Growing up in Northumberland meant that many a childhood holiday of mine was spent in Scotland, and it is, to this day, one of my absolute favourite places to visit. With the breath-taking scenery of the Highlands, the cobbled wynds of the ancient cities, and the ethereal tranquillity of the great lochs, it’s no wonder it was voted the Most Beautiful Country in the World by the Rough Guide in September of this year.
And it’s not just the stunning backdrop that makes it so appealing. There’s the people, the history, the food (haggis, anyone?), not to mention the fascinating array of pubs and bars spread throughout the land. A 130km stretch of uninhabited moor, you say? Leave it to the Scots to make sure it’s equipped with a bar – and one that stocks more than 75 malts, no less.
So, in honour of St. Andrews Day and this truly wonderful part of the world, here are 10 cracking pubs in the 10 most beautiful places in Scotland, as voted for by the readers of Rough Guide.
The Ship Inn stands on the harbour at Stonehaven having been built in 1771. They stock a selection of keg beers, two guest ales and over 100 malt whiskies. The award-winning inn is just 2 miles from the stunning clifftop ruins of Dunnotar Castle which dates back to the 15th century.
The Arch Inn, overlooking Loch Broom and with magnificent views of the Fannich hills, offers a fabulous selection of local ales from the Teallach Brewery, as well as a range of Scottish malts, gin and vodka. The small fishing village of Ullapool is a popular tourist destination, with hillwalking, cruises, and even a music festival to its name.
Remember that bar in the uninhabited moor? Well it sits right here, in the Rannoch Moor Hotel! As their website states, there is “…no TV / Radio / WiFi signal and almost non-existent mobile coverage”. But they do have a fantastic selection of spirits, ales, and beers from dependant local producers. Sounds ideal to me.
Picking one pub in Edinburgh to include on this list was by far the most difficult part of writing it but here we go…Canny Mans! This free house was established in 1871 by the Kerr family and continues to be passed down through the generations. It’s a quirky place, with eccentric furnishings and a real dedication to serving great products – in fact, their Bloody Mary is legendary.
Sitting on the harbourfront in Orkney is The Ferry Inn, featured in the Good Beer Guide and a regular winner of CAMRA’s Northern Isle Pub of the Year. The bar has four hand pulls which host some great local ales and when/if the sun shines you can enjoy your pint outside while tucking into some freshly caught local seafood, straight from the barbeque!
Until the late 20th centuary the Bealach na Bà was the only road linking Applecross with the rest of the country. So, what better way to celebrate conquering this mountain pass than with a pint of local ale in front of the peat burning stove at the Applecross Inn. If you’re feeling a bit peckish you could try some of their award-winning dishes of seafood and Highland game, or maybe bed down for the night in one of their sea-view rooms.
Macgochans offers its dwellers ‘top live music, local food, lazy afternoons and great craic!’, which combined with the picturesque views of the fishing port of Tobermory, sounds just perfect. The pub boasts four custom built bars, with a little bit of something for every occasion, including a fisherman’s cottage filled with various whiskies and a 250-person strong beer garden.
The gorgeous views and some proper Scottish hospitality will make you glad you came to see this stunning ancient inn on the West Highland Way. In the 300 years since The Drover’s Inn was built it has welcomed thousands of guests, including non-other than Rob Roy himself! It has quite a history, as you can imagine, and I certainly don’t have enough space to document it all here, but it is well worth a visit. If you really like it, you can even stay the night!
In the heart of Glencoe, among the mountains of the Highlands sits the Clachaig Inn. Offering a variety of ales from breweries across the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, this historic traveller’s rest has not one, not two, but three award winning bars. With the slate floors, pine panelling and a huge real fire, it would be impossible to not be tempted to drop in on a cold afternoon like today and soak up the ‘legendary’ atmosphere. They also have their own gin so, why wouldn’t you?
And finally, The Isle of Skye, the largest and northernmost of the major islands in the Inner Hebrides, was voted as the best place to visit in Scotland. Looking at the fascinating history, iconic landscapes, and miles of dramatic coastline, it’s probably one of the best places to visit full stop. And in amongst all the enchantment of Skye is the oldest pub on the island, the Stein Inn. ‘A thirsty travellers dream’ as they say, the Stein has stood since the 18th Century, surrounded by spectacular views and offering over 130 malt whiskies, it is the perfect venue to take in a sunset, something for which this stunning area is renowned.
So there you have it – the 10 places (and pubs) you must visit in the most beautiful country in the world. Creating this list actually made my heart pine for a trip – hopefully it will inspire you too!
Here’s to you, Scotland – Sláinte Mhath!