The Old Inn, Carbost, Skye, pub review

The Old Inn, Carbost, Isle of Skye
The Old Inn, Carbost, Isle of Skye

It is a long and winding road that leads to the Old Inn – but my goodness, it’s a glorious one.

Should you take the A82 and the A87 up from Glasgow, you’ll pass through Glencoe, by both the Two and the Five Sisters Munro ranges, and across the Skye Bridge. The ferry will bring you from Mallaig, but you’ll join the same road as it takes in the majestic Cuillin mountains.

Only then will you join the road to Carbost, which leads to the door – just across from the Talisker Distillery – of the Old Inn. From without it looks like an ordinary island house. A sign boasts that it is “probably the best pub in Carbost”. Sure it is – it’s the only pub in Carbost. But it might be the best pub on Skye.

Step inside and you’ll find a traditional old inn with a modern vibe. That’s not to say the fixtures and fittings are too “voguey”, there’s just a lovely vintage feel to the place, as if the idea of “shabby chic” has been scattered with a pinch of salt. Thus the old Artex is still on the walls, but they’re hung with reclaimed wood, hammered with strips of blackboard on which are chalked the beers, the food specials and details of the music nights: “every Fri – jam session” and “every Weds – trad session”. There’s bunting and fairy lights, and a sweet little dining room with red walls, red vinyl-upholstered seats and junk shop finds.

Out the back is a pool table and a darts board in a lean-to, and there are games inside by the fire. But in summer the most glorious thing about the Old Inn (if the Scottish weather is your friend and the midgies are holding their tiny biting selves at bay) is the garden, with a view across Loch Harport and the Cuillins beyond. 

Ales from the Isle of Skye and Cuillin breweries are regulars on the pump – taste small samples of perhaps Skye Hebridean Gold or Skye Black (my father’s favourite) with a malt-mixed-with-heather-honey finish, all made with hand-milled grain. On our visit the other two taps were Cuillin’s Captains Stout and Red Ness. Guest ales are from the mainland, mostly Scottish – Brewdog’s 5am Saint (ultra-hoppy with citrus and berry flavours). And, of course, given its neighbour being Talisker, there’s a fine selection of malts should you prefer a wee half and half. 

There’s food on offer (oysters and beer-battered cod for example) but a climb up the hill behind the distillery brings you to the idiosyncratic Oyster Shed, where £8.50 will buy a platter of oysters, crab, mussels, lobster, pickled herring and bread. Lobster and chips is just £12. And since you’re welcome to take your own bottle, you’ll no doubt be welcome to borrow a pint glass and take your ale.

There’s a bunkhouse, should you be unable to drive. The long and winding road will still be there tomorrow.