Eating Places in Inverness
Eating Places in Inverness

Dinner at the Rocpool

As I have lived over a decade in Inverness, it’s been a struggle to pick 10 favourite eating places in Inverness, as I could easily have suggested another 10.  Admittedly a couple are just outside Inverness but well worth the journey and clearly we are spoilt for choice.

1. Rocpool Restaurant – it remains my favourite of all since it never disappoints.  It’s a modern Inverness brasserie on the banks of the River Ness with a lively atmosphere, exceptional food and attentive service.  Reservations are recommended.

The Dores Inn on the south side of Loch Ness

The Dores Inn on the south side of Loch Ness

2. Dores Inn – 10 miles outside Inverness on the banks of Loch Ness, the setting for this delightful pub is stunning.  Whatever time of year you go the scenery is wonderful.  This traditional inn with slate floor and wood-burning stove is comfortable and welcoming and the choice of local food and drink is extensive.

 

 

 

3. Mustard Seed – a very well-known Inverness restaurant with a lively atmosphere.  The building on the riverside was originally a church and then a book shop and has been transformed into a modern restaurant serving a European menu with Highland influences and in-season ingredients.

4. The Kitchen – in the same theme the Kitchen is owned by the same group as the Mustard Seed and has a similar menu and equally good standards.  It is set in a modern glass fronted building on the other side of the river.  It has a brasserie style and includes a pasta and pizza section.

5. Castle Tavern – my favourite pub in Inverness.  This traditional tavern overlooks Inverness Castle and features a beer garden, friendly banter and a great atmosphere.  It’s a small well-run hostelry and has a varied menu from snacks to full meals and an extensive choice of beers and whiskys.

6. Girvans Restaurant and Patisserie – an old-fashioned cafe style restaurant in the heart of the city centre.  Sometimes there is a queue to get a table in Girvans at peak times but it’s not for long and it’s worth the wait.  It has an extensive menu offering good value and it’s open all day.  Perfect for a coffee and a strawberry tart while you take a break from retail therapy.

7. The Fig and Thistle – in a central location next door to Girvans, this is a really friendly restaurant serving excellent lunches and dinners and includes traditional Scottish fayre.

8. Riva Restaurant – an Italian restaurant serving fine food and drink.  With superb fresh ingredients this is a great restaurant in a handy location with views of the castle.

9. Urquharts Restaurant – this is a family run city centre restaurant on a first floor.  They serve huge portions of delicious, hearty food.

10. Oakwood Restaurant – about 4 miles outside Inverness on the road to Loch Ness and Fort William.  This friendly restaurant with a delicious menu also has a gift shop.  It does not have an alcohol licence but they are happy for you to bring your own bottle and do not charge corkage.

And if you are looking for a place to stay in Inverness, here is my Bed and Breakfast.

 

 

Highland Weddings

You may already have received your share of wedding invitations for the coming year.  As well as deciding what on earth to wear and what to buy as a wedding gift, you may well also need to find some wedding accommodation to make the most of your stay.  As weddings have changed over the years from the traditional church service followed by a reception in a hotel, they can now be quite self-contained with the wedding service, reception and dance all taking place under the one roof.  There’s a great choice of romantic settings in the Scottish Highlands including luxurious country estates and traditional castles.  There was great excitement in these parts when Madonna chose Skibo Castle, near Dornoch in Sutherland for her marriage to Guy Ritchie.

Tartan Wedding

One of the obvious characteristics of highland weddings is seeing men in traditional Scottish dress.  In the same way that men in formal black tie attire is very smart, formal Highland dress is equally striking.  For men who don’t have a kilt, don’t worry, there are any places you can hire all the gear such as Boarstone Tartans in Inverness.  Not only can you hire a kilt or dinner suit, they can advise you on exactly what you need to order down to where to put your skean dhu.  For ladies the dress code is the same as everywhere else, whether it’s a hat wedding or not.

Highland Fling

Another distinctive part of a typical Scottish wedding is the ceilidh dance which takes place after the wedding reception.  Ideally with a traditional band to play an array of Scottish country music that will have you on your feet for the rest of the night.  Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with Scottish country dancing.  There’s usually a caller to shout instructions and you may find your more familiar than you think with an Eightsome Reel, a Dashing White Sargeant or the Flying Scotsman.  Either way it’s great fun and you wont be surprised if you’re whisked off your feet.

delicious breakfast

As promised our new breakfast menu is launched today.  There’s nothing like a hearty breakfast to set you up for the day and here there’s a great selection, whether you’re looking for traditional or healthy.  The new menu features the old favourites plus more options for vegetarian breakfasts and more information on the source of our food.  All the hot choices are cooked freshly to order and you don’t have to choose your breakfast the night before but order at the table.

When you’re on holiday Isn’t it nice to enjoy a relaxing breakfast which someone else has cooked for you, whilst you decide what you’re going to do for the day.  If you normally have a fairly hectic schedule and normally grab a quick piece of toast or even skip breakfast it is quite luxurious to enjoy a leisurely meal in the morning and take time to plan your day.  After a comfortable night’s sleep  you can relax in the dining room overlooking the back garden and mull over ideas.  If you wish you can also find out more about places to visit from your host or chat with other guests about where they’ve been.  Guests often swap information about where they’ve been to and of course we can let you know the all-important weather forecast for the day and advise on any events taking place in the area.

 

New Breakfast Menu

From the sideboard:

Orange Juice, Fresh Fruit Salad, Natural Low-Fat Yoghurt

A Selection of Cereals and Fruit Bowl

Hot choices – cooked to order

Porridge – served traditionally on it’s own or with your choice of accompaniment – honey, cinnamon or fruit and nuts

Full Highland Breakfast – Frasers the Butchers’ steak sausage, Scottish smoked bacon, free-range fried egg, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes

Vegetarian Highland – vegetarian sausages, free-range fried egg, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes

Vegetarian Loaf – homemade vegetarian loaf (contains pine nuts), free-range fried egg, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes

Free-range scrambled egg and Scottish smoked bacon

Sandwiches – with steak sausage and/or smoked bacon and/or fried egg

Accompanied by

Freshly brewed tea or coffee and wholemeal toast

Special diets and gluten free options can also be provided.

A healthy start to the day

A healthy start to the day

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Take time over a leisurely breakfast

 

It may seem obvious to many but I thought I’d let you know the 5 essential items I think you need on your Scottish vacation.  If it’s the first time you’ve had a holiday in Scotland here are a few tips.

1. Camera

I’m sure it’s first on your list where-ever you travel, but just in case you didn’t know the scenery in Scotland it’s amongst the best in the world.  Whatever technology you prefer you will find yourself grabbing it at every moment, whether it’s an elusive glimpse of the Loch Ness Monster, a selfie atop a mountain peak or for keeping a diary of all the lovely meals you’ve had and places you’ve stayed.

2. Insect Spray

A good insect repellent is essential to avoid midge bites.  The Scottish midge (pronounced mid-jee) is present during the summer months in the countryside, particularly when you’re near water as they like damp conditions.  Prevalent at dawn and dusk midges are a nuisance if you’re prone to insect bites.  You can also keep ahead of these annoying beasties by checking the midge forecast.

3. Walking Shoes/Boots

If you want to make the most of your time here, you’ll need some good walking shoes.  Whether it’s hiking in the countryside, walking along some of our golden beaches or touring the grounds of a Scottish castle you’ll avoid blisters with some sensible shoes.

4. All Weather gear

I’ve lived in the UK all my life.  It’s only since running a bed an breakfast and meeting visitors from all over the world that I’ve realised why the British are obsessed with the weather and why the rest of the world is puzzled by this.  It’s because it’s so much more changeable on our small island.  In this country we can’t plan to have a picnic in 2 weeks time.  We wait to see the weather forecast for tomorrow and then decide.  In the Scottish Highlands it’s particularly changeable but the good part is if you keep your plans flexible you can often travel out of the rain and make the most of the sunshine.  For that reason I suggest sunglasses, hat, an umbrella, a waterproof jacket and layered clothing.

5. An Adventurous Spirit

Like visiting any country for the first time, your experience will be so much more memorable if you embrace the culture.  You may find our roads a little smaller than you’re used to and the weather’s a little unpredictable but if you try the local food, visit local events and find out about local customs your holiday will be all the more special.  Ask your host questions and you’ll find there’s so much to see and do, as soon as your holiday is coming to an end you’ll be planning your next trip.

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Easter in Inverness

For some Easter is an important religious festival and for some it’s a holiday and an excuse to eat chocolate.  Whatever your beliefs it’s an opportunity to spend time with family and enjoy the slightly warmer temperatures.  Here in Inverness it marks the start of the tourist season when many of the attractions and places of interest open their doors to the public or extend their opening times for larger numbers of visitors.

Brodie Castle and Dunrobin Castle are now open for the summer season and both fascinating places to visit.  There are more trips available at Jacobite Cruises on Loch Ness and Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre has extended the opening hours.  Within Inverness the Floral Hall and Museum and Art Gallery are both worth a visit.  We also have a great selection of shops both familiar chains and independent stores particularly in the Victorian Market.  Today I caught the first glimpse of the open top hop on, hop off city bus tour which also marks the start of more visitors.

The Great Easter Egg Hunt

To get into the spirit of Easter the GREAT Easter Egg Hunt will take place on Friday 18th and Saturday 19th April from 11am-4pm in the town centre of Inverness.  You can follow a set of cracking clues to find hidden eggs in shop windows – 5 in the old town and 5 in Eastgate Centre.  Pick up your entry form and clues on the day from the the Falcon Square entrance at Eastgate’s or the Tolbooth Steeple (opposite the Town House).   Entertainment on the day includes giant Easter bunnies & teddies and the Madhatter & friend doing circus tricks.  Crafty Monkeys will be there with ceramic Easter egg painting as well as a fantastic face painter.   Out on Falcon Square Velocity will have their fun new bike track set up for all ages to enjoy.   Lots going on for ALL the family to enjoy in Inverness city centre this Easter.  All correct entries will be entered into a draw to win one of four £50 Eastgate shopping vouchers.

 

Cruise on Loch Ness – a fabulous way to go monster hunting

As the clocks change to British Summer Time this weekend it marks the start of the new season for many tourist attractions, including a cruise on Loch Ness. Although open 12 months of the year Jacobite Cruises start their summer schedule this month with more trips scheduled and more places to start the tour.  You don’t need to have your own transport to get to Loch Ness as there are pick up points from the town centre by coach and the option to sail from Tomnahurich Bridge on the Caledonian Canal, which is less than 10 minutes walk from here.

Jacobite Loch Ness Cruises is a 5 star rated tourist attraction by VisitScotland and gets rave reviews from our guests.  For visitors to Inverness, Loch Ness is a must-see place to visit and a cruise on the loch gives you fantastic views of the stunning scenery around Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle which you can’t see when travelling by road.  There are options as well to visit the Loch Ness Centre in Drumnadrochit as part of your trip.

With various options on how long you want to travel on a boat cruise, many of the trips include a visit to Urquhart Castle which is included in the price.  Urquhart Castle is a ruinned castle built on the banks of Loch Ness around 700 AD.  Again this gives the opportunity for unique views of the Loch that can’t be seen from the road as the castle is built into the cliff.

If you’re wondering “What can I do on my Jacobite Cruise?” here’s some suggestions.  Well first of all there’s just breathing in the fine fresh air and drinking in the vast, never-ending views of one of the most iconic lochs in the world.  You can take some great photographs from inside and outside the cabin or you can relax with a Costa coffee and a snack.  If you need to be warmed from the Loch Ness breeze, you can try some Scottish whisky or a lovely hot chocolate.  You can watch for hidden happenings on the sonar screen or listen to the commentary pointing out landmarks around the loch.

So are you ready for some monster hunting?

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Loch Ness

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The view of Loch Ness from Urquhart Castle

Scottish Bed and Breakfast versus Hotel – which is best?

Choosing the right place to stay is a key step to planning a great vacation.  You need a comfortable base in a good location for getting around.  Studies show that availability of amenities such as  free Wi-Fi and parking greatly influence traveller’s booking decisions.  Excellent service also tops the list.

For travellers seeking local character, genuine hospitality, and free perks such as homemade breakfasts and snacks, a B&B is the way to go. Where a hotel will often charge or suggest a hefty tip for concierge service, most B&Bs offer these extras free of charge.

There are regional variations on what we call a bed and breakfast.  In the UK a bed and breakfast is a small property with 10 or less guest rooms which provides breakfast but not other meals and is usually run by the owners in their own home.  This can also be a guest house and in other parts of the world this could be called an inn.

If you’ve never been to a city before it’s tempting to book a known hotel brand.  You know what you’ll get and sometimes that fits the bill.  On the other hand you could be missing out on personal service, meeting locals who know the area and the chance to interact with other guests over breakfast.

B&Bs not only provide far more value than hotels; they often offer more affordable rates as well.  Many large hotel chains use complicated pricing policies similar to the supply and demand system used by airlines.  You might have noticed that when there is peak demand, perhaps when there’s an event on the local area, prices jump up.  Budget hotels often advertise headlines rate like £20 per night but finding when these rates are available when you want them can be a challenge.  And sometimes the ‘basic’ price can leap up once you add the items you may expect to be included.  For example breakfast, parking and wifi charges can be added so you find the headline rate of £20 more than doubles.

Of course over the years customer expectations have risen and even only 10 years ago the availability of WIFI was outlandish.  Back in the 1970s my mother ran a bed and breakfast from our family home.  In those days everyone shared the family bathroom, although we were quite luxurious to have a downstairs toilet available for guests as well.  There was no tea or coffee in bedrooms but guests were invited to join us for tea and shortbread in the evening when we heard all about their day.  And for this my mother charged the sum of £1.25 per person per night for bed and breakfast.  Changed days!

Scottish Ballet

Highland Whisky Distilleries – just a glimpse of the vast whisky heritage in Scotland.

a_wee_dram_inverness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe because it is the largest geographical area, the Highlands is the hardest Whisky region to pin down stylistically. For this reason it is easiest not to consider the Highlands as one large are, but as 4 smaller and much more distinct ones.

North-Highland malts tend to be light bodied, delicate whiskies with complex aromas and a dryish finish sometimes spicy, sometimes with a trace of salt. Northern Highland distilleries are almost all coastal. The most northerly is Old Pulteney, situated about as far north as you can go in Wick, which produces a delicious, fragrant, dry whisky.

Working south along the route of the A9, next comes Clynelish at Brora (built in 1969, beside an earlier distillery who’s whiskies are known as Brora) – a sophisticated and complex whisky older expressions are very highly regarded and the malt deserves to be better known. Perhaps the reason that it is rarely seen as a distillery bottling is that it’s malt is a key component of Johnnie Walker.

The best known of all the Northern Highland malts is Glenmorangie. Glenmorangie, is made at Tain on the Cromarty Firth, and is the most popular malt in Scotland. Over the last decade Glenmorangie pioneered the now often copied process of wood finishing. Althoght this process is not universally popular;  it transformed the company’s commercial success.

The Eastern Highlands produce a number of whiskies that can be confused with those of Speyside.  In the north of the region close to the southern border of Speyside, whiskies which are smooth, sometimes with a little smoke, malty-sweet, such as Macduff, Ardmore, Glen Garioch and Knockdhu are made.

Further south is Fettercairn, and Glencadam, at Brechin, which produces an unusual creamy, fruity malt. The area between the Moray and the Tay has two distilleries of note;Royal Lochnagar and Glendronach. The first is a wonderfully smooth, rich whisky made in the shadow of the mountain of the same name in a distillery established in 1825 The second is also luscious and often sherried.

In the Western Highlands there only two distilleries on the mainland those of Oban and Ben Nevis. Oban is a perfect, sheltered harbour makes it the principal seaport for the Isles and the capital of the West Highlands. Its whisky has a misty, briny character, with a background of heather and peat.

The Oban whisky stills used are among the smallest in Scotland; the cramped nature of the site is attested to by the odd position of the worm tubs, fed by unusually short lyne arms, and nestled in the ‘vee’ between the roofs of the still house and an adjoining building.

The whiskies of the Central Highlands are a mixed bag. Generally they are lighter-bodied and sweeter that their cousins to the east, but not as sweet as Speysides.

The Central Highland single malts used to be known as ‘Perthshire Whiskies’. Most are found along the valleys of the Tay and its tributaries.  The furthest north is Dalwhinnie, which is almost in Speyside indeed; it is at the very head of the river, over sixty miles from Grantown-on-Spey.

Blair Athol and Edradour whisky distilleries are both near Pitlochrie. The former was founded in the 1790s and was substantially rebuilt in 1949 Edradour is the smallest distillery in Scotland – a happy survivor of the days of ‘farm distilleries’ – yet produces a clean, fresh, attractive and justly popular whisky.

South again is Aberfeldy distillery, on the edge of the pretty town of the same name. Glenturret, at Crieff is one of the claimants to being the oldest distillery, although it was dismantled in the 1920s and is much changed.

And if you are visiting the Highlands, please consider my Bed and Breakfast, Bannerman Bed and Breakfast.

 

For a Great Day Out From Inverness – Visit Rothiemurchus

rothiemurchus

For a great day out from Inverness here’s an idea – visit Rothiemurchus in the Scottish Highlands.  It’s just south of Aviemore and about 45 minutes drive from Inverness.

For centuries nature and people have lived in harmony in Rothiemurchus.  At its heart lies one of the largest areas of natural forest in Britain with an extraordinary variety of wildlife that depends on it for survival.  Eighteen generations of Grants of Rothiemurchus and other families who have put love and care into maintaining the land for over 450 years, mean we can enjoy this unique environment today.

By enjoying Rothiemurchus you can help:  profits from activities, car parking, shops and other commercial activities are ploughed back into the care of this family  owned estate to enable sustainable stewardship of the forest and for wildlife  to thrive.

You can go there simply to enjoy the beautiful surroundings and countryside, take a picnic and make the most of the great outdoors.  Or you may want to take part in the activities available both on land or on the water – canoeing, rafting, photography, pony trekking or archery are just a few examples.

If that sounds way too energetic you can also take in the farm shop and deli, full of local produce and the gift shop to browse.  Plus there’s also the Druie Restaurant Cafe for when you’re ready to rest and enjoy a delicious meal.

It seems quite possible that you will fall in love with this place when you visit, so you’ll be pleased to know you can also book private events here too.  Weddings can be held in the Victorian shooting lodge, set right in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park and featuring it’s own private picturesque loch.

So I hope you’ll be making a plan to see this stunning setting for yourself for yourself.

 

5 Favourite Beaches on the Moray Firth

We are very fortunate to have some beautiful beaches in Scotland and here I’ve picked my 5 favourite beaches on the Moray Firth.  The furthest is about an hour and a quarter’s drive.  Since our weather is frequently described as ‘changeable’ these are not the kind of beaches you’ll find rows of sunloungers for tourists to top up their golden tans even in the height of the summer.  But most of these beaches have fine, golden sand and offer stunning views all around and a great opportunity to stretch your legs and possibly stick a toe in the water if you’re feeling brave.

Nairn Beach

.nairn beachNairn is about half an hour’s drive from here along the Moray coast.  It has been a popular seaside town since Victorian times and recently came 10th in a poll of Britain’s best beaches.  Nairn Beach enjoys one of the sunniest climates in the country and has amazing views across the Moray Firth to the Black Isles and the coastline is home to a resident school of dolphins

 

Lossiemouth – East and West

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East Beach at Lossiemouth

With a choice of two beautiful beaches Lossiemouth is a lovely little town.  Situated on the Moray coast, just over an hour’s drive from here and about 5 miles from Elgin the county town of Moray, Lossiemouth is home to the Royal Air Force and seaside amenities.  The east beach is the first beach you see as you enter the town and is accessed by a wooden pedestrian beach.  The west beach is at the other side of town overlooked by the golf course and caravan park.  If you’re lucky you’ll get a great view of air force jets taking off from the air base.

 

 

 

 

Dornoch

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Dogs love a walk on Dornoch beach

The Royal Burgh of Dornoch is an historic small town on the edge of the Dornoch Firth and just over an hour’s drive from Inverness.  Dornoch beach is an officially designated E.C. Bathing Beach and has been given rural ‘Seaside Award’ Status 2012 as a clean bathing beach. Miles of golden sand stretch from Dornoch Point heading past Embo beach to the mouth of Loch Fleet National Nature Reserve.

 

 Rosemarkie

 

rosemarkie beachRosemarkie fronts on a wide, picturesque bay, with views of Fort George and the Moray coastline across the Moray Firth. Rosemarkie has one of the finest beaches on the Moray Firth Coast Line. At the southern end of the beach is Chanonry Point, reputed to be the best location on the United Kingdom mainland from which to see dolphins.

 

 

 

Loch Ness at Dores Village

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Loch Ness at the Dores Inn

Strictly speak this isn’t a beach but it’s still a favourite shore to walk the dog.  If you park your car at the Dores Inn, you’ll find yourself at the edge of Loch Ness with stunning views in front of you.  The shoreline is stones, rather than sand, but it’s a great place for a walk before or after lunch at the lovely pub, the Dores Inn.  After a bracing walk it’s always nice to warm yourself next to the log burning stove.