We’re home to a wealth of high-class brands and artisan goods, all the retail therapy you need, in friendly, independent shops.
Relax in the most sumptuous of accommodation and treat your tastebuds to the finest, freshest local produce. Taste and enjoy our whiskies, small-batch gins, and craft beers. Enjoy handmade chocolates and zero-food mile fish and shellfish, meat and cheeses, and the most wonderful home baked breads, pastries and cakes.
There’s a saying here, that if you don’t like whisky, it’s just that you’ve not tasted the right one, yet. It never ceases to amaze us that although every whisky the world over contains the same three ingredients, malted grain, yeast and water, each expression from each distillery has a distinct flavour and temperament. It means there is one you’ll love, at least one.
A great place to start is The Carnegie Whisky Cellars in Dornoch. There’s not much they don’t know about drams in there and there are a few wee rare gems for connoisseurs. Book a tutored tasting, and leave feeling informed and inspired. And if you’re still not convinced, have you seen their range of gins?
Our area is blessed with excellent bars where excellent drams can be sipped, with good company, after an excellent dinner, in front of a fire. Warm, lazy Labrador optional.
If you’d like to see how our spirits are distilled, book a tour. Gin afficionados will love the experience at Dunnet Bay Distillery where Rock Rose Gin is made and bottled. Don’t forget to walk on the adjacent beach too, it’s a real favourite.
While there are literally scores of ancient, crumbling castles to feed your imagination about battles, struggles and conquests on the edge of ragged cliffs many hundreds of years ago, sometimes it’s just the best thing to get a sneaky peek at how the other half live.
Dunrobin Castle, with its icing-sugar towers, 189 rooms, and beautifully manicured gardens, is a world apart from real life. There are falconry displays and, of course, a tearoom. Drop in for an hour, and you’ll find you’ve spent the whole day.
You don’t need us to tell you about the golfing opportunities there are here; but don’t just stick to the famous courses. Many of the smaller courses have delightful quirks and charm; there’s enough to challenge, and there are views to distract you between holes.
Wick Golf Club has stunning views over Sinclairs Bay to the castles on Noss Head, and there’s a dram of Old Pultney waiting for you at the 19th. Lybster Golf Club is one of the shortest 9-hole courses in Scotland and it is very popular with a wide range of golfers. Bonar Bridge & Ardgay Course is another gem, it has been voted the ‘most picturesque 9-hole in Scotland’. The links course at Durness consistently exceeds expectations and its emblem is a puffin, does that give you any clues as to who you might meet on the way round? Visitors are always welcome.
We’ve mentioned the whisky, have we talked about the food yet? Our natural larder is phenomenal. We don’t mind if we do say so ourselves, we have the best local produce, venison, seafood, berries, wonderful cheeses, plus baked goods, and local charcuterie. Everything is lovingly prepared with an eye to pleasing the most discerning of palates.
We don’t talk of food miles; tonight’s venison was sourced from just over the hill there, and we know the name of the fisherman who brought in this morning’s catch.
Working up an appetite on the beach, in the hills, on the golf course or in the shops, has never been so worthwhile.
Rest and Recharge
So where are you going to stay?
Newton Lodge, with its restaurant and bars, overlooks lochs and mountains in the wonderful west near Kylesku. Handy for boat trips to the seal colony and the highest waterfall in Britain on Loch Glendhu.
The Granary Lodge Bed and Breakfast is at Castle of Mey and sits between the Royal Castle and the Pentland Firth. No luxury has been overlooked; the breakfasts are as delicious as the rooms are sumptuous. For an extra special occasion add a bottle of Highgrove Champagne or arrange for a private tour of the Castle. That’s only on offer when the royal residents are away, of course!
Have you ever spent the night in a railway station? You might have, but not like this. The old stationmaster’s house at Helmsdale Station has been refurbished by the community and is available as a family-friendly self-catering holiday let. There are discounts for those arriving by train, free entry for residents to Timespan, and discounted bike hire too. And you get to wave at the trains as they go by. What’s not to love?
Langoustines, crabs, oysters, mussels… or fresh lobster… any of these float your boat? You’ll find them all freshly sourced and lovingly, often simply, prepared by the chefs at the Kylesku Hotel, who love the challenge of cooking whatever their suppliers deliver that day! This helps to ensure the freshest, best quality, seasonal fare reaches your plate. Do yourself a favour and make a reservation. Do it now.
If you have any Gaelic, you’ll know that ‘Mara’ translates as ‘sea’ and that’s the inspiration behind the menu at Mara, housed in the Links House at Royal Dornoch. Choose from a Table d’hôte menu that’s strong on fresh local produce, or an imaginative tasting menu, paired wines optional. Vegetarians and vegans are well catered for too. You’ll not want to leave, I promise.
Whatever time you’ve reserved your table for at The Pier in Lairg, brunch, coffee, a light lunch, or a weekend dinner, you’ll be guaranteed a warm welcome, and good, wholesome food, which has been well prepared and served. This Is the place for family meals, and for catching up with friends. All on the shores of the beautiful Loch Shin.