ITS location, less than 30 miles from Scotland's two biggest cities, has ensured its position as a popular commuter town.

Now Falkirk has emerged as Scotland's top house-price performer in 2011 as its easy access to Glasgow and Edinburgh, and relatively low average property price, has created upward pressure on the housing market in the town.

Based on Bank of Scotland's own house-price data, the average selling price in Falkirk was 12% higher in 2011 than in the previous year, up from £113,422 in 2010 to £126,548 this year.

Along with Inverness, Perth and Edinburgh, it was one of four Scottish areas featured on the list of 20 spots in the UK which saw the biggest increases in average house prices.

In contrast, Dunfermline and Ayr were among the worst performing areas, with drops of 15% and 13% respectively as the economy and squeeze on household finances took their toll.

The average Scottish house price was down 3% on the 2010 figure of £144,280 to £140,005 this year. The average house price for the UK is down 4%, at £172,400 in 2011 compared to £179,356 in 2010.

Nitesh Patel, housing economist at Bank of Scotland, said: "There have been significant differences in performance in towns across Scotland in 2011. Four Scottish towns feature in the UK top 20, led by Falkirk.

"The ease of commuting to both Edinburgh and Glasgow, combined with the town's relatively low average property prices, has led to upward pressure on prices in Falkirk.

"At the other end of the spectrum, difficult economic conditions and considerable pressure on household finances have resulted in house price falls in towns such as Dunfermline and Ayr."

Falkirk also has relatively low average property prices, making it more affordable than many other areas close to Scotland's two largest cities. There are also several newly built housing developments in or near Falkirk.

The rest of Scotland recorded a very mixed property price performance in 2011 with two towns in the UK top 10 – Falkirk and Inverness, the latter seeing house price rises by 9% – and two in the bottom 10 – Dunfermline and Ayr.

In comparison with Falkirk, Perth saw a lesser but still substantial increase of 6% on its house prices while in Edinburgh property prices were up by 4% in 2011.

Dunfermline ranked along with Kettering in Northamptonshire in recording the largest fall in average selling prices in the UK in 2011.

Woking in Surrey, a large commuter town within easy reach of central London by rail, recorded the biggest rise in house prices among major UK towns and cities over the past year. The average selling price in Woking was 16% higher than in the previous year, increasing from £257,590 in 2010 to £299,654 in 2011.

Towns in London and the South East accounted for nine of the 20 towns recording the strongest price rises in 2011. The majority of worst property performers were outside southern England.

The latest house-price news comes on the back of new research showing that Edinburgh is home to 13 of Scotland's 20 most expensive streets.

Dick Place, a quiet leafy street in the Grange area of the capital's south side, has seen average property prices climb to £1,506,000 – making it the priciest address north of the border. Glasgow's most expensive streets, both on the city's south side, are Burnside Road at £974,000 and Bowmore Crescent at £908,000.

A week ago it was announced that the number of first-time home buyers in Scotland had fallen to the lowest level in 35 years. Around 17,000 people bought their first house this year, which is 4% lower than last year.