Absolute Escapes September 25 2019

Established in Edinburgh in 2004, Absolute Escapes are award-winning specialists in self-drive holidays in Scotland. We’ve turned our love of exploring Scotland into our day job – we know exactly where to find the best accommodation, the best food and drink experiences, and how to turn your trip into an unforgettable one.

As we head into Autumn, what could be better than an invigorating walk then warming up in a cosy pub nearby? With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of our favourite pubs across Scotland to curl up in on a cold day. The only problem you’ll have is tearing yourself away!

From Edinburgh to the Outer Hebrides, read on to discover our team’s favourite cosy pubs in Scotland …

Dores Inn, Loch Ness – Fern Urquhart’s choice

Set on the north-eastern tip of Loch Ness, the Dores Inn is the ideal spot enjoy a drink, admire the beauty of the loch and, most importantly, keep an eye out for the Loch Ness Monster!

The pub is small, charming and home to a roaring log burning fire. With a selection of malt whiskies, local gins (including Loch Ness Gin), real ales and homely pub food, you might find yourself here for a while.

Through to the left of the pub sits a small but brilliant restaurant serving up the best of local produce, from freshly-caught scallops to Highland steak – the ideal spot to refuel after a day walking the Loch Ness Trail.

Should the sun make an appearance, enjoy a drink in the OutDores Inn beer garden overlooking Loch Ness before enjoying a peaceful walk along Dores Beach on the Loch Ness Trail.



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The Anderson, Fortrose – Scott Smyth’s choice

Only 30 minutes north of the tourist hotspot of Inverness and just off the North Coast 500, the Black Isle remains strangely undiscovered by most visitors to Scotland. It could be due to its misleading name (it’s neither black nor an island), or the fact that you need to detour slightly from the main A9 road to reach it. Its ‘hidden gem’ vibe only adds to the appeal of The Anderson; a quintessential Scottish village pub with a twist.

On entering this old inn in the handsome village of Fortrose, the unmistakable American accents of the proprietors created a momentary sense of disorientation, which quickly disappeared as I settled down at a candlelit table and relaxed into the warm and cosy ambience. Seeking a better place to bring up their kids, Jim and Anne Anderson moved here from Philadelphia in the early 2000s and set out to transform an old spit and sawdust pub into something special.

The food menu offers wonderful, crowd-pleasing fare with both Scottish and American influences – look out for the best Philly cheesesteak this side of the Atlantic! After dinner, make your way to the adjoining whisky bar (pictured below) for a nightcap.


Moulin Inn, Pitlochry – Caitlin Richmond’s choice

The Moulin Inn, home to one of the oldest microbreweries in Scotland, is without a doubt a favourite of mine. A visit to this cosy pub is an absolute must after a bracing walk up Ben Vrackie, which sits proudly behind and just so happens to also be a favourite hill of mine! I can’t remember which came first though?

Originally a coach house, the Moulin Inn first opened its doors in 1695 and now has 15 guest rooms and a very successful microbrewery. You will find few places that can claim a more local ale supply than the Moulin Inn, with three of their own beers on offer: Braveheart Ale, Ale of Atholl, and Old Remedial Ale.

Just a 15-minute walk from Pitlochry town centre, this is the perfect place to cosy up and snuggle down for the afternoon, evening or weekend! The Inn serves delicious, homely and hearty food all year round. Welcoming dogs too, it really couldn’t get any better.


The Drovers Inn, by Loch Lomond – Helen McLaren’s choice

Situated in the tiny hamlet of Inverarnan in the beautiful Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, the historic Drovers Inn is my go-to pub after climbing the wealth of Munros nearby, such as Ben Lui and Ben More.

It is also a favourite overnight stop for walkers of the West Highland Way due to its location right by the trail. Regular live music sessions create a lively atmosphere, and their hearty pub grub is exactly what you need after a long day of walking.

Dating back to 1705, the Drovers was once frequented by the Highland drovers who used to drive their cattle down the side of Loch Lomond to the markets. The decor and furniture look as though they have not been changed or altered for a couple of hundred years. As you enter the reception hall you are faced by a full-grown, stuffed grizzly bear, and the assured feeling that this place is going to stay in your consciousness for a long time to come!



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Westford Inn, North Uist – Caitlin Rush’s choice

There is only one pub on the remote and wild island of North Uist, so thank goodness it’s a good one! My friends and I discovered the Westford Inn on the last night of our week exploring the Outer Hebrides. On a wet and blustery evening, we sat happily around their wooden tables reminiscing about a wonderful week of adventure. Following a hike up North Lee, our already rosy cheeks were made rosier still from the warmth of their roaring fire.

