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Scotland Travel Blog December 2023

”Cozy Pubs in the Scottish Highlands”

December is a month when we’re usually far too busy working on updates to the Travel Guides to have time for any road trips. It’s also a month when we don’t want to be out on the road as it’s not a pleasant time to be touring Scotland. But one of the things that we do like about December, is sheltering from the inclement weather in a cozy old pub.

Like curling up safe in a warm bed on a stormy night, there’s something comforting about being in a cosy pub, sitting beside a roaring fire with a dram in your hand whilst it's raining outside.

We’ve even got an old Scots word that expresses this feeling. To “Coorie” in. It basically means the action of snuggling in and making yourself comfortable. Like a dog curling into his bed beside a fire, or the action of pulling a warm blanket around you. It implies finding comfort and safety and sums up that same feeling you get when you step through the door of a welcoming pub.

We feature pubs like this in all of our guides, but for this blog, I’ve picked a list of the good pubs you can find along the route of the “Authentic Scotland” tour plan. This isn’t the complete list of pubs along the way, but these are some that you find in the Highlands that come with a bit of history to add to their atmosphere.

The Glue Pot, Connel

The Glue Pot is the pub adjoining the Oyster Inn hotel which sits at the south end of the Connel Bridge. Before the bridge was built, travelers would stop at the “Glue Pot” ferry house whilst waiting for the small boat that would row them across the narrow entrance to Loch Etive.

The pub became popular with the thirsty locals of Oban in the 1850’s after the passing of a law that forbid pubs from opening on Sundays unless serving travelers on the course of their journey. To get around this piece of legislation, residents of Oban would take a carriage to Connel and stay in the “Glue Pot” drinking until the afternoon carriage returned them home.

Interior of the Glue Pot pub in Connel

The pub has been changed quite a lot over the centuries so it isn’t as authentically old as some on this list, but it still feels the part with bare stone walls, old wooden pews, and a hearty open fireplace. Some pieces of the pub’s history that have been retained are framed copies of old letters of complaint from the 1890’s about a Ferryman who seemingly operated his boat on several occasions after consuming a bit too much drink in the “Glue Pot”.

Amusing copy in the Glue Pot Inn of a complaint from the 1890's about a drunk ferryman

Tigh an Truish Inn, Isle of Seil

The “Tigh an Truish” Inn has one of the best histories of any pub in Scotland and its name harks back to the troubled times following the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion. After the uprising, the British Government set about the destruction of Highland culture and the Clan system. One such measure introduced was “The Dress Act” of 1746 which made wearing "the Highland Dress" (i.e. the Kilt) illegal.

Tigh an Truish inn on a lovely summer day

But Tigh an Truish Inn stands on the Isle of Seil which is separated from the mainland by a narrow channel of water that acts like a moat. Consequently, the inhabitants of Seil felt safe to continue wearing their kilts on the island but were prudent enough to adopt tousers (“Truish” in Gaelic) when crossing to the mainland.

Tigh an Truish Inn viewed from the mainland beside the Clachan bridge.

Like the Glue Pot, Tigh an Truish inn originated as a ferry house and it was here that the islanders would change out of their kilts and into trousers before crossing to the mainland. And so the name “Tigh an Truish” (house of trousers) stuck.

Sturdy old bar at the Tigh an Truish Inn

The Inn has had a bit of a makeover in the last few years and now has very nicely appointed bedrooms, but the pub has kept its rustic charm with a sturdy wooden bar, rickety old wooden chairs, and a wood burning stove. There’s even a sword mounted on the wall above the fire, but we don’t know if dates back as far as 1745.

The Clachaig Inn, Glen Coe

There are not many buildings in Glen Coe, but it does have one pub that stands out as the sort of place you’d want to be during a wild winter night. We refer of course to the Clachaig Inn which has welcomed travelers for at least 300 years.

Exterior photo of the oldest part of the Clachaig Inn

The Clachaig has also become a bit of a social hub for the mountaineers and hillwalkers who flock to the appropriately named "Boots Bar" after completing the challenging ascents and ridge walks of Glen Coe. The pub's popularity means that it has had to grow over the years, so it doesn’t have the intimacy of places like the Tigh an Truish. But it makes up for this with the liveliness of its crowd. Fortunately, there are still some quieter and more intimate corners of the pub if you just want to gather for a blether with friends.

One of the cozy quieter corners of the Clachaig's Boots Bar

It’s also a pub where you’ve got a good chance of catching some live music on a weekend. And if you go in February, they’ve started to run a “Feb Fest” with live music practically every day of the month.

A fiddle session in the Boots Bar at the Clachaig Inn

Am Praban, Skye

There are a few pubs on Skye that are worth mentioning, such as the Old Inn at Carbost or the Edinbane Inn, which both have good live music scenes. But the place I like best on Skye is a bit quieter. And that’s why I prefer it.

