When the temperature plummets outside, raise your spirits and your glass at one of these atmospheric pubs and bars, as chosen by Ailsa Sheldon and Paul Trainer

This feature was published in Best of Scotland magazine, a monthly publication in The Herald on Sunday and Sunday National newspapers. 

The Herald:


Teuchter’s Landing is the former waiting room for the Leith to Aberdeen steamboat ferry and this welcoming pub is the perfect place to wile away a few hours, even if the boat isn’t coming.

The whisky selection is impressive with over a hundred to choose from – staff are knowledgeable or spin the ‘hoop of destiny’ to help you pick. The bar has plenty of cosy spaces to coorie in, order a mug of cullen skink, Stornoway black pudding stovies or macaroni cheese, if you’re hungry. When the sun is shining, a seat on the pontoon is one of the best spots on The Shore. AS

1c Dock Place, Leith, EH6 6LU 

The Herald:


The glorious setting in the Perthshire countryside adds to the appeal of the bar with its classic wood, painted chairs, tree-patterned wallpaper and two-way woodburning stove. You can enjoy guest ales from the likes of the Strathbaan Brewery.

Part of the Meikleour Estate, there is seating on a colonnaded verandah when the weather is kind and an angler’s drying room for when it is not. They use fish and venison from the estate for their dishes and fresh produce from their walled garden. Order the apple and blackberry walnut crumble! PT

Meikleour, Perth PH2 6EB 

The Herald:


With original beams, low ceilings and exposed brickwork, plus cosy furniture and a warm fireplace, The Dreel Tavern feels welcoming all-year-round. Refurbished in 2017, this 16th Century inn is family-run and popular with locals and visitors to the East Neuk too.

It’s close to the Fife Coastal Trail so makes a good stop to warm up after a walk and gets very popular at weekends. The beers change frequently and the food’s good with daily specials of local seafood. If the sun’s out check out the lovely beer garden overlooking the Dreel burn. AS

16 High St W, Anstruther KY10 3DL 

The Herald:


Located in the tiny but lively highland village of Glenuig along a beautiful stretch of coastline, the Glenuig Inn is about a mile before the road stops and well worth a detour. This popular local pub is now under new ownership and locals and visitors are loving the cosy games room and chess tables, as well as the local beers now taking pride of place at the bar.

If you’re lucky you’ll catch live music here too. The inn is right by the beach in a calm bay, making this a welcome lunch or dinner spot for hungry sailors and kayakers exploring nearby inlets and islands. AS

Glenuig, Sound of Arisaig, Inverness-shire, PH38 4NG 

The Herald:


A fixed point in Finnieston, standing at a corner of Argyle Street since 1884, The Ben Nevis was refitted after a few years lying dormant. Returning in 1999, the bar sparked a food and drink renaissance for the area that continues today. They stand ready for winter nights with a plentiful supply of whisky and an easy mix of traditional and modern fixtures and fittings. This is somewhere to settle in for drinks and conversation until closing time. PT

1147 Argyle St, Finnieston G3 8TB 

The Herald:

THE KING’S WARK, Edinburgh

The King’s Wark was built in 1434 and this prominent building has been a royal residence and a private armoury for King James I, as well as a plague hospital, smugglers hut and wine merchant. Today however it’s a rather lovely pub, with wooden floors, stone walls, twinkling candles and a warm welcome.

Sunday lunch is a big deal at The King’s Wark and has to be booked early, the menu changes but frequently features generous roasts or a veggie haggis wellington, plus of course all the trimmings. With local cask beers, and a great gin selection, this pub will hopefully be part of Leith’s history for a long time to come. AS

36 Shore, Leith EH6 6QU 

The Herald:


Get cosy and watch the sun go down at this village inn with views of Shieldaig Island. There’s fresh local seafood from their coastal kitchen, traditionally creel-caught or dived and delivered from the jetty to their door each day, inluding langoustines, mussels, oysters, and razor clams.