The pub was filled with locals discussing the highs and lows of that year’s agricultural show and teemed with community spirit. Safe from the wind blowing outside and surrounded by old stone walls, we sampled drinks from all the neighbouring islands.

A pint of ale from the Skye Brewing Company always hits the spot while the Isle of Harris Distillery makes the most delicious gin with a distinctive blue bottle and coastal flavour. If you find yourself in the Outer Hebrides, be sure to step into the Westford Inn and warm up!


The Canny Man’s, Edinburgh – Jamie Ellis’s choice

A true character pub, every time I visit the Canny Man’s I always find something I’ve never spotted before! Located in the leafy suburb of Morningside in the south-west of Edinburgh, the walls of this pub are laden with interesting antiques and eye-catching curios. You can see trumpets and walking-poles strapped to the ceiling as soon as you enter, and you know straight away this is not your bog-standard watering hole.

The pub has been run by the same family since 1871 and has long established itself as an Edinburgh institution. There are plenty of secluded rooms where you can relax with a craft ale, and the pleasant courtyard is perfect for those warm, sunny days.

Every time a friend visits me in Edinburgh, I take them to this pub. I know the Canny Man’s will be like nowhere else they have encountered before, yet will still provide comfortable and cosy surroundings. Before we know it, night has fallen and we don’t want to go home!



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The Clachaig Inn, Glencoe – James Fathers’ choice

The Clachaig Inn is a bonafide, classic Scottish Highland pub. The inn sits at the western end of Glencoe, probably the most famous and spectacular glen in Scotland. Travellers taking the road through Glencoe are treated to stunning views of the Three Sisters – colossal rocky bluffs looming over the glen – so the view from the beer garden of the Clachaig, pint of Scottish craft ale in hand, ranks among the best.

As well as its location, the pub is equally famous for its fantastic atmosphere. On a dreich day, the bar is a laid back place to enjoy some decent pub grub by an open fire, but it’s the evenings that the pub is famous for. There’s live Scottish folk music every Saturday night, and things usually get quite boisterous. Dancing on the tables is tolerated, if not encouraged, and the huge range of Scottish craft ales, whiskies and gins help things along.

I have a soft spot for the Clachaig because it’s where I celebrated climbing Buachaille Etive Beag, my final Munro (the 282 mountains in Scotland over 3000 ft), but I’d recommend it to anyone, regardless of how many mountains you’ve climbed!



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The Ben Nevis, Glasgow – Jason Martin’s choice

When it’s blowing a hooley in Glasgow, my favourite place to seek shelter is The Ben Nevis! The Finnieston area of Glasgow has certainly changed over the last few years, with trendy bars and restaurants opening all the time. But one stalwart of Finnieston that has remained is the mighty Ben Nevis bar.

With over 100 whiskies adorning the bar, you’ll be spoilt for choice, but the highly trained staff are there to lend a hand. Initially, the whisky bottles sat on slanting shelves causes alarm, but after you sit and enjoy a dram you release they’re replicating the pub’s namesake, a mountain to climb if ever I saw one!

The interior is an interesting design – it makes me think of an old Scottish blackhouse, with the rear wall topped with traditional thatch, Scottish wooden beams beneath and all held in place by hanging stone. But the heart of any home is the fireplace, and the roaring fire at the Ben Nevis doesn’t disappoint.

With trad music sessions three nights a week and laughter abound, you’ll always be entertained and welcomed at The Ben Nevis bar.


The Herringbone, North Berwick – Emily Farquhar’s choice

Whilst it may not have tales to tell of centuries gone by, and is not as remote, perhaps, as some of the other pubs on the list, The Herringbone does bring one thing to the table that the others do not: A touch of contemporary elegance.

Situated on the High Street in the seaside town of North Berwick – located on the John Muir Way – this pub brings a whole new meaning to the word ‘cosy’. Through the heavy entrance door, misted from the warmth inside, patrons find respite from the harsh seaside wind. The owners have confidently swapped traditional Scottish decor for lighter Scandi-style furnishings, creating a haven adorned with twinkly fairy lights and warm sheepskin rugs.

The impressive menu showcases a modern take on hearty ‘pub grub’, where fresh regional and seasonal produce is used to revolutionise traditional Scottish food. The pub serves an extensive range of local craft beers, fine wines and whiskies; a warming tipple for all tastes can be found at this cosy seaside pub.



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Sheep Heid Inn, Edinburgh – Katia Fernandez Mayo’s choice

It is claimed that Edinburgh has more pubs per square mile than any other city in the UK. With such a vast choice, you would think it’d be hard to pick just one, but the Sheep’s Heid is my top choice for three reasons.

