As previously explained here, I am not the best at restaurant reviews. Don’t get me wrong – I love food. Actually, that’s an understatement of significant proportions: I’m the sort of person who whilst they are eating a meal is planning the next one. And, I’m not afraid to admit that I do get a wave of quite notable sadness when I finish eating something delicious, knowing there’s no more. Actually, that happened to me this week when I got a sausage and tattie scone roll for breakfast from the cafe at work and it disappeared too quickly. Tragic. Three days on, I’m still not quite over it… Anyway, despite the fact that I love food and eating out, I know I’ll never be very good at reviewing food in any real detail – ach, my palate isn’t refined enough. However, over the years, whilst travelling all over Scotland, food has always featured very highly, which has allowed me to find some utter *gems* of places to eat in quite extra-ordinary locations. So, rather than in-depth posh “foodie” reviews, I’ve decided I’ll write about a few places I’ve discovered over the years that are notable not only for the food but also for the location.
So, first up: The Shorehouse, in Tarbet, Sutherland – which is in the far north west highlands. This is just a *delightful* place in so many ways. It’s a seafood place (just look at where it is! Of course it’s going to specialise in seafood):
That’s the view from the table we sat at last time we were there, which was just over a year ago. Sadly, I am *crap* at taking photos (I KNOW I shouldn’t point it towards the sun, yeah, yeah), so I know this looks dark – but it was SO sunny and hot that day, you’ll just have to trust me.
The Shorehouse is a friendly, family-run place: they serve up seafood caught in their own boat, cooked simply – which just lets the freshness and quality of the seafood speak for itself (oooh that was a bit foodie, actually, wasn’t it?!). If I ever see fresh langoustines on a menu, they have me at hello – I just can’t look any further. Last time we are at the Shorehouse, I enjoyed them cold with a salad – just take a look at these bad boys! They. Were. Epic!
Grown Up Boyfriend went for the crab salad. I didn’t get a pic of that – by then I was probably knuckle deep in langoustine innards with garlic butter all over my pus