General

Coming to Inverness? Read This First

Almost there!


Boring practicalities they might be but here’s some tips on how to make the most of your time in Inverness & the Highlands. 


Hire a car

If you can drive & can afford it then hire a car for part of your trip. Inverness city is small but the whole rest of the Highlands are begging to be seen. How else will you visit the gorgeous blue flag beach in Nairn, the quaint village of Cromarty or the Cairngorms? There are limited buses and trains for those who don’t drive, but it’s far more exciting visiting where you want when you want and being able to stop at Black Isle Brewery or Bad Girl Bakery on the way home. 

Dores beach


Book Restaurants
 

Tourist season is starting earlier every year, and restaurants are getting busier because of it. The locals like to eat out on Fridays and Saturdays so you are always best to book in advance for these days. Eden Court often has popular shows on so places can be busy all week until 7pm. If there’s only a couple of you then you’ll probably be okay without a booking during the week but big parties should book when they can to avoid disappointment. Many restaurants have small capacities so keep that in mind. On the other hand, don’t be discouraged because you’ll find somewhere to eat without a booking but it might not be your first choice. 

Remember that many restaurants are closed on Sundays and some on Mondays, and that some places close between lunch & dinner service (usually 2.30-5pm). 

Due to licensing laws over here, some restaurants will not serve alcoholic drinks unless you are eating so it’s best to check before going in or try one of our lovely bars. 

Venison from Fig & Thistle bistro


Do your research

If you are staying in Inverness city centre then supermarkets and newsagents close fairly early, even earlier on Sundays. As far as I’m aware, Barneys (on Castle Street), Tesco & Co-op are your latest opening places to get sundries. You’ll need a car (or taxi) to get to the out of town 24 hour supermarkets. 

Child Friendly Inverness
 

I often get asked what is child friendly in Sneck but it all depends on your children’s ages and the weather. There are several play parks within walking distance of the centre, most notably Whin Park with its boating pond and Bellfield Park with tennis courts to rent. 

There is also a crazy golf course, ice-rink, group puzzle rooms at Lockdown, go-carting, swimming pool with flumes & sports centre. The newbie in town is Infinity indoor Trampoline Park that I’ve heard great things about. For younger ones, there’s soft play at Frankie & Lola’s ten minutes drive from the High Street. 

Winter Wonderland at Whin Park

Check Local Events 

Our local theatre is called Eden Court, and has shows on most nights and some days. Book the popular ones in advance if you can. They also have a cinema if you want to catch a film. 

In & around Inverness you can find other annual events on like the Black Isle Show, North Hop, Groove festival, Belladrum festival, Inverness Highland Games, Etape cycle race and the Highland Military Tattoo. If you are staying in self-catering accommodation then take advantage of the farmers market that’s on monthly on the High street. 

Glenmhor Hotels mini beer festival last summer


Pubs/Bars with Outdoor Seating

If the sun is out then you want to make the most of it, so head to one of our bars that have outside seating. This list isn’t them all- more what I can remember off the top of my head! 

Black Isle Bar on Church Street (roof terrace)

The Heathmount in Crown (5 minute walk from the high street)

The Corriegarth in Crown (next to the Heathmount)

Johnny Foxes on Bank Street 

The Castle Tavern on Castle Street

La Tortilla (tapas restaurant) on Castle Street 

The Glenmhor on Ness Bank 

Some of my Favourites in the Centre

A wander into town to La Tortilla for a tapas lunch, ice-cream from Miele’s, a walk along the (Ness bank) islands, sampling beer & gin in Black Isle Bar, a special dinner in Fig & Thistle, cocktails in the White House, eating fish in River House, ticking another gin off the list in the Heathmount, having a pizza from the Black Isle Bar on a Sunday afternoon, Thai food from Thai Dining, visiting the shops in the Victorian market… there are so many. 

Pizzas from Black Isle Bar

Ten minutes drive from the High Street is Culloden House. They do the best (trust me on this!) afternoon tea, have lovely gardens to walk round & the place is steeped in history. Bear in mind the afternoon tea must be booked in advance so the patisserie chef can do their thing. 

