Taste the North
Photo: Isle of Ewe Smokehouse
This Sunday foodies from all over the Highlands will be heading to Dornoch for Taste the North, a celebration of all that the Caithness and Sutherland larder has to offer. This annual event has been designed to showcase the amazing quality and diversity of the local produce the area has to offer and has proved to be a resounding success. There is a full schedule of events throughout the day including chef demonstrations, cocktail masterclasses and family workshops. You can sample food from local eateries and producers, taste local tipples and see an array of artisan crafts. For families there will be plenty of children’s entertainment and various opportunities for them to get their hands sticky and learn where their food comes from. This event is a fun packed affair and serves to reinforce what Highlanders already know, that nothing beats the north when it comes to fresh local produce.
Even for those who don’t like puns the Isle of Ewe Smokehouse has become one of the essential stops for travellers on the North Coast 500. Located in the tiny village of Aultbea, all the fish here are traditionally smoked in stone kilns, using aromatic whisky barrel staves & local larch to give a unique flavour. It’s a perfect example of slow food. After browsing at their new Fine Food Emporium, a quirky bijoux collection of all things foodie, smokey & fishy, a slow journey further up the NC 500 will take you to Culkein Lodge where you can unwind in the stunning surroundings of mountain, beach and island.
Another highlight at Taste the North this year will be The Well Hung Lamb Company. This is a small, family-run business dedicated to producing high welfare, birth to plate croft meats and related produce. Drop in to sample their delicious croft produced meats, hand crafted venison, Highland cattle burgers and hot crofters venison pies. And the perfect accompaniment? How about a Rock Rose Gin, distilled in Dunnet Bay on the north coast mixed with some freshly squeezed juice courtesy of Juicy Ness. Farthingworth is just a short distance from Dornoch so if you have over indulged on pies and gin then it’s an easy journey home to recover. It’s a scenic and peaceful retreat but also really well situated for outdoor activities with walking, golf and biking just outside should you feel the need to burn off all those extra calories.
Seahorses, soon to be letting again with LHH, commands panoramic views across the sea and Assynt Mountains, you only have to step outside the front door to soak up the atmosphere of the west coast. After a long day playing on the beach and working up an appetite it’s only a short hop to the foodie’s paradise of Lochinver where you can find everything from the award winning pie shop to Michelin starred seafood restaurants. There is enough variety in fine quality dining here for you to have a different choice any night, the seafood in particular just doesn’t taste the same anywhere else.
One of Caithness and Sutherland’s most renowned places to eat is the Crannag Bistro in Bonar Bridge. The former Highlands and Islands Restaurant of the Year boasts a menu bursting with home grown and locally produced ingredients. If it is the taste of Caithness you are after then surely this is it. The menu here is a winning fusion of traditional and modern, a bit like nearby Migdale Water Mill. Here, an 18th century mill has been restored as a luxurious family retreat. Local craftsmen have retained many of the original features such as the original mill wheel and the airy sun room can dine 10 in comfort.
For many people the ideal spot for a dram on holiday is a comfy chair by a roaring peat fire but the attractions of the north coast are enough to drag anyone outside. The area is home to two whisky distilleries of note in Wolfburn and Old Pulteney, the first a comparatively new venture, the latter dates from 1826 and is a reminder of the rich maritime history of the area. Watching the sun set from the beach at Keiss or Dunnett with a dram distilled a stone’s throw away is without question one of the best ways to appreciate the sights, sounds and taste of this unique part of Scotland. With the best food, the best drink and the best places to stay isn’t it time for you to book your stay?