The Bell Jar

21 Dixon Avenue, Govanhill, Glasgow

There's a fine line between regeneration and gentrification but, depending on who you speak to, Govanhill is hovering on the cusp of at least one of them.

That's in part thanks to a slew of new businesses, the Bell Jar being one such. It's the younger, more compact, more cool sister of the west end's Sparkle Horse and it's drawing a nightly crowd for all the right reasons.

An excellent menu, a petite but perfect range of drinks and the chance to hunker down in a booth with neighbours who have become friends.

Best for: Feeling you've a finger on the pulse.

Avoid if: You're a snob about less salubrious areas.


The Royal Oak

1 Infirmary St, Edinburgh

For more than 35 years, just about every night of the week, this tiny assuming venue has been hosting live folk. The Royal Oak is for people who like a spit and sawdust feel rather than high glamour. The crowd is there for the trad music and if you play a bit of folk yourself, and have instrument, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself joining the jam. Every Sunday the pub hosts the Wee Folk Club featuring performances from renowned musicians.

Best for: Duelling banjos and feverish fiddles.

Avoid if: Folk music brings you out in hives.



Renfield Street, Glasgow

Inside this Victorian Gothic building is a split personality venture. By day, it's an extensive tea menu and by night, enough gin varieties to keep you going for a long, long time.

The decor – original and ostentatious tiling with ornate fittings – gives an air of glamour. I wouldn't say you have to dress up to enjoy yourself, but you'll want to look nice.

Gins are paired with a glut of different tonics and garnishes so take your time choosing. Every combination is worth it.

Best for: The best Aviation in the city – and you can hear yourself talk.

Avoid if: You don't like gin. This is not for you.


The Ship Inn

The Toft, Elie

A pub with a beer garden that’s practically right on the beach and a cricket pitch on the sands. It’s the ideal stop-off after a windswept walk along the coastal path or a spot of paddleboarding. Much of smart set Edinburgh seems to arrive in Elie during the summer months. But in this warm atmosphere it feels like all are welcome, including dogs. A fire crackles in the grate, the bar offers real ale and Scottish malts and the menu is packed with plenty of local produce.

Best for: Warming up after walking a stretch of the Fife coastal trail.

Avoid if: You’re allergic to people from Edinburgh.


Curlers’ Rest

Byres Road, Glasgow

Cheap pints, live jazz, and a short stagger from the University of Glasgow’s Queen Margaret (QM) Union, The Curlers Tavern (now The Curlers’ Rest) held a magnetic appeal for the young music-loving man about town. No pre-gig ritual was complete without a sharpener or two in what was then one of Byres Road’s more louche establishments.

Best for: Foamy cask ale.

Avoid if: You don’t like students.


The Old Forge


With the title of Scotland’s most remote pub, the Old Forge makes sure it is worth the trek when you eventually arrive at its front door. Whether you’ve come from along the road in Knoydart, across the water from Mallaig, or schlepped across hills to get there, visitors are sure to find a comfy seat, a warm fire and a fantastic whisky selection waiting for them. The menu offers a huge range of seafood, all caught within seven miles of the pub, as well as children’s meals and meat options cooked to perfection. It’s the perfect place to get away from the world, while feeling strangely at home.

Best for: Traditional Scottish fayre, whisky and folk music.

Avoid: If you want to sit on your phone all night.


The Doublet

74 Park Road, Glasgow

It might look like something from the set of Mary Queen of Scots, but its mock Tudor exterior only adds to the Doublet’s charm. While downstairs you’ll find regulars crammed round small tables engrossed in conversation, upstairs is a different story. On any given night you’d be hard pressed not to find some well-known faces of Glasgow’s music scene in the upper lounge, crowded round the popular juke box or sampling one of the many craft beers for sale.

Best for: A low-key night out where you won’t look out of place in either jeans or a sparkly black dress.

Avoid: If you’re looking for a chic cocktail.


The Espy

62-64 Bath Street, Edinburgh

Though officially named The Esplanade Bar and Restaurant, this seafront pub is generally referred to as the Espy and, somewhat confusingly, you’ll find it facing onto the Portobello Promenade, generally referred to as the Prom. Whatever. The grub is good, the beer selection is wide-ranging, the vibe is mellow and the place is agreeably kid-friendly. What’s not to like?

Best for: Sea views.

Avoid if: You’re in a hurry or want a romantic tête-à-tête. The Espy is loud and crowded and best suited to long, leisurely lunches.