Some of my Favourites out of the Centre

Travel north over the Kessock Bridge and follow the coastline to Fortrose & Rosemarkie where you’ll find a prime dolphin spotting location at Chanonry Point. Then carry on following the road round to Cromarty and eat at Sutor Creek (or Couper Creek if it’s closed). 

Or go east of inverness to Nairn and go for a walk along the beach then for lunch at Logie Steading. Don’t forget to buy a bottle of Scottish gin at Logie shop! On the way back go to Connage cheese dairy shop and get everything you need for a cheeseboard dessert. 

If you go south-east then it’ll take you towards the Cairngorms and lovely Aviemore. I’ve been fortunate to spend a lot of time here recently and can’t pick just one place. Loch Insh and Glenmore Forest Park are both beautiful, and I love driving through little villages like Nethy Bridge, Boat of Garten & Carrbridge. The kids will love Landmark activity centre at Carrbridge, and Carrbridge Kitchen is only five minutes walk for coffee and cake. Back in Aviemore, La Taverna does a fab Italian buffet & the Mountain Cafe is another firm favourite of ours. Andersons restaurant in Boat of Garten was a hit for our ladies dinner recently. 

Most tourists head towards Drumnadrochit and to the Jacobite cruise on Loch Ness. Instead of driving straight back to the city afterwards, take the scenic route back following signs to Beauly. A lovely little place to wander, it is conveniently close to Muir of Ord which is the home of Bad Girl Bakery. Or keen walkers could head Alness way to walk up to see Fyrish monument. 

I could go on and on… it makes me realise how lucky I am to have all of this around me. 

Don’t forget to follow the blog by email (there should be a link on this page) to read about more places that I’ve been.

N.B The above are all my opinion and none of the companies listed know that I’m writing this. Feel free to comment if you think I’m missing out on any important details. 

Miele’s Gelateria Continue Church Streets’ Reign 

Many years ago, about two-thirds of the way down Church Street, was the Stratton dairy shop that satisfied all my ice-cream whims. Sadly it closed down years ago, before Stratton dairy itself did- how I miss glass bottles of milk being delivered to the door. Anyway, I’m not sure if another shop was in the unit from then until now. Then, in December, Miele’s Gelateria opened. This excited me for a few reasons- my love of gelato, they are an independent business & the fact they open until 9pm. 


Naturally I’ve been in a few times since then so I thought I’d better write about it. Their active Facebook and Instagram accounts tempt me regularly and pretty much push me back in the door. It’s not only gelato, there’s the coffee, cannoli, sandwiches, milkshakes…I could go on. 


The gelato is homemade and so delicious. For those of you who are confused about the difference between gelato & ice-cream this is my understanding. Gelato is churned at a slower rate so takes in less air and is therefore more dense and it is stored at a slightly higher temperature so it’s softer. It has a lower fat content as they generally use more milk than cream so the flavour shines through. My favourites so far are the pink grapefruit and the vanilla but I’m sure I will be adding to that list. 


It must be tough opening a Gelateria in chilly December when it’s not tourist season but these guys seem to be doing well- a testament to the terrific products they are selling. Suddenly I’m finding more reasons to venture into town… 

Cafe Eighty 2 livens up an A82 run

Drumnadrochit is a village on the western side of Loch Ness. Some would say it’s the home of Nessie, with the exhibition centre & tourists flocking there. To me, Drumnadrochit is somewhere for a day out without veering too far from Inversneckie. It’s also not far from where we were on the boat in my last post at the Loch Ness Gin launch. 

I don’t expect visitors to get the pronounciation correct, but just don’t let that put you off going. Especially when you can find gems like Cafe Eighty 2. 

Cafe Eighty 2 is situated on the main road running through Drumnadrochit (A82) on the Lewiston side but it can still be easy to miss. From the outside it almost looks like a house. It has a rural feeling with a muddy car park so bring your wellies on wet days.

 

 

Once inside, we were greeted with a smile & chose a table. There is no paper menu, because it changes so regularly, so they use blackboards on the wall to display that days choices.

