We seek out the sea and sand to celebrate those spectacular coastal inns and pubs that make a visit to Scotland’s watery edges such a memorable and magical experience.
Main Street, Tobermory, Mull
Tel: 01688 302 500
THE isle of Mull is probably most famous for its riot of rainbow-coloured buildings, which make it appear as though the local construction firms were forced at gun point to build the surrounding houses using extra-large Lego bricks.
However, when lovers of good food and drink muse upon the marvels of Mull, they will most likely be thinking of The Mishnish in Tobermory. This atmospheric and near legendary hostelry, which looks down on to the harbour, first opened its doors way back in 1869.
The cosy interior still reeks of days of yore, with a cracking, crackling log fire. Plus there’s a collection of ancient memorabilia, collected from shipwrecks and the town, which are scattered about the rooms.
The Ship Inn
5 Shorehead, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire
Tel: 01569 762617
IF you’re on a quest for some tip-top tipples to tempt and tantalise your taste buds, The Ship Inn is the very place to visit. Along with its amiable ambience you’ll find a satisfyingly diverse selection of tasty beers and ales lurking behind the bar. The shelves are also awash with single malt whiskies and Scottish craft gins. A flickering fire provides warmth during those woeful winter months. During the summer, there’s a sun terrace, perfect for sipping a chilled beer and enjoying the sight of the local harbour folk working hard while you don’t have to.
Built in 1771, The Ship Inn is one of the oldest watering holes along the Aberdeenshire coastline, though the entertainment it provides is timeless.
The Tavern Bar,
High Street, Eyemouth, Scottish Borders
Tel: 018907 51221
FROM the outside the Tavern Bar isn’t the most picturesque of pubs. Even so, it’s very easy to fall in love with this bustling, congenial drinking den. Set on the beach front in the small fishing town of Eyemouth on the east coast, it includes a spacious beer courtyard overlooking Eyemouth Bay. Perfect if you fancy a contemplative afternoon or evening with friends, family and a few glasses of the frothy stuff.
If contemplation’s not your thing, and you prefer loud noise and boisterous behaviour, then the Tavern has a reputation for providing some of the finest live music in the area. In the past, this hub of amiable activity has showcased everything from bluesy performers to rock and tribute bands.
The Stein Inn, Skye
Macleods Terrace, Waternish, Stein, Skye
Tel: 01470 592 362
IF you get frisky at the thought of whisky then The Stein Inn is the place for you. This popular establishment on the north west of Skye stocks 130 malt whiskies, though it’s probably best not to gulp all of them down in one sitting. Instead, we would advise focusing on the Whisky of the Month, which comes with tasting notes plus other intriguing information. The Stein Inn also provides light lunches which use the best of Scotland’s ingredients, particularly the local produce from Skye and the Highlands, with the fresh shellfish particularly good.
Great views of Loch Bay, though this popular inn can be busy in high season.
The Applecross Inn, Wester Ross
Shore Street, Applecross, Strathcarron, Wester Ross
Tel: 01520 744 262
IF a blockbuster Hollywood road movie is ever filmed in Scotland it will most likely take place on the Bealach na Bà, that tangled and turbulent route through the mountains of the Applecross peninsula. To add to the cinematic spectacle, it would be a good idea for the hero of the movie to screech his car to a halt at the Applecross Inn, to perform a dramatic scene or two.
The location would certainly play well on the big screen, with a backdrop consisting of spectacular views towards Raasay.
The Inn is also known for its wide selection of food and drink and friendly service.
One of its special features is the food truck situated on the shore, opposite the inn, where the famished traveller can enjoy takeaway fare that includes fish and chips, sandwiches and coffee. Perfect for a Hollywood hunk to feast upon while taking a break from filming his magnum opus.
4 South Harbour Street, Ayr
Tel: 01292 280 212
NOT quite a beachfront location, though from the outdoor terrace The Waterfront does have spectacular views across the River Ayr towards Arran. And the local beach isn’t too far away. Only a five minute stroll or a ten minute stagger. (Depending on how much booze you happened to have consumed first). With a luxurious interior, The Waterfront also boasts an opulent selection of liquid refreshments, including chilled glasses of champagne, fine wines, craft beers and seasonal cocktails. Meals available will entice both the casual or serious diner, with everything from homemade scones to fillet steak.
