The food inspiration (details at end) was from a small restaurant called “Fig and Thistle” a very short walk (through the town centre) from the B&B where we stayed.
They served a few dishes with traditional Scottish ingredients, including one with scallops topped with a sprinkling of Haggis (had a crumb like texture)…we made similar at home but replaced the Haggis (not a favourite for me) with crispy prosciutto…recipe also at end.
However, the dish we both loved the most was their sea bass dish with mussels, chorizo, crispy potato and a delicious seafood sauce; they make their own seafood stock and combine it with some fresh herbs, a splash of cream. The sauce made this dish very special.
Where we stayed:
We arrived at Castleview B&B late in the afternoon (see room photo in previous post if interested…I’ve fixed feature photo now as not sure what happened there!). It was a very comfortable room but there was a better room with views of the Castle. We were aware of that (from Trip Advisor “room tips”) but it was already booked out when we enquired about rooms.
The front of the B&B can be seen in this feature photo…it’s to the RHS and has the purple awning. The facade at the front looks like it had been “modernised” quite some time ago, but unfortunate in our opinion as the original greystone, as can be seen in other Victorian terraces further along that street (and above this one), has been maintained as it was originally intended. The owner of the B&B was also disappointed that this alteration had occurred – before she purchased the property.
I still found the outlook from the pretty window of our B&B room attractive (a few potted plants and hills in distance)…it felt very cosy on a grey/wet day.
If you stay at Castleview B&B…it’s easy to drive past as it’s right on the corner of a one way street – next to the Rocpool restaurant (photo below). We needed to park the car a bit of a distance away and wheel our suitcases back about 300 m. There are quite a few attractive looking B&Bs along this riverside street (some with 4 or 5 star ratings) so might be worth comparing as No 1 or 2 on Trip Advisor (or other review sites) aren’t always completely reliable. I gather there are many new B&Bs/small hotels opening all the time around UK and unlike in Australia, the competition appears to be strong.
DINING OUT IN INVERNESS:
We enjoyed the Rocpool restaurant – after a long day of travelling from Aberdeen with sightseeing detours along the way, we were happy to go with the set/fixed price menu…2 courses at a reasonable price. We enjoyed the food and good Italian wine as well.
The restaurant and B&B is right on the river so we had an evening stroll after dinner – as the sun was setting and lights along this pretty street came on. At the time of our visit (September 2018) Rocpool was rated number 1 on Trip Advisor but the owner of our B&B recommended “the best pub in Scotland” (according to many food guides) which was a 20 min walk…we were tempted but as we were both tired we went for convenience on this occasion.
We also loved the Fig & Thistle (a 10 min walk) as mentioned above.
Throughout Scotland, we usually had a very light lunch (sometimes a sandwich or similar in a park) when breakfast was large (as it was at Castleview B&B), but one day we had a late morning stop at a coffee shop. We noted that since our last visit to Scotland a decade ago, “tea houses” seem to have been nudged out by trendier “coffee shops” 😉
They did serve fresh light lunches here (photo below) eg sandwiches, homemade cakes and of course, good coffee. We didn’t note the name of this one but easy to find in the small village near Urquhart Castle…the red and black umbrellas were eye catching.
URQUHART CASTLE VISIT…short drive from Inverness
This visit was a favourite thing to do during our stay in Inverness.
As can be seen from the photo below, the other way to visit the castle and Loch Ness, if you’re not travelling by car (even if you are), is to take the boat trip…presume it departs not far from Inverness?
We looked up reviews and for the price, didn’t think it was worth it as there are lovely walks near Loch Ness with views almost, perhaps as good?… as what you might see from the boat?
If you arrive by your own car, the small group tours with a guide can be organised on arrival as they’re offered regularly throughout the day. There are information boards around the Castle which we read after the tour but glad we took the tour as it was informative and entertaining (photo below).
On the tour the various conflicts were explained and how this green and peaceful setting was once a bloodbath, especially near the Castle gates and what looks like a moat (but wasn’t)…was created to slow down the enemy when they tried to scramble up the slope.
We climbed the Grant Tower that watched over the iconic Loch Ness; then peered into the miserable prison cell. After reading the information boards, it was easy to imagine the splendid banquets staged in what was the Great Hall.
There’s a short film (near the gift shop and cafe) which is recommended.
So many beautiful views and photo opportunities with the clouds and light constantly changing – so different to most of Australia except perhaps parts of Tasmania.
Unfortunately, we ran out of time in Inverness and wish we had stayed 3 nights rather than just 2 as there’s a few other attractions, including the History Museum, which also receives good reviews – some mentioned how well the Viking history was narrated/exhibited.
HOW MANY NIGHTS TO STAY IN INVERNESS?:
If you enjoy getting a good feel for the city you’re in and the culture, plus you also like exploring historic castles, especially those like Urqhart (unique), it might be worth staying longer than we did as our 2 nights did feel rushed. We hadn’t expected the small city of Inverness to have so much to offer.
We spent a lot of our time in and around Loch Ness and Urqhart Castle to hear about it’s 1000 years of drama and glimpse medieval life and stunning views over Loch Ness from what is thought by many to be “the greatest castle in the Highlands”. We got there at about 11 am (after morning tea in the lovely village nearby…photo above) and found a parking spot easily (we hear it can be busy in summer). The guide of our small group tour was excellent – informative and entertaining.
