Nothing has escaped the recent revival of Scotland’s gastronomy scene, including the humble pub. These days, a definitively “good pub” marries a relaxed and somewhat boisterous atmosphere with fine food free from the pageantry you’d expect from a stuffy restaurant. Here are some of the country’s best gastropubs leading the charge with their extensive drinks lists, adventurous menus and spectacular views.
Ox and Finch, Glasgow
Does your average pub have a menu that includes tequila-cured sea trout or verbena custard? We think not. Glasgow’s bistro-style Ox and Finch pub (top image) has a share plate, come-when-it’s-ready serving style. This contributes to the lively atmosphere, though you’ll have to hope your dining companions are eager to share —no one would willingly hand over half their juicy, romesco-slathered plate of pork belly when it’s this good.
Image credit: Ox and Finch
920 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow; +44 141 339 8627
The Drouthy Cobbler, Elgin
There are more than 150 whiskies on the extensive list at The Drouthy Cobbler – a moody, atmospheric gastropub tucked away in Elgin, a town renowned for its whisky distilleries. Sample a selection along with a meal that subscribes to the mantra “minimal miles and maximum flavour”. The local-leaning produce includes everything from duck eggs collected from a nearby farm to ale from surrounding Speyside breweries.
48a High Street, Elgin; +44 1343 596 000
The Scran and Scallie, Edinburgh
There’s Michelin blood running through the veins of Edinburgh’s Scran and Scallie – the same team behind starred eatery The Kitchin operates this very chic, very civilised gastropub. It’s Scottish produce, certainly – haggis, Highland beef and scallops from a nearby Scottish archipelago all feature – but oh so deliciously done.
1 Comely Road, Edinburgh; +44 131 332 6281
The Queens Arms, Edinburgh
Chesterfield seating, sports evenings and hanging pots of red geraniums adorning the doorway: this is a British pub, alright. This lively joint has a local feel and a pared-back menu to match, so fitting in is as easy as ordering the Sunday roast with all the trimmings and only stopping to sip your ale (or whisky, as the time of day dictates—there’s a sizeable selection of these as well).
49 Frederick Street, Edinburgh; +44 131 225 1045
The Cross Keys Inn, Kippen
At the edge of Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park lies Kippen, a small town in the catchment of Stirlingshire. The Cross Keys is traditional in its menu offerings (fish suppers and guinea fowl) and features (log fires for warming after winter walks and a beer garden for snatching pale summer rays), The Cross Keys Inn itself dates back to 1707. Expect the unmistakable.
Main Street, Kippen; +44 1786 870 293
Sorn Inn, Ayrshire
There's fish aplenty in the River Ayr, which runs past this village out to sea, so it makes sense that fresh seafood peppers the menu at Sorn Inn: simple battered cod with mushy peas, monkfish served alongisde raisin-spiked rice and poppadums and fishcakes made with seabass and Thai spices. That said, the meatier menu items are just as intriguing – who could say no to perfectly cooked local lamb alongside zucchini and polenta?
35 Main Street, Sorn, East Ayrshire; + 44 129 055 1305
Stein Inn, Isle of Skye
The Stein Inn is the oldest on Skye, an island in the Inner Hebrides archipelago. Along with its offerings of bed and board, it also happens to house a delightfully Scottish menu, including a pie of Highland steak braised in Skye ale, Scottish salmon with a tart vermouth-and-tarragon sauce and local crab sandwiches as part of the lunchtime specials. It also stocks a staggering list of more than 130 whiskies to help wash it all down.
Waternish, Isle of Skye; +44 1470 592 362
Old Bridge Inn, Aviemore
Candlelit and perched on the banks of the River Spey, The Old Bridge Inn has ambience in spades. The menu is just as tempting: Scottish seatrout with salty pancetta and bisque or halibut with a lively lemon and chive tagliatelle. Save room for the Scottish cheese selection, an edible journey through the country’s best, complete with oatcakes and tomato chutney.
23 Dalfaber Road, Aviemore; +44 1479 811 137
The Dores Inn, Inverness
A dram of your favourite whisky isn’t the only thing you’ll be drinking in at The Dores Inn, a family-run pub on the shores of Loch Ness. Food is hearty and traditional (think sustainably sourced haddock and mushy peas or roulades of Highland smoked salmon) but it’s the view over the country’s famed, monster-stalked lake that really draws a crowd.
B862, Dores, Inverness; +44 1463 751 203
The Birds and the Bees, Stirling
A former farmhouse is the setting for Stirling’s relaxed, family-feel eatery The Birds and the Bees. The menu is casual and fun—like the staff that float the place with friendly ambience—and yes, of course, haggis is an inclusion, with a whisky and mustard mayonnaise, no less.
Easter Cornton Road, Stirling; +44 1786 473 663