I’d heard about their fresh juices so we had a pineapple and sweet potato number and they were lovely. My only criticism would be that they weren’t very cold so I’d rather ingredients to be kept in the fridge where possible. The combinations were good matches and you could tell they were made to order without any prebought purées and such.

 

I thought I’d try the all day breakfast after being intrigued by their homemade beans. Said beans were smoky and tomatoey, and matched the rich black pudding well. The homemade bread was fantastic too and the egg perfectly soft. My only criticism with the dish was that it was slightly dry as a whole since the beans weren’t saucey and the meats weren’t cheap and bulked up with fat. I asked for butter for the bread but in hindsight should have asked if they had any extra sauce for the beans or something. You could tell that the plate was brimming with quality ingredients.

 

My pal decided on the soup and toasted sandwich option to share with her bambino. The sweet potato and pepper soup was hot and satisfying as well as flavourful.

Again they had used homemade bread for the sandwich, and quality ingredients inside. It got the thumbs up from both pal and child, quite a feat!

 

After lunch we decided to try out their coffee with a little cake. The fudge cupcake was light and fluffy with lots of rich icing – perfect cupcake ratio.

The brownie also scored highly with its rich, dark chocolate and slightly gooey texture.

They have a proper coffee machine and know how to use it too, phew! Coffees, along with everything else, are served in crockery from the 80’s that will nostalgically transport you back in time.

 
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I’ve been back to Cafe Eighty 2 since this visit and, considering they are placed outside the village out of the way, they seem to be doing a roaring trade. People obviously believe in their healthy and homemade approach to food and this will keep them in good stead for the future.

 

Real & Rare from Loch Ness Gin

This week we were invited to the launch of Real & Rare from Loch Ness Gin. Those who are new to the blog might not know my love of gin, it’s second blog love only to my love of local so this invite was tailored for me. 

It was being hosted by Loch Ness by Jacobite so we got a lovely boat trip in the sun. I’d highly recommend the Jacobite cruise – we are already speaking about going when friends are visiting. 

The night was both fun and informative. The gin was flowing & mixologist Grant had created three perfect serves for Real & Rare. The first, and my favourite, was a gin & Franklin and sons tonic with a fresh kiwi slice. It is a refreshing drink with the kiwi, and a classic. Next I tried the gin with soda and a vanilla pod. I found it too sweet for me, it was a bit like cream soda. Last of all was gin with ginger beer and rhubarb. 

Nicky Marr then talked us through the neat gin tasting. Creators Lorien & Kevin actually made it to be served neat so the flavours are so important to them. The juniper used comes from their estate near Dores on the shores of Loch Ness & the water is running down the hills going into the loch.

Lorien & Kevin (and mixologist Grant serving the drinks)


Grant then demonstrated some cocktails that you could make with Loch Ness Gin. He started with a classic martini then went on to an apple number. I missed the name as I was served a cupcake when he was speaking but it was lovely. 

And I certainly wouldn’t complain about the cupcake interruption because the gin cupcake was delicious. I am already familiar with Bad Girl Bakery so I knew they would be. 

I like the bottle design too – it’s clean and contemporary. The `squiggle’ represents Loch Ness without a gimmicky Nessie wearing a tartan hat and the alcohol percentage (43.3%) is even significant as that’s the average depth of the loch. 

The night was a great success and we left clutching a goodie bag for one final nip once we got home.

Batch 1 of Real & Rare went on sale on Friday and has sold out already! So if you’re interested keep an eye on their website or Twitter (Lochnessgin1)/Facebook for batch 2. 

The Carnivore Club Hits The Highlands 



If you’ve been reading for a while then you’ll know that I love meat, I love local and I love trying new things. So when I was emailed by a company that send you boxes of Artisan British charcuterie it immediately piqued my interest. Each month uses a different charcuterie company and this months box contained meat from a Highland business called Great Glen Charcuterie. 

Great Glen Charcuterie are based in Roybridge, which is down Spean Bridge/ Fortwilliam way. I’d heard of them and been wanting to try their meat so this was a great taster box. They specialise in charcuterie using wild Scottish venison that they make by hand and air dry. 

