City of Glasgow
Right at the beginning of the 1990s, Glasgow celebrated its status as European 'City of Culture', and in 1999, its dazzling architecture won it the accolade of 'UK City of Architecture and Design'. Since then, the city has gone from strength to strength, building a reputation as a destination where a great experience is guaranteed if the visitor seeks culture, entertainment, good food and drink, an all-day shopping experience - or a taste of all of these.
Glasgow is home to Scottish Opera, Scottish Ballet and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. The Burrell collection is a haven for culture lovers, a wonderful display of art objects from across the world. The Lighthouse, right in the heart of Glasgow, is where a Charles Rennie Mackintosh conversion houses a variety of dynamic exhibitions on art and architecture. The Gallery of Modern Art, set in the neo-classical elegance of the former Royal Exchange displays the work of living artists from across the world.
Shops range from High Street chains to the exclusive chic boutiques. Wander down the pedestrian shopping zones on Sauchiehall Street, Buchanan Street and Argyll Street, or the covered malls like Buchanan Galleries and the St Enoch Centre. Exclusivity is the theme of Princes Square, with its glass-roofed airy ambience, while the nearby Italian Centre is another parade of top fashion and designer labels. In between lies the Merchant City, trading on its solid reputation for innovative retailing, while its bars and cafes earn its description as the city's 'Left Bank'. At the other end of the shopping scale, the Barras offers the flea-market experience, with the chance of a bargain always at the next stall.
Eating your way round Glasgow is going to take time. Look at any listing of bars, bistros and brasseries at the informal end of the eating spectrum and you will find pages and pages to choose from. Glasgow's restaurants offer the best in international cuisine and the freshest of local Scottish produce.
City of Edinburgh
Edinburgh Castle perched high on its volcanic rock looks down on a city where medieval lanes and elegant, sweeping terraces hold over ten centuries of history, mystery and tradition.
Yet Edinburgh is also a modern, dynamic capital city where festivals attract the world's leading performers, galleries display cutting-edge art, and bars, restaurants and clubs create a lively, cosmopolitan atmosphere with a distinctly Scottish twist.
It is also a city of urban villages, each with their own unique flavour. For a taste of the best, follow the Water of Leith from the seclusion of Dean Village, through the speciality shops of Stockbridge to the stylish bistros and bars of Leith.
City of Aberdeen
Aberdeen is Scotland's third largest city, a prosperous cosmopolitan city with a well-travelled, cosmopolitan population. The city has a wide variety of arts and culture to tempt visitors, with venues including His Majesty's Theatre, the Music Hall, the Lemon Tree (said to be Aberdeen's all-year Festival Fringe) and the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre. Aberdeen's famous 'Granite Mile' - Union Street - is the gateway to over 800 shops, restaurants and bars. The city is a 13-times winner of 'Britain in Bloom', and can even boast its own golden sandy beach. Aberdeen is easy to reach, with an international airport, a railway in the heart of the city and a national bus station. However, the real interest for the visitor lies in the character and people of this northerly city.
City of Dundee
Scotland's fourth largest city, Dundee offers a warm welcome and a fascinating range of things to see and do.
City breaks in Dundee are increasingly popular, and passing through this vibrant and bustling city you can easily build in a stopover or short break to take in all the city has to offer.
Amongst visitor attractions, cinemas and theatres, restaurants and nightclubs, sports and leisure activities, there is much to see and do. You could bump into Desperate Dan, circle around a dragon, become a polar explorer, or shop 'til you drop.
You could also become part of the lively arts scene in the West End of the city where the Cultural Quarter brings thought-provoking art and literature alongside cosmopolitan cinema and theatre.
With a wealth of award-winning family-friendly visitor attractions within easy reach from the city centre, there is something for everyone to discover in the city of Dundee.
City of Inverness
Inverness, the capital and principal cross-roads of the Highlands of Scotland, has an enviable location at the head of the Great Glen and on the shores of the Moray Firth.
Bustling, cosmopolitan and attractive capital of the Highlands and Scotland's millennium city - Inverness makes an ideal base for exploring. Highlights include the beautiful River Ness, Eden Court Theatre and the superb Inverness Aquadome.
Granted city status in December 2000, Inverness made a bid to become European Capital of Culture 2008. The city boasts a fine range of facilities and services from night clubs to rail and air links, from car hire to post offices. And, of course, there is a superb selection of accommodation from major hotel chains and private guest houses to welcoming B&Bs, from backpacking hostels to self catering chalets.
You will find that everything you need is within easy walking distance of the city centre where pipers, jugglers and fiddlers provide a welcome distraction from the serious business of holiday shopping!
In and around Inverness, you can also choose from numerous places to visit and things to do. The city is dissected by the charming River Ness, where the Ness Islands demand to be explored, and overlooking the river is Inverness Castle.
Dating from the 1830s, the castle is the setting for the popular Castle Garrison Encounter - which offers you a chance to sign up as a mid-18th century soldier! On the slopes around the castle you will see some fine example of the city's superb floral displays, and nearby in Castle Wynd you will find Inverness Museum and Art Gallery , as well as the Tourist Information Centre.
Contemporary local art is on display in various galleries throughout Inverness, notably at art.tm, on the bank of the River Ness, Castle Gallery on Castle Street, and Riverside Gallery on Bank Street.
Further upstream, it is difficult to miss the angled-architecture of Eden Court Theatre, which is the focal point of cultural life in the Highlands. The theatre always has a fine programme of music, drama, dance and film - in a wide variety of styles and traditions. Traditional Scottish entertainment is on offer at the Spectrum Centre Theatre in the shape of Scottish Showtime, a blend of typical Highland ceilidh and Scottish variety show, with traditional Scottish dancing.
If you head out of town on the A82 (the Fort William road), you pass Bught Park just before you cross the Caledonian Canal. The park is the setting for the annual Highland Games, and other nearby attractions include the Floral Hall, Whin Adventure Park and the Inverness Sports Centre. However, the biggest draw is the Inverness Aquadome which combines numerous water rides and features with a 25 metre pool and various health and leisure facilities.
Other places of interest in and around Inverness include Highland Archive in Inverness Library, a popular facility with those visitors who like to research their family history. While, if you are interested in Scottish tartan and tweed, you might like to visit Hector Russell's Scottish Kiltmaker Visitor Centre, Duncan Chisholm Kiltmaker, or the James Pringle Weavers Woollen Mill. Across the Kessock Bridge, you'll find another very traditional craft on display at Targemaker, North Kessock.
City of Stirling
Stirling is Scotland's youngest city gaining the status in the summer of 2002. This is Scotland's heritage capital, where the Wars of Independence were fought and won; where, for three centuries, monarchs ruled in regal splendour and where merchants and craftsmen plied their trade below the castle rock.
Nowadays you can literally touch and feel the sense of history and nationhood which is Stirling's trademark, as you meander through the Old Town, enter the spectacular cliff-top castle or
sample the town's unique 'living history' events programme.