Rainy Days In The Far North East

19 October 2017

tarbat discovery centre (1000 x 667)

Photo: Tarbat Discovery Centre by S.Rae via CC

While the west coast of the Highlands has the majority of the mountains and beaches, when it’s wet outside the far north east has by far the best choice of things to do. Visiting museums and sampling some of the best local restaurants are just some of the things to look forward to on days when skies are grey. Here are a few suggestions for our favourites, combine them for a day out to remember.

The drive up to Helmsdale to visit Timespan is one of the classic days out in the area. This is all still part of the North Coast 500 but offers a refreshing contrast of scenery to the more traditionally visited spots on the west. The town here is a superbly kept secret with the highlight being a visit to the Timespan Centre. What is refreshing about the centre is that it is not just a museum that tells the story of the area’s history it is also an arts centre and a vibrant community hub with a focus on engaging the young local population through contemporary art and performance. It is forward looking and dynamic as well as being an invaluable resource for those wishing to trace their genealogy. The archive here also contains more than eleven thousand items donated by the local community which tell the story of Helmsdale from the harbour to the hills. For an experience of another era then a visit to La Mirage on the way home is a must. In this Sutherland institution, fish and chips are served like it’s still the 1970s and they taste all the better for it. Retro décor, fish straight from the pier, an unpretentious menu and hearty portions mean it’s one of the most loved spots in the Highlands. Farthingworth sits by the coast further south. It has sensational views over Loch Fleet and great access to some of the East’s best beaches for when the clouds pass and it’s time to get outside.

The Tarbat Discovery Centre in Portmahomack is a fantastic, child-friendly museum that illuminates the fascinating Pictish history of the peninsula. The extensive audio-visual programme and interactive displays will keep the young ones amused and the exhibits of medieval stonework are some of the best in the country. The well-stocked gift shop also has a great selection of local arts and crafts for those looking for the best holiday souvenirs. For a culinary treat then a visit to The Oystercatcher is highly recommended. This tiny and quirky seafood restaurant specialises in fine dining in an intimate setting. Lobster, crab and scallops are the specialties of the house and booking is essential. The Old Salmon Bothy is just outside the village and is the perfect couples retreat after your romantic dinner for two.

Historylinks in Dornoch is one of the very few 5 star museums in Scotland and the only one in the highlands. Part of the mission of the museum is to be accessible to all and in particular children. There is a dressing up room, a cabinet for them to display their own items and the unruly ones can be tied to the stocks outside (purely for photographic purposes we must add). The Museum has a focus on telling the story of crofting and the clearances in the surrounding area as well as exhibits on geology. Dining options around Dornoch are varied with many restaurants catering for the golf market. Our pick of the bunch would have to be a little out of town in Bonar Bridge. Away from the hustle and bustle the Crannog Bistro is a relaxing, quiet spot that specialises in locally sourced ingredients, in particular game from neighbouring estates. The award winning menu changes according to the seasons and if you are lucky enough to be in town for one of their special theme evenings such as In Praise of Pork Night then a visit should not be missed. It’s only a mile from the village to Migdale Water Mill, a traditional listed building restored to a luxurious standard with fabulous views from the glass fronted dining area. The perfect combination of history, amenity and luxury. A bit like the hidden coast of the far north east then.