Tucked into harboursides, nestled next to rivers, proud market town taverns, and a former watering hole of Scotland’s most famous poet, Galloway has some fine pubs way out west. Here nine of the best.
If you like this guide, you’ll find more like this one on LoveGalloway blog. In addition, we keep detailed information, maps and leaflets at our holiday cottage, Burnside. We would be delighted to host your stay and be your guide to Galloway. Check out our website and the link to our booking page at www.homeaway.co.uk …
Fantastic pubs of character in Dumfries and Galloway
1. The Crown Inn, Portpatrick
Known for…seafood, crab sandwiches, harbour views, good beer and sitting outside.
Portpatrick is a beautiful old port town, which built its wealth on trade with Ireland, before regular crossings moved to the more sheltered harbours at Stranraer and then Cairnryan. Portpatrick’s stunning, stone harbour is still home to a few fishing boats and the RNLI lifeboat, while rows of pubs and neat houses stand to attention along the seafront. The Crown sits right in the middle of them with great views over the sea and up onto the cliff tops where the long distance walking route, the Southern Upland Way, begins its epic march across Scotland to Cockburnspath, north of Berwick-Upon-Tweed.
In summer, bucketfuls of tourists sit out at The Crown, but in winter cosy up around the fire and trade the crab sandwiches for a warming bowl of Cullen Skink. The Scottish soup is a tasty concoction of smoked haddock, potato, milk, butter and parsley. The Crown was named among the best coastal pubs in Britain by iNews in 2018 and has previously won an AA award for the Best Seafood Pub in Britain.
Best after… cliff top walks; a turn round the putting green or a dip in the sea on a sunny day
Burnside Cottage, Port William, Galloway
2. The Selkirk Arms, Kirkcudbright
Known for… Kirkcudbright scallops, lamb, excellent food, local produce, pub grub
Kirkcugbright is a place of fishermen and artists. Delicious king scallops are harvested from the Irish Sea by boats that boast this beautiful town as their home port. And there is usually a raft of rusty old scallop dredgers tied up by the quayside. In the wide streets behind the harbour, artists and small galleries vie for space with scrumptious cafes… and the Selkirk Arms.
In keeping with the artistic tradition, it is believed by many that the Selkirk Arms is where Robbie Burns penned the famous lines of The Selkirk Grace, prior to attending a dinner at the home of the Earl of Selkirk on St Mary’s Isle. Burns is known to have stayed here a number of times around 1794.
Best after… a tour of the town’s art galleries; a harbour stroll; a day out at the Cream O’Galloway ice cream farm, a turn around Dundrennan Abbey or Maclellan’s Castle, or just watching the boats go out and come back in again.
3. The Masonic Arms, Gatehouse-of-Fleet
Known for… steak, scallops, hand-cooked chips and sticky toffee pudding
Once known as the ‘Glasgow of the South’, Gatehouse-of-Fleet was a thriving industrial town with cotton mills, brewery, ship building and its own port on the Water-of-Fleet in the 18th and 19th centuries. The wealth, and the development it fuelled, brought stone masons, who built The Masonic Arms as their lodge in 1785.
Today, the pub is a cosy bolthole offering fine food. In February The Masonic Arms launches its new chargrill, suggesting that the steaks are going to get even better. Meals are served in the Sunroom or the bar. There is also a beer garden. This is a supremely comfortable pub in a beautiful, pretty town.
Best after… exploring the moors above Gatehouse where John Buchan set the final, gripping scenes of his novel, The Thirty-Nine Steps; a cycle out to the Big Water of Fleet viaduct; a visit to Cardoness Castle near the entrance to the town.
4. The Steam Packet Inn, Isle of Whithorn
Known for… Cullen skink, fresh fish, seafood, steak, good local beer and a micro brewery
The Steam Packet Inn is tucked into the harbourside at the Isle of Whithorn. From the lounge bar you can sit and watch the sea sweep in around the quay (pictured), floating the scallop dredgers and making the sailing boats dance on the tide. It is a wonderful scene.
The pub sells its own real ales and guest beers and the landlord keeps a perfect pint, which can be supped in one of two bars, at tables by the sea or in a neat little beer garden at the back.
The Steam Packet’s menu is well judged from home-cooked family favourites such as sausages, fish and chips, chicken nuggets and breast, which satisfy young and old alike, to steaks, fish and fresh seafood. We have had many meals in the Steam Packet and always enjoy it.
