A coffee-lover's guide to the Scottish Highlands
There's more north of Edinburgh than good whisky (though there's that, too)
When I set out on a road trip through the Scottish Highlands this summer the expectations that swirled around in my head consisted of mountains and glens, charming small towns with friendly people, wool sweaters, grazing sheep, scotch whisky, and tea, to name a few. Okay, a lot of tea. After all, tea is such a custom in the UK that the word is not only used for the drink, but depending on the time of day it can refer to a small meal between lunch and dinner, or in lieu of the word dinner altogether. Little did I know as a coffee lover (see: addict) that one of the greatest surprises of my travels through the seemingly endless vistas, green pastures, and craggy shorelines would be the burgeoning specialty coffee scene dotted around the Scottish countryside. Commonly found in shipping containers or small shacks and buildings, these Highland coffee shops not only take great pride in serving specialty coffee, but they are also bursting with charm and décor specific to their surroundings. From the remote corners of the Scottish coast, to small towns made famous by Robert Burns, the idyllic and unforgettable locations of these independent coffee shops are not only a happy detour, but a worthy destination.
In almost all of these independent coffee shops you can find the Scottish Independent Coffee Guide for sale. Currently in in its 4th year, this handy resource guide shines a spotlight on independent specialty coffee venues and roasters, encapsulating the passion for exceptional single origin coffee that is spreading throughout the country.
Each of these places is a reflection of their unique surroundings, and will ultimately be a part of the travel memories you will daydream about revisiting again one day.
Caora Dhubh Coffee Company (Carbost, Isle of Skye)
If you’re not visiting Talisker Distillery it’s easy to miss the wood panelled shack across the street that is home to Caora Dhubh; but trust me, you don’t want to miss it. Located on the edge of Loch Harport on the Isle of Skye, and the most remote coffee spot I’ve ever been to, this coffee haven fits in perfectly with its rugged surroundings. There was a short wait when I arrived, and a couple visiting from Oxford assured me it was well worth the wait — and it was. It may have been the best coffee I’ve ever had, and while the espresso-based drinks on offer are worth the trip alone, the homemade cakes and friendly staff will keep you coming back — which I did, twice.
Habitat Café (Aberfeldy, Perthshire)
A charming spot just off of A9 and en route to Inverness from Edinburgh or St Andrews, Habitat Café is the perfect rest stop to get an exceptional coffee before the drive through Cairngorms National Park. Located in Aberfeldy, a bustling small town, this popular coffee destination offers eight different coffee brewing methods and homemade small bites. If you haven’t tried Aeropress coffee yet, there’s no better time; Lilla Valter, the head barista at Habitat, won the national Aeropress Championship in 2018. Bonus: If you’re lucky, Hendrix, the resident Goldendoodle will be there to greet you with a warm welcome.
All the Goodness Coffee & Bakeshop (Ardelve, Kyle)
If you are on your way to the famous Eilean Donan castle, do yourself a kindness and stop in at All the Goodness for a coffee and as many raspberry almondies as you can carry. Situated directly across from Eilean Donan, the location itself is as much of a draw as the ever changing menu of baked goods made from scratch by the owners, a husband and wife team. Once you’ve stocked up on coffee and sweets, you can head to the outdoor seating area and take in the view of the castle away from crowds.
Slaughterhouse Coffee (Cromarty, Highlands)
Located in the Black Isle, the historic town of Cromarty is home to Slaughterhouse Coffee . Directly across from the Cromarty-Nigg ferry terminal, this rustic shed serves the local population of less than 800 plus the tourists stopping in for their daily fix. With an emphasis on community, the experience is made that much more meaningful if you follow along on their Instagram where they share new pastries — baklava made by a Syrian refugee new to Cromarty — and fundraising for Project Waterfall, which works to bring clean water to coffee growing communities. In this era when spending money is more of a political act than ever, that cup of coffee tastes better and better the more you know about Slaughterhouse Coffee.
The Ceilidh Place (Ullapool, Ross-shire)
Family run and home to a restaurant, music venue, bar, hotel, and self-serve book shop (with a focus on Scottish authors, natch), the Ceilidh Place also serves exceptional espresso based drinks in their cozy cafe. Located on the North Coast 500, which consists of just over 500 miles of stunning scenery along the northern coast of Scotland, Ullapool is not to be missed. Undeniably charming, you can order a specialty coffee and roam the small town, or pick up a book at the book shop inside and take a break. If you are staying the night, you can look forward to coffee alongside a range of traditional breakfast eats from scones to porridge to a full Scottish breakfast.
(Check out our small group tours to Scotland here)[http://www.secureaep.com/destinations/europe/scotland/]
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