovecots, mort houses and waterworks – modest buildings with a fascinating past.