Crown Hotel, Portpatrick
9 North Crescent, Portpatrick, Dumfries and Galloway
Tel: 01776 810 261
SET on the harbour’s edge of the fishing village of Portpatrick, the Crown Hotel – affectionately known by locals as ‘The Crown’ – blends comfort with character. There’s a toasty-warm bar and a swanky conservatory restaurant which provides home-cooked food, with plenty piled on your plate. The views across the Irish Sea are spectacular and the village itself includes a memorable mix of quaint cottages and gift shops.
The Ship Inn, Broughty Ferry
121 Fisher Street, Broughty Ferry, Dundee
Tel: 01382 779176
BALANCED on the banks of the river Tay, this is one of the most popular destinations for Broughty Ferry locals. Its connection to the community began in 1847, when it was first listed as a spirit dealer serving the thirsty fisher folk.
Nowadays there is a traditional bar on the ground floor with comfy seating and chairs in rich burgundy leather. Above the bar is the restaurant, which serves local produce, including (very) fresh fish.
There are also superb views over the River Tay, where visitors have occasionally spotted dolphins.
Broughty Ferry Beach is only a five minute stroll away with Broughty Ferry Castle, another local attraction.
Café Continental Gourock
40 Kempock Street, Gourock
Tel: 01475 638 693
CHANCES are that if you are a long term resident of Gourock, the place you will most often visit to enjoy a little bit of the GouRock-n-Roll lifestyle is the Café Continental. Though we have to warn you that it is neither a genuine café nor is it situated on the mainland continent of Europe.
The name may be confusing, though the establishment itself is always fun to visit, with a wide selection of scoff and quaff, including everything from hefty dinners and drink to light lunches plus coffee and cake. With its prime position on the Firth of Clyde, there are also spectacular views over the water.
Sango Sands Oasis,
Sango Bay, Durness, Sutherland
Tel: 01971 511 222
ADJACENT to a popular camping site in a remote corner of Durness, the Sango Sands Oasis Restaurant and Bar is a modest establishment though you will always be offered hearty helpings of scoff plus a well stocked bar featuring a range of Scotch whiskies. The local beach is a wonder of white sands looking out to the Atlantic Ocean, and you may just spot the occasional showboating whale, seal or bottlenose dolphin. Who needs TV when the creatures of the sea are doing their very best to be more entertaining than any given episode of EastEnders?
Esplanade Sea Beach, Aberdeen
Tel: 01224 379 940
IT’S called The Pier because it’s on The Pier. Literally slap, bang on top of it. This fashionable drinking den has a sassy, saucy seaside feel to it with funky food and drinks available. Edibles include nifty bowls of noodles, bao buns and tacos. Drinks on tap include ‘Twisted Sisters’, ‘Hard Seltzers’ and ‘Boozy ‘Shakes’. Don’t ask – just imbibe.
Great views from the landscape windows, too.
If you’re in the mood for getting well-oiled in the black gold capital of Scotland, The Pier is the place to polish off a few.
The Old Forge,
Tel: 01687 462 267
SICK of civilization and desperate to get away from it all? According to the Guinness Book of Records, The Old Forge, in the village of Inverie, is the most remote mainland pub in the UK. It was also listed as one of the top ten places for beer in the World’s Pubs Hierarchy ranking of 2014. Originally a smiddy’s forge, the owners eventually realised that pulling pints is much more beneficial to society than crafting horseshoes. (Though a few disgruntled horses would probably disagree with this sentiment.) To prove that it isn’t completely cut off from the mores of the modern world, the Old Forge promotes a successful range of merchandise, including hoodies, T-shirts and baseball caps. The pub closes on Wednesdays.
The Ship Inn
Tel: 01333 330 246
THIS well-loved Fife watering hole is quite possibly the only pub in Scotland to have its own cricket team, with a handy pitch on the nearby beach. Though we’re not sure if the athletes play before beers, or after. Maybe they even play during beers, with one hand on bat or ball while the other clutches a frothing pint. Now that would be a skill worth acquiring.