The Carnivore Club is essentially an online company that send you meat. They use different British charcuterie companies every month so that you can try meat from smaller companies that you might not have heard of. Good for small businesses to get the word out. You can order a box as a one-off for a gift or start a monthly/bi-monthly/quarterly subscription. 

Perfect timing as it’s much easier for us to have a nice dinner in than out right now with a little baby. 


It arrived by courier and the meat was encased in a sturdy gift box. Inside there was a leaflet with information about the box and serving suggestions and five different products to try: two salamis, two chorizos and a venison bresaola. The aforementioned were venison pork salami, green peppercorn salami, chili venison chorizo & venison and pork chorizo. 

The first meat that we tried was the pork & venison chorizo. We used it in place of bacon on treat night in a creamy seafood pasta… delicious! We then used the venison and pork chorizo in place of our regular chorizo in our affectionately named ‘sexy pasta’ that uses roasted Mediterranean veg and herbs. Again, it was lovely. We liked both of the products and the only thing we found was that the chorizos weren’t as oily or paprika-y as normal chorizo so adjust recipes accordingly. 

The salamis are rich and tasty, a fantastic addition to an antipasti board alongside cheese, olives and proscuitto. 

The bresaola is being kept until date night because it is the one we are looking forward to the most. I’ll be doing it the traditional way with rocket and shaved Parmesan on top of the slices then drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over it. 

I thought that the box was good value. It’s £29 if you subscribe and £32 for a one-off and if my maths were right the box had £27.41 worth of products (not to mention the nice gift box) plus Great Glen charge £4.95 delivery so you’re making a saving. Since getting the box I’ve spotted Great Glen charcuterie at The Storehouse & Corner on the Square and they are (obviously) a little more expensive than buying direct so The Carnivore Club are competitive price wise. 

To get it every month you’d have to be a true carnivore, I would say that I am more on the bi-monthly part of the scale. The boxes are compiled using British companies & I hope to see and try more Scottish charcuterie in the future as I like to support local. 

We have friends scattered all over the UK and I’m constantly wracking my brain over what to buy them as gifts that are easy to send but still special so this will really help me out. It’s also a nice idea for new parents who might not go out for a while so that they can treat themselves at home.

I can be somewhat sceptical about these subscription services that send you things because I don’t always feel that they are good value for money but I can honestly say that the box I was sent by the Carnivore Club felt like it was. I’ve seen photos online of another box and it also looked like you got your money’s worth. A nice way to spend some disposable income on or to gift someone. Just not to a vegetarian! 


 
N.B The Carnivore Club kindly sent me a box to try. There was no pressure to be nice about it so I just gave my honest opinion. Im very selective about what I write about so research anyone who contacts me first. I’m actually about to order another box! 

This content will also be posted on my sister blog Girl Around Glasgow 

Fig & Thistle – Bringing Bistro Back

  It’s a difficult time to open a restaurant in Inverness city centre. At the weekend up here you have to book tables well in advance but during the week it’s like a ghost town. Restaurants can’t survive on weekend trade alone so I urge you to turn Wednesday into your new Saturday- I bet that you won’t have to book far in advance and will get better service. I prefer to eat out when it’s not so busy and this is exactly what we did on our visit to Fig & Thistle. This Scottish restaurant is situated on Stephens Brae, just above the long-standing Girvans. It’s a small place inside so try to book if you can but chance your arm if not. 

 

Dad opts for steak ninety nine percent of the time in a restaurant and the one in the Fig & Thistle was from the specials board. It was served with chorizo, potato cubes and seasonal veg. The fillet steak was a tad undercooked but tasty indeed, and a few more potatoes would have made this dish. 
  

Mum loves a veggie option so chose the risotto of garden vegetables, toasted walnuts and Gorgonzola with salad leaves. I’m not a Gorgonzola fan so never tried it but mum found it to be creamy and flavoursome. She would order it again so that says it all. 
  

I immediately spotted what I wanted on the menu – rump of lamb. It is a meat that I don’t often cook at home so it’s a treat to have it. The menu did not say this but it arrived with potato dauphinoise, my favourite potato dish. The lamb itself was cooked to perfection for my taste with the reddish pink inside and slightly caramelised outside that blended with the jus perfectly. The Mediterranean veg also complemented the jus, and it was nice to have the extra veg on the side. 
  