Best after… an epic coastal walk from St Ninian’s Bay, a tour of the rocky paths at the end of the Isle, a spell on the swings or as an interlude during crabbing on the quayside or in the rockpools that emerge as the sea retreats.
5. The Harbour Inn, Garlieston
Known for…a friendly welcome, steak pie, fish and chips, puddings and a roaring fire.
Pubs and ports are a winning combination and it’s not hard to image sailors warming up in The Harbour Inn at Garlieston. The village has a long quay reaching out into the deeper waters of the bay. At one time, it was busy with trade and scallop boats and steamers would take holidaymakers on excursions to the Isle of Man. Incredibly, in the late 19th century four trains a day connected Garlieston to Newton Stewart carry goods and people.
The quayside now stands quietly proud and stark against the horizon, but the pub is still bustling and is well reviewed on Trip Advisor and in the visitor’s book at our cottage, Burnside. The sea views, roaring fire and hearty food make it the perfect destination on a cold winter night.
Best after… one of the best coastal walks in Britain from Garlieston to Cruggleton Castle, or a shorter walk along the coast to Rigg Bay and around the delightful Galloway House Gardens
6. Craft Hotel, Wigtown
Known for… its huge portions, burgers, cosy restaurant and craft beers
Craft is a cool mix of old and new. It has a rustic feel with wooden floors, open fire and studded leather sofas and a great array of craft beers, many from Scotland.
The restaurant prides itself on sourcing local meat and vegetables. It is also well known for its huge portion sizes and fabulous hospitality. The menu is more than burgers; steak pies, fish and chips, prawn linguine all feature and there is a good selection of scrumptious puddings.
The welcome extends to dogs too, which are provided with a bowl of water and Craft is a popular venue for live music.
Best after… perusing the book shops of Scotland’s National Book Town; a circular walk taking in the monument to the tragic Wigtown martyrs, the harbour and bird hide and a tour around the splendid Wigtown Town Hall.
7. Bladnoch Inn, Bladnoch
Known for… steak, fish and chips, family meals and a lovely welcome.
As well as pub’s by ports, there is something deeply satisfying about an ale house next to a distillery. It’s like double bubble. And the Bladnoch Inn is within a stone’s throw of the 200-year-old Bladnoch Distillery. It enjoys a charming setting at the corner of a stone bridge across the river. On a sunny day it is a delightful spot to sit and watch the world go by… and it goes by pretty slowly in Bladnoch. The Bladnoch offers good pub food including, prawn cocktails (still love ‘em), burgers, lasagne, macaroni, steaks and vegetarian options.
Best after… a round of golf at the Wigtown and Bladnoch Golf Club, just up the road; a tour of the Book Town (Wigtown); a walk to the art gallery in the industrial estate across the river; or a visit to the splendid Wigtown Town Hall where you can view the live link to a local Osprey nest.
8 House O’ The Hill, Bargrennan
Known for… delicious food, lamb, pies, fish, good beer and great location for walking and cycling.
The House O’ The Hill is an oasis pub. Tucked under the Galloway Hills, it is in an area where many a weary walker must have muttered that immortal phrase, ‘if only there was a pub around the next corner’. And there is! The House O’The Hill is perfect for a well-earned pint after hiking or cycling around Glentrool or The Merrick. In fact, it is the only pub inside the Galloway Forest Park.The House serves local beers and the food offers a ‘real taste of Galloway’.
Best after… a day exploring the tumbling waters and gentle paths of Glentrool; hikes and bike rides in the remote Galloway Hills or a stretch of the Southern Upland Way, which passes nearby.
9. The Clansman, Port William
Known for… it’s friendly service, casseroles, sticky toffee pudding and varied menu.
OK, this isn’t a pub, but The Clansman is warm and cosy and it also happens to be the closest restaurant to our cottage, Burnside, which is a mile walk from Port William. The Clansman serves good, home-cooked, hearty food like casseroles, steak pies, macaroni cheese, and sausage and chips with chocolate pudding to follow. You can’t go wrong with that.
And The Clansman is no longer the only eatery open in The Port in the evening… The View, with stunning views across Luce Bay, also serves evening meals and drinks in the summer months. It is a fantastic place to watch the sun go down and offers a fantastic friendly welcome, too.
Best after… a beautiful walk from Burnside Cottage, along the ridge of Garnet’s Walk with stunning views across Luce Bay and the Solway.