In Scotland, you are never further than 40 miles from the sea, with nearly 12,000 miles of coastline to be explored across the country. But as we move into the autumn -and the sea air becomes increasingly bracing- you might find that embarking on a coastal walk leaves you feeling somewhat chilly afterwards. Fortunately, there are plenty of excellent seaside pubs where you can hunker down and warm up: here’s some of our favourites.
Carradale Bay and the Glen Bar, Kintyre
Since it was immortalised in song by Paul McCartney in 1977, the Kintyre peninsula has held a romantic appeal to Scots and tourists alike. There’s no shortage of coastal walks in the area, but a particular standout is the wonderful two-hour loop round the rural village of Carradale. Start at the harbour and head up towards the ruins of Airds Castle -enjoying views of Arran while you are there- before continuing on towards Port Righ Bay. You then follow signs for Carradale Point, which will lead you to the delightful Carradale Bay. It offers a wonderful spot to do some birdwatching, before heading back to Carradale village, where you will find the incredibly popular Glen Bar and Restaurant. Their food is renowned for miles around: you would do well to book a table ahead of finishing your walk.
Seaton Cliffs and the But N Ben in Auchmithie, Angus
One of the most underrated -yet dramatic- coastal walks in Scotland, the Seaton Cliffs are a paradise for photographers and wildlife watchers alike. These other-worldly red sandstone cliffs jut out into the sea in a series of fascinating inlets, arches and sea caves and provide a wonderful backdrop for a walk from Arbroath. If you follow the coastal path further along to the village of Auchmithie, which itself sits at the top of a cliff, you can reward yourself with a drink and a hearty meal in the But n’Ben. The staff are reliably friendly and, if you ask nicely, they might even fill up your water bottle for the walk back to Arbroath.
Applecross loop and the Applecross Inn, Wester Ross
Situated on the route of the increasingly-popular North Coast 500, the village of Applecross is far from quiet at this time of year. But if you take the time to branch off from the famous Bealach na Bà road, you will be rewarded with some spectacular scenery and much-needed peace and quiet. Beginning in the village car park, and setting off towards the bealach road, take a path to the right up towards some old farm buildings and a reconstructed round house. You’ll then emerge on to open croftland with breath-taking views over to Skye: saunter back towards the village from here and take in the majestic scenery along the way. Once you return to Applecross, a visit to the famous Applecross Inn is a must, but be warned that booking in advance is essential if you want to eat.
Findhorn Circular Walk and the Captain’s Table, Moray
The Moray village of Findhorn showcases some of the best of Scottish scenery: close to the Cairngorms National Park, but with its own sandy beach, rugged dunes and views out to sea. There’s an excellent walk which starts at the village’s Heritage Centre and along the ‘hook’ of the mouth of Findhorn Bay, towards the sand beyond. From there, you can spot the Culbin Forest across the water (well worth exploring in its own right) before leaving the sea at the East Dunes car park and following the road back into Findhorn. Aim for the Captain’s Table, a wee gem of a restaurant/bar that looks unassuming from the outside but has won plenty of plaudits for its food and great service. Make sure and try one of their inventive cocktails, too.
Fife Coastal Path and The Haven in Cellardyke, Fife
Running from Kincardine to Newburgh (a total of 117 miles), there’s no shortage of options for those planning to walk the Fife Coastal Path. The most popular stretch, though, is the one that curves around the picture-perfect fishing villages of the East Neuk. The Ship Inn in Elie is a perennially popular option with walkers– but it gets incredibly busy in the summer months and can be near-impossible to get a table in the beer garden. Instead, try The Haven in Cellardyke, a traditional, cosy pub that offers a bit of a ‘haven’ for tired walkers arriving from Pittenweem or Crail. The food is good, the welcome is warm and the surprisingly large beer garden offers glimpses of the harbour and the Firth of Forth beyond.
Portpatrick to Killantringan Lighthouse and the Crown Hotel, Dumfries and Galloway
Portpatrick provides a great springboard for a number of scenic walks. One particularly enjoyable route begins at the town’s amphitheatre-style seafront, before following the Southern Upland Way towards the category B-listed Killantringan Lighthouse. It entered service in October 1900 and was automated in 1988, providing a great landmark to aim for on your walk. A word of warning though: it can take up to four hours to walk there and back from Portpatrick, so make sure to secure a table at the delightful Crown Hotel for when you return. This charming hotel is best known for its beer garden, with views across Portpatrick Harbour and the Irish Sea, as well as home-cooked hearty food.
Detailed versions of some of these routes can be found at www.walkhighlands.co.uk