For a small town, St Andrews has made a big name for itself: firstly as a religious centre and place of pilgrimage, then as Scotland's oldest (and Britain's third-oldest) university town. But it is its status as the home of golf that has propelled it to even greater fame, and today's pilgrims mostly arrive with a set of clubs in hand.
With an impregnable position atop a mighty wooded crag (the plug of an extinct volcano), Stirling's beautifully preserved Old Town is a treasure trove of historic buildings and cobbled streets winding up to the ramparts of its impressive castle, which offer views for miles around.
Elegantly arranged along the banks of the Tay, Perth is a pleasantly liveable city with large tracts of enticing parkland surrounding an easily managed centre. The Scottish parliament once sat here and, save for the murder of King James I at Blackfriars monastery in 1437, Perth might have been the capital of Scotland.
Once among Scotland's busiest fishing ports, cheery Anstruther (pronounced en-ster by locals) has ridden the tribulations of the declining fishing industry better than some, and now offers a pleasant mixture of bobbing boats, historic streets and visitors ambling around the harbour grazing on fish and chips, or contemplating a boat trip to the Isle of May.
Kinross & Loch Leven
The town of Kinross sits on the banks of pretty Loch Leven, a haven for walkers, cyclists and anglers. Just east of the town sits the recently restored Kinross House (http://kinrosshouse.com), the finest Palladian mansion in Scotland, built by Sir William Bruce in 1693.
Dunfermline is a large and unlovely town, but rich in history, boasting the evocative Dunfermline Abbey, its neighbouring palace and the attractive grounds of Pittencrieff Park, the latter gifted to the city by local boy made good, Andrew Carnegie (1835–1919), of US steel industry fame.
Pretty and peaceful, little Crail has a much-photographed stone-built harbour surrounded by quaint cottages with red-tiled roofs. The village's history is outlined in the Crail Museum, but the main attraction is just wandering the winding streets and hanging out by the harbour. There are views across to the Isle of May.
This ancient fishing village is named after a cave-dwelling saint who was probably killed by pirates. Apart from a historic windmill overlooking the sea, its main sight is the picturesque parish church, built in 1362 on the orders of a grateful King David II, who was rescued by villagers from a shipwreck in the Firth of Forth. It was burned by the English in 1544 but restored.
Instantly familiar to fans of the TV series Outlander, in which it appears as the fictional village of Cranesmuir, Culross (koo-ross) is Scotland's best-preserved example of a 17th-century town. Limewashed white and yellow-ochre houses with red-tiled roofs stand amid a maze of cobbled streets, and the winding Back Causeway to the abbey is lined with whimsical cottages.
Doune is best known for its castle, which was famously used as a film set for Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), and more recently for the TV series Outlander. But it's a picturesque village in its own right, with a cluster of craft shops and some lovely walks along the River Teith.
Pittenweem is the main fishing port on the East Neuk coast, and there are lively morning fish sales at the harbour. The village is a great place to wander, with boats bobbing along the harbour front, and art galleries, cafes and craft shops on the High St a block above, the two linked by steep, narrow alleys.