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9 Top Galleries to Find Must See Artworks in Scotland

From Renaissance classics to contemporary Scottish paintings, Scotland’s galleries are filled with a diverse mix of iconic artworks, historic gems and celebrated Scottish-based artists for you to admire.

1. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow

Must-see artwork

The Wassail (1900) is an impressive hand-painted wall frieze by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Made using gesso on embellished hessian over a wooden frame, it was commissioned for Miss Cranston’s Tearooms. Mackintosh fans will be enthralled by the works on display here from Glasgow’s beloved designer and artist. There are also some great examples of the early 1900s Glasgow Style. Other must-see artworks here include works by Monet, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Renoir.

About the gallery

Kelvingrove has an internationally-significant collection of historical artworks and objects in a family-friendly setting. Enjoy a light lunch at the café whilst listening to the legendary lunchtime organ recitals in this stunning historic building.

Find out about upcoming exhibitions or discover more about Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

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Art lovers can make a day of it in Glasgow with some fantastic street art to explore in the city centre. Make time for a visit to the popular Gallery of Modern Art, or book a lunch or afternoon tea at the restored Mackintosh at the Willow Tea Rooms within the original Mackintosh-designed building on Sauchiehall Street.

Find out more about the Gallery of Modern art or visit the Mackintosh at the Willow Tea Rooms

2. Aberdeen Art Gallery, Aberdeen 

Must-see artwork

The Tennis Party (1885) is by prolific artist Sir John Lavery – one of the Glasgow Boys. This fascinating artwork was ultra-modern in its time, with an action-packed subject that looks like a photo snapshot. It has multi-layered meaning and panoramic dimensions. You can also find must-see artworks from the Pre-Raphaelites, Tracey Emin, Dame Barbara Hepworth, Sir Edwin Landseer and the French Impressionists.

About the gallery

Stay for lunch in the gallery café with fantastic freshly-made food and enjoy lunchtime live music concerts. Aberdeen Art Gallery was awarded Art Fund’s Museum of the Year in 2020 after its recent major redevelopment. The stunning interior now offers more gallery space and plenty of great views out across the city. For a family-friendly visit, try the interactive rooms and make use of free sketch books around the gallery.

Find out about upcoming exhibitions or discover more about Aberdeen Art Gallery

Stay a wee bit longer 

Explore Aberdeen city centre and view the granite gothic exterior of Marischal College. You can buy some art nearby from Enid Hutt Gallery or Peacock Visual Arts.

Find out more about Aberdeen

3. Broughton House, Kirkcudbright in Dumfries & Galloway 

Must-see artwork

Brighouse Bay, Wild and Burnet Roses (c1929) by EA Hornel is a must-see by one of the most successful Scottish artists of his day. He was known for using photography to add greater detail to hands, faces and gestures within a loose, modern painting style.

About the gallery

EA Hornel purchased Broughton House in Kirkcudbright in 1901. On his death, he bequeathed his house, studio and collection of work to the National Trust for Scotland. The property is open to the public with access to his Japanese-inspired garden.

Find out more about visiting Broughton House

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Kirkcudbright is known as the Artists’ Town. Explore Kirkcudbright Galleries with its nationally-significant collection and have lunch in the café – they do a great coffee! You can also try the local art tours and arts and crafts trail and buy artworks nearby at the Whitehouse Gallery.

Find out more about Kirkudbright

4. Stirling Smith Art Gallery & Museum, Stirling

Must-see artwork

Black Beast Wanderer (1890) is by Joseph Denovan Adam, an artist famed for his depictions of Highland cattle. This striking image of a black-haired coo striding through the snow romanticises the wild freedom of nature in Scotland. Look out for Adam’s Highland cattle paintings in galleries all over Scotland. There are also impressive artworks by Sir Henry Raeburn, Anne Redpath and George Henry.

Find out more about Stirling’s Smith Art Gallery and Museum

About the gallery

The gallery and museum has a cat named Oswald who has a strong social media presence – keep your eyes peeled for him around the gallery! The Smith Café is also a must-visit. Choose from a wide variety of lunch options, all-day breakfast, or coffee and some spectacular cakes.

Stay a wee bit longer 

Stirling Castle is just a 10-minute walk away and has many historical architectural features, costume displays and a fascinating museum collection. You could easily spend the rest of the day here.

Find out more about visiting Stirling

5. The Fergusson Gallery, Perth  

Display case featuring the artwork Eástre, Hymn to the Sun (1924) by JD Fergusson

Eástre, Hymn to the Sun (1924) by JD Fergusson | Credit: VisitScotland / Kenny Lam

Must-see artwork

Eástre (Hymn to the Sun) (1924) by JD Fergusson is evocative of the contemporary modern style of the 1920s. Internationally-renowned Scottish Colourist, John Duncan Fergusson, has his own impressive collection in this gallery, as does his lifelong companion, Margaret Morris. It’s difficult to choose one favourite piece of artwork here!

