By Gabbi Armstrong
Communications Project Manager for the North Coast 500
Published: 29th May 2018

The kitchen garden of the Highlands!

At the start or end of your NC500 travels take a trip to the Black Isle. Set up base for a couple of days and discover the area, just a two minute drive from Inverness – why not explore the capital of the Highlands from here too.

Despite its name, the Black Isle is neither black nor an isle..although it may feel like an island as it is surrounded on three sides by water! The Black Isle has it all – it is steeped in history- with castles and cairns, a cathedral and three museums. The area is also home to world class mountain biking and the best spot to see dolphins in Scotland.Did you know on a clear day you can see Ben Nevis?!

 The Black Isle is also long famous for its rich fertile farm land, the rich soil and gentle climate here, along with the skills of generations of farmers, yield wonderful local produce. Food and drink are a huge part of life here – find out what Jon Palmer from the Cheese House in Cromarty has to say about the “kitchen garden of the Highlands“!

Historically the Black Isle was the kitchen garden of the Highlands, with its rich dark soils and mild climate providing ideal conditions to offer a diversity of produce that other more rugged areas could only dream of. In more recent times the extensive farmlands have been given over to cash crops – potatoes, barley and rapeseed– but this trend is being reversed with the revival of smaller, crofting-style farmsteads. In addition, there is a growing band of entrepreneurs providing other essentials such as blended teas, coffee roasts, cordials and preserves. In fact, its eminently feasible, and a satisfying challenge, to feed yourself entirely from products sourced on the Black Isle – bread, milk, cheeses; fresh fruit and vegetables; responsibly reared meats; beers and spirits.

Monthly community markets are held in Cromarty, Culbokie and North Kessock. These are great social occasions where stallholders are always happy to tell the stories behind their produce. All the eateries on the Black Isle pride themselves in using local ingredients and another way to enjoy the abundance of food and drink from the area is to let someone else do the cooking for you!

Visit ‘Our local larder‘ for more information.

Jon Palmer, The Cheese House

What delights will you sample?

Uncover the wealth of local food producers, retailers and restaurants throughout the Black Isle. The freshest of fruit and vegetables and top quality meat give you great choices if you’re self-catering or at B&Bs, with local restaurants and cafes, breweries and distilleries also making excellent use of the produce. Take a culinary journey around the Black Isle….

Black Isle Brewery, Munlochy

Love beer? Visit the UK’s premier organic brewery, creating world class beers from the finest malt and crops grown on their farm. Collect your very own NC500 beer and discover how their fresh organic beer is made with a free tour of the brewery. They even have their very own brewery house cow. Find out more here.

Black Isle Brewery

Glen Ord Distillery, Muir of Ord

Home of the Singleton – discover the history behind the liquid by taking a tour of Glen Ord. They have a range of tours to choose from – whether you are a whisky connoisseur or simply have an interest in sampling the amber nectar! Find out more here.

Glen Ord Distillery

Sutor Creek, Cromarty

Situated by the harbour in the historic town of Cromarty – the Michelin family run restaurant and cafe serves the very best of what the Black Isle’s natural larder has to offer.With langoustines, crabs and lobsters landing just yards from the kitchen door, the lucrative farming heritage provides succulent meats and vegetables, while edible flowers, foraged mushrooms and herbs are integrated seasonally into dishes. Find out more here.

Sutor Creek

Culbokie Inn, Culbokie

Owned by a local farming family who live 1.5 miles from the restaurant – Culbokie Inn is a traditional Highland Pub and restaurant that is popualr among locals and visitors alike. When in season – they serve their own lamb and beef along with other local produce. Their public bar serves local ale in front of an open fire. There is also a beer garden overlooking the Cromarty Firth. Book your table here.

Culbokie Inn

North Kessock Hotel, North Kessock

At the North Kessock’s Hotel, they have a dedicated team who strive to create imaginative dishes using the very best local produce. Situated on the banks of the Beauly Firth their charming waterfront location overlooks Inverness and offers visitors the chance to see dolphins close by. Find out more here.

North Kessock Hotel

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