A Coffee Tour of Scotland

31st August 2023

Coffee shops provide the perfect resting spot between activities on your vacation; where time slows down, and the aroma of freshly brewed coffee hangs in the air like a warm embrace. Sometimes a cup of java is all you need. Other times, it calls for a longer break so that you can enjoy some delicious food and a little sit-down. We often get asked by clients where they can get their caffeine fix while travelling across Scotland, so we asked the Away from the Ordinary team to let you in on their top coffee spots for every occasion.

Leith, Edinburgh

Where is your favourite location in Scotland to get coffee, and what makes it special for you?

John: As a Scottish person who grew up in Italy, I love when the two worlds collide. “Gaia” is a beautiful wee Deli on Leith Walk in Edinburgh, run by a lovely Sicilian family. As well as the amazing pasta and sandwiches, the coffee is just unreal. With the smoothest and creamiest espresso I’ve ever found in Edinburgh, or anywhere really, Gaia is always a compulsory stop whenever I find myself walking past. The atmosphere is always so fun and relaxed, brimming with both Italian and Scottish voices. I couldn’t love the place more if I tried.

Aeneas: Puffin Coffee in Kilchoan makes delicious coffee, that I usually either sit in to enjoy, or take to the nearby Sanna Bay. Sanna Bay is a gorgeous white sand beach with turquoise water and is near Ardnamurchan Lighthouse, which is the most westerly point of mainland Great Britain. It’s a wonderful area to explore, made even better with a stop by Puffin Coffee to refuel. It’s one of my many favourite places to get coffee in Scotland.

Michael: In the Southside of Edinburgh, there is a cosy wee coffee shop called August 21.  It is small, homely, and very welcoming.  I used to spend many a Sunday morning in there, happily reading my book whilst the rain dotted the amply-sized windows. The coffee is excellent, and the pastries and sandwiches were always delectable. More than anything else, it felt like a great place to either quietly sit by yourself, or meet people from the local community.  New York has great coffee, but I still miss that coffee shop most weekends. 

Becky: I first experienced the magic of Glencoe while walking the West Highland Way many moons ago and it’s always held a piece of my heart. My first coffee stop on the way to the Highlands is always The Kingshouse in the Glencoe. My first choice is coffee and a pie from the Way Inn to enjoy outside and take in the breathtaking views (sometimes accompanied by the local stag). Or, if it’s a bit chilly I’ll have a cream tea in the restaurant in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows with 270-degree views of the landscape. 

Fort William, Highland

Where do you go when you need some delicious food to go with your coffee?

Ailsa: Perk Coffee & Doughnuts in Inverness – as their name suggests, they make great coffee and the most fantastic doughnuts. They also do cocktails (often coffee-inspired), and offer cocktail and doughnut pairings. The staff are super friendly too.

John: Krema Bakehouse on Leith Walk (are we spotting a theme?) always puts my self-control to the test, and always comes out on top. The friendly team make my favourite cappuccino in Edinburgh, and the selections of cakes and pastries (and everything in between) is a dream come true for a sweet tooth like mine. They sell these lovely wee chocolate ganache bites, lightly spiced with saffron and star anise. I’ve yet to find a better companion for a coffee.

Sarah: Rain Bakery in my hometown, Fort William. The coffee is delicious and the food is outstanding. They serve everything from freshly made croissants and pastries to bigger brunch and lunch dishes. I often stop by for pastries and coffee to go, but my favourite thing to order when I sit in is the Turkish eggs, served with sourdough toast.

Michael: In the beautiful wee town of Oban, there is a lovely coffee shop tucked up a cobbled side street, by the name of Julie’s.  It is a bustling place, with few seats and a huge amount of charm.  The food is fantastic – prawn sandwiches and plump and fat scones served with cream.  Happily, after you fill up on the food and coffee, you can walk across the road to the Oban Distillery to enjoy a little afternoon dram.

Carbost, Isle of Skye

What about a Coffee spot with a view?

Aeneas: It has to be Caora Dhubh which is Scottish Gaelic for ‘Black Sheep’ in Carbost on the Isle of Skye. You can look out to sea or you can look over to the Talisker distillery. Either way, you’re surrounded by inspiring views.

