What a joy to be by the sea in Scotland, especially during our Year of Coasts and Waters. Walking along a coastal path in the fresh air, stopping for lunch at a seaside restaurant, spending the night in a cute coastal cottage or cosy hotel – doesn’t that sound good?
Here we pick a selection of Scottish harbours and towns to inspire your next holiday, with some foodie tips thrown in.
Scotland is now operating a 5-level Covid-19 system on a local basis. This means different areas of Scotland will have different restrictions.
Find out what level each area is under and read more about the 5-level Covid-19 restrictions to plan and book ahead when considering your trip. You can search for businesses that are open, and Good to Go, where they have a Covid-19 risk assessment.
Tobermory, Isle of Mull
Tobermory, the capital of Mull, is one of the prettiest ports in Scotland, thanks to its colourful houses and a sheltered bay where rumour has it a Spanish Armada ship sank in 1588 carrying gold bullion. In the mood for seafood? Café Fish, The Mishnish Hotel and the Fisherman’s Pier Fish & Chip Van all cater for hungry travellers.
Millport, Isle of Cumbrae
The only town on the island of Cumbrae, just off the coast of Ayrshire, Millport is home to Britain’s smallest cathedral: The Cathedral of the Isles. The local museum is worth a visit too, especially if you enjoy thrilling tales about 18th century smugglers. You’ll find a good photo spot at Crocodile Rock – a rock painted to look like a crocodile! Enjoy fish and chips on your trip to Cumbrae at the Crocodile Chippy or Deep Sea Fish & Chip Shop.
This charming East Neuk fishing village has a beautiful harbour which comes alive each morning as the fishing boats return with their catch. The picturesque houses along the Pittenweem seafront are built in traditional Fife style with crow-step gables and red slate roofs. Enjoy fish and chips at the Pittenweem Fish and Chip Bar and maybe an ice cream at Nicholson’s Ice Cream Shop.
Nicknamed the ‘seafood capital’, a trip to Oban means a taste of the sea. This west coast town is surrounded by miles of dramatic shores and gorgeous countryside. Oban harbour is a busy working port and provides a vital lifeline to the Scottish islands nearby. When it’s time for something to eat, there are plenty of places to choose from including Oban Seafood Hut, Ee-Usk, The Fisherman’s Kitchen and Tralee Bay Fish & Chips.
Portree, Isle of Skye
Skye is a place of dramatic landscapes and the natural harbour at Portree is no exception. Fringed by high ground and cliffs, the harbour is used by fishing boats as well as pleasure craft. The town itself is Skye’s cultural hub and has many accommodation options as well as foodie highlights. These include Sea Breezes, The Lower Deck Seafood Restaurant, Cuchullin Restaurant and The Harbour Fish & Chip Shop.
Plockton, Wester Ross
The sheltered bay at Plockton overlooks Loch Carron, a beautiful Highland spot! Backed by a wild landscape of heather and pine, the waterfront around Plockton is usually full of yachts and fishing boats. Enjoy a relaxing walk by the water’s edge or take a trip out on the water. Afterwards try locally caught seafood at a local restaurant. You have a few to choose from including The Harbour Fish Bar, Kishorn Seafood Bar, Plockton Inn and Plockton Shores Restaurant.
Ullapool is a top outdoor destination with all kinds of things to do on its doorstep. From the wonderful wildlife of Inverpolly National Nature Reserve to the Instagrammable peak of Stac Pollaidh, you won’t be short of things to see. With a long history of fishing, Ullapool Harbour is also a gateway to the islands with regular sailings to Stornoway. As you might expect there are lots of places to try local seafood such as the Seafood Shack, The Seaforth Bar and Restaurant and The Arch Inn Restaurant.
St Abbs, Scottish Borders
If you’re a fan of the Marvel’s Avengers films you might recognise this pretty harbour town. St Abbs doubled up as ‘New Asgard’ in the popular film franchise. Photographers will love the cliffs and old fisherman’s cottages in St Abbs and the nearby St Abb’s Head Nature Reserve is a great place to go walking. Local restaurants where you can try the catch of the day include The Heathers Restaurant, The Ship Restaurant & Bar and Ebb Carr’s.