Firstly, the pub dates back to circa 1360 and has a strong claim to being the oldest pub in Scotland. It is old, traditional, snug (and dog-friendly!), but the food menu is modern and inventive, offering wonderful Scottish cuisine.

Secondly, it has a special location, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the Royal Mile and Princes Street. The Sheep’s Heid can be found in the small village of Duddingston, under the shadow of majestic Arthur’s Seat – a 45 minutes walk from the city centre. As you ramble through the green expanse of Holyrood Park, you will be accompanied by the delightful fragrance of coconut-scented Gorse and views over Prestonfield Golf Club and Duddingston Loch.

Thirdly, this might be the only pub in Britain where you can find a Skittles alley! Skittles is similar to bowling, except that the ball has no holes and it must be rolled the length of the alley, rather than thrown … It certainly makes for a quirky night out!



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St Andrews Brew Co, St Andrews – Megan Bruce’s choice

For a tiny town, St Andrews has an impressive concentration of pubs. Whether we should thank the students, golfers, or the locals, it does mean that you’re spoilt for choice for cosy pubs in this picturesque corner of Fife.

During my four years living in St Andrews, I made sure to explore almost every pub on St Andrew’s three main streets, so feel justified in placing St Andrew’s Brewing Company in the top spot. Awarded Best Scottish Beer Bar in 2017, ‘Brew Co.’ as it’s affectionately known is nestled in a row of medieval house fronts on South Street. Drawn in by the warm glow from the windows, you’ll be welcomed through the door by the bright chatter and laughter. Choose one of 18 beers or ciders on tap including the Brewing Co.’s own, or, if you’re in the mood for something stronger, select from rare malt whiskies and craft gins. Tasty food inspired by Scotland’s larder is also served throughout the day.

My favourite spot to settle in for the night is hidden right at the back, where you’ll find an open log fire and huge sofas – an ideal place to curl up after a stroll on the Fife Coastal Path.



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The Old Clubhouse, Gullane – Pippa Robson’s choice

I’m pretty sure I can pin my love of nachos to one exact place, the Old Clubhouse in Gullane. A Sunday trip to one of the beautiful beaches in East Lothian was always followed by nachos at The Old Clubhouse – a firm favourite with my friends and family.

Located in Gullane, a small coastal town to the east of Edinburgh, the Old Clubhouse was originally built as for the members of the Gullane Golf Society in 1890. These days you’ll find dog-walkers, locals, golfers, tourists, John Muir Way walkers, and bird-watchers alike at the Old Clubhouse, all soaking up the cosy period atmosphere of the pub.

If you’re lucky with the weather, settle down at one of the outdoor tables which are ideally located to watch golfers on the course in front of the pub, and the sunset over the rolling fields of East Lothian beyond the golf.



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Nauticus, Edinburgh – Rosa Leo’s choice

Situated off the tourist trail in the quirky Leith area of Edinburgh, Nauticus only opened 12 months ago but has quickly become a favourite amongst Edinburgh locals. With its wooden interior, Harris Tweed-upholstered bar stools, impressive bookcase and resident piano, the atmosphere at Nauticus is warm and welcoming, making it a perfect spot to escape the temperamental Scottish weather.

Everything in Nauticus has been inspired by Leith’s maritime legacy and the menu showcases the best of Scottish produce, focusing on local produce. As if the impressive selection of beers and single malts wasn’t enough, Nauticus offers a superb cocktail menu which features revisited classics and unusual flavour combinations.

A personal favourite of mine, I’ve been a regular at Nauticus since its very first night and keep returning time after time, drawn in by the beautiful surroundings, quality produce, and top-notch service.



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The Old Bridge Inn, Aviemore – Sine Nielsen’s choice

Sitting on the banks of the famous River Spey, The Old Bridge Inn is an unassuming cottage conversion with a quaint, humble exterior. The first time I wandered through its doors, I had just completed the Speyside Way and was looking to celebrate my achievement. I was met by a burning log fire, friendly dogs, rustic wooden tables, board games, local ales and a gourmet food menu – it was love at first sight!

This is a pub that takes food seriously. That evening I tucked into haggis croquettes, Scottish cured pigeon and a sticky toffee pudding to die for. Although the candle-lit restaurant is light and welcoming, I’d recommend sitting in the snug pub, from where you can easily sample the fantastic selection of Cairngorm Brewery beer.

If Highland brew isn’t your thing, they also serve divine cocktails and have over 100 malt whiskies to choose from. The atmospheric bar and knowledgeable staff make this hidden gem a favourite amongst locals and visitors alike.



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Discover Scotland’s Cosy Pubs 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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