Top 6 pub walks in Scotland (focused on the Highlands)
Pub walks in Scotland with good quality craft beers to round off the day would not have been easy in the past. Though Britain is rightly famous for its pub culture, but pub walks in Scotland are not a widely known phenomenon. We can probably attribute this to our Presbyterian heritage. The image of the Presbyterian minister breathing fire and brimstone and going on about the evils of drink and merriment have a lot to answer for.
10 years ago, beer aficionados moaned about the lack of craft beers. Fortunately all this has changed around completely now and we’re spoiled for choice, particularly in the Cairngorms. Those pubs which have maintained their traditional links with brewing and good food are doing very good business. Many of them are in fabulous walking country. We’ve picked out 5 of the best for you to explore on your way round Scotland. You’ll also be pleased to know that we’ve included some of these gems on our hiking tours, like the Highland Extravaganza.
1. The Old Bridge Inn
On the banks of the river Spey, looking out over the Cairngorms, the Old Bridge Inn is one of the best pubs. They stock beer from the local brewery (Cairngorm Beers) many of which are on tap. They also have an amazing varied menu and serve both pub meals and restaurant fare. If you have a large group, booking is advised.
- From Boat of Garten: Follow the Speyside Way from Boat of Garten to Aviemore, past the golf course to the doorstep of the Old Bridge Inn (6 miles). This is a great family route, relatively flat. The route can be extended after or before lunch to explore some of the Rothiemurchus estate. If you time your day right, you could also combine your exploration with a ride back on the Strathspey Steam Railway; the more mundane option, would be to hop on the local bus back to Boat if you have explored too far around Aviemore.
- This walk also lends itself to family cycling and can be extended through to Glenmore to enjoy tea and cake at the Red Squirrel cafe. This would be potentially a linear route, depending on the capabilities of your party. Alternatively check with Scot Mountain Holidays for a transfer to Glenmore, walk/cycle the Old Logging Way to the Old Bridge Inn, then follow the Speyside Way back to Boat of Garten.
- Inverdruie to Loch an Eilean
Check out our self-guided mountain biking holidays which include some of these routes.
2. Cairngorm Hotel or the Winking Owl
Both the Winking Owl and the Cairngorm Hotel are in central Aviemore, on the main street. The Winking Owl is now owned by Cairngorm Brewery and its primary focus is on serving good quality food and beer. The menu is typical pub fare but is nicely presented and offered with a range of Cairngorm beers. The atmosphere is relaxed.
The Cairngorm Hotel is directly across the road from the railway station. It can get extremely busy, particularly when there are sporting events on. Don’t expect a quiet romantic meal.
Recommended walks: Craigellachie Nature Reserve
3. The Moulin Inn
The Moulin Inn is a hotel but also a pub. It is extremely popular with walkers as it is at the bottom of the popular route suggested below. It is not be be missed if you are in the Pitlochry area as there is not much else in Pitlochry to write home about, apart from the tearoom. There is usually a comfortable, glowing open fire welcoming guests and the menu is quite comprehensive. We recommend the lamb shank and the raspberry crumble!
Recommended walks: Ben Vraikie
For other suggestions in the Pitlochry are try WalkHighlands.
4. Applecross Inn
Rightly famous for their seafood, the Applecross Inn is in a beautiful setting, surrounded by the stunning peaks of Wester Ross. The inn also offers great views across to Raasay and Skye, if it is possible to sit outside without being pestered by the midges. The Inn offers an award-winning menu, using high quality local produce like venison, alongside the seafood. It’s also a great destination for sea kayakers. Judith and her staff are also rightly proud of the Gold green tourism award and are open all year round.
A short hillwalk taking advantage of a start at over 2000 feet. Sgurr a Chaorachain is a Corbett summit, and though easy to reach has very dramatic mountain views.
5. The Clachaig
is deservedly recognised as the home of Scottish mountaineering. The food is top quality and the welcome warm. You will almost always find walkers and climbers relaxing here. The Claichaig prides itself on its friendly atmosphere, its range of real ales and its live music. Check their website for details of whats on during your visit to the area.
- Loch Achtriochtan & lower Glen: this is one of the most photographed views in Scotland. The beautiful lochan surrounded by the majestic peaks of Glencoe is a truly spectacular setting.
- or for a bit more than a family walk/ a morning out before your pub lunch – Glencoe is rightly famous for its mountain walks
- If you want to spend longer exploring Glencoe do check out the various options on WalkHighlands where all the routes are graded according to length and difficulty
- Bidean Nam Bian (moderate to challenging) – mountain walking experience required and good navigation skills or book a guide.
- A wee bit further on and best attempted on a good day: The Buckle
6. The Sligachan, Skye
Another popular walking pub with an associated campsite like the Clachaig. Unfortunately the position of the Sligachan doesn’t really lend itself to gentle half-day circular walks (the Cuillin are in the way), but the situation is so fabulous that really even if you walk out and back along the same path, you’ll still get the most stunning views that Skye has to offer.
- Part of the Skye trail
- Fairy Pools – not exactly on the doorstep and becoming way too popular to enjoy any peace and quiet (plus parking is an issue these days) but still worth going if you can visit off season.
- Further options from WalkHighlands
A gem of a pub with plenty of outdoor seating on the south shore of Loch Ness. You can even dabble a toe in the Loch if you want right from the car park. A traditional pub concentrating on serving food and drink. There is a good selection of beers and food. Sunset dining with a view over Loch Ness is recommended, but it is also a great lunch stop too.
- Part of the South Loch Ness Trail: the route north will take you into Inverness. In theory you could get to Dores on public transport from Inverness and walk back along the South Loch Ness Trail (7 miles). Then no one needs to be designated driver.
- Routes from Foyers, a wee bit further down the Loch
- Aldourlie Castle circuit
Do you know of any great walks which start and finish at pubs in the Highlands? Please get in touch with your recommendations.
If you’d like to go guided on a walking holiday in Scotland please don’t hesitate to contact us for dates, prices and opportunities.
For a full list of all the trips available with Scot Mountain Holidays: cycling/biking, walking/hiking and family adventures – check out the home page