A TOWN once named the worst in Scotland has now won an award as one of the most beautiful.

Cumbernauld in North Lanarkshire was twice given a Carbuncle Award - a mock compliment for the town deemed to be Scotland's worst - for its drab and ageing town centre.

But eight years and a new shopping centre after its last Carbuncle, the 50s new town has been crowned the winner of Beautiful Scotland's Small City category for the first time.

The town scooped the accolade after judges were impressed with the local community's ongoing commitment to improving their town.

Embarking on a tour of the town, judges visited Greenfaulds Orchard, an area currently in the process of being transferred into a community orchard; Ravenswood Local Nature Reserve, a 17-hectare Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC); Hope Community Garden, a volunteer project operating at Muirfield Community Centre; Cumbernauld House Park, the largest town park in North Lanarkshire; and Cumbernauld Glen, a Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) Reserve.

The award was presented at a ceremony in Aberdeen and Adam Smith, vice-chair of Cumbernauld Environmental Society, collected it.

Mr Smith said: "Cumbernauld's Carbuncle Award unfairly branded the whole town as the worst in Scotland when Cumbernauld is really a great place to live.

"Last year Cumbernauld won a Civic Pride Award at the Scottish Design Awards and Sony Pictures Television has recently chosen Cumbernauld to host their new, multi-million pound television studio and production base to support the filming of Outlander, a major television production expected to rival Game of Thrones.

"These are just two of Cumbernauld's many positive achievements which, in conjunction with this Beautiful Scotland award, will hopefully go some way to reversing the negative image which many people have of Cumbernauld.

"The award of this Beautiful Scotland trophy is a fantastic achievement for the town and recognises the numerous hard-working community groups and dedicated individuals who help make Cumbernauld a great place to live, work, and visit."

The Beautiful Scotland judges said: "Cumbernauld's reputation is rather unfairly based on the old shopping centre but, thanks to the work of Cumbernauld in Bloom and associated organisations working hard, the undoubted beautiful surroundings will come to the fore.

"The open spaces and mature woodland, as well as wetland habitats, make Cumbernauld a haven for wildlife of all types."

Cumbernauld, with a population of 49,600, is the eighth most populous settlement in Scotland and the largest in North Lanarkshire.

Its name comes from the Scots Gaelic comar nan allt, meaning "meeting of the streams".

It was created in 1956 under the post-war Clyde Valley Regional Plan as an overspill for Glasgow, and its "daring megastructure architecture" initially won praise.

It was the location for the 1981 film Gregory's Girl, and is forever associated by many with its TV advert which repeatedly asked, "What's it called? Cumbernauld".

But by 2002 it had been voted worst town in Scotland and it won its Carbuncles - Urban Realm's "Plook on a Plinth" - in both 2001 and 2005. Its town centre was described "a rabbit warren on stilts" and "soulless and inaccessible, something like Eastern Europe before the wall came down".

Beautiful Scotland is a competition run by the independent charity Keep Scotland Beautiful, in partnership with the Royal Horticultural Society.