Mum and I shared a classic creme brulee. They had executed the dish well- it was set and creamy below with a caramelised crunchy top. 

  

We all ended up digging in to dads cheeseboard, after the go-ahead from the man himself of course. Creamy Brie and rich cheddar topped off with fruity jelly rounded off the evening nicely. 
  
This petite place reminds me of a little French bistro with solid cooking and an intimate atmosphere. I’ve heard good things about their burger on the lunch menu so I’ll be back to try that. Midweek of course. 
Support our Inverness restaurants all week! 

Ed’s Diner

A few months ago one of the shops in the Eastgate Shopping Centre was boarded up and they started work on something new. Eventually signs went up that it was going to be a diner – exciting times. Often I’ll be shopping in town then want lunch around 3pm but many restaurants in town are closed between lunch and dinner so the idea of a diner in the shopping centre made sense to me. I’m all for more places opening up in town – now they just need to start a shorter 1 hour or less parking tariff and attract more people in. We’re getting there. 

  

Ed’s Easy Diner is a UK based chain with almost 50 outlets since the first one opened in Soho in 1987. I have come across Ed’s in other cities, mainly in shopping centres, but had never eaten there so a shopping day with Mr S presented the perfect opportunity. 

  

First impressions were good. We were met at the door by a manager who said that she would get a booth set up for us in five minutes. It was a busy lunchtime and I’d expected a longer wait so my belly was happy. 

Ed’s decor formula is the typical old style American diner look and I think it works for them. They continue the theme to the actual tables, where there are mini jukeboxes that play a range of funky tunes for 20p each. The money made from this goes to the charity Action Against Hunger. 
  

I spent a while looking at the menu before choosing a beef burger over a hot dog or chicken option. My thinking was that the beef burger is the mainstay for an American themed diner so it is what Ed’s should do best. They offer the option of a burger by itself or as a plate that also includes fries, onion rings and coleslaw. We both went for the cheeseburger plate option, one with American cheese and one with cheddar. It appealed to me that you can choose the type of cheese in the cheeseburger- little things that make a difference to my enjoyment. 

We didn’t wait long for our food and the jukebox distracted us anyway. There’s always the open kitchen to watch as well. 
  
On arrival the plates looked good. I had upgraded my meal to have sweet potato fries instead of regular fries because the look of the regular fries on other peoples plates that I had passed hadn’t appealed to me. This probably sounds pernickety but they reminded me of the chips they served in my old high school – which I enjoyed at the time but now expect a higher quality from a restaurant. Mr S said they were fine and I tried one and they were ‘fine’ but who wants that when they eat out? My sweet potato variety were much better – crispy on the outside and soft inside. The coleslaw and onion rings were pretty bog standard but I hadn’t expected homemade from a chain. 

The burger itself was of a good size (you can also upgrade to a large patty) with lettuce and tomato. A regular seeded bun pleases the masses – sadly my preferred brioche bun that holds the burger together better was not an option but I suppose this one is more in keeping with the old American style. The patty itself was a bit disappointing. It definitely did not taste homemade and the meat was too ground down. It just reminded me of a frozen burger that you’d buy in Tesco – flavourless. 

The cheeseburger plate costs £11.30, but due to my upgrade to sweet potato fries mine was £12.80. The location of Ed’s in the shopping centre, and therefore high rent for the business, was always going to bump the price up. On the other hand, diners should feel that they are getting what they pay for & I can’t justify that much money when the burger quality was so sub-standard. It might have worked in 1987 but burger places have improved so much since then & you have to move with the times. 
  

The crowning glory of the visit for me was my strawberry shake. It wasn’t cheap but it’s more of a dessert than a shake, thick with ice cream. It was served half in a glass and half in a steel malt & tasted delicious. The drinks menu also had other favourites of mine such as cherry Coke, root beer, Coke floats and Samual Adams beer. 
  