About the gallery

The Fergusson Gallery is set in an old waterworks building, now an architectural gem. Here you can also find artworks by John Everett Millais, The Glasgow School, the Scottish Colourists, The New Scottish Group, Beatrix Potter and Henry Raeburn.

Find out about upcoming exhibitions or discover more about The Fergusson Gallery

Stay a wee bit longer

See the Pictish stones at Perth Museum and Art Gallery, which has one of the oldest public collections in the UK. Follow it up with lunch at The Bothy or check out the River Tay Public Art Trail.

Find out more about visiting Perth

6. Mallaig Heritage Centre, Mallaig in the north west Highlands

Looking down to the pier at Mallaig Heritage Centre

Looking down to the pier at Mallaig | Credit: VisitScotland / Paul Tomkins

Must-see artwork

Blue Shadow Blues (1983) is a stunning piece by internationally-renowned US abstract artist, Jon Schueler. Schueler visited the fishing village of Mallaig in search of a location for the subject of his artwork. Since then, he spent his summers in Mallaig until his death in 1992. His abstract paintings are a perfect expression of the Scottish sky and  light. It’s worth seeking out his artwork in numerous galleries around Scotland.

About the gallery

Explore the centre further for historic exhibitions and Pictish history.

Find out more about the Mallaig Heritage Centre

Stay a wee bit longer

Here in Mallaig, you can enjoy stunning coastal views, ride the Jacobite Steam Train or explore the west Lochaber area with its wild coastline and dramatic light. Seafood lovers can also enjoy tasting a fresh catch at the Pierhouse in Morar.

Find out more about visiting Mallaig

7. National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh 

Must-see artwork

Monarch of the Glen (c1851) by Sir Edwin Landseer is an iconic painting, acquired for the nation in 2017, and remains a firm favourite with residents and visitors alike. Also worth seeking out are artworks by Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Degas, Sargent, Van Gogh, Monet and Raphael.

About the gallery

The Scottish National Gallery has a fine-dining restaurant, café and unique shop. Both its permanent and temporary exhibitions are well-worth exploring.

Find out about upcoming exhibitions or discover more about the Scottish National Gallery

Stay a wee bit longer

Art lovers should also visit the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Scottish Academy, or take a stroll through scenic Dean Village to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Here you can have lunch or an afternoon treat at the foot (literally) of Vulcan (1999), an impressively-scaled sculpture by Edinburgh-born artist Eduardo Paolozzi.

Find out more about visiting Edinburgh

8. Paisley Museum and Art Gallery, Paisley

Must-see artwork

Portrait of Myself with Malthy by Pat Douthwaite is an oil painting by a Paisley born painter who became well-known as an “outsider” artist. Her artworks are admired for their bold and controversial style.

About the gallery

The building is currently being renovated, with exciting plans to transform it into a world-class attraction. This will offer increased recreation facilities, greater accessibility and more gallery space. You’ll find a large and diverse collection of artworks with over 800 paintings, including work from the Glasgow School, Scottish Colourists, Joan Eardley and Paisley-born artist John Byrne. Stay awhile to explore the rest of the museum from the Arbuthnott Missal to a collection of Paisley shawls.

Find out about the renovation of Paisley Museum

Stay a wee bit longer

Just a short trip from Glasgow, Paisley was shortlisted for UK City of Culture 2021. Once a global leader in the thread textile industry, it gave its name to the Paisley pattern. Have lunch Italian style at Caffe Royale and explore Paisley’s town centre with its impressive late 19th century civic architecture and admire the street art murals before visiting Paisley Abbey and St Matthew’s Church, with its Art Nouveau features.

Find out more about visiting Paisley

9. Pier Arts Centre, Orkney

Must-see artwork

Large and Small Form (1934) by Dame Barbara Hepworth is one of several works by the renowned UK artist that yu can find in the Pier Arts Centre – the centre’s founder, Margaret Gardiner, was good friends with Barbara Hepworth. This collection also features work by Hepworth’s husband, Ben Nicholson.

About the gallery

This 5-star arts venue is well worth a visit on a trip to Stromness, Orkney. Here you’ll find a collection of 20th century artworks as well as contemporary artists such as Olafur Eliasson.

Find out about upcoming exhibitions or discover more about the Pier Art Centre

Stay a wee bit longer

There’s plenty of choice of shops in Stromness for buying works of art to take home, or pick up some rare wool and hand-crafted knitwear at The Quernstone. Try the Bayleaf Delicatessen for some fresh, local takeaway lunch snacks whilst taking in the artworks at their in-house art gallery. Don’t miss a visit to the iconic Ring of Brodgar stone circle.

Find out more about visiting Stromness

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