Absolute Escapes October 11 2019

With 15 years’ experience of arranging award-winning self-drive holidays in Scotland, Absolute Escapes know a thing or two about where to find the best coffee and cake spots.

From Fort William to the Isle of Harris, our team have tried and tested scones, cakes and coffee (we know, it’s a hard job!) to bring you the very best places to escape the Scottish rain.

Read on to discover our team’s favourite spots …


The Wildcat Cafe, Fort William – Charlotte Wood’s choice

I always wish for rain when I visit Fort William. Though that might sound odd, Fort William being the outdoor capital of the UK, and myself being a keen hillwalker, the reason is entirely The Wildcat Cafe.

Many a delicious afternoon has been passed sipping coffee, feasting on cakes, and smugly watching the rain trickle down the windowpane from inside this gem of a cafe. The Wildcat is a relative newcomer to Fort William, and has quickly established a name for itself as a 100% plant-based hub of sustainability and scrumptiousness!

Local produce and ethical values are at the heart of everything they do, and great care and attention go into every mouthful of their delicious menu. Specialities include a moist Tunisian orange and almond cake, an array of ever-changing and creative seasonal salads, soups, stews and sandwiches, beetroot, turmeric and matcha lattes, artisan roast coffees and rich velvety hot chocolates.

The cafe is also a treasure trove of sustainable shopping delights. There is a wholefoods section at the back of the shop where you can weigh your own produce, ingeniously titled ‘West Highland Weigh’ as a nod to the famous walking trail which finishes in Fort William.

Incredibly popular around lunch-time, I’d recommend getting there early to grab a seat and feast upon their delectable delights!


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The Ceilidh Place, Ullapool – Fern Urquhart’s choice 

Nestled in the picturesque village of Ullapool, The Ceilidh Place is the perfect place to retreat to when Scotland’s skies have opened. With its dark wooden floors, wood-burning stove and delicious heartwarming menu, you might not want to leave even once the rain has stopped. The Ceilidh Place, set in stunning surroundings with views out to the imposing mountains, is a place for ‘eating, meeting, talking and singing – a place to be’ just as founder Robert Urquhart had hoped it to be since 1970.

The whole place radiates character and charm with its small but brilliantly stocked bookshop attached for you to browse, buy and be inspired. Featuring local authors to bestsellers, it is a little treasure trove of wonderful reads.

To accompany your newly purchased book, there is a menu full of tasty dishes from wild venison & red currant pie to homemade soup with freshly made Ullapool Bakery bread. You certainly won’t be short on choice for something to fill you up.

Along with the open fire, well-stocked bookshop and delicious food, you will be able to settle right into Scottish culture with the chance of hearing some toe-tapping live Scottish music.



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DRIFT, North Berwick – Scott Smyth’s choice

You could travel to every nook and cranny in Scotland but would struggle to find a cafe with a better location than DRIFT. Perched high on a clifftop on the Firth of Forth, the cafe overlooks the dramatic Bass Rock – the world’s largest gannet colony and one of the world’s 12 natural wonders according to none other than Sir David Attenborough!

In harmony with its coastal location, DRIFT is a made of connected shipping containers with the sides cut out and replaced by large windows. Far from feeling like you are inside a container, the shabby chic interior is warm and welcoming – the perfect spot to curl up in on a rainy day and enjoy the ever-changing, panoramic views.

DRIFT serves up quality coffee, cakes and light lunches, but it is the epic view that is the real showstopper here – whatever the weather.



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Mountain Cafe, Aviemore – James Fathers’ choice

If you’re looking for a hidden gem, the Mountain Cafe in Aviemore is not for you. The first challenge is just getting through the door, as the queue to get in is often extensive. But once you’re in, the challenges become very different. Which table shall I sit at to get the best views of the Cairngorm Mountains in the distance? Which of the mouth-watering options shall I select from the lunch menu? Can I resist following this up with something from the amazing spread of baked goods before me?

Run by a Kiwi, the Mountain Cafe brought a taste of New Zealand’s amazing cafe culture to Scotland in 2004, and has been an institution ever since. It’s a wonderfully laid back and friendly environment which I always visit (or at least attempt to…) when I’m in town.



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Brambles Cafe, Inveraray –  Katia Fernandez Mayo’s choice

The picturesque town of Inveraray sits in a spectacular location overlooking beautiful Loch Fyne. The drive to Inveraray not only offers incredible views of the Argyll landscape, but also the lovely Inveraray Castle (featured in Downton Abbey) and the photogenic Aray Bridge.

