The feasibility of apertureless scanning near-field Raman microscopy, exploiting the local enhancement in Raman scattering in the vicinity of a silver or gold tip, was investigated. Using the finite difference time domain method we calculated the enhancement of electric field strength, and hence Raman scattering, achieved through the resonant excitation of local modes in the tip. By modelling the frequency-dependent dielectric response of the metal tip we were able to highlight the resonant nature of the tip-enhancement and determine the excitation wavelength required for the strongest electric field enhancement, and hence Raman scattering intensity, which occurs for the excitation of modes localized at the tip apex. It is demonstrated that a peak Raman enhancement of 10(7)-fold should be achievable with <5 nm spatial resolution. We show that surface-enhanced Raman scattering from carbon contamination on a silver or gold tip can be significant. However, we find for a tip of radius of curvature 20 nm that the Raman enhancement should decay totally within 20 nm from the tip. Hence withdrawal of the tip by this distance should lead to the disappearance of the tip-enhanced signal, leaving only that from carbon contamination on the tip itself and the intrinsic signal from the sample. Copyright (C) 2003 John Wiley Sons, Ltd.