The Castle is relatively small and incomplete, as can be seen from our photos of the ruins; however, it still has a strong presence and we highly recommend a visit. Our guide told us how the castle was destroyed in 1692 to avoid it falling into the hands of the Jacobites (if you don’t know much about Scottish history it’s worthwhile spending just a few minutes reading up on the Jacobites) and/or maybe watch Outlander on Netflix if you’re feeling lethargic;…although as series goes on it becomes more and more ridiculous and graphically violent in parts. However, the scenery in Outlander is spectacular in parts (but nothing like being there!)…I’d wander off at times when it was on (to read or blog away) and pay attention when the scenery was beautiful or the history was interesting – fact checking etc. on Net as it went along!… mostly University or recognised Historic Society sites. I’ve also seen a Scottish History documentary on our SBS Channel but I haven’t been able to talk Tony into that one…he’s not as interested in history as me!
Other prominent places/buildings we visited in Inverness, some too quickly – we want to return!…
Photo above LHS…the 19th Century Inverness Castle (now a courthouse) in the centre of town. One of the newest attractions here is a viewing tower…”360 degree views of Highland Capital” but if the weather/visibility is poor (or you’re not able to climb the stairs), you can “see the views from a pre-recorded drone footage in the Round Room”. It’s also narrated we hear and has mostly good reviews.
Inverness Town Hall (Photo above RHS):
Built between 1878 and 1882 of local sandstone. Such a grand building and a beautiful light as we were walking back from dinner out…the days were still long in September. There are tours through the building but we didn’t stay long enough to organise that.
We also hear that the Botanic Gardens is worth a visit – a nice walk along the river we were told?
Our early evening walk across pedestrian bridge (photo above):
On our 2nd night we crossed this bridge and had pre-dinner drinks at the Glenalbyn Bar (next to the Kiltmaker/Visitor Centre…photo also above). Other bars that could be worth visiting (particularly if you want to sample craft beer or Scotch whiskey) are…
MacGregor’s Bar; Hootanannys; Gellions; Market Bar; Black Isle Bar…good craft beer we heard – we’ll have to visit Inverness again! Many pubs and bars have live music on weekends.
SHOPPING IN INVERNESS…don’t expect upmarket although there are a few stores that sell good quality eg. the Kiltmaker (photo below) plus there are a few brand name stores…not all that interesting we thought as you can find those anywhere. There are also some quaint and quirky streets/arcades like the arcade in photo below. Inverness reminded us of parts of Wales eg. Cardiff…a post for another day.
FINALLY THE RECIPES:
From Jamie Olivier’s 5 Ingredients cookbook (one of our favourites of his and we’ve collected many!):
Sizzling Seared Scallops…instead of black pudding (or haggis as was used in the Scottish restaurants we went to) we substituted crispy prosciutto (lightly fried then drained on paper towel).
SEA BASS WITH SHRIMP IN A LEMON SCAMPI SAUCE…inspired by Fig & Thistle in Inverness (see above)
Scampi…we call prawns in Australia. The best ones are from the fresh food markets – as large as possible and from local waters of course. Our local supermarket, Coles, now sells frozen Australian prawns (both raw and cook varieties)…we mostly buy the raw (green) ones there now as previously most of our green prawns came from Asian waters and there had been occasional reports of unacceptable pollution/toxin levels
INGREDIENTS: (I’ll convert to our metric system another day;)
HERE’S ANOTHER JO RECIPE (photo below) P176 from same book – 5 Ingredients:
PEAS ARE POPULAR IN ALL PARTS OF BRITAIN (AND AUSTRALIA) AS WELL AS BROAD BEANS...the fresh are tastier of course but the frozen are so easy for busy families and healthy as well my nutritionist (I occasionally see) tells me. Even those who aren’t too fond of vegetables are likely to enjoy this dish “peas, beans, chilli and mint” alongside a protein of choice.
We sometimes have chicken, lamb or beef with this although if there’s leftovers, for a light lunch it goes well with a small omelette, shallow fried paneer or halloumi cheese or I like it even just topped with grated parmesan. I could definitely go vegetarian but not vegan as would miss cheese and yoghurt too much.
Marvellous Mint…even if you only have a very small balcony, mint grows so easily as long as you keep it well watered, especially if in full sun. It’s hardy and survives if it dries out a bit, but thrives if you remember to water it well. Lots of nutrition when so fresh as well. Easier to look after if it’s either in a large, well drained pot or a garden bed.
After Inverness…we travelled by car ferry onto the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. We enjoyed our stay at The Decca B&B; my niece recently loved staying at the Castle in the main town of Stornoway…if your time is limited ie. less than 3 nights, it’s probably advisable to stay in the town and do day trips further afield around this very historic and fascinating island.
My next blog post on Scotland will be in Edinburgh…the reason for that is because Edinburgh has many Indian restaurants and we’re off to India in mid February so my focus in recent weeks has been Indian cooking, including a book launch in Canberra with Christine Manfield at a bar/restaurant/bookshop we love called MUSE. “Christine is one of Australia’s most celebrated chefs. Her latest book is Tasting India – Heirloom Family Recipes.”
Until next time…enjoy the rest of summer!…or winter!… if you’re in the opposite hemiphere to us! We see it’s very snowy in many parts over there – hard to imagine as I type away here with air con on in Canberra! We hope to get to the South Coast on Friday where the temperatures are generally lower…the sea breezes help.