Great Country Pubs
What is it that makes a great country pub? It’s a difficult question to give a definitive answer to as everyone will have a different idea of what they look for. Personally, one of the most important things for me is the sense of relaxation I get knowing that home is a short walk away. Without worrying about staying too late, driving, or trying to organise a taxi in a rural location there is a certain sense of freedom. It can mean enjoying yourself until closing time before meandering down the road home or just nipping in for a quick one at lunchtime. Real ale, local food, live music, and stunning views are all important but when holidaying in the countryside nothing beats the atmosphere of a proper local.
The Portland Arms in Lybster has a long and distinguished history serving thirsty visitors since 1851, It was originally a stopover on the main road to Wick and last year was refurbished with the intention of serving the increased number of visitors motoring the NC500. This is a small fishing village and the bar is very much the beating heart of the community, a visit here is a charming and laid-back experience. There is a steady trickle of visitors throughout the year but they are easily outnumbered by locals and this place is all the better for it. They serve beer from the nearby John o’ Groats brewery and fresh local produce in the restaurant. Hill House sits just outside the village and is only a few minutes’ walk away. It is a brilliant family-oriented house that is also dog friendly. Brilliant for exploring Caithness or just relaxing in one of the North Easts best kept secrets.
It is a rare joy to holiday in one of the most famous villages in Scotland and have the luxury of staying right next door to its best pub. The Prince’s House in Glenfinnan dates from the 17th century when it was a coaching inn providing shelter and a change of horse for travellers on the road to the isles. It is still an atmospheric and history filled spot to unwind after a hectic day sightseeing. The emphasis here is on hospitality with an informal atmosphere, which is exactly what you need after exploring the many local attractions such as the Glenfinnan monument and watching the famous steam train cross the viaduct. Mullach Ruadh couldn’t be any closer and it has stunning views, luxury furnishings and a superbly modern kitchen if you feel like providing for yourself.
The Fife Arms in Braemar is not the place to retreat to for a quiet drink. Since its refurbishment this Victorian coaching inn has prided itself on being a vibrant, exciting destination for visitors and locals alike. There is an art deco cocktail bar for those looking for stylish sophistication but most visitors will head for the public bar known as The Flying Stag which has 180 malt whiskies to choose from and a menu leaning heavily on locally sourced game. There is a bustle about the place and an electric atmosphere that can often resemble a fashionable city bar but it manages all this while still holding onto its authentic Scottish character, with regular traditional live music nights and events. This makes it a brilliant place for a group of people on holiday who want to have a bit of a celebration. Drumrunie sits just outside the town centre and is easily walkable even after a late night. It sleeps 10 in luxury and makes an ideal base for groups coming up for the world famous Braemar Highland Gathering as well as being handy for visiting the ski resorts of the Cairngorms and the distilleries on the Malt Whisky Trail.
One definition of the place a local pub plays in the heart of the community is like that of a communal living room, somewhere that feels familiar, warm and welcoming. The Castle in Portmahomack is exactly like that, comfortingly old fashioned where you feel at home almost immediately. It’s a stone’s throw from the water and on a summers day you can sit outside and with luck spot some dolphins. Unsurprisingly, seafood is the chef’s speciality with homely classics such as fish and chips which with a pint of local real ale is a particular highlight. Sunset Cottage is a perfect spot in the village for a romantic break. Newly renovated and luxurious it is convenient for everything. It’s only a short walk to the beach and the pub but if fine dining is more to your liking then the renowned Oystercatcher restaurant is also well worth a visit.