I was trying to weigh up my opinion of the place and it came down to alternatives for me. Nearby restaurants that offer burgers such as the Heathmount, Mcgonagall’s, Fig & Thistle and Cafe 1 charge around the £10 mark but Ed’s win points on location convenience & all day opening. I wouldn’t return for a burger but if I am in town with someone else who really wants to go to Ed’s then I’ll go back and try a hotdog. 

I’ve Hopped! : North Hop 2015

You can read my before event piece on North Hop 2015 here if you haven’t already.

North Hop – a beer, gin, food and music mini festival – was THE event in my social calendar this August. It was a chance to go to an exciting, adult only event in Inverness that involved some of my favourite things and, to make it even better, I was going with some of my favourite people. The only fly in the ointment was my abstaining of alcohol due to the imminent appearance of my own little egg but I had taken plenty of tasters along and didn’t rest my feet until after the midnight hour. 

Along with 1500 others, we waited in the queue in anticipation then collected our branded North Hop glasses that came complimentary with your entry ticket. We were all rather confused why we had been given them at the start of the event and not at the end until we went through and realised that these were our tankards to use for the night to sample all the beer.
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We started off downstairs where the main music stage, a host of beer producers and some foodie stalls to feed you through the night were located. Beer could be bought in half pints or schooners (2/3 pint) to allow you to sample as many different ones as possible without ending up on the floor.

First stop was Cromarty Brewing Co as they had developed a special North Hop session IPA with raspberries – a glass of this was included in the ticket price. Mr S billed it as ‘surprisingly nice’ because he’s not usually a fan of beer with a berry type fruity flavour. For someone so serious about beer this is praise indeed. For the record, Cromarty’s beer bottles are regularly found in our fridge & Happy Chappy Pale Ale is one of my favoured tipples so look out for it around the Highlands and even further afield.

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Rock Rose gin from Caithness had also created a limited edition North Hop gin especially for the event. It had notes of strawberry and rhubarb and was delicious. They were selling this along with bottles of their classic gin – something I had seen in bars but not in any shops yet so I treated myself to a bottle for when I can indulge again.

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The world’s oldest brewery, Weihenstephan (Bavarian State Brewery), were at the event to extend the beer selection to further afield. The drinkers loved the tipple and especially how cold it was. At least two of our party said that it was their choice stand of the night.

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Barney’s Beer from Edinburgh was also a hit, especially the Volcano IPA.

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Thistly Cross cider company were there for those who prefer their beverages more appley than hoppy. I arrived prepared with a cider fanatic on hand to be my tester. She reported back that she liked them all and was very happy with the selection but wanted them colder next year (although she did say that was nitpicking and was raving about what a fab night she had).

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Aye Love Real Food was my first nourishment stop of the night because I couldn’t walk past the scotch eggs a minute longer. I chose one with black pudding and it came with a dollop of mustard mayo. The egg had retained its slightly soft centre and there was a substantial meat layer to keep me going – wonderful. It could only have been made better by slightly heating it up and I’m sure they’d sell more this way in the future.

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The Lochness Inn at Drumnadrochit were also there, selling Highland Crispy Beef. This was a hit with our party – tasty and as crispy as promised with the added crunch of veg. I tried some early on but when I went back later it had changed from beef to chicken so I got to sample both. After trying their fayre at North Hop, I’ll be making a trip out soon to sample their menu.
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The beer was in full flow and I even had a little sample of my favourite Drygate Outaspace Apple Ale – I can’t wait until I’m allowed a whole bottle of this again! As former Dennistoun residents, we are well acquainted with Drygate’s other offerings – Bearface Lager and Gladeye IPA – and if you haven’t tried them yet then you should. Preferably in their lovely bar/brewery in Glasvegas but anywhere would do really as long as they are cold.

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Wooha’s wheat beer went down well, as did St Andrews Eden Mill Bunker IPA, Six Degrees North, Loch Ness Brewery, Fyne Ales and all of Windswept Brewing Co’s lot.

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Fresh revolution were offering a few dishes on the night and my group tasted the Thai curry and the meatball sub. The sub was fantastic and the Thai curry was super flavoursome but needed more veg. My biggest regret of the night was not getting a mackerel fish cake, which I am sure would have been delicious.

