A Journey Through Scotland: Exploring 5 Unique Cafés

We embark on a Scottish road trip exploring a handful of unique cafés, from Edinburgh to Skye.


Photos courtesy of Vasileia Fanarioti

Embarking on a road trip through the breathtaking landscapes of Scotland, I found myself drawn to the charm and warmth of its local cafés. From the quaint streets of Edinburgh to the serene banks of Loch Lomond, each shop I visited offered a unique experience, showcasing the best of Scottish hospitality. Join me as I recount my visits to five remarkable cafés.

The bar, tables, stools, shelves and chairs inside Fika are of blonde wood, with muted tones of gray and green on the walls. Open shelves show books, coffee bags, teas, and pastries.
The cozy interior of Fika showcases comfortable, rustic decor.

Fika – Forres

Nestled in the heart of Forres, Fika is a charming, Swedish-style café that exudes warmth and hospitality. Upon entering, I was greeted by the friendly staff and the delightful aroma of freshly baked goods. Fika is a haven for vegetarians, offering a selection of soups, quiches, and sourdough bread made entirely in-house with organic ingredients. 

I indulged in a bagel with cream cheese, tomato, and basil, paired with a perfectly brewed espresso from Cairngorm Coffee Roasters. The café’s cozy ambiance, complete with rustic decor and a welcoming atmosphere, made it a perfect spot to relax. 

Outside Birch, the exterior is wood paneled in a blue-gray color, with big windows, plants and pendant lights visible inside.
Birch Café’s modern design is inspired by the Melbourne café scene

Birch – Portree, Isle of Skye

In the picturesque town of Portree on the Isle of Skye, Birch draws inspiration from the Melbourne café scene, blending it seamlessly with the rich flavors of the Scottish Highlands and Islands. Established by Niall Munro in 2020, the cafe’s ambiance is modern yet cozy, with a welcoming atmosphere that makes you feel right at home. 

I enjoyed a hummus and pesto sandwich, a delightful blend of textures and flavors, complemented by a perfectly brewed espresso. The coffee, roasted in-house since 2021, was so tasty I had to buy some beans to bring back home. All in all, Birch is a wonderful place to unwind and savor the essence of Scotland in every bite and sip.

Exposed brick walls, wood floors, hanging lights, long tables, an array of pastry plates, and exposed shelving give Wildcat an open feel.
The Wildcat’s interior, a bright spot on Fort William’s high street.

The Wildcat – Fort William

Located on Fort William’s bustling high street, The Wildcat is a vibrant café that focuses on healthy, ethical, and animal-free food. The café’s interior is bright and welcoming, with a lively atmosphere that draws you in. The menu is a delightful array of wholesome and creative dishes, all made with a commitment to ethical sourcing. I tried a slice of their vegan lemon cake that paired perfectly with an espresso from Dear Green coffee roasters, based in Glasgow. The Wildcat also offers a range of specialty teas from Pekoe and inventive cold drinks, ensuring there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re vegan or simply love good food, The Wildcat is a fantastic stop to enjoy delicious, conscious cuisine in the heart of Fort William.

On a metal table outside facing the sea sits a black drawstring bag with a deer skull and antlers, logo that says Wild Highlands, and the words "love the outdoors, love bees, love coffee."
A pouch of freshly roasted coffee beans from Wild Highlands, ready to take home.

Wild Highlands Coffee – Loch Lomond 

Perched on the promenade overlooking the stunning Loch Lomond, Wild Highlands Coffee is a hidden gem for coffee lovers. This family-run shop specializes in small-batch, hand-roasted coffee beans, exclusively sourced from Scotland. As I sipped on a smooth filter coffee, I soaked in the breathtaking views of the lake. The shop’s rustic charm and friendly atmosphere made it a perfect pit stop during my road trip. I couldn’t resist purchasing a pouch with three small bags of their unique coffee beans to take home. 

A small wood tray with a cappucino and latte cup, and a blueberry cake or scone.
A nostalgic cappuccino moment inside The Milkman, with espresso brewed from Dear Green beans.

The Milkman – Edinburgh

Situated at the bottom of the quaint Cockburn Street in Edinburgh, The Milkman is a charming coffee shop with a rich history. Opened in November 2015, owner Mark transformed an old candy shop into a cozy café that pays homage to his great grandfather. The café’s design blends nostalgia and modern comfort, making it a perfect retreat from the bustling city. I enjoyed a cappuccino, brewed from beans by Dear Green. The Milkman also offers a delightful range of cakes from local bakeries, catering to various dietary requirements. This café’s unique blend of history, ambiance, and exceptional coffee make it a must-visit in Edinburgh.


Vasileia Fanarioti (she/her) is a senior online correspondent for Barista Magazine and a freelance copywriter and editor with a primary focus on the coffee niche. She has also been a volunteer copywriter for the I’M NOT A BARISTA NPO, providing content to help educate people about baristas and their work.

Cover of June + July 2024 issue of Barista Magazine featuring Mikael Jasin of Indonesia.

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