inverness blog

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. 

Thai Dining Flies The Flag In Inverness 

After finding two Thai restaurants that we loved in Glasgow (Thai Siam & Thai Lemongrass), I was really rooting for Thai Dining to fly the flag for Inverness. Conveniently located on Academy Street in the centre, it is handy for an after work meal or parking at Rose Street at night. Not to mention it’s less than five minutes to Black Isle Bar for a pre-dinner drink. And it’s near Miele’s for a sneaky ice-cream after. 
We decided to ask our favourite Thai experts, my folks, to come with us to see if it was going to live up to our expectations. 

The starters arrived, with prawn Chub Pang Tod (£6.95) kicking us off. That’s king prawn tempura to me and you. Firstly, the presentation of the plate was superb – so pretty and appetising. Mr S was a bit unsure of them being breadcrumbed instead of in a usual tempura batter but I quite liked the change. Maybe a detail to put on the menu though. The sweet chilli dip provided some welcome sweetness and zing. 

My Satay Gai (£5.95) was another beautifully presented starter. Succulent, marinated chicken with a rich peanut dip and refreshing cucumber relish- an accomplished attempt at satay that I’ll order again. 

My veg loving mum chose the Por Pia Tod (vegetable spring rolls), which came with a sweet chilli dip (£5.95). They were crispy on the outside and the veg was soft enough inside without becoming mushy. 


The first of the main courses was Pad Khing (£12.95). This was a stir-fry dish full of ginger, spring onions, mushrooms and other veg. It was really tasty, so tasty that I didn’t get to try too much because it wasn’t my dish! I also liked that with this dish, as well as many others, you can choose whether you wanted it with chicken, duck, pork, veg, prawn or beef depending what would go with the sauce. 


My pick was the chicken Pad Thai (£11.95) because pre-made sauces always taste rubbish so I don’t bother buying them & my one at home is not a patch on restaurant quality. I also got to have peanuts, which is a rarity when you live with a nut allergy sufferer. My dish was packed to the brim with flavour as I was hoping it would be. With an almost caramelised taste from wok cooking, the marinated chicken contrasted well with the crunchy beansprouts and spring onions. The peanuts gave a lovely crunch too. 

We’d been having an excellent run of it so something had to go wrong and unfortunately it was Mr S & his pork laab (£11.95). The dish had two chillies next to it on the menu to indicate its spice level but I think it should have at least three. Either that or the chef accidentally got chilli happy. With less chilli it could be a delicious dish but our taste buds were numb after a mouthful. 

Rice

The Gaeng Penang curry (£11.95) on the other hand was gorgeous. Also with a two chillies spice level, the dish was expertly balanced between being spicy, tasty and creamy. Creamy coconut milk with a tangy thai sauce coated the chicken and the veg still had a nice bite to it. Kaffir lime leaves completed the dish. 

The staff at Thai Dining were incredible with our daughter, who loved them, and helped us to feel relaxed and enjoy our meal. What fantastic service. 

Seven out of eight dishes were lovely, and the meal was reasonably priced too. 

I’m happy to say that Thai Dining was every bit as good as the aforementioned Glasgow Thai restaurants. And 170 miles closer! 

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. 

Camerons – Loch Ness Hideaway

 

Do you ever visit somewhere for the first time and it just feels right? You feel at home and comfortable and fond of the place from the get-go. Cameron’s tea room out at Foyers gave me that feeling from the minute we commandeered those sofas in front of the wood burning stove on a rainy day. 
  

If you don’t know Foyers then take the road out to, and past, Dores. It’s about fifteen minutes drive past Dores Inn along Loch Ness with wonderful views to make the journey feel quicker. 

Cameron’s sits on the left hand side of the road just at the end of the village. It is a golden wooden building with its own car park. 
It’s a little cafe that also has a farm shop part, as well as selling some gift items and a few textiles.
It was pouring down and freezing the day we visited but Camerons kept cropping up when hearing about places to go so off we went. We were greeted by a lovely lady who seemed delighted to see the two babies we had in tow, and was telling us about her grandchild. 
After a chat, we ordered our lunch. A baked potato with prawns came with a nice side salad, coleslaw and crisps. A generous portion of juicy prawns on top of soft potato. The only negative was that the potato skin wasn’t crispy. 
  