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Upstairs had more of a feminine touch with tables decked out with gin centrepieces and the music stage hosting softer acoustic sets.
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I loved watching 10 Dollar Shake making up their selection of cocktails using the finest gins and they had even concocted some beer cocktails for the weekend. They adapted one for me into a mocktail and it was as lovely as it could be minus the gin!

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Later on I sampled another mocktail from Berry Good that was also tasty and served in a prosecco glass – bonus. Next year I’ll be drinking their mini bottles of actual prosecco with a straw!
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Also upstairs (but out on the balcony) were Aberdonians The Adelphi Kitchen barbeque-ing sausages to go with Angus & Oink sauces. The very spicy sausages were a hit with the boys, as were the sauces, but the white sliced bread and tortilla chips were strange accompaniments that could definitely be improved upon.

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Also with a prime balcony spot was La Tortilla Asesina, a local restaurant serving up freshly made paella. It’s one of my favourite places in Sneck so we had to have a bowl. We had actually already been to La Tortilla before North Hop as we used it as our meeting place. Warming up our tummies with boquerones and Estrella (Galacia 0,0% for moi) can never be a bad start to a night.
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With upstairs going for the decadent feel, downstairs was decked out like a barn with hay bale seats. This was a great way to make it feel outdoorsy without having to rely on Scottish weather for the night to go ahead. It also provided somewhere to listen to the musicians gracing the stage whilst sampling all the event had to offer.
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Not all the beer was for drinking on the night and a few breweries, such as Eden Mill, had take home packs. I wish I’d bought a few of these as presents now. North Hop should do a special Christmas event for me to get all of my presents for the grown ups!
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Brewdog kept us amused with their novel advertising ‘tattoos’ to brand us… something to make you smile the morning after. Along with their chilled Jack Hammer and Hop Fiction, they were a hit with my lot at the festival.

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Poporopo popcorn also stood out for my non-drinking-but-eating-everything-in-sight self and I sampled the lot. The sea salt and peanut butter flavours were my favourites from this luxury popcorn brand and I came home with the sea salt (not that there’s much left now, nom nom).

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Tipplebox were there showing off their mail order cocktail making kits that would be good for birthday presents. The stall was busy when we arrived so they are obviously going down well.
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The Storehouse at Foulis had a large selection of gin, vodka and other bottles for those thinking of taking home momentos or adding to their spirit collection. The skulls were attracting all the attention and I had to stop myself from buying everything.

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Rebel Tattoos had made the trip from Aberdeen and were selling custom artwork as well as chatting about their tattoo skills.
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Ovenbird’s ‘in coffee we trust’ slogan couldn’t have been more true for me as it gave me the energy to last the night. I stepped away from the decaf and the Foreigner (flat white) pinged me back to life like only a good coffee can. My tasters of the Bad Girl Bakery cupcakes said they went very well with the coffee. I’ll be looking out for the gin and tonic cakes next year as they’d sold out by the time I got to them.
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I liked that the event had enough people to create a buzz but that it wasn’t packed so full that you had to wait an age to get served and were squashed up like sardines. It was pretty much sold out and I think that the number of tickets allowed per session was spot on for maximum enjoyment.

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Our beer gaggle’s award for beer of the night was a tie between Cromarty Brewing Co’s AKA IPA, Six Degrees North Wanderlust Wheat and Weihenstephan’s ice cold Hefeweiss. A special mention also has to go to Brewdog’s guest beer, Mikkeller Pale Ale Swindle, for being so gluggable.

All of us loved the night at North Hop and the general consensus was that it exceeded our expectations. It was a refreshing change from the usual weekend events and I’d be a contented lady to see more like this in Inverness.  As long as it was well promoted to spread the word, I feel that there is a buoyant market for it. We left as Happy Chappy’s indeed.

