Food & Drink
Something to tempt you?
What do you hope to find in Wester Ross to tempt your palate?
Until recent years the choice would have been limited, to say the least. These days you can find a Chinese takeaway in Ullapool, Italian choices in Gairloch and everything in between.
Your choice of whisky has never been limited however. The Drumchork Hotel in Aultbea boasts a mammoth list of whiskies available from those normally priced, to tots which might cost as much as the price of an entire holiday. They have even established a micro-distillery here, even though there is no history of whisky distilling in Wester Ross (unless you count the infinite number of illegal stills which were once said to litter the hillsides hereabouts!).
If you are a seasoned whisky drinker then you can expand your experience here in various hotels and pubs, which all make a point of keeping a good selection. If you are new to whisky then you must first decide what sort of taste you are looking for. Some of the distilleries on the eastern side of the country offer tours and tastings but there are no such distilleries here. Malt whiskies usually have a smokey flavour and are less fiery. Blended whiskies range in intensity and flavour from bland to explosive. Most connoisseurs would advocate drinking without water but if you find neat whisky too harsh then water might be helpful.
There are other Scottish beers readily available in local pubs, some brewed in Skye, others on the Black Isle. Consult your barman for details on the various tastes on offer!
Of course, haggis is the archetypal Scottish fare. Comprising various ingredients of an unusual nature, plus secret extras, every maker produces a slightly different product. Dingwall boasts a world-class haggis maker, and locally it can be served plain or with whisky sauce, or used as an accompaniment or stuffing in other dishes. It might be unwise to investigate too deeply into the contents of this noble dish, as modern day diners often have delicate sensibilities. The best advice is to eat it first, ask as to the contents afterwards, if you have a burning desire to know, but otherwise remain in blissful ignorance and just savour the product.
Fish and Shellfish
Some of the best shellfish in the country are landed at Charleston, and are happily intercepted by some local hotel and restaurant owners. Mussels from Loch Torridon and hand-dived scallops from Loch Ewe also find their way on to many a menu. Restaurant and hotel owners try to source much of their produce locally, or certainly within Scotland to offer a great range of first class dining. Fresh fish is available locally - try the Fish Stall at Gairloch Pier which sells a range of local fresh fish and shellfish. There are also mobile fish vans which call once a week, ask locally as to where you can find them, as well the award winning Sleepy Hollow Smokehouse where you can buy smoked salmon, smoked haddock and other locally caught and cured fish delicacies. If you do manage to purchase some fish you may find the recipes in the the handy booklet Scottish Fish Recipes offer some interesting ideas.
As you drive around the area you will see plenty of salmon cages in the lochs. Farmed salmon is now available everywhere, but locally smoked salmon is available as is the much less common hot-smoked salmon. This is already cooked and can be used as a delicious filling for sandwiches, stir-fried with vegetables or as a basis for a salad. Small smokehouses can be found in Aultbea and further north at Achiltibuie and their products are on sale in local shops.
Venison and game
Venison is another local product that is much used. The local butcher also sells venison, frozen, and fresh when in season for anyone who is self-catering and wants to try this delicious lean meat. The flavour is somewhat similar to beef but with a more pronounced flavour and very low in fat.
In the summer months Poolewe Market TM has stalls selling everything from locally produced fruit and vegetables and home baked cakes and savouries to the unique speciality of clootie dumpling.
Visit the Tourist Information Centre in Gairloch for more information on places to eat and where to buy local produce.