The other two lunches ordered were both soup and half sandwich, which were also served with the yummy coleslaw, salad and crisps. Both sandwiches were prawn and one was with a rich lentil soup. 
  
The other was with a homely leek and potato soup. Both homemade and tasty soups. 
  
We sat chatting and basking in the heat of the wood burner for a while then decided to sample some of the home baking along with coffees. 

Carrot cake was well-balanced and the muffin was moist and flavourful. Mrs T who had the muffin loved the lemon curd and is hoping it will be there next time.

 
  

  

My sponge was fab – rich cake bursting with fruity jam and sweet icing. The jam itself made the cake in my opinion because it was packed with flavour. 

 
 
The decor is girly yet not overpowering, and we loved the stag light fittings. 
   
 

The original lady serving us finished her shift when we were in and even came over to say goodbye before she left, we felt so welcome. She was replaced by an equally friendly face and I can see why people grow an attachment with customer service like this. 
   
 

We arrived at 2pm and never left until 5pm when they closed. That speaks volumes in itself. Cosy, homely, friendly, wonderful. Enough said. 

 

The Waterfront Pub & Home Cooking 

  

The Waterfront bar is not somewhere that I would have thought of to go for food. That is until it was recommended by several different people, and rated highly online. So we went in to see if the ‘never judge a book by its cover’ theory applied… 

We phoned ahead and booked a table for two because it was a Sunday & places in Inverness fill up fast. When we arrived at 2.30pm it was quiet so we needn’t have booked but in peak season or at peak lunch/dinner time this could change. 

Anyway, on going into the bar it had a typical ‘old mans pub’ appearance and vibe. It is a pubby pub with the TV showing sport and regulars supping their pints at the bar. It was quiet at the time we went between standard lunch and dinner sittings so the atmosphere probably picks up a bit then. 
We were shown to a window table looking into the River Ness & given Sunday lunch menus. They serve one course for £8.50, two courses for £10 or three courses for £12. Their main menu online was a little more expensive so we were pleasantly surprised by how inexpensive this was. 
Mr S started with the battered garlic mushrooms – very typical pub fayre. Except that these ones tasted homemade & were garlicky with a good crunch to the batter. As pub grub mushrooms go, these were pretty good. 
  
I opted for the mushroom soup and it was excellent. Just thick enough with a hum of chicken stock in the background, good for a chilly day. 
  
We both went for the slow cooked roast beef for main course. It was a hefty portion of beef and roast potatoes topped with a Yorkshire pudding and watercress. With lots of gravy unapologetically all over the plate. Then they returned with a side dish of mangetout, parsnip, carrot and boiled tatties. The meat melted in your mouth and the gravy was lovely. It pleased me to be served watercress and mangetout- they both went really well with the other flavours and showed outside the box thinking. The roast potatoes could have been crispier but that’s my only criticism. 

The whole dish was delicious and fitted the bill exactly for why we had come out for lunch. 
 

 
Those hefty slabs of beef had defeated me but Mr S had been eyeing up the toffee apple pie. He wolfed it down so I’m guessing that it was nice. 

At this point I noticed that they have highchairs and we were told that kids are more than welcome. We will be back with Miss S sometime soon. 
  

There is nothing fancy about The Waterfront but why would you want it to be? It is the perfect place to come when you are having a dressed down relaxing day but want good grub. They offer what I’d like to see in all pubs- honest homemade fayre not out of a packet. In terms of value for money we were extremely impressed. The low prices must be for listening to football in the background because it certainly wasn’t for the food. Although I’ve been assured that it is music you’ll hear at night. 

FYI- on the River Ness there is The Waterfront & The Waterside so don’t get confused. I haven’t been to The Waterside so can’t pass comment. 