You can also choose hearty winter lunches such as haggis, neeps and tatties or stews. The beer and ales include a selection from Strathcarron Brewery. The tranquil bar is next door to the Tigh an Eilean hotel and under the same ownership. PT

Shieldaig, Strathcarron IV54 8XN 

The Herald:

FALLS OF DOCHART INN, Falls of Dochart

Overlooking the Falls of Dochart in pretty Killin, this family-run pub makes a great place to stop for a drink, a meal or to stay within the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. The inn is an old blacksmith’s shop from the 1700s and the building retains much of the original architecture and charm.

There’s a roaring fire, an impressive selection of whiskies and a good pub food menu. There’s also now a smokehouse in the grounds producing hot and cold smoked salmon so be sure to order some to compliment your dram of whisky. AS

Gray Street Killin, Perthshire FK21 8SL 

The Herald:


The Mishnish is a Tobermory institution. Whether you’re in for a slap-up meal of local seafood straight off the boat, a quiet pint by the fire, or heading straight for the dancefloor on a Saturday night, it’s always a memorable night at The Mish.

Serving sailors, visitors, and locals since 1869 know this is a proper traditional pub with a great atmosphere and live music. Order the langoustines, Inverlussa mussels or Mull oysters and settle in for the evening. There are simple, comfortable rooms upstairs, too, with views over beautiful Tobermory bay. AS

Tobermory, Isle of Mull, PA75 6NT 

The Herald:


A Royal Deeside cottage-style riverside inn that proclaims “dogs, kids and muddy boots welcome”. Take the opportunity to go for a winter stroll, safe in the knowledge there is a log fire, real ales, Scottish craft spirits and a seasonal menu waiting for you when you return.

Order the five-spiced sticky pork belly with pak choi, creamy mash and crispy noodle salad or lamb steak from the grill with dauphinoise potatoes and redcurrant jus. PT

Charlestown Road, Aboyne AB34 5EL 

The Herald:

DROVERS INN, Loch Lomond

A reassuring sight on the banks of Loch Lomond, the Drovers Inn has welcomed guests from Rob Roy McGregor to Gerard Butler and visitors from all over the world. Inside is a nest of comfortable rooms decorated with a menagerie of highland regalia, antiques, stuffed animals, swords and curious artefacts.

This is not somewhere you can build from scratch; it has to evolve over time, offering a warm Scottish welcome that’s 300 years in the making. Should you choose to stay overnight after your hearty meal and some fine drinks, the fact this is reputedly Scotland’s most haunted pubs may add to the atmosphere. PT

North Loch Lomond, Inverarnan G83 7DX 

The Herald:

THE STEAM PACKET INN, Isle of Whithorn

This friendly, low-ceilinged bar is in two parts with banquette seating and boat pictures that reflect the quayside setting on one side and stools around tables and a woodburning stove on the other. Publican Alastair Scoular and his head chef Brendon Dennett make their own beer at The Five Kingdoms microbrewery.

The winter menu features venison from local estates, smoked salmon from Galloway Smokehouse and beef supplied by Ballards in Castle Douglas. You can start your day with a substantial cooked breakfast here before a walk by the harbour. PT

Harbour Row, DG8 8LL 

The Herald:


Descend a short staircase from Broughton Street to The Basement, a cozy wee cavern of a bar that feels like a secret hideaway. The Basement is Mexican inspired, fun and friendly, and makes a perfect spot for a casual bite to eat or a round of cocktails.

The tacos are generous and tasty – try the baja fish tacos or the mushroom quesadilla (not necessarily authentic but tasty) and piquant fresh guacamole is mixed at the table to order. Leave space for hot churros too. The Basement has the biggest selection of mezcal and tequila in Edinburgh and unsurprisingly they make a cracking margarita. AS

10a-12a Broughton Street, EH1 3RH 

The Herald:


The Old Inn, as the name suggests, has quite a history, and even a resident ghost. Built in 1670 it was an inn until the 1880s, used for other purposes for over a century, before being turned back into a pub six years ago. The alleged ghost is reputed to be James Stewart, likely wrongly convicted of the Appin murder in 1752 and now back to rattle swords and throw pots, or so the stories go.