If strenuous exercise of the cricketing type is not your thing then you can always retreat to the inn itself, where there is an open, wood-burning fire to relax in front of while sipping a coffee, a cuppa, a real ale or a magnificent malt. Food changes by the season and is 100 per cent Scottish. Perfect after you have enjoyed a coastal path walk or stroll round Elie Bay.
17 The High Street
Tel: 0131 331 1298
OKAY, here’s what you have to do. Find a full length mirror. Hang it on the nearest wall. Now stand in front of that full length mirror and ask yourself one question: “Am I super slick and super cool?” If the answer is a resounding ‘Yes!” you are bound to fit right in at Orocco Pier, a swish-n-swanky bar in swish-n-swanky South Queensferry. The café has a vibrant vibe, with a chilled out undertow. And the glass-panelled walls allow guests to enjoy spectacular views of the Forth Bridges. The terrace is a great space for outdoor dining and drinking, with scrumptious seafood available.
The Oyster Bar & Restaurant
Ellenabeich, Easdale, Oban, Argyllshire
Tel: 01852 300 121
LOCATED in the beautiful and historic village of Ellenabeich, Easdale, this family run business is roughly sixteen miles south of Oban on the west coast of Argyll. The rear seating area looks across the Atlantic, taking in views of the islands of Scarba and Jura, as well as many other islands that can be seen from this perfect vantage point. The menu is seasonal and primarily seafood based, with fresh ingredients locally sourced. At the bar there is a variety of regional Scottish real ales and malt whiskies. If the whisky doesn’t keep you warm, the coal fire certainly will.
44 Shore Road
Tel: 01369 830 820
THIS whitewashed seafront hotel, a few miles south of Dunoon, was built in 1869 and has been completely refurbished in the past few years, though it retains a traditional ambience. The comfortable bar has a pool table to one side and a cosy lounge with a log fire in winter. At the front, a conservatory acts as the dining room and provides excellent views across the Firth of Clyde. The summer weather can be enjoyed in a small outdoor area.
Glenuig, Sound of Arisaig, Inverness-shire
Tel: 01687 470 219
GETTING bored of this article promoting stunning coastal views? Got to the point where you would rather stare glumly at a brick wall? We hope not. Because we have to tell you that relaxing in the beer garden of the Glenuig Inn means you will be confronted by Scottish scenery at its most smug and sassy, with the Sound of Arisaig perfectly framed by hills on either side. You’ll probably end up muttering to yourself, “Come off it, Scotland. Now you’re just showing off.”
This quaint West Highlands inn pre-dates the Jacobite Rising of 1745, though the current owners are enthusiastically driving forward with a modern green philosophy, implementing a host of initiatives to preserve the surrounding environment. This means 100% renewable energy and no single-use plastics.
Crescent Road, Nairn
Tel: 01667 452 341
OVERLOOKING Central Beach and the open grass area known as The Links, The Bandstand is a two-minute walk from the town centre and has great sea view across the Moray Firth. The kitchen uses fresh produce, locally sourced where possible, and the beer is pretty nifty, too. The Bandstand Bar has won the Camra Highland Pub Of The Year three times, most recently in 2020. There is also an ever-changing range of real ales, plus the bustling establishment is the regular host of the Highland’s largest independent beer festival.
49 Shore Street
Tel: 01333 310 347
RIGHT on the harbour front, next door to the fishery museum, this traditional pub is a popular meeting place for fishermen plus other locals and visitors to the waterfront. The bar has all the character you would expect from a historic fishing village inn. Two ever-changing ales come from regional or national brewers. Very relaxing with great views across the harbour. There are also some fantastic fish and chip shops in the area, including the award-winning Anstruther Fish Bar.
Tel: 01561 361 337
A HARBOURSIDE howff with traditional seafaring decor. The pub has a public bar, a smaller taproom with bar stools, and a separate pool room with additional seating. The single hand-pump usually dispenses beer from the Strathbraan or Deeside breweries. Next door is the renowned Quayside Restaurant. The Harbour Bar is also handy for the Maggie Law Maritime Museum. This is a popular bar with locals and tourists alike, where the thirsty visitor is always assured a warm welcome.