A Little Bird In Inverness Told Me

The Ironworks music venue opened in Inverness city centre in 2006, and 2015 has seen them turn from a night time venue to Little Bird Coffee House by day & gigs by night. 

It makes perfect sense to utilise the space during the day, and people in Inverness love a coffee. This is slightly different from many of the coffee shops in town – it has a young, trendy vibe. 


I was interested to see how the coffee house had been incorporated in the venue but once I was inside I forgot all about it, proving the transition has been seamless. 

The decor is modern and minimal – think metal seats and chunky wood surfaces. Comfy enough for lunch but not seats to linger on all afternoon. 

My initial impression when I approached the counter is that quality is important to them. Bread and baking are local, and quality brands on display. 

 

The chosen sandwich was avocado, mozzarella, peppers, hummous and rocket on white bread. It was scrumptious, a really good combination. It came with some crisps, which I put in the sandwich. Can’t beat crisps in a sandwich, takes me back to my student days except my sandwiches weren’t so classy back then. 
  

The pastrami and gherkin sandwich was equally as nice. I have to come back for this again. 
  

I have been following Capability Brown’s on Facebook for a while (this is how I found out about Little Bird) and I know they do some of the baking for the cafe. I don’t know if my blueberry scone was made by them but it was soft in the middle with a nicely coloured outside & was tasty. I’d love to see them using local jam in the future too. 
 

 

The only negative things that I found was that it was a bit chilly in there and most of the toilets didn’t have any toilet roll in them. We visited on a Monday lunchtime so I’m not sure if the venue staff fill them up before gigs and it had been an oversight. 

I was impressed with Little Bird and the food that they had on offer. It’s a small menu but all of the flavour combinations were interesting and well thought out. My chai latte was great and they have just started selling decaf coffee too – a big incentive for me to go back. 

 

The Storehouse at Foulis

It’s been a busy time of late at Highland Foodie HQ so I haven’t had a chance to do a full post on our Christmas lunch at the Storehouse of Foulis. But I wanted to get it out before Christmas so that you can try it before it’s too late….
  

We wanted somewhere baby friendly for lunch on the outskirts of Inverness. The Storehouse appealed because they also have a premium food & booze shop on site so it felt like a little day out instead of just lunch. 

It’s about 20 minutes in the car from Inverness following signs to Alness. You’ll see it on the right after the Cromarty Bridge. 

We arrived on the dreicht Wednesday afternoon and the place was heaving. It has a large seating area but we still had to search for a table. Luckily there was a couch free, which turned out to be handy for feeding the babies and pram space. 

It is self service and the queue was long but went down fairly quickly. 
We both opted for the Christmas turkey lunch but were tempted by the homemade soups, beef stew, baked potatoes and salads. 
  

The food was fantastic- much better than I was expecting and not like a self service meal at all. They gave us plenty of white and dark turkey meat, which wasn’t dry, alongside a pig in blanket and lovely stuffing. My favourite bread sauce was followed in the middle, surrounded by carrot, broccoli, green beans and courgette. I particularly liked the courgette and green beans because they still had a nice crunch and you don’t normally see them on a roast dinner plate. I might rethink my veg options this year. My only complaint is that there wasn’t quite enough potato for the amount of meat. Saying that, I just loaded up with veg instead. Finally, I have to mention the cranberry sauce because it was delicious. I’m not one for cranberry sauce after trying to many jellified versions that are lacking in flavour but this one tasted fresh and fruity and the cranberries were juicy with no jelly in sight. 

  
I like a wee Firefly drink too so that earned them bonus points. 

I finished with a rich chocolate mousse and a coffee, albeit two hours after we came in because we were chatting so much. The relaxed nature is a major plus for the informality of self serve – we loved our chilled out afternoon. It can get loud in there because it is such a large room so we felt at ease incase there was a baby meltdown (thankfully there wasn’t!). 

Since we had two babies to contend with, I forgot to take more photos but I’ll do a full post next time I go back. Because I will definitely be back. 

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!