Often visited en-route to the West Coast, this wee coastal town has a pretty marina, as well as various cafes, tea rooms and quirky gift shops. However, Brambles Cafe located on the Main St, offers the biggest, most delicious scones in town! The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed, with a rustic interior featuring dark plum-coloured walls, a fireplace and wooden furniture, making it a cosy and warm refuge on a dreich day.

Brambles’ lunch menu includes a variety of homemade baked goods on offer, local Campbell Coffee, as well as hearty meals, including local Loch Fyne seafood. Meals are very well-served so make sure to save some space for cake!



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Unorthodox Roasters, Kinross and Stirling – Caitlin Rush’s choice

At Unorthodox Roasters the welcoming bright blue entranceway, friendly staff and beautiful aroma of fresh coffee align to create a hub of warmth and perfect hospitality. No two pieces of furniture inside are the same, but it works. There is no rush, you can chat, study or play games enjoying a sense of home and relaxation, exactly the way a coffee shop should be.

After a walk around Loch Leven or a boat trip across the water to Loch Leven Castle stop in for a steaming, ceramic mug of their signature blend “Wee Stoater” or feast on banana bread or smashed avocado on sourdough toast. The coffee is sourced from across Central and South America and roasted on Mondays and Tuesdays in their Kinross headquarters.

As you drive North from Edinburgh I highly recommend making the stop for a caffeine hit! The best news is that Unorthodox have also recently opened a second cafe in the historic city of Stirling. You will find it on Friars Street, just ten minutes walk from Stirling Castle.



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Temple Cafe, Isle of Harris – Sine Nielsen’s choice

On a rainy day there’s nowhere I’d rather be than the Temple Cafe on the Isle of Harris. Overlooking the vast salt marshes of Northton Bay, this wee cafe was originally built as a museum dedicated to local ornithologist William MacGillivray. Now it serves healthy fresh food, mouth-watering cakes and hot drinks to the sound of wind, rain and sunshine.

From the outside, the quirky building looks like a traditional Blackhouse with some cool modern features. Huge windows provide panoramic views of the dramatic landscape, and a log burning stove invites you to take a seat and relax. The pace of life slows down. On the rustic wooden tables, local literature, bird books and photographs await your attention. Binoculars are at hand so you can watch the wildlife play outside, while you sit comfortably with a steady supply of coffee, beautiful dishes and home-baked gems. If you time your visit right you might even hear an impromptu music session.



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Velocity Cafe, Inverness – Jason Martin’s choice

Velocity Cafe is a social enterprise based in Inverness, whose main aim is to promote healthy, happy lifestyles through cycling and cake…okay I’ve added cake, but they offer some lovely treats!

The cafe serves delicious vegan and vegetarian dishes, from cakes, sandwiches, mixed hot dishes to the most impressive salad bowls in the Highlands. If you’re looking for a salad while travelling around the Highlands, Velocity will satisfy your green needs. All lovingly prepared and served in quirky ‘is this my grannies’ mixed crockery, delightful!

Their giant communal table is one of the main features of the room, but with a relaxed atmosphere that eases you into conversations with your new coffee and cake neighbour. In this cafe/bike workshop, advice is exchanged, laughs are shared and good food is enjoyed.



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Lovecrumbs, Edinburgh – Rosa Leo’s choice

Only steps away from busy Grassmarket, Lovecrumbs is one of my favourite cafes in Edinburgh.

With mismatched furniture, exposed light bulbs and a cupboard full of cakes (literally), this quirky cafe is the perfect spot to hide on those long rainy afternoons. The atmosphere is cosy and comfortable, their daily changing cake selection is second to none and If sweet is not your thing, fear not as their sourdough grilled cheeses are equally memorable.

I love meeting friends here for a lengthy catch-up or enjoying some alone time watching the world go by at the snug window seat. From reading nights to coffee tastings, their regular events are also worth checking out!



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Coach House Coffee Shop, Luss – Caitlin Richmond’s choice

Voted to have the best ambience of the year in 2018, the Coach House Coffee Shop is somewhere I tell all my friends and family they must visit on a rainy (or any) day they are in the area!

This cosy, atmospheric cafe is located in the popular village of Luss, sitting on the shore of Loch Lomond. Its location makes it a prime spot for those driving north to the Highlands, stumbling off a nearby mountain or just in search for a mouth-watering slice of cake and a gigantic pot of tea served by friendly staff sporting glorious tartan kilts!

A special place to hunker down, where dogs are not welcome but encouraged, this popular cafe serves homemade cakes, sandwiches, soups and general goodness so when you are next driving along the A82 make sure to swing in past and sample some for yourself!