Entrance to the Am Praban Bar

So my choice for Skye is the Am Praban bar which is attached to the Eilean Iarmain Hotel in the little village of Isleornsay, near Armadale. The bar is paneled all round with dark wood and the seating areas are divided into little booths. It all feels reminiscent of being on board an old sailing ship and reminds me of the officer's quarters on board the RRS Discovery in Dundee.

Wood paneled walls of the Am Praban bar

It’s also a pub that serves very nice food and I’ve enjoyed some of their delicious mussels and langoustines on previous lunch stops. The only problem with the Am Praban is when you have to leave its cozy confines and step out into the driving rain that Skye is so good at delivering.

The drinks gantry at the Am Praban bar on Skye

The Clachan, Dornie

Crossing the Skye Bridge brings you to the Lochalsh area, where you find the very pretty village of Plockton. I mention Plockton because it has enough pubs for you to have a pub crawl. Admittedly, a very short pub crawl, but so long as you have two pubs within walking distance you have the makings of a pub crawl.

The Clachan pub in Dornie photographed from outside

But much as I love Plockton, the pub I’m going to take you to is the Clachan in the village of Dornie, which is just beside the famous Eilean Donan castle. It’s so close that the owner of Eilean Donan had a bridge built so he could walk to the pub rather than taking his rowing boat (I made that bit up, but it is walking distance from the castle).

Clachan is a Gaelic word that means "Stones" and it is quite a common name for pubs, so don’t be confused if you find this pub appearing somewhere else. What sets The Clachan in Dornie apart is its great setting, friendly locals, and the surprisingly good food that it serves.

Standing at the bar in the Clachan pub in Dornie

Badachro Inn, Gairloch

The next refreshment stop is in the Gairloch area where you find a pub that Mike rates as one of his all-time favourites, the Badachro Inn

A local sat at the bar of the Badachro Inn

This pub has featured in previous Blogs that we’ve written and no visit to Gairloch would be complete without at least one drink in this great little bar on the shores of Loch Gairloch. This is a pub with the sort of antique patina that so many “Irish theme pubs” try to recreate. If you want the real thing, go to the Badachro Inn, where each scratch and ding in the old wood bar has been earned through years of service.

Sea views from the conservatory restaurant at the Badachro Inn

The oldest part of the pub dates from the mid-1800s and it has listed building status, but this hasn’t prevented the construction of an attractive modern conservatory restaurant where you can enjoy a dinner with wonderful sunset views. And the views from the beer garden are pretty darn good too.

View of Horrisdale Island from the Beer Garden at the Badachro Inn

The pub is such an important element of life in Badachro, that when previous owners put the pub up for sale in the 1990s, a consortium of Badachro residents clubbed together to buy it rather than let it be sold to someone who might convert it into a holiday home.

Clachnaharry Inn, Inverness

Our pick of the pubs in Inverness stands on the western fringes of the town. Indeed it’s so far from the town centre that it wouldn’t have been considered to be part of Inverness when it was built in the 17th century as a Coaching Inn.

The pub has sprawled considerably over the centuries and the surroundings have changed significantly too. In 1810, the eastern end of the Caledonian Canal was completed within sight of the Inn. And then in the 1870’s, a railway line was built in the backyard of the pub. The trains from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh pass so close to the Inn’s beer garden that you could hit them with a well-aimed peanut.

Train passing by the bottom of beer garden at Clachnaharry Inn

The old part of the pub has the low ceilings, bare stone walls, open fire, and wood paneling that you’d expect for a building of this age. But if the sun is shining, you should try to get a seat in the Beer Garden. OK, not so enjoyable in winter, but a lovely place to be in summer as they take pride in their flower baskets, and it's a great little sun trap.

Floral display in the beer garden of the Clachnaharry Inn

Moulin Inn, Pitlochry

The last stop on our Highland Pub Crawl is in the village of Moulin, just a mile to the east of Pitlochry. The village is dominated by the Moulin Inn which has stood here since 1695. The 17th century Inn would have been quite a bit smaller than the present building, but the old building remains incorporated into the larger hotel.

Front view of the Moulin Inn with the old pub on the right

The bit of the hotel that we like best is the bar area that is located to the right of the main entrance. The owners have reinstated the distinctive features of the old inn so it feels like you're stepping into a bit of history. Low ceilings supported by oak beams, and uneven floors that make you question your sobriety are all part of the character of this compact pub.

The bar in the Moulin Inn

The pub stands close to the start of the main path up the popular Ben Vrackie Munro. This makes it a popular place for hikers to stop for a rewarding pint after conquering the hill. It is also a popular pub with bearded real ale drinking types as the Inn has a brewery next door and several of their ales are always on tap. The only problem with the Moulin Inn is trying to find a seat as it always seems to be busy.


So that's our last Blog for 2023.

It feels appropriate to close out with the subject of good pubs as we are just about to switch off the computer and head down to our "local" to celebrate Hogmanay and the start of a New Year.

We wish you Peace and Contentment in 2024, and thank you for taking the time to read our Blog!

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