The Shore Inn

29 Church Street, Portsoy

Portsoy Boat Festival has been attracting visitors to this picturesque North-east fishing town for the past 25 years and there’s no better place to take in the action than from a table outside friendly local pub The Shore Inn. With its low ceilings and nautical bar, the Shore is a great spot to while away a cold winter’s evening, but with its scenic location just metres from the oldest harbour on the Moray Coast – where the remake of Whisky Galore was filmed – this is one pub that really comes into its own in the summer months.

Best for: Long summer evenings.

Avoid if: You don’t like seagulls.


Park Bar

1202 Argyle St, Glasgow

Is the Park the best Scottish bar in Glasgow? The nearby Lismore might argue, as could the Pot Still on Hope Street, but this traditional bar, in now-trendy Finnieston, is damn near perfect. A favourite with Scotland football fans and Highlanders, it has a ceiling covered with Saltires, many from the Tartan Army's travels. It is popular with tourists but don't let that put you off. This is a real Scottish pub – with mince and tatties on the menu.

Best for: Folk nights and football

Avoid if: You'd rather sup in a 'style' bar.


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142 Duke St, Edinburgh

The streets of Leith are jostling with new hipster bars, but one stands out. The Nauticus, which opened last year and was the creation of Iain McPherson, owner of Edinburgh cocktail bars Panda & Sons and Hoot The Redeemer, and licensee Kyle Jamieson, has a low-key nautical theme. There are plenty of nods in its décor to Leith’s identity as a trading port. But, while it has a cocktail bar vibe, it some how manages still to keep its feet on the ground and describes itself as a “community pub”.

Best for: Harris Tweed covered bar stools

Avoid if: All you want is a simple pint in an old man’s pub.


Harbour Bar,

473 High St, Kirkcaldy

Fabulous wee howff opposite the old port. Very friendly welcome, great service and an excellent choice of beers.

The main bar, apart from being spruced up, has hardly changed since I first drank here in the 1970s.

Comfortable, no background muzak, just a pleasant, cozy space to chat to your mates and the regulars. A small lounge bar is next door and a tiny wee jug bar (not used) at the front door.

Best for: Proper pub pub for beer and good conversation.

Avoid: Only if it gets too busy – not a big place.


The Press Bar

199 Albion St, Glasgow

Known as Tom’s after its former owner, this used to be a home from home for legions of journalists working next door on The Herald and Evening Times. Then downsizing came along, followed by the property developers, and the old crowd slowly disappeared. These days you are as likely to come across a student supping a designer beer than a hack, but if you listen carefully enough you may just hear the ghosts of the old guard banging their gums about legendary stories they have known.

Best for: Leaving dos.

Avoid if: Allergic to sentimentality.


Applecross Inn

Shore Street, Applecross, Wester Ross

Life doesn't get much better than sitting outside the inn soaking up the views across the sound to Raasay and Skye while eating fish and chips and drinking beer.

A classic whitewashed inn, it's warm and friendly, with quality Scottish food and a good choice of beers – with The Applecross Brewing Company's red and dark ales being a particular favourite, and more than 60 single malts.

The best bit, though, is the the roads which take you there, including the famously twitsy Beaclach na ba, which soars from sea level to more than 2000ft. Perfect for motorbikers and mad cyclists.

Best for: Views.

Avoid if: You don't like it twisty roads.


Shore Bar

3 Shore, Edinburgh

Something of a Leith institution (and they are a vanishing breed as gentrification takes hold of the old port area) the Shore Bar is another of those mirrored, wood-panelled pubs that Scotland does so well. This one also offers live jazz two nights a week and comes with a pretty decent restaurant attached where you can feast on fish or fowl or whatever else takes your fancy.

Best for: Alfresco evening drinking when (or if) the summer sun shines.

Avoid if: You don’t like boats or water.


The Tippling House

4 Belmont Street, Aberdeen

Hipster-haven The Tippling House has been serving up craft beers, designer spirits and bespoke cocktails from its cavernous location on Aberdeen’s Belmont Street since 2012, going from strength to strength since. Situated on the site of the former Belmont Bar, this late-night underground establishment is as famous for its food as for its wide range of drinks, with its small-plate selection and a collection of snacks that are served till 2am proving a particular draw for thirsty punters.

Best for: Late night tipples.

Avoid if: You’re claustrophobic.



28 Gibson Street, Kelvinbridge, Glasgow

Don’t be fooled by the fact this appears to be restaurant. Yes the food is top notch, but the adjoining bar is the place to be, either for a quiet fireside pint on a day off or a shoulder-to-shoulder Saturday night session. Stravaigin virtually invented the pub/restaurant concept in Glasgow, but while so many competitors focus only on the food, this place has never forgotten that great atmosphere starts with the perfect pub.

Best for: The nice folk behind the bar.