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Cafe @ Calgary Arts, Isle of Mull – Pippa Robson’s choice

It’s an uncharacteristically rainy June morning, you’re trying to make the most of a family holiday on the Isle of Mull. After unsuccessfully attempting a walk on the beach (there’s too much rain for your mum to take a decent picture, and your dad can’t hear anything because of the wind), you seek refuge. Remembering a signpost you’d spotted through the rain covered foggy car windows on the way to the beach you retrace your steps a little way back from the beach to come across the Cafe@Calgary Arts

As you may be able to tell, this is exactly what happened to me last summer. An informal art exhibition space, the Cafe hosts art from local artists as well as from those further afield. The decor of the cafe and exhibition centre are therefore ever-changing, meaning that you’ll spot something different every time you visit. 

Focussing on using locally sourced ingredients wherever possible, it’s a cosy space overlooking a lovely inner courtyard filled with interesting sculptures and plants. Sitting in the cafe with a steaming hot cup of coffee and the best carrot cake I’ve ever had watching the rain pour down outside, I was overcome by a great sense of calm. There’s great comfort to be taken in cosy spaces on Hebridean Islands. 



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Books and Beans, Aberdeen – Jamie Ellis’s choice

Books and Beans has long been a favourite of mine to escape the north-east rain. Located in the centre of Aberdeen, this independent cafe is split into two floors inside a charming Georgian townhouse. It provides a warm and friendly atmosphere from its attentive staff with a great selection of homemade soup and paninis. So good in fact, that it’s often difficult to choose which one to have!

I have often enjoyed sitting by the window, with a tasty, freshly-made coffee, watching the rain from the sanctuary of the top floor of this cafe.

An added bonus is that the cafe also serves as one of the best second-hand bookshops to be found in Aberdeen. Bookshelves line the walls and there is an excellent variety to choose from for all sorts of genres. If you pick the right book, you may find yourself staying long after the rain has stopped!


The Cottage Kitchen, St Andrews – Megan Bruce’s choice

St Andrews has no shortage of wonderful cafes, and during my time living there, I made it my informal mission to try as many of them as possible. The one I kept returning to time and time again, come rain or shine, with family, friends, or just a good book, was The Cottage Kitchen.

Whether you’ve been adventuring on the Fife Coastal Path and need some sustenance, or have been exploring Fife on one of our self-driving tours, Cottage Kitchen has something for everyone and is an ideal hideout on a rainy day.

Tucked away on quiet Logies Lane between Market Street and South Street, this hidden gem offers large mugs of steaming coffee, ultimate comfort food like homemade soups, stews and sausage rolls, and of course plenty of freshly baked cake. Their focus on using only the freshest, locally sourced produce is illustrated by the map displayed on their wall with a pin for each of their suppliers, highlighting just how short a distance your food will have travelled.

Grab a table by the window for some fantastic people-watching, order up a storm, and prepare to get super cosy!



Edinburgh Larder Cafe, Edinburgh – Helen McLaren’s choice

Sitting just off the famous Royal Mile, the Edinburgh Larder Cafe is the perfect place to hide from the rainy weather (or visit on any day of the year). I love the array of fresh, interesting salads on offer and the delicious homemade soups. The food will be sure to lift your spirits as will the staff who are always friendly, helpful and chatty.

The cafe also has impressive links to activism promoting healthy eating. They set up their own social enterprise which aims to teach schools and communities about cooking and eating local food.

My family and I heard about the cafe as a relative of a friend in our village set the cafe up. When showing people around Edinburgh or en route to Waverley station, it is always my go-to place for lunch, tea, coffee or cake.



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Barney’s Coffee Shop, East Linton – Emily Farquhar’s choice

Located in East Linton – on the John Muir Way – Barney’s Coffee Shop is the perfect place to shelter from Scotland’s notorious wet weather. The hardwood floors welcome muddy boots, and cosy benches allow walkers to rest their tired legs in comfort.

This cute cafe serves hearty portions of savoury food, and a vast array of delicious, homemade sweet treats. The chunky lentil soup, followed by a tasty slice of lemon drizzle cake, is my favourite when I’ve spent the day outdoors! The cafe is also famed for its oversized hot chocolates (topped with heaps of marshmallows and cream!), and unrivalled homemade bramble and raspberry jam.

The cafe is named after the owner’s beloved dog, and pet pooches are more than welcome to join you for a cuppa! 



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Discover Scotland’s best cafes for yourself …

If you’re inspired to visit Scotland, Absolute Escapes offer award-winning self-drive holidays which are 100% tailor-made to your own preferences. Whether you’d like to stay in luxury castle hotels or quaint, homely B&Bs, we have an intimate knowledge of Scotland like nobody else, and we can help turn your trip into an unforgettable one.

We also offer self-guided walking holidays along the finest long-distance trails in Scotland, including the West Highland Way and the Great Glen Way.

Send us an enquiry now and start planning your Scottish escape.

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