UPDATED FOR 2019
I originally started this list of recommended places for tea and cake around Ullapool when I spent a lovely week there with my mum at the end of 2016. Our days out always seems to include a sugary refreshment stop, which we justify to ourselves as a well-earned break from a busy schedule of exploring.
During our trip to the Ullapool area we came across some cute tearooms in the most unexpected of places. Since then we have been back to stay in the village and tested out even more cake stops, just for research purposes of course! They haven't always lived up to our high standards and therefore only a few have made this list so far. One of my original recommendations has sadly closed but happily I've managed to find a new addition to replace it. I'll keep adding to this blog post if and when I come across any more.
Ullapool is well positioned for memorable road-trips around the North West of Scotland and we did plenty of exploring during our holiday so these recommendations are quite spread out. Those of you undertaking the North Coast 500 Route might also find this guide useful as you pass most of these stops on the way. I've added a handy map of the locations at the bottom of this page.
I think it is important to contribute to the local economy of any place you visit and even if you only stop for a coffee, you are helping to support a local business. I think this is especially important to mention during a time when camper van and self-catering holidays in Scotland are booming. Although you could easily make your own brew on these types of vacations, spending a few pounds at independent businesses, especially in rural areas, really does make a difference. Tearooms and cafes in quieter places are also great for meeting locals and swapping tips with fellow travellers.
I should add that my mum and I do consider ourselves to be Scotland tea and cake stop aficionados so hopefully you won't be disappointed in our choices which have all met with our expert approval...
The Elphin Tearooms, Elphin
This is a new addition to my blog as we first visited Elphin Tearooms earlier this year. It was so good we went back twice within a week. It is an ideal stopping point on the North Coast 500 as you travel north from Ullapool or south towards the village depending on which direction you are driving. It has a large car park and as it states on the website, it welcomes everyone including bikers, campervans and dogs.
We visited with Willow and although we could have sat inside, the weather was just too glorious. The views of the surrounding mountains are also just so pretty that we opted for one of the outdoor picnic tables. It really is the kind of place that you can sit and relax in to holiday mode. There is no feeling of being rushed and the service is super friendly. We ended up chatting to our picnic table neighbours and it was nice to exchange some travel stories among such scenic surroundings.
Both times we visited, our cakes were fresh and delicious which is perhaps the most important thing when that is your main purpose for visiting. The tearoom sits on its own and would be easy to drive by as you head to somewhere else. Personally, I think a stop here should be part of your travel itinerary and you will also have the satisfaction of supporting a local business.
Tea by the Sea, Ullapool
We walked past this gift shop come cafe a couple of times before we finally succumbed to temptation. Our willpower was eroded away by the list of delicious sounding daily desserts on the notice board outside which we just had to investigate for ourselves.
This is a quirky little place inside with a few tables adjoining a new age type gift shop. The friendly owners were more than happy to explain what delights were on offer that day and the counter was stuffed with enticing choices.
I opted for a creamy slice of bannoffee pie and my mum opted for the apple pie topped with caramel sauce and cream just for good calorific measure! A generous amount of tea and an extra pot of hot water to wash everything down completed our sweet, sticky feast and we both agreed that a cake stop at Tea By The Sea deserved a big thumbs up.
Update - we returned again on our most recent trip and enjoyed more cake. It was just as good and this time it was even warm enough to sit on one of the pavement tables out the front and enjoy the waterfront view.
Visit Denmark's youngest city, oldest town and prettiest village all on a short break from Aberdeen...
Recently I was invited over to Denmark as part of a business partnership with Danish Air Transport and Business Esbjerg to check out their new air route between Aberdeen and Esbjerg.
I'll be honest, I had never heard of this part of Denmark before my invite and had no idea what to expect. However, my trip turned out to be completely fantastic and I just had to publish this blog post about it. I wasn't asked to write this article but I honestly think that this is a part of Denmark worth sharing. It is definitely a Danish hidden gem and is perfect for anyone looking for a unique long weekend escape from Scotland.
Esbjerg is a harbour city which sits on the North Sea on the west coast of Denmark. It actually has a lot in common with Aberdeen as it is a large fishing port and an important base for oil and gas offshore industries.
During my trip I was joined by Mr Adventures Around Scotland and we didn't just visit Esbjerg, we also went over to the beautiful island of Fanø which we both fell in love with, before completing our trip in Ribe, Denmark's oldest town. Three very different locations in three days and if you want to follow in our footsteps, I've put all my itinerary details below.
DAY 1 - ABERDEEN TO ESBJERG
We took a lunchtime flight from Aberdeen with Danish Air Transport and I've never been fed and watered so well on a short plane journey - more on that below. Just over an hour later we arrived at Esbjerg airport and picked up our hire car from the Europcar desk and made the 15 minute journey to our hotel.
