This month’s ‘Eating Out In’ post is based in the Scottish Highlands and comes from Susan who blogs at Mess in the Ness.
Mess in the Ness (AKA Susan) is based in Inverness. A self-confessed foodie, keen baker, amateur photographer and local adventurer Susan blogs primarily about her foodie and travel adventures around (but not limited to) the Scottish Highlands. Working as a part time administrator, she also co-runs Let’s Bake Inverness and enjoys going to any foodie/drink events.
Over to Susan…
There are many things that the Highlands of Scotland are famous for. The infamous Loch Ness and mythical monster, a whole collection of whisky distilleries, and picture postcard scenery at every turn. But where can you find some warm, welcoming Highland hospitality? Susan Barrie from Mess in the Ness shares ten of the best Highland stop offs to include on any road trip in the north of Scotland.
Storehouse of Foulis (Foulis Ferry, Evanton, Ross-shire, IV16 9UX)
Furthermost north on this list, Storehouse is renowned for its location on the northbound shore of the Cromarty Firth – a prime spot to spot seals basking on their rocks. As well as a homely large farmhouse kitchen dining room, there’s also a warm marquee with sturdy picnic benches. There’s a queue most lunchtimes to sample the soups, hot meals (including some of the most local and biggest portions of beer battered fish and chips you’ll find for miles) deep filled sandwiches and quiches, and of course you can’t miss trying a cake or two from their large chiller cabinet. And if you find the restaurant exciting, you definitely can’t miss a trip to the farm shop where there’s artisan goods, local fruit and veg, a huge whisky and gin selection, and a range of foodie gifts available to purchase.
Mountain Café (111 Grampian Road, Aviemore PH22 1RH)
A favourite with outdoorsy types looking to fuel up with a pre-ski breakfast before hitting the Cairngorm slopes, this café with a mountain view also does lunches with a wholesome lunch menu with soup, sandwich and main course options. There’s a daily changing options for soups, and scones (both savoury and sweet). All items on the menu include adaptations suitable for vegans, vegetarians and those with wheat/gluten or dairy free requirements. Also to note are their dedicated breakfast and lunch menus for kids, and a showstopper giant display of layered cakes, cheesecakes, scones, traybakes and biscuits that can be boxed up to takeaway (which is just as well, as there’s lots of places nearby in the Cairngorms to enjoy them after a filling lunch!). Expect to queue at lunchtimes.
The Wild Flour (Main Street, Newtonmore)
If you are looking for a leisurely stop off on the A9, Newtonmore is a small village with The Wild Flour Cafe taking centre stage. A relatively recent addition to the High Street, the homemade flatbreads are the stars of the show complete with their pickled house slaw. Add in a bulging cake display (including gluten free options and a top gluten free salted caramel brownie) and a conservatory view into a small courtyard, this is a peaceful retreat to enjoy a leisurely break in your journey. Also open some weekend evenings with a special menu – check their Facebook page for details. Dogs are welcome in the comfy seating area at the front of the cafe.
Velocity Cafe & Bicycle Workshop (1 Crown Avenue, Inverness, IV2 3NF)
Situated in the Highland capital of Inverness, Velocity has an aim of promoting healthy, sustainable lifestyles through cycling. Vegetarian and Vegan friendly soups, sandwiches and salads are served alongside an assortment of delicious home bakes and drinks. There’s a big communal table and the emphasis is on local produce here, and you can even take a bike maintenance class in the adjoining workshop. An excellent stop off especially if you are on two wheels rather than four. See this inspiring video for more details on Velocity’s vision.
Museum Cafe – Strathpeffer (Victorian Railway Station, Strathpeffer, Ross-shire)
Heading out west now on the road to Ullapool, the Victorian spa village of Strathpeffer was a popular holiday resort due to its sulphurous springs, and holidaymakers would arrive in on at the train station. The railway line is now closed but the Museum of Childhood is located in the station along with a compact tea room. A select menu of lunch options are served here, and you can sit out under the covered platform or inside where local art adorns the walls.
Sutor Creek & Coupers Creek (Bank Street & Church Street, Cromarty)
Two sister restaurants feature within the small town of Cromarty. One (Sutor Creek) serves wood-fired pizzas and seafood specials close to the village harbour, the other (Coupers Creek) is a modern café and ice-cream parlour serving cake, coffee and local ice-cream all day from 10am-4pm (as well as soups and sandwiches made with local Cromarty Bakery bread). Specials are served at Sutor Creek on Thurs-Sun but reservations should be booked in advance for lunch or dinner. Stop in if you are heading through the Black Isle (which is actually a peninsula rather than an island!) or spending the day in Cromarty where you can easily spend a day pottering around.
Inshriach Nursery (Aviemore, Inverness-shire, PH22 1QS)
“One of Britain’s best cake shops” is the accolade deservingly given to Inshriach Nursery by the Observer Good Food guide, and we are highly inclined to agree. Tucked off on a minor road just outside of Aviemore, a small nursery sells plants in the sprawling gardens, and the potting shed has been converted to a tearoom with bar seating looking out on what can be described as a haven for red squirrels and birds feasting on their nuts and seeds. The Norwegian owner serves up tall layered bakes of light sponge, cream and fruit in an assortment of combinations on dainty vintage china. It’s an oasis in the middle of the Cairngorms National Park.
The Olive Tree Cafe (Logie Steading, Forres, IV36 2QN)
Less a stop-off, more a destination for a day out, the Olive Tree Café is housed in the Logie Estate farm buildings which is almost a century old. Bright and airy, tea and cake can be taken on the mezzanine level while lunches are seated downstairs on wooden church pews. Lunch options use local seafood and meat from the Moray Firth area. There’s a farm shop and a whisky & wine shop (with an extensive selection of other alcohol too) to peruse, and a riverside walk just in case you feel inclined to walk off your lunch.
The Gille Brighde Cafe (The Old Schoolhouse, Lower Diabaig, Wester Ross, IV22 2HE)
‘Gille Brighde’ is Gaelic for Oyster catcher, and if this restaurant was a gemstone, it would definitely be a pearl in the oyster shell! Once you make it out to the end of the tiny single track road and down the steep hill into Lower Diabaig, a bay overlooking Loch Torridon and Gille Brighde awaits you. Platters using the best of scottish produce (including locally caught seafood from the bay here) are the stars of the show, although the burgers are worth a mention too. Of course the location is a real selling point too and there’s some outdoor seating to enjoy the Scottish sun (when it appears!).
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