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Restaurant reservations - How necessary are they?

My wife and I will be traveling by car around Scotland in the first 3 weeks of July.
Edinburgh, NC500, Skye, Cairngorms, Lomond and more. No islands other than Skye.

We are not foodies and are perfectly happy with inexpensive restaurants and pub food.

Will we need to get reservations for even the most casual of places?

If so, how early should we reserve these places?

Thanks in advance. :)

Posted by
276 posts

If it were me I would book places as soon as I could because I don't like leaving things to the last minute and want peace of mind where finding a place to stay and somewhere to eat are concerned.

The last time I was on Skye (in the pre-Covid world) one specific evening meal was booked three months in advance for an August visit and it was a very good decision. On the night walk-in diners were being turned away unless they were prepared to wait for well over an hour for a table. It was a small restaurant with no bar area inside and it was pouring with rain so potential diners had to sit in their cars and wait.

The destinations you list are all popular with visitors and by July the Scottish schools will be on holiday. A quick Google check tells me these start around 29 June. The UK hospitality industry is still recovering from the double whammy of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic and staff recruitment appears to be a big problem. It would probably help all restaurants and pubs throughout the country still trading if people booked ahead for meals.

You could also find out about the availability of Fish & Chips shops or other takeaway food places on your route so that you have alternatives to sit-in meals.

Posted by
1188 posts

You will certainly need to reserve if you want to have a sit down meal anywhere on Skye in the summer. The same will be true of places on the NC500 and in the Cairngorms as these are remote areas with few places and most are short staffed due to the double whammy of COVID and Brexit removing most of the European workers who used to staff places in the summer.

On Skye I can only think of the fish and chip shops in Broadford and Portree where you wouldn't need a reservation. Even for pubs you'd want to phone a couple of days ahead to ask them to hold a table for you.

Best wishes
Jacqui (Skyegirl)

Posted by
1188 posts

The Fat Panda Chinese takeaway in Portree is currently closed 'until further notice'. None of us know why at the moment!

Posted by
6744 posts

Last September our group of four was able to get into most places without reservations, even if it meant going to a different restaurant. In one town we had to go to four different restaurants before we found one that could seat us. We did make a reservation in Stirling one evening. I recommend reservations for Edinburgh. When we couldn’t get in at The World’s End one evening, we made a reservation for the following evening. At another, we waited about 20 minutes and got lucky when another seating section opened.

Posted by
649 posts

We were in Portree last June ('22) and half the restaurants had signs in front saying "fully booked" and the other half had lines with waits dependent on the size of the party. Parties of two waited 15 min while four (us) waited an hour standing on the sidewalk. The Indian restaurant had no wait, so we ate there twice. There was also a Japanese that appeared available, though we didn't find it until our way back from dinner.

Posted by
31 posts

@sownack ; @Skyegirl ; @acraven ; @jaimeelsabio ; @Carol now retired ; @jjgurley : Thank you all for the replies.

@sownack : I'm less of a concerned person generally, but I also don't want to get caught struggling, which is why all accommodations are booked in advance. One difficult thing is that I don't know exactly when we will roll into most towns for a single-night stay, so booking a time could be problematic. We both do love fish & chips, but I'm not sure how many of those meals we would be into all in a row! hehe.

@Skyegirl : I'll look into some Skye and NC500 places and book some. Sounds like you think that "a couple days" in advance might be sufficient for casual places/pubs?

@acraven : Too bad about The Fat Panda. Sad to see so many places put out of business by CoViD (and maybe Brexit?).

@jaimeelsabio : Sounds like September may be a little more relaxed than July, eh? The Edinburgh tip is great. If you had any trouble in September, seems like we will definitely have trouble in July!

@Carol now retired : It does sound like that for sure.

@jjgurley : "Parties of 2 waited 15 minutes" - Well, for US, that would be perfectly do-able.

I will look into smaller towns and see if there are places we should get reservations. Also in Edinburgh especially if there is a place that we really want to go to. In portree, we will have a small kitchen so we may end up cooking dinner for ourselves at least a couple of our 4 nights. I will also look into seeing if there are any places we would really like to try there. Like I said, we are not really 'foodies' and would rather save our money for other events and adventures, but if there is something special we may splurge!

Thanks again.

Posted by
1188 posts

Re how soon in advance to book for Skye. If you just want casual dining, then Caberfeidh and the Antler Bar at the Portree Hotel are probably your best bet. I'd suggest booking at least a week ahead if you can.

Posted by
1658 posts

General rule is the smaller the place the longer reservations may be necessary. In the areas with supermarkets if they have a cafe that will save money.

However I have heard that some places on the NC500 are being ratchetting up the prices with the cover of covid and brexit to justify it well beyond the current inflation rate.

Posted by
6744 posts

Adding to what Mc-Glasgow said, more restaurants, mostly in Edinburgh, added an optional 10% tip to the bill. You could have it removed if you didn’t want to pay it. The point is I never saw that in any UK restaurant prior to Covid. Times are changing.