From picture-postcard pretty to rugged and dramatic, Scotland's villages are as varied as the country's landscapes. Here's a few to visit – or revisit – this summer. By Alex Burns

1. Portnahaven, Islay

The whitewashed cottages are so orderly that they almost stand to attention – all facing obediently out to sea. This may be because the village was a planned creation, built in the 19th century to house fisherman and crofters. It is centred around a small, sheltered harbour in which you can spot seals sitting on the rocks around the bay.

2. Portpatrick, Dumfries and Galloway

The highlight of this coastal village is its great wee cove, a secluded section of the ‘inner harbour’ where the waves flow in and crash on to the rocks. If you’re feeling brave enough you can stand back and get a bit of the splash – but if not, there are plenty of other viewpoints.

3. Boat of Garten, Strathspey

Next to the magnificent River Spey, Boat of Garten has all the scenery and wildlife you would expect from a Highland village. Known as the Osprey Village, there is an RSPB reserve close by where you can spot the magnificent birds at their nests (and maybe some chicks if you are lucky). Back in the centre, there is a community garden to relax in and plenty of walking and cycle routes.

4. Braemar, Aberdeenshire

Having gained royal favour from Queen Victoria, Braemar has changed little over the decades, and retains the charm that won her over. It is the meeting point of the Clunie Water and the River Dee, and has a particularly scenic bridge over the water that is well worth a stop. Its position within the Cairngorms National Park means it's surrounded by countryside – creating the perfect village for those looking for peace and quiet.

5. Portree, Skye

Fringed by mountains – Ben Tianavaig and Fingal’s Seat to name a few – Portree’s backdrop is almost as pretty as its bustling harbour. It is the ‘capital’ of Skye but still maintains the feel of a small village, with fishing boats in the bay and a quiet pace of life from the local people.

6. St Monans, Fife

The East Neuk is a string of postcard villages that curve round the coast below St Andrews, and they are all so appealing that it is hard to pick just one. But St Monans just edges it: a small, hilly collection of traditional white fishing cottages that rise from an untouched, authentic old harbour. You can grab an ice cream in the village and then stroll around the piles of lobster cages, admiring the tiny fishing vessels and the sea beyond.

7. Dunkeld, Perthshire

As you would expect from a village in Perthshire, Dunkeld has an abundance of majestic trees that give it a striking backdrop. If you head under the main bridge in the village and along the banks of the Tay then you will come across the impressive Birnham Oak (the tree made famous in Shakespeare’s Macbeth) which is now over 300 years old.

8. Rosemarkie, Ross and Cromarty

First settled in by the Picts, Rosemarkie is an ancient settlement beside the Moray Firth. Often overshadowed by its neighbour Fortrose (with which it shares a golf course), the village is well worth a visit in its own right – not least for the lovely beach that extends all the way to Chanonry Point.

9. Tobermory, Mull

Recognisable to some from the CBBC programme Balamory, the coloured houses of Tobermory have gained themselves a worldwide reputation. They are quite something to behold and alongside the harbour they make a particularly pretty combination.

10. Aberlady, East Lothian

This historic village is best known for the Aberlady Bay, a combination of sand and salt marsh that became Britain's first local nature reserve in 1952. The village itself has visiting points of its own: an attractive parish church, lots of ‘chocolate-box’ cottages and a striking war memorial.

11. Scourie, Sutherland

Despite sitting on the path of the North Coast 500 road trip, the bay of Scourie is one of the most untouched and rugged villages in Scotland. With a population of 132 recorded in the 2011 census, it is the definition of a village, and can feel like stepping into another world. You can enjoy the view of the piercing blue sea from the bay, and may also be able to spot some Highland cows around the grass nearby.

12. Callander, Stirlingshire

One of the larger villages on this list, Callander has a variety of shops and pubs to visit. But if you are looking for a peaceful experience you won’t be disappointed, with a decidedly slow pace to life and pleasant walks to be enjoyed round the surrounding area.

13. Fort Augustus, Loch Ness

Offering stunning views of Loch Ness, it is popular with tourists – many of whom will also visit the iconic Urquhart Castle, which is close by. The village is split down its centre by the Caledonian Canal, which is a great spot to sit and watch the boats roll past from outside one of the local restaurants.

14. Coldstream, Scottish Borders

Once home to the Coldstream Guards, this village sits on the north bank of the River Tweed, with the English town of Northumberland on the south. The Coldstream bridge is a focal point on the river, along with the pretty market square and the Majoribanks Monument in the centre.

15. Stromness, Orkney

Stormness may be the second-largest town on Orkney, but it is more of a village in relative terms – and a very peaceful one at that. The winding streets are filled with independent craft shops and galleries, while the harbour has lots of cafes and restaurants.

16. Pennan, Aberdeenshire

This tiny village has only one real street: which runs parallel to the harbour and is lined with cottages, clothes poles, and lobster baskets. It might be small but it has a big reputation, after it was the star location in the 1983 film Local Hero, and was then voted in 2005 as the best film location in the UK.

17. Balloch, West Dumbartonshire

Arriving by train is the best welcome to Balloch, as you come to the end of the line out of Glasgow and feel you have really entered the countryside. There are some great pubs in the village to cosy up in, or if the weather is good you can follow the path under the bridge that leads to Loch Lomond Shores. There is from there more scenery to enjoy while taking a path through the forest, before returning back to Balloch.

18. Shieldaig, Wester Ross, Highlands

Sat on the edge of Loch Torridon, Shieldag might just be the most photogenic village in Scotland. With mountains rising behind it and small cottages strung along the pebbly shore, it is the definition of a ‘postcard village’ and a great spot to watch the sunset from. The views across the loch are largely dominated by Shieldaig Island, owned by the National Trust for Scotland, that is covered in mature Scots pine. Plenty of photos for the scrapbook.

19. Maidens, Ayrshire

This coastal village highlights the best of Ayrshire – with an unassuming centre and a great little beach. Despite being within a stone’s throw of Culzean Castle and Turnberry golf course, Maidens is largely untouched by tourists and is a great way to see the seaside without being disturbed by coach trips of tourists.

20. Killin, Loch Tay, Stirlingshire

Set around the spectacular Falls of Dochart, Killin is known as the village ‘where the mountains meet the loch’. It is where the River Dochart dramatically tumbles into the heart of Killin, beneath a quaint and beautiful tourist bridge. But don’t think that your visit will be spoiled if the weather isn’t grea – the falls are more impressive when it rains.