Often my favourite places up here are outside of the city centre. Maybe it’s because a drive makes me hungry and it feels like a whole day out. It also stirs up memories of family days out when I was growing up. Spending proper family time together and going for adventures. I’m trying to keep up the tradition with my little squidge on the rare days that both Mr S and I are off.
The Beauly/Muir of Ord road isn’t too far away (about half an hour from Inverness) and has a few nice places, one of them being Corner on the Square cafe in Beauly.
I like Beauly as it has little shops & we can pick up dinner in the butchers and greengrocers. How I miss greengrocers from living in Glasgow – this is an unfortunate thing about living in ‘Tesco town’.
Corner on the Square also has a fab deli counter and shop so you can get a selection of cheese, meat, olives, wine, crackers, tea/coffee, jars and so on.
Greek food is my favourite so I chose the mezze platter (£7.50). It came with griddled halloumi, roasted red peppers, pitted olives, houmous of the day, dressed salad and bread. I enjoyed all of the picky bits, and it was especially easy to eat with a baby to keep still. Bread served with it is from Cromarty Bakery and delicious. It was also a bonus to get a proper salad with no iceberg & a tasty dressing. My only criticism is that I felt that the houmous was lacking in garlic.
I’ve previously had their soup and it was excellent so I’d recommend that too.
They have a large cake and pudding selection so it’s a good choice if you have a sweet tooth. We had a chocolate brownie (taste-wise delicious but could have been softer and more brownie gooey) and a cake (yummy), and I’ve also tried their traybakes and they get the thumbs up.
So if the sun is shining in that direction get in the car and go!
And don’t forget the butcher and greengrocer on the way back.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We’ve been lucky to have the sun out recently and it spurs me on to ignore the hoovering & get out of the house – not that it takes much. Dores beach is only a 15-20 minute drive from our house, the lucky sods that we are, and I intend to visit as much as I can this summer. If you’re a tourist then Dores is the place to start your Loch Ness adventure and if you’re a local it’s where you go for a wander along the beach and a pint. The crazy winds this year have left debris all along the beach & it would be a shame if this isn’t cleared for summer days.
Dores Inn has been here for longer than I can remember and is popular with the locals. If the sun is out or it’s the weekend then you really want to book in advance. Their website doesn’t have a menu on it but Dores community website has one.
The owners have retained the inn look and feel, and I love the old church chairs with the inscriptions. It feels cosy and comfortable and there’s a fire lit on cold days.
There’s something about being next to water that makes me order fish and chips – call it the sea air or what you like. The confit duck leg and macaroni cheese were also tempting, and I would have ordered the mussels had I been allowed them right now. On this occasion we both ordered the fish and chips (£10.95) and I asked for bread & butter to really make it feel like high tea. We were presented with a big portion that was served with peas, tartare sauce and a lemon wedge. It was sustainable haddock (extra brownie points for that) and had that lightly flaked texture without being overcooked. The chips didn’t seem homemade but were tasty and the fish itself was lovely. The batter needed seasoning and/or something to inject some flavour into it. Adding it at the table never quite does the same thing. Never be shy with the salt & pepper in the kitchen!
The bread was crusty, flavourful and came with plenty of butter – great alongside the fish.
We shared a rocky road with a cuppa afterwards and I thought the cake was delicious. Too much dried fruit for Mr S but I liked the fruit, and the fact it didn’t contain nuts was a bonus because we couldn’t have ordered it otherwise. So many cakes & desserts are now made with nuts even although around half a million people in the UK are allergic to them and it really limits what Mr S can have. So thanks to whoever didn’t put nuts in that one!
A long beach walk helped to burn off some calories and I’m not ashamed to say that I even stopped by the play park on the way to the car for a shot on the swings. Surely that’s a perk of having days off whilst kids are all in school.