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More photos if you haven’t had enough-

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Thumbs up for the sausage roll but it would have been nicer warm

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Paella from La Tortilla Asesina

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The Adelphi Kitchen’s Spicy BBQ sausage

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Couper’s Creek Cromarty 


Cromarty has fast become one of my favourite day off drives since returning to the homeland. I originally fell for its quaint character and houses with tiny doors on the shore and then I was further drawn in by their eateries, gift shops, Cromarty Bakery and arty feel to the place. I just love it.

My ideal drive down this way involves lunch, the bakery and Rosemarkie beach on the way back – maybe even Chanonry Point for some dolphin spotting. 

Coupers Creek Cafe is right in the hub of Cromarty on Church Street, one of those tiny streets. If you are taking anyone with mobility problems then I’d consider dropping them off and then parking the car than the other way around. That applies to most places in Cromarty!

We settled at one of their cute tables and both ordered teas. I’ve had Suki Tea before and really like it – you can’t beat a nice cuppa and a catch up.

The first food to arrive was a peri peri roasted chicken panini with Swiss cheese and sesame mixed greens. I never tasted it but, judging the contented noises across the table, I’d say it was a positive report. A clean plate at the end further emphasised this. £7.50 is not cheap for a panini and salad but the portion was on the large size and they seem to use quality ingredients – I’d much rather pay a little bit extra for this than get something substandard.

My lunch choice was a panini filled with Tain cheddar and seasonal chutney with watercress (£5). The cheese was gorgeous, a proper cheddar loaded with flavour and the chutney was equally tasty with sweet and tangy notes. The accompanying salad (maybe they were out of watercress?) had a lovely sesame oil dressing on it to liven up the leaves.

My lunch date selected a lemon and lime cake from the daily specials cabinet. I was reliably informed that it goes well with a cuppa.

I was eager to try their ice-cream and ended up with the toffee and tablet sundae. They had overdone the skooshy cream on top so it took a while to get through to the good stuff – but when I did it was very good indeed. I’d recommend it if you have a sweet tooth.

After our relaxing lunch we perused the local gifts that they have on sale and bought a couple of wee things before a wander around Cromarty.

I’ll definitely be back to Coupers Creek & have visited their sister venue, Sutors Creek, too. Both of them are worth a visit if you’re in the area or would even warrant a drive down that way.

North Hop Inverness 2015

 

 After seeing photos of the massively successful North Hop Aberdeen 2015 on social media, I’m now very excited about North Hop Inverness 2015! 

For those of you who haven’t been before, North Hop is a celebration of craft beer, gin, local food, music and cocktails. Ahh, so many of my favourite things! 
There will be local musicians on stage to tap your feet to whilst trying out new craft beers or artisan gin from one of the bars. Luckily the beer hall is inside but outside themed so you don’t need to get your wellies and raincoat on unless you fancy the outside terrace. 

 

 There will be food stalls to eat your way around such as Spanish delights from La Tortilla Asesina, Aye Love Real Food’s artisan fayre (can’t wait for a scotch egg), The Loch Ness Inn with shredded chilli beef pots and more, The Adelphi Kitchen (think BBQ & meat), Poporopo popcorn & Fresh Revolution street food. 

 

Big Boozy names in attendance:

Bavarian State Brewery, Weihenstephan (the worlds oldest brewery)

Cromarty Brewing Co

Brewdog

Loch Ness Cider

Thistly Cross Cider

Eden Mill Distillery & Brewery

Windswept Brewing Co

Six Degrees North

Loch Ness Brewery

Drygate Brewing Co

Fyne Ales 

10 Dollar Shake

Berry Good 

Cairn O Mohr 

Rebel Tattoo studio (custom artwork)

Wooha Brewing Co

Ovenbird Artisan Coffee Roasters

Stacey Hannah Chocolates

Bad Girl Bakery
Betty Booth will also be there to take silly snaps of you and your friends to remember the day. 

 
  

The 1500 strong event will run on Friday the 21st of August from 6pm until midnight & will have two sessions on Saturday the 22nd – 12pm until 6pm and 7pm until 1am. Tickets cost £15 per session and include a branded North Hop glass, beer token and programme. 

Tickets can be purchased through the North Hop website http://www.northhop.co.uk or Eden Court box office (01463 234234). Strictly over 18’s only.