Plenty of new stories are told in this lively pub too. Expect crisp pints, local steaks, live traditional music and plenty of craic. The views of 14th Century Castle Stalker are spectacular too. AS

Portnacroish, Appin PA38 4BA

The Herald:


They say this is the oldest licensed pub in Scotland and the first landlady was a Mistress Gow, one of Rob Roy MacGregor’s sisters. The Clachan was a favourite of Billy Connolly and a gang of pals in the 70s that included Sir Hugh Fraser.

Today the inn is a family-owned business, run by Gordon and Elaine Strang. Sitting on the village square in Drymen, they offer a welcome rest for walkers on the West Highland Way or Munro baggers climbing Ben Lomond. Enjoy a steak pie with hand cut chips by the fireplace. PT

Drymen Square, Drymen, Glasgow G63 0BL 

The Herald:


The Hanging Bat is a beer lovers paradise. They sell a huge range of beers – at least twenty on tap and over a hundred in bottles – and even brew their own on-site. There’s a classic pub grub menu of burgers, nachos and the like (and yes there is really beer in the mac and cheese, it’s delicious).

There’s a relaxed but fun atmosphere, the tunes are good and the staff are a friendly bunch. Spread out over three floors there’s plenty of space, so find a cozy corner and one of the big leather armchairs to sink into and enjoy. AS

133 Lothian Road, EH3 9AB 

The Herald:


To sit down for a pint of Isle of Skye Brewery beer in the Westford Inn, you need to make your way to rugged landscape of North Uist in the Outer Hebrides first. From the outside, the building is a typical island dwelling of weather-beaten stone, assembled in a neat fashion to stand the test of time.

The award-winning bar is welcoming with monkfish scampi, local langoustines and pan fried goose on the menu. PT

Claddach, Kirkibost, Isle of North Uist HS6 5EP 

The Herald:

THE DRAKE, Glasgow

A cool yet cosy, dog-friendly neighbourhood bar in Glasgow’s west end that knows good winter comfort food. Go for chicken and leek sausage rolls or shepherd’s pie served with braised mutton, smoked lamb fat mash and seasonal vegetables. Pair with a pint of Krusovice.

There’s a hint of the countryside with the traditional fireplace and wee front garden, despite the urban and urbane setting beneath a grand terrace that leads up to Park Circus. At weekends DJs may liven up the relaxed mood and you will be able to enjoy one of the finest Sunday roasts in the city. PT

1 Lynedoch St, Kelvingrove G3 6EF 

The Herald:

THE ANDERSON, Fortrose near Inverness

Opposite the ruins of the 13th Century cathedral in Fortrose on the Black Isle, overlooking the Moray Firth about six miles north-east of Inverness, you will find this traditional restaurant with rooms. The picturesque setting convinced Jim Anderson and his wife Anne to move here from Philadelphia.

They’ve transformed The Anderson into a highland highlight with an outstanding whisky bar and pub. The cellar is filled with wine, and you can also choose from around 250 single malts. There’s a formidable collection of ale and beer. Settle into this charming, snug hideaway. PT

Union St, Fortrose IV10 8TD 

The Herald:


The Bailie’s tagline is “like your local should be” and it’s hard not to agree. It’s been a pub since the 1870s and while it has moved with the times, it still contains a lot of old-world charm. Expect steaks, fish and chips, and bowls of mussels on the menu, proper pints, and a fire in the winter.

Big football games are shown and horse-racing too – catering to the long-standing regulars and visitors alike. Live music nights are good fun. If you need an antidote to shiny new bars, head to The Bailie for a quiet pint. You can even bring the dog. AS

2-4 St Stephen St, Stockbridge EH3 5AL