North Berwick, East Lothian
The East Lothian town of North Berwick is full of character and the busy harbour is one of the focal points. Once home to an outdoor swimming pool, the harbour area is now the location of the Scottish Seabird Centre, where families can stop and learn about the Scottish coast before a walk along the beach. In the summer months visitors will love eating fresh seafood at The Lobster Shack, Signals Bistro or The Rocketeer Restaurant.
With its unusual pebble beaches and yacht marina, Largs is a traditional holiday resort with strong links to the sea. Just a mile offshore, you’ll find the Isle of Cumbrae. A regular ferry service takes visitors to the island and the famous Waverley Paddle Steamer makes trips from Largs during the summer months. Looking for a bite to eat? Scotts Bar & Restaurant, Morris’s Seafood Café and The Fish Works all serve fresh seafood.
Aberdour is home to two beautiful beaches, a harbour, castle, golf course and a choice of traditional pubs and shops. Silver Sands beach overlooks the Firth of Forth towards Edinburgh & The Lothians and is said to be one of the finest in Scotland. Whether you love watersports or just a good old walk by the seaside, Aberdour has plenty to offer. Try the local catch at Room With A View or the Forth View Hotel.
Portnahaven, Isle of Islay
The Isle of Islay is famous for whisky, but the island is also home to some charming little harbour villages. Portnahaven is one such village, built around a sheltered harbour where grey seals love to sunbathe. As the sun is setting over this beautiful island retreat, try some local fare in An Tigh Seinnse, the local pub. The name means ‘The House of Singing.’
Pennan is a tiny fishing hamlet consisting of little more than a single row of whitewashed stone cottages tucked between a cliff and the sea. The village leapt into the limelight when the British movie Local Hero was filmed here in 1982. The town has an attractive harbour which is a great place to spot wildlife – including dolphins! Stop for a bite to eat at the Pennan Inn or Coastal Cuppie.
The East Neuk town of Crail is a pretty patchwork of cobbled streets and fishing cottages, centred around an attractive harbour. In the summertime it is a great place to walk around and explore, stopping to watch the fishing boats and enjoy an ice cream. Like other towns along the Fife coast, it is easy to access the Fife Coastal Path from Crail which stretches for over 100 miles around the area. Crail Fish Bar & Café and Reilly Shellfish are brilliant places to stop and eat.
Idyllic on a summer’s day and filled with things to do, Stonehaven is an Aberdeenshire gem. The sheltered harbour is always busy with boats and along the quayside you can visit the Stonehaven Tolbooth Museum. Two miles south you’ll find Dunnottar Castle, one of Scotland’s most iconic buildings. Each year the town plays host to a Hogmanay fireball ceremony which is a sight to behold. Foodie options include The Tolbooth Seafood Restaurant, The Bay Fish & Chips and The Creel Inn.
Dunbar, East Lothian
Dunbar is on the North Sea coast of East Lothian, about 30 miles east of Edinburgh. The town is renowned for its high sunshine record, rugged coastline and attractive countryside, including John Muir Country Park which supports a wide range of habitats, birds and plants. The town is steeped in history and was one of the most important Scottish Fortresses in the middle ages. Nowadays you can try cable wakeboarding at Foxlake Adventures – a fun day out for the family. Grab a bite to eat at The Creel, The Rocks or Umberto’s.
Located south of St Andrews, Anstruther is the largest in a string of pretty, old-fashioned fishing villages along the Fife Coast. Look out for puffins, seals and other wildlife on a boat trip to the Isle of May, which run from May through to September. And of course, try locally caught seafood in one of the towns award-winning eateries: The Waterfront, The Cellar, The Rockies Restaurant or The Anstruther Fish Bar.
Nairn is a relaxing and friendly seaside resort in the Scottish Highlands, with three beautiful beaches, stunning scenery and two championship golf courses. Located on the Moray Firth, Nairn is a popular family holiday destination and an ideal base for walking, cycling, touring the Highlands and golfing. The Classroom Bistro, Sun Dancer Bar and Restaurant, and Bandstand Bar & Restaurant are just some of the options you have for food on your trip.
Around Scotland’s coast, spring and summer bring warm breezes, birds, flowers and ice cream. Autumn and winter usher in ever-changing skies, afternoon moons and hearty pub lunches by the fireside. Whenever you decide to visit, a trip to Scotland’s coast is always an adventure! For accommodation ideas, take a look at more calming escapes by the water.