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The Scottish Highlands: a land famed for its rugged landscape, awe-inspiring scenery and general all-round gorgeousness. And if you’re a dog owner, you might be interested to hear that it’s also a pretty good place to visit with your pet. With rugged hills, vast open beaches and endless opportunities for walkies, it’s the canine equivalent of gravy-boned heaven. But what to do when your tummy starts to rumble after all that exercise? Or in other words: where can I take my dog for lunch?
Thankfully, the Highlands boast a wealth of food and drink outlets happy to host both you, and your pet, at mealtimes. And more than that, are a growing number of establishments which will actively welcome, rather than tolerate you, as you dine. No more shivering outside in the depths of winter, or sitting in a cloud of someone else’s smoke on outside seating. These dog-savvy places are going the extra mile to make you and your furbabe feel welcome on the premises (which for locations seeking outdoorsy visitors, also makes great business sense, aswell).
So here’s a round up of some of my very favourite dog friendly Highland eateries. Places that offer something a little bit special, or in some way are a little bit unique. Places where taking your dog on a lunch date never feels like a compromise.
And of course – where gravy bones are always on the menu, too.
STACKS COFFEE HOUSE AND BISTRO, JOHN O’ GROATS
First up, and what could be more unique than a coffee house situated at the near tippy-top of mainland Scotland? Stacks Bistro, in John O’ Groats, boasts not just a delicious, varied menu, but also prime photo op status, with the iconic John O’ Groats sign only a stones throw from their door. There’s always a friendly welcome for canines visiting with their humans (and usually a dog biscuit). There’s even a doggy ‘hall of fame’ where you can post cute pictures of your furbabe.
For lots more dog friendly eateries in Caithness, read my guide to dog friendly eating and drinking in the far north here.
THE KYLESKU HOTEL, SUTHERLAND
If you’re looking for a bit of peace and quiet in beautiful surroundings, look no further than the Kylesku Hotel in Sutherland. Nestled on the shores of Loch Glendhu, this stunning boutique hotel makes a perfect pitstop if you’re taking a North Coast 500 roadtrip with your dog. In fact, it makes a perfect pitstop whatever you happen to be doing, and if you’re staying overnight, your dog will be treated to their own ‘welcome pack’ comprising dog biscuits, dog bags and details of local walking routes. They’ll also be able to join you as you eat and drink on the premises – or just watch as you stare out of the window, aimlessly wondering if Hogwarts might actually be situated in the hills beyond that loch.
RANNOCH STATION TEA ROOM, RANNOCH AND TUMMEL
As picture-perfect eateries go, you can’t get much prettier than Rannoch Station Tea Room. And with friendly staff and an array of freshly baked treats on offer, you might find yourself wondering why you don’t eat lunch on a train station platform every single day. Your dog will be made most welcome – as will your kids, who might be offered the chance to participate in a treasure hunt around the platform in exchange for a Tunnocks Tea Cake. And if you’re really lucky, the owner might even fill you in on a bit of movie trivia on the filming of Trainspotting and the Harry Potter movies in the local area. All this and cake – obviously.
Ticket to Rannoch Station, anyone?
THE TEA GARDEN CAFE, MALLAIG
Speaking of the Harry Potter movies, what about a trip to gorgeous Mallaig, where the Jacobite Steam Train (featured in the series), visits from Fort William over the course of the summer? While you’re there, you and your dog absolutely must visit The Tea Garden Cafe, where doggy ice cream is available on the menu for discerning, ice-cream loving pups. There’s plenty to delight human customers too, with a range of locally sourced produce and fantastic views over the pretty harbour.
All this, and the chance to revel in one of Scotland’s most beautiful locations. If you’d like to find out more about the area, it’s featured in my post on movie locations to visit in the Scottish Highlands (sadly, though, no movie dogs involved).
THE CRAIG BAR, GRANTOWN-ON-SPEY
Last but not least in this round up of unique places to eat with your dog in the Highlands is the Craig Bar, in Grantown-on-Spey near Aviemore. Tucked away in a quiet backstreet, this friendly bar and restaurant is an absolute gem for hungry visitors travelling with their dog. What makes it unique is the menu – basically pies, pies and more pies. There’s a pie for every tastebud – even if you happen to be vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free. These connoisseur pastries will leave your mouth watering (and I say this as someone who isn’t usually a pie fan). The only family member who won’t be tucking into the golden-crusted offerings is your dog, of course.
Ah, well, there are always gravy bones, aren’t there doggies?
Just one more reason to take your humans on a Scottish Highlands roadtrip soon.
If you enjoyed this article, you might like some of my other travel guides, like these ones on reasons to plan a Scottish roadtrip and Outlander locations in the north of Scotland. And if you love dogs as much as I do, you might enjoy this piece on my secrets as a dog lover, or this guide to adding a puppy to your family.
And remember folks – dogs are for life, not just for taking out to lunch.
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