Where’s the Craic - Live Music Pubs in Scotland
Before I go any further, I maybe need to explain what the meaning of “Craic” is. My dictionary defines it as a noun meaning: “enjoyable time spent with other people”. That’s quite an open definition, but it does encapsulate the essence of what the word means and what this blog is going to be about, which is a list of good pubs to have fun hanging out with locals and other visitors.
Regular readers of this Blog will know that we never like to proclaim anything as being the “Best such and such in Scotland” because everything is subjective. Any list that claims to be a definitive “Top Ten” is fundamentally flawed by the diversity of people and their personal preferences. So we stress that this is just a list of friendly pubs that we like where you can let your hair down and enjoy the craic with the locals. If you know of better places then please let us know as we are always open to new suggestions.
Old Inn, Carbost, Isle of Skye - When we were initially setting up Secret Scotland, we had to do a lot of a touring on a tight budget as we had quit our jobs and were living off our savings. As a result, we often used bunkhouse accommodation so that we could save our pennies to spend on eating out as we needed to review restaurants. The bunkhouse at the Old Inn was our base for a week of exploring on Skye and during that time we got friendly with the staff and experienced a few lively nights in the bar. One of the part time bar staff, Farquhar MacDonald is also a very talented fiddler and part of the line up of the group Bramax who compose their own irreverent and very funny songs with a distinctly Scottish style. If you ever get the chance to see them live you should.
As you can see from this video, the bar at the Old Inn is a cosy place and if there is a band playing you have no choice but to join in. Wednesday night is usually traditional music night and Friday night is a “Jam” session where anything goes.
Nevis Inn, Fort William - If you are climbing Ben Nevis and struggling to find motivation to haul your ass to the summit, you can just think about how good that first pint of cold beer will taste when you get back to the Nevis Inn. The Nevis Inn is located in a 200 yr old barn building that has been sensitively restored to retain all its best features. It’s proximity to the Ben Nevis path ensures it's a popular stopping point for hikers and the Lochaber Mountain Rescue team.
The Inn is very rustic inside with sturdy wooden tables and benches, stone walls and the essential wood burning stove in a corner. It is an ideal space for a bit of ceilidh as the tables can be pushed aside to give you a generous dancefloor. And if you get carried away with the partying, there is a basic bunkhouse for crashing out. Tuesday nights are music session, but only during the months of April - October
“The Boots Bar” Clachaig Inn, Glen Coe - The Clachaig Inn can trace its history as a watering hole as far back as the 18th century. The Inn has extended considerably over the years and much of this expansion has been driven by the need to cater for the many mountaineers and hill walkers that flock to Glen Coe for the challenge of its peaks and ridges. The “Boots Bar” is a 20th century addition to the hotel, but the interior design is full of character with lots of natural wood and walls made up from stacks of split logs as if ready to go on the fire. That maybe sounds weird, but it works really well and gives the place a really cozy feel.
The Mishnish, Tobermory, Isle of Mull - The Mishnish Hotel is one of the brightly painted building that makes up the distinctive, you might even say “iconic”, shorefront of Tobermory. It’s the yellow building sandwiched between the bright red and blue ones. For a period, the hotel was painted black and it really spoilt the look of the waterfront so it’s good to see it back i yellow, even if it does mean it needs painted more often.
The Mishnish Hotel is a bit of an institution on Mull and it is a lively place during the Mull Music festival which takes place from the 25th - 29th April in 2019. Other pubs and venues also host live acts during the festival, but the Mishnish is the place that you really want to be for the atmosphere and crowd. It can get a bit boisterous on live music nights (which is most weekends), but the bar has “wee dookits” along the back wall where you can find a snug place to sit down if you prefer something calmer.
Tiree Lodge Hotel, Isle of Tiree - Islanders are generally friendly people, but the people of Tiree always strike us as being especially friendly and the Tiree Music Festival is a great opportunity to experience this. Everyone on the island seems to be at the festival and there’s a wonderful sense of community. This same sense of community can be experienced in the Tiree Lodge Hotel which sits on the edge of the wonderful big sandy beach called Gott Bay. The hotel is a bit shabby inside, but this really doesn’t matter because it’s a pub where you go for the people. The best time to experience the atmosphere is on the Monday after the Tiree Music Festival has finished, for this is when the various bands get together and have an informal jamming session to wind down after the big event.