Avoid if: You don’t like crowds on a Saturday night.

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The Sorn Inn

35 Main Street, Sorn, Ayrshire

One of the best things to do on a Sunday, or any day? Walk a bit of the River Ayr Way, from Mauchline to Sorn – a nice five miles or so – and finish with lunch and a drink at this sturdy little pub. You can stick to the pub side and enjoy a beer or eat in the slightly fancier restaurant through the way. The food is posh without being pretentious, which is just perfect.

Best for: Chips the size of sailing ships.

Avoid if: You don’t like dogs – there’s always one in the bar making friends.


The Old Toll Bar

1 Paisley Rd W, Glasgow

One of the oldest and one of the coolest. No wonder TV and film crews are always in here filming because, unlike so many other pubs, most of the original features are still intact from 1893. However, the new owners have given it a funky feel with a witty wine list and witty bar staff. This is the place to get slowly drunk by candlelight.

Best for: the intelligent pub quiz and the selection of board games.

Avoid if: you hate country and western – the Grand Ole Opry is just across the road.


The Laurieston

58 Bridge Street, Glasgow

Granted, it doesn’t look like much from the outside. Step inside this Glasgow institution, however, and you immediately understand why people have been socialising here for generations. The warm feel of the original 1960s interior has much to do with the enduring success of the place, but it’s the warmth of the welcome that really stays with you, which is why you’ll find elderly locals and young hipsters (film stars Saoirse Ronan and Jack Howden were in for a pint only the other week) happily chewing the fat. The pies are great, too.

Best for: Reminding you what’s important in life – the company of friends old and new.

Avoid if: You like sleek, minimalist interiors and food served on slates.


Glenalbyn Bar

2-4 Young Street, Inverness

On the other side of the river from Inverness Castle is perched another sturdy redoubt and the Glenalbyn remains a solid establishment for a good old gargle. When golf’s Scottish Open came to the Highland capital on a couple of occasions, the Glen was an all-embracing port of call where locals, sports scribblers and caddies quenched their considerable drouths. Nowt fancy but does its job admirably.

Best for: The eccentricities of local pub life and doing the things folk do in honest boozers. And that means drinking, not sipping hipster coffees.

Avoid if: You want hipster coffee and don’t like the eccentricities of local pub life.


The Glad Cafe

Pollokshaws Road, Glasgow

Speaking of renaissance in the south side of Glasgow, nowhere has had a more positive impact and become a bigger driver for change in the area than the Glad Cafe. This cafe, bar, restaurant, music venue and community hub brings in a diverse clientele from all over Glasgow and beyond thanks to a packed schedule of events and a friendly welcome. It's also just a great place to meet your pals for a drink.

Best for: Discovering the next big thing in indie music

Avoid if: You don't like the DIY ethic, beards and/or vegan food


The Drovers Inn

Inverarnan, Loch Lomond

This hostelry has been serving punters for three centuries and it shows – in a good way. The walls, floors and ceilings of this old pub and inn, which was originally frequented by local cattle drovers, are simply dripping with character. If only they could talk. Perhaps they do – The Drovers is, after all, rumoured to be one of the most haunted pubs in Britain. On a stormy night, it’s also one of the cosiest.

Best for: Soaking up Scottish history while you sup.

Avoid if: Taxidermy and groaning floorboards are not your thing.


Oran Mor

Byres Road, Glasgow

THE FORMER Kelvinside Parish church in the West End of Glasgow is still a place of worship but these days the deities take a very different form.

The subterranean theatre world of Play Pie and a Pint, features actors, writers, producers, art lovers, theatre diehards - all gathered together in hopeful anticipation if not of spiritual enlightenment then at least a good pie.

This sensibility then shifts upstairs, a post-play world of ear-seeping adrenalin energy, excited mouths and newly-boosted egos.

It’s a fun place where you are likely to bump into musician Jimmy McGregor, writer Peter McDougall or the top actor de jour. And that is certainly not a bad thing.

Best For: Conversation and warmth.

Avoid: If you need to see fitba on a giant screen.


L’Odeon (sadly departed)

Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow

WHEN Britpop was at its ‘90s zenith, and Blur, Pulp and Oasis seemed to pump out of every pub in Sauchiehall Street, pre-club drinks in L’Odeon (since re-born several times) was the essential hors d’oeuvres to the main event at The Garage across the road. With a heady mix of sharp tunes and the rarity of Budweiser on draught, there was no better place to liven up for a big night out. If you were 19.

Best for: Budweiser on draught.

Avoid if: You didn’t like Britpop.


So, what do you think? Vote for your favourite on this list, or tell us what bars we missed at