Its not necessary to have a car, however if you want to explore beyond Esbjerg as we did, it provides a bit more freedom and flexibility. The roads in this part of Denmark are fairly quiet and we found driving on the right hand side to be easy enough as the road systems here are also quite straightforward.
On our first night we stayed in Hotel Britannia which is very central and ideally located for exploring the city. We had a Business Double Room which had nice green views over a little pond area opposite. The hotel has a cool, Scandi vibe and we had no complaints during our stay.
A day trip to Bute is a great choice for an outing from Glasgow. In just over 90 minutes you can escape the hustle and bustle of city life and enjoy some island tranquillity. The Isle of Bute is often overlooked in favour of better known Scottish islands but it has a unique charm all of it's own.
Although one day won't be enough to take in all the history, wildlife and activities that Bute has to offer, it will certainly give you a flavour of the island and a reason to return.
HOW TO GET TO THE ISLE OF BUTE
Wemyss Bay to Rothesay Ferry
There are two ferry route options to the Isle of Bute, one at the more secluded north end of the island and one that takes you to the main town of Rothesay. If you are travelling over for a day, the easiest option is the Wemyss Bay to Rothesay ferry route.
The cheapest and most convenient way to get there is by public transport. A one hour train journey from Glasgow Central Station runs direct to the CalMac ferry terminal at Wemyss Bay Station. From there, a 35 minute connecting ferry ride takes you to Rothesay, the main town on Bute. This makes it one of the most accessible islands to get to in Scotland. Buying a combined rail and sail ticket from the station or on the train can potentially save you money.
There is also the option to drive to Wemyss Bay and leave your vehicle in the car park at the train station although be aware there is a charge and spaces are quite limited.
If you are only going on a day trip to the Isle of Bute, then there really is no need to take a vehicle across on the ferry unless you really want to. My recommended suggestions can all be easily visited on foot or by using public transport.
The island is also popular with cyclists so you may even want to bring your bike across and explore on two wheels.
How to spend a day on Bute
Bute is the little west coast island oasis that I called home for 5 years. Knowing all that it has to offer has made it difficult to narrow down the list of places you should visit in a day. However, I feel that visiting an island should be a relaxing experience and I think my suggested things to do find a balance between exploring some interesting attractions and taking the day at an easy pace. Hopefully you will leave feeling not only chilled out but with a little bit of knowledge about this historical Scottish island and a yearning to come back.
I recommend spending the morning exploring Rothesay itself as there is more than enough to keep you busy. First stop as you leave the ferry terminal should be the Victorian Toilets, yes I know that might sound like a weird suggestion but you will hopefully thank me for it.
The toilets date back to 1899 when Rothesay was a fashionable and popular seaside holiday resort. The decor, fixture and fittings are almost completely original to the day they were built and are quite special to see. Although it is the gent's lavatories that are the real attraction, ladies can visit too, just check with the attendant that they are empty first! There is a small entry charge.
Next, take a short walk to The Discovery Centre which is housed in the old Winter Gardens. Here you will find tourist information and a free multi-media exhibition that explains some of the history of Bute. It is only a few minutes from the ferry terminal and a great introduction to the island.
If the sun is shining, take a stroll along the Esplanade, admire the beautiful flower displays and the views over the Firth of Clyde to the mainland. You can even enjoy a shot on the putting green or take a seat by the pretty fountain.
Rothesay is the main town on the Isle of Bute and also the place that, until last year, I called home for the previous 5 years. The town has lots to offer day trippers and holidaymakers will find it an ideal base for exploring the rest of the island. To help make the most of your time, I've put together a list of my recommended things to do in Rothesay below.
The town is famous as a once thriving seaside resort, particularly for Glaswegians who would head 'doon the watter' to Bute for their holidays. Like many British seaside resorts, package holidays to sunnier climes brought about a downturn in the economy.
Today it suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. While some tired looking premises rely on nostalgia to survive, a host of new local businesses catering for a quality driven generation of travellers have opened in recent years.
Rothesay can be reached in just over 90 minutes from Glasgow, making it one of the most accessible island escapes in Scotland. The ferry to Bute leaves from Wemyss Bay on the mainland and for those not wanting to drive, a train runs directly to Wemyss Bay from Glasgow Central Station.
The Isle of Bute has many more attractions worth visiting outside of the main town but I'll tackle them in a future blog post. For now, this article hopefully provides plenty of inspiration and options for those wondering what to do in Rothesay.
If you're up early, you might just catch a 'buteiful' Rothesay sunrise
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