Thursday, 24 October 2013

Highland Foodie Road Trip

Due to Foodie Loon's work we weren't able to get away en famile this Tattie Holidays. However the compromise reached was more than satisfactory. Boy, Girl and myself would head to my folks in The Black Isle for a week, Foodie Loon would join us at the weekend when we'd dump the kids and head to Skye for a couple of nights including dining and staying at The Three Chimneys. A veritable #HighlandFoodieRoadTrip
We hadn't even left Aberdeenshire when it was time for our first stop. Brunch at the Pitstop Bus Cafe. This isn't your usual roadside cafe by any stretch of the imagination but I'd take it over a motorway service station any day of the week. Its on the A96 between Inverurie and Huntly close to Pitcaple and always seems really busy. Nothing fancy but good basic food at bargain prices. Boy and girl loved it and wanted to stay for lunch. Will definitely be pulling into the Pitstop for a refuel again.
Next stop was at a memorial I hadn't even heard of until a week previously when I spotted a photo of it on a friends Facebook page. The Women's Land Army Memorial Scotland is located in Clochan a wee village close to Fochabers.
It was opened last year by Prince Charles and pays tribute to a much under recognised but vital part of our war efforts. Without the Land Girls, Britain would surely have starved. 
Final stop enroute was for an afternoon cuppie and fine pieces at Brodie Countryfare. A couple of sneaky purchases from the shop including an awesome imported Peanut Butter and Maple Syrup combo.
A morning walk with my Dad as my guide led us round Redcastle Estate on The Black Isle. What a bumper crop of wild harvest on show. No foraging undertaken on this occasions but lots of apples, rosehips, brambles, hawthorn berries and elder berries.
Quality time in the afternoon with my mum when we headed to Culloden House Hotel for Afternoon Tea. I had won a voucher for this in a raffle at the launch of the EightByEight Project back in April. Lovely surroundings, staff and temptingly tasty treats. The shortbread was particularly good although the overall look of the cakestand was rather "beige". More colour required for afternoon tea perfection.
Whilst we were out and about we headed to Connage Highland Dairy at Arderseir. Amazing range of their own cheeses and others from around the world. Lovely looking little cafe too. Should have checked if they perhaps do the elusive Cheese Afternoon Tea of which I seek. Cheesy purchases were made including their smoked brie, crowdie and smoked dunlop.
I did cause some consternation when I tweeted that we were going on a dolphin hunt as part of our #HighlandFoodieRoadTrip but rest assured I had absolutely no intention of eating any. On our trip with Ecoventures in Cromarty the dolphins were very elusive and we were headed back to the harbour somewhat crestfallen when they put in a last minute appearance. What a marvelous experience to see them up close. Alas my poor nature photography skills don't do them justice.
Hot drinks all round were required to warm us up at Sutor Creek Cafe before we tucked into fantastic pizza made in a wood fired oven. Great range of toppings (no dolphin) on offer and some Happy Chappy from Cromarty Brewing Co to wash it all down. Even did a bit of celebrity spotting as crime author Ian Rankin has a house in the village and came in for lunch. He had the soup. 
Fab foodie finds on our wander through the rest of the old town. Dutch Cheeses, oatcakes, chocolate dolphins and papabubble candies from The Cheese House. Quirky salt shaker from Cromarty Pottery and Pumpkin Seed Bread and Cinnamon Biscuits from Cromarty Bakery.
Lunch for one was required following a meeting in Inverness and a Bicycle Workshop come Cafe had been recommended to me. Velocity sounded right up my street and did not disappoint. Quirky decor, retro crockery, friendly staff and great food. They even let me taste the soup to see if I liked it. Such a good vibe in this place and lovely to hear the clinking, clunking and tinkering going on in the workshop. I must find out how heavy that pumpkin was as I really didn't have a clue so never left a guess.

Time for some foraging and we headed off to find Hazelnuts. Alas I don't think I'm going to be going into competition with Nutella any time soon. Very labour intensive. 4 people + 1 hour = not many nuts. Think the squirrels bet us to them.
3 day jump at this point as we left the kids and headed to Skye for the weekend. You can read all about that bit of our #HighlandFoodieRoadTrip on this post I've Just Come Back From The Isle Of Skye We had an absolutely wonderful time.
Back to the mainland and with Foodie Loon dispatched back to work we made the most of our last couple of days. A drive through some beautiful autumnal trees took us to Bog Cotton Cafe at Cannich. A fab setting at the head of Glen Affric. Tree Creepers and Woodpecker spotted on the bird feeders outside the cafe and Knickerbocker Glory Guzzlers within. Big thanks for the takeaway portion of fabulous Tahini salad dressing. We'll be definitely back at some point to stay in a Pod.

A wee bit more foraging with a bumper crop of apples and crab apples at the roadside. Small child sent up the tree to pick apples with no regard for health and safety. However the crab apples were actually much more dangerous as they were so plentiful and ripe they were falling on our heads. The self preservation society will be heading into action once again.

A couple of lovely shops in Beauly were visited on our way back form Cannich and purchases made. Robertson Larder Farm Shop and Corner on The Square both had a veritable bounty on their shelves for foodies.
Last outing before we headed home was to The Storehouse for Coffee and Cake. Girl accompanied me and she had a chocolate brownie whilst I had a huge slice of lime and coconut cake (diet starts on Monday!) When he saw the photos of the giant meringues boy wished he had joined us. Lots of lovely items in the shop and a particularly good selection of gins.
#HighlandFoodieRoadTrip over but what a fantastic bunch of edible souvenirs  Alas not all pictured as some already long gone (namely the cheese mountain) We had a fantastic time exploring only a small portion of whats on offer in the area. So lucky with the weather too which enabled us to get out and about. Who needs to go abroad for their holidays when we have the fantastic produce of Scotland on our doorstep.

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