Saramago Café Bar

The CCA, Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow

One of the hippest joints in town after more than 25 years on the scene, this is still the place to hang for Glasgow’s arty crowd. No matter what time of day you come in – it’s open from morning till late every day of the week – you’ll find interesting people and stimulating conversation in a multitude of languages. A two-floor venue within a venue (downstairs is vibrant all day, upstairs has more of an evening buzz), it also serves some of the tastiest vegan food in Glasgow. And since you’re inside one of Europe’s most cutting edge arts centres, you might just visit an exhibition while you’re in.

Best for: Culture vultures of all ages. A place where you can easily while away an entire day and/or night.

Avoid if: You’re into Wetherspoons.


Bar Gandolfi

64 Albion St, Glasgow

Café Gandolfi is one of the most famous restaurants in Glasgow but its little brother upstairs is less well-known. Pity that. The bar and tables are made from great oak trees and the menu is made from the best of the restaurant menu. It’s a bar rather than a pub but it’s charming and cool and friendly. No loud music either so there’s no need to shout.

Best for: The macaroni cheese, best served with the big squishy Italian white bread.

Avoid if: You like live football – this is a big-telly-free zone


Moulin Inn

11-13 Kirkmichael Road, Moulin, Pitlochry, Perthshire

With thick stone walls, a grand open fireplace and oodles of wood panelling, the Moulin Inn has no shortage of cosy nooks for getting cooried-in on chilly days. The original hostelry opened its doors in 1695 and you can feel the history in its bones. There is an adjacent brewery producing lip-smackingly good ales that are served in the pub itself.

Best for: Friendly banter and hearty pub grub after a walk or cycle.

Avoid if: You’re a fan of soulless chain pubs. They broke the mould with this one.


Staggs Bar

81 North High Street, Musselburgh

Tucked away behind the Brunton Theatre, and well worth the detour for lovers of fine ales. Regular award-winner – in fact, Camra voted it the best pub in Scotland and Northern Ireland for 2018. Small, cosy bar with an even smaller snug (though there is a lounge through the back at weekends for younger imbibers), it also boasts a grand selection of whiskies and rums, and an impressive wine list.

Best for: Real ales and lively chat.

Avoid if: You're looking for a pub meal; no such fripperies here.


Mathers Bar

1 Queensferry Road, Edinburgh

Some will know that for many years there were two Mathers in the city centre: one in the west end, the other in the east. This, the west end one, has survived relatively unscathed. A relaxing daytime bolthole from the rigours of the city centre, defiantly squaring its shoulders against its trendy neighbours. A decent beer cellar, a warming fire and a TV that seems permanently tuned into the Racing Channel.

Best for: An excellent steak pie washed down with a fine pint of Deuchars.

Avoid if: You don't do stairs (there's a steep flight to to the toilets).


The Phoenix

103 Nethergate, Dundee

A Dundee institution, refreshingly free of the homogenised fakery of makeovers which seem to be a prerequisite of many west end pubs. Good beers and excellent bar meals combine to ensure that this is a watering hole that is regularly busy, especially at weekends – when it's best to get there early to bag a table.

Best for: Uncomplicated food and well-kept ales.

Avoid if: You're not keen on straying too far from the Q&A/waterside development.


Clark’s Bar

142 Dundee Street, Edinburgh

A New Town pub to be sure but, thanks to its location way down the bottom of Dundas Street, still enough of a local to avoid being choked with tourists and Airbnb-ers. And it’s traditional in the best sense of the word: there’s a bar, some bar stools, a couple of back rooms, a dartboard and the benches running the length of the walls are upholstered in traditional burgundy. In short, a wood-panelled oasis in the heart of the capital.

Best for: A quiet lunchtime pint.

Avoid if: You don’t like dogs. This is a canine-friendly howff.


Roseburn Bar

1 Roseburn Terrace, Edinburgh

The Roseburn, as it’s known, is a popular sports pub thanks to its proximity to Murrayfield and to Tynecastle, home of Hearts. But it’s at its best when it’s in quiet mode and you can really savour the atmosphere, the traditional fixtures and fittings, the memorabilia-bedecked walls and the banter of the locals. As well as the spacious public bar there’s a lounge and a tiny third room known as the Fly Half.

Best for: Earwigging and Instagramming.

Avoid if: There’s a big game on at Tynecastle. The pub is colonised by away fans before and Hearts fans after, and there's always a fat man in a red, green or blue morph suit doing something silly with a traffic cone.


Leith Depot

140 Leith Walk, Edinburgh

A bar and music venue that up until a few weeks ago was near the top of the list of endangered pubs. Leith Depot has been at the heart of the Save Leith Walk campaign, which has been fighting to stop a plan by developer Drum Property to knock down the buildings on its stretch and build a boutique hotel and student accommodation. But Leithers don’t like it when you go for their pubs or local businesses. After plenty of objections, councillors rejected the proposal. The Leith Depot lives on – though for how long? – bringing great food and music to a spot that was formerly one of the worst pubs on the Walk.

Best for: Live music

Avoid if: You don’t want to get into a conversation about local planning.


The Variety Bar

401 Sauchiehall St, Glasgow

Sauchiehall Street may not be the first place you associate with fine pubs. Most open and close in the time it takes to down a pint. Not The Variety. It's been here since 1970.

It's been through a few rocky years but it's had a recent makeover which has retained the bar's edgy alternative feel and brought in a few more customers.

I've been coming here with the same friend for nearly 30 years and whenever I suggest somewhere else, he gently steers me here. To have a pub survive this long, and a friendship too, has got to mean something in this ever-changing world.

Best for: Art deco interior.

Avoid if: You are after the latest trend.


Mash Tun Bier House & Kitchen

154 Easter Road, Edinburgh

Handily situated a hefty clearance from Hibernian FC's stadium, this is a popular watering hole for football fans – home and away – on matchdays. Packed to the rafters for two hours either side of the game, it has a good selection of cask ales, lagers and a long list of bottled beers. Dog-friendly, though probably not recommended for the pooch at half-past two when Hibs are at home. Offers a good selection of pub food.

Best for: Those seeking to explore hitherto-unknown beers.

Avoid if: You suffer from agoraphobia (but only on matchdays).



12 Rose St, Glasgow

After extensive renovations to the art deco building, the Glasgow Film Theatre’s bars are looking smarter than ever. There are two to choose from, with the one upstairs, next to Cinema 1, the larger. Gets very busy just before screenings and this month’s Glasgow Film Festival, running from February 20-March 3, means it will be standing room only for a week and a half.

Best for: Taking your drinks into the cinema.

Avoid if: You don’t like listening to film critics, who use the place as an office during the festival, bore on.


The 78

10 Kelvinhaugh St, Glasgow

Wonderful beer (someone's had a lot of fun compiling the stocklist here and really knows what they're doing) and even more wonderful vegan food (burritos filled with spicy beans, garlicky hummus and clever, colourful curries). The menu is small but that's because it's made properly, not heated up with a ping.

Best for: the vegan food (don’t tell your carnivore friends and see if they guess).

Avoid if: you’re in a rush – the service can sometimes be a wee bit slow. But chill! Enjoy yourself.


Prince of Wales

7 St Nicholas St, Aberdeen

An earthy, unpretentious favourite of anyone who’s in the mood for a pint without the faff. People have been having pints in here since the 19th century and in all the best respects it’s the same as it ever was. Find a corner in the labyrinthine layout and stay there all night and day. That man in the beard at the bar knows his beer and he’s always here so you're on to a good thing.

Best for: the famously long bar which gives you a good view of all the best Scottish ales it has to offer.

Avoid if: you judge a pub by its decor. The Prince was done up a few years ago, but the shabbiness is one of the reasons its fans love it.


Kay’s Bar

39 Jamaica Street, Edinburgh

Hidden away in an unprepossessing side-street in the New Town, Kay’s enjoyed best-kept-secret status for many years. But in these Trip Advisor and Instagram-obsessed days its photogenic appeal and prodigious choice of whiskies have made it a popular attraction for visitors and in particular the Six Nations crowd, who ensure you can barely move inside on match days. Accepting the truth of the old maxim “if you can’t beat them, join them”, Kay’s now has its own website. It’s still well worth a visit, though.

Best for: Rare single malts.

Avoid if: There’s a rugby international on.


The Bungo

Nithsdale Road, Glasgow

This lovely south side bar and restaurant was one of the first to capitalise on Strathbungo’s now well-established reputation as one of Glasgow’s – indeed Scotland’s – coolest neighbourhoods. Friendly and relaxed (dogs and children are well catered for) it has a loyal following among the brunch/craft beer crowd thanks to an eye-catching menu and some excellent pop-up foodie nights.

Best for: Weekend bloody Marys and weeknight pints. Avoid if: You’re after Scotch pie and beans.


The Abbotsford

3-5 Rose Street, Edinburgh

Across the road from the rear entrance of Jenners, this fine specimen of Edwardian splendour still has a magnificent mahagony island bar (and an impressive ceiling), and a rather good restaurant upstairs (meals are also served in the bar). Bench seating which can be a bit awkward when rammed with truanting shoppers, as it often is.

Best for: Starting (or even finishing) a Rose Street expedition.

Avoid if: You're not keen on squeezing up next to strangers on the bench seating.


The Sparkle Horse

16 Dowanhill Street, Glasgow

Formerly the Dowanhill pub, the Sparkle Horse has maintained all the charm of a typical local boozer without the sticky carpets or wafting fag smoke. Just off Dumbarton road, the dog-friendly venue is ideal for a quiet mid-week pint or a brain-stretching pub quiz on a Monday. Friday and Saturday nights, you’ll find it tight to get a table after around 8pm but hang around long enough and you’ll be sure to make new pals you can squeeze in beside. The limited but excellent menu offers main courses from £5, and with vegan and veggie options it usually has something to suit everyone’s tastes.

Best for: Good tunes, cheap eats and friendly service.

Avoid: If you don’t like dogs or are looking for somewhere to ‘pre-drink’.


The Clachaig Inn


What better way to relax after a day tramping in the hills than with a pint and a spot of live music? The Clachaig Inn, which has been welcoming weary travellers with its hospitality for the past 300 years, has certainly got the beers and musicians well and truly covered. Thanks to its location in the heart of Glencoe it has breathtaking views to boot, making it just as ideal for al fresco summer lunches as it is for cosy autumn evenings.

Best for: Post mountain relaxation/dancing.

Avoid if: Dirty boots aren’t your thing.


The Sheep’s Heid

43-45 The Causeway, Edinburgh

Best arrived at after a bracing hike over Arthur’s Seat, the historic Sheep Heid feels like a country pub in a quaint village complete with loch. Yet it it’s a skip and a hop – over the hill – from Edinburgh’s city centre to its location in Duddingston. First established in 1360, the inn boasts that it has been “feeding and watering people for more than six centuries.” There’s a glorious beer garden for the sunny months. But the best thing is about it is the skittles. Out the back, the oldest bowling alley in Scotland is for hire.

Best for: Retro bowling

Avoid if: You’re bringing the dog – it’s surprisingly not dog-friendly.


Four Marys

65/67 High Street, Linlithgow, West Lothian

Just a stone's throw from Linlithgow Palace, the pub gets its name from the four ladies in waiting who attended Mary, Queen of Scots. The anaesthetic properties of chloroform were reportedly discovered in a room above this watering hole in 1847. There's even said to be a resident ghost called Agnes, a reputed witch who was burned at the stake.

Best for: Soaking up a magical history tour.

Avoid if: Ye olde coaching inn charm isn’t your vibe


The Tron Bar

63 Trongate, Glasgow

BEFORE the refit, the Tron Bar was an art house meeting place, the perfect Friday night venue in which to end the week.

It was music-free and bustley, it was redolent of a Soho bar restaurant, it feared an eclectic range of ageing hippies and New Romantics, it was a place to be for those who ignored time, and sometimes social convention.

The new bar area is great (the wonders of the chicken satay apart) it’s still fun and full of new people and the vaguely familiar. It still features the debate on the play performed next door, but just lacks the odd delightfully drunken pretentious conversation of old, or political analysis.

Best For: Food and friendliness.

Avoid: If you want a long night out.


The Red Deer

Auchenkilns, Cumbernauld

You'll have been in this place ... though maybe not in Cumbernauld. The Red Deer is part of the Vintage Inns chain, so there are lookalikes all over the country.

However, until you've been here, don't knock it. Its quiet, relaxed atmosphere is perfect for an evening with a bottle of wine or a couple of drinks. There's a roaring fire, no music so you can chat without effort ... and dogs as welcome!

Add to that a great choice of drinks – without city centre prices – and it's a winner.

Best for: Relaxing – the dog at your feet is optional.

Avoid if: You're looking for any kind of excitement at all.



Renfield Lane, Glasgow

Some of the oddest nights of my life have been held in Stereo, a vegan cafe/bar that sits above a large performance space. Sometimes the bands on downstairs can drown out your conversation, it's dark, close and sweaty, but it's full of good intentions.

The food, although vegan from before vegan was a "thing", is very good indeed and there's always space if you're a big group.

There have been excellent birthday nights out held here and it is the location of my best first kiss – but it's not sentiment that recommends it, its merits are solid.

Best for: A night that could end up entirely differently than you expected.

Avoid if: You like a sense of decorum.



Candleriggs, Glasgow (sadly departed)

Sadly no longer with us, this stylish Merchant City bar was my favourite when I lived round the corner in St Andrew’s Square, in a life before children and responsibility and huge mortgages. All dark wood, plush drapes and huge paintings, it was narrow and cosy, my go-to with friends for raspberry beers on a Friday night and the best breakfast in the world on a Sunday morning.

Best for: Mysterious Eastern European chic.

Avoid if: Narrow spaces get you down.


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