Around a year ago, I wrote a post about 10 of my favourite cafes to visit after a day of adventures in Yorkshire, the Peak District, the Lake District or Wales. When it was published, a few people asked if there was a similar list covering Scotland.
At the time, I had no first hand experience to put together an article about Scottish cafes, but a trip to the Highlands and Skye earlier this year changed all that.
First of all, I have to say that the impression I gained from spending 6 weeks in Scotland this summer is that there is an abundance of fabulous places to visit which just tick all the right boxes for me – independently run, friendly environments, serving locally sourced ingredients, home cooked food and staffed with people who have a high awareness of dietary needs.
Working on recommendations from friends, or just calling in somewhere which looked great while passing, I’ve pulled together a list of 8 places which I absolutely loved.
By the way, it’s worth a mention that all the cafes were visited in the summer months, so double check for any seasonal opening times before heading that way!
Snowgoose Restaurant & Pinemarten Cafe – Nevis Range
Situated at 650m on the slopes of Aonach Mor, the Snowgoose is definitely a cafe with a view. Accessed by the Nevis Range gondola (approximately 7 miles from Fort William) it is worth waiting for a clear day to really make the most of the panorama from the outdoor deck.
I absolutely loved sitting there with my cuppa and notebook, soaking up the views. There are also a couple of easy walks from the Snowgoose to give different panoramas – looking down over Fort William and also out across the Highlands and Islands. For experienced mountain bikers, the World Cup Downhill run starts from here, along with a red graded cross country run (although common opinion seems to consider this black).
Back at the base of the mountain, there’s another cafe (the Pinemarten) which looks out over the finish line of the Downhill World Cup run. There are also some fantastic blue and red graded mountain bike trails from here (definitely check out 10 under the Ben if you like cross country riding) so you can work up an appetite before visiting the cafe.
I visited the Nevis Range centre a couple of times on this trip, but would happily spend more time here exploring the walking and mountain biking trails and enjoying the ambience of the mountain views.
Corrour Station House
Corrour Station is located on the edge of Rannoch Moor and at 1,339 feet is the highest train station in the UK. Access here is by train (Fort William – 50 mins, Glasgow – 3 hrs) or on foot/mountain bike, so it feels like a real adventure to come and visit.
Expecting a basic cafe, I was pleasantly surprised when I walked into a restaurant with a fabulous interior and open fire for those cold months. The menu was packed full of tasty sounding dishes and the location perfect for a pre and post hill refreshment.
There’s plenty of walking from Corrour station but I loved the fun of booking my bike on the train and then cycling around Loch Ossian (approx 9 miles circular ride). The track here is wide and suitable for families, but the scenery is anything but tame. I really felt like I was in the heart of the mountains, yet it was so easy to get there.
For anybody wanting to explore the area over a few days, there’s a SYHA on the shores of Loch Ossian and the Corrour Station House also has luxury B&B in the old signal box.
Incidentally, if you watched Paul Merton’s Secret Stations on Channel 4 in early 2016, you might recognise Corrour.
All the Goodness
Located on the A87 between Dornie and Ardelve (approximately 8 miles from the Skye Bridge), this is a great stopping off point when travelling to Skye, Torridon and north along the west coast – or when driving on the North Coast 500.
We called in for a brew and a break each time we passed and loved the friendliness of the place, made extra special by the fabulous views over the loch. Double check opening as it looks to be May to Sept only.
Gairloch Mountain Coffee Co
It was recommended to me by a couple of people and lived up to expectations.
The bookshop is somewhere I could happily visit time after time for a good browse, and the cafe is superb with amazing home baked cakes.
We cycled there from the Sands Campsite situated outside the village on the coast road. There’s loads to do in the area – walking, cycling, climbing or just kicking back on the beautiful beach.
Torridon and Loch Maree are a short drive away, but it’s worth exploring the area around Gairloch itself for fantastic coastal scenery and glimpses of the Torridon and Skye mountains on clear days.
Torridon Stores Cafe
This particular visit was just a stop over during a drive between Gairloch and Skye, but we still managed to find time for the short stroll to the old open air church of Am Ploc overlooking the loch – definitely worth a look and gives a nice break from sitting in the car!
Driving through Torridon and stopping at the cafe has definitely whetted our appetite to spend longer here and really explore the walking, climbing and mountain biking in the area.
The scenery in and around the area is breathtaking, so thanks to Clare for the recommendation to visit 🙂
Cafe Lephin is located in Glendale on the very north west corner of Skye. We were camping in Dunvegan and had picked up a leaflet advertising the cafe, so after a day out on the bikes we hopped in the van and drove over the hill.
To be honest, I wish we’d discovered this beautiful and peaceful corner of the island a few days earlier – sadly we ran out of time and had to leave exploring Glendale for another visit. However, with a stunning coastline, it looks to be a great place for walking, cycling or just kicking back on the beach.
It’s definitely somewhere I’ll return to in the future.
Comrie Croft Tea Garden
Located around 25 miles west of Perth, you’ll find hostel accommodation, camping, walking trails, mountain biking trails, a well-stocked bike shop (and bike hire), a tea garden and a 100 mile shop (where the products stocked come from a 100 mile radius). There’s also a market garden on the site, which naturally serves the tea garden.
The food at Comrie Croft is beautiful – interesting salads, cakes and sandwiches. When you add in the great mountain biking, superb views of the hills from the cafe deck and the eco friendly nature of the place – well it’s no wonder I loved it here.
No 1 Peebles Road
It’s your bonus 8th cafe and in no way classed as being in the Highlands….but if you love mountain biking and head for the Glentress or Innerleithen trail centres (part of the 7 Stanes), then No 1 Peebles Road is a must visit.
Located in Innerleithen (near Peebles) in the Scottish Borders the food here is amazing and definitely a treat after a day out on the bike.
Go on, check it out….you know you want to!
So there you have it – some of the lovely cafes I visited this summer in Scotland.
As with any post listing great places to visit, I’m sure readers of this post will have their own favourites which haven’t been included. It might be that I’ve just not come across it myself yet, or we didn’t go to that specific area on this trip (Scotland covers a vast geographical area, which requires multiple trips to even scratch the surface – cue the big smiley face).
One which I’ve not visited myself yet, but which a few friends have recommended (especially for breakfast) is the Mountain Cafe in Aviemore, so that’s definitely one for a return trip to the Highlands http://mountaincafe-aviemore.co.uk/
I’m always interested in hearing more recommendations, so please let me know your own favourites in the comments below and hopefully I’ll get to visit on another trip north 🙂