Michael: I have a deep love for the whisky-soaked island of Islay.  One of my favourite things about travelling to Islay is taking the ferry.  If you are journeying on one of the early ferries, I would highly recommend picking up a coffee onboard and then sitting on the upper decks.  From there, you can watch the ocean and passing scenery for the whole journey, whilst sipping on a strong coffee. If you are lucky, which I have been on a few occasions, you may also get to see some wildlife. If you are travelling in the afternoon, I would recommend sampling a few whiskies from the excellent onboard bar.  That may also help you spot more wildlife (or at least think you did!).

Becky: I love the views of the Forth Bridges from South Queensferry.  Outboard at the Port Edgar Marina is nice on a sunny day (and Hugo our black lab enjoys their puppuccinos) and Antico Café Bar at Orocco Pier has stunning views (and good cocktails if you stay longer than anticipated).

Chiara: One of my favourite places to get coffee is in Portobello Beach, in Edinburgh. I lived in Portobello for 2 and a half years, and it was my first flat in Scotland. I used to get coffee-to-go from the “Little Green Van” on the Promenade, walk in the early morning and see people walking their dogs. 

Calgary bay, Isle of Mull

Outside of where you live, is there a coffee shop in another part of Scotland that you love to visit?

Sarah: It’s very hard to choose one to mention as there are so many all over Scotland, but the Cafe at Calgary Arts is a lovely one. They serve really tasty coffee as well as delicious, flavourful food. In the gorgeous setting of Calgary Bay, they have an art gallery with a sculpture garden and lots of short woodland and coastal walks you can enjoy from there. There are many little unexpected gems on the coastal roads around Scotland – I recommend stopping in for coffee and cake at a cafe or two (or all of the cafes if you wish, perhaps even a cafe tour of Scotland!)

Aeneas: Artizan in Stornoway is the perfect spot for a fantastic coffee and a sweet treat. I love to visit in the morning to pick up something special before I set off out of town to explore Lewis.

Chiara: As I love the seaside and the sea, one of my favourite places outside Edinburgh to get coffee, is DRIFT Coffee+Kitchen, in Troon, it is a lovely small coffee shop and their food is delicious.

John: I’m very fond of Escape Route, in Pitlochry. It’s fairly unique, in that it operates both as a bike shop, and a lovely cafe. As well as great coffee and tray bakes, it serves brilliant hot food, including the best burger I’ve ever eaten – hands down. Situated on the high street, it’s a great place to fill up before a day of hiking and exploring, or to refuel after one.

The Torridon, Highland

Do you have a favourite coffee experience?

Sarah: My favourite coffee experience is not unique to one specific cafe, as much as it is about the serendipity of finding a lovely coffee shop just at the right moment. Whether it’s finding a warm coffee shop with perfect timing to wait out a shower of rain, or happening across one of the only bakeries open on Sundays in the Hebrides just as you’re starting to get hungry – moments like these happen surprisingly frequently and I often think they make that coffee taste even better.

Aeneas: Yes, after an incredible stay at The Torridon, enjoying a morning coffee with an amazing Scottish breakfast while watching the light change on the mountains. Sublime.

Becky: We have a campervan and no matter if we’re at a beach, in the countryside or a city, one of my favourite things to do is take Hugo for a walk with coffee (or hot chocolate, and always cake) in hand and find somewhere to sit and take in our surroundings.    

Ailsa: James’s at the Putting Green, Nairn – a firm favourite with locals and visitors alike.  When I get a chance, this is where I meet with friends for a catch-up and an alfresco hot drink. They provide tartan blankets for customers during the chillier months, it’s so lovely to sit outside on a crisp autumnal day.  They also do the most amazing variety of artisan ice cream. Be prepared to queue, this place is worth it!

We hope this provides you with some inspiration for your next trip to Scotland. Perhaps you may plan to stop at one of the coffee shops mentioned above, or maybe you believe that the places you happen upon by chance are the most special. Either way, we hope you’re having a nice little coffee break wherever you are in the world and that you’ll get in contact with us when you would like to start booking your trip to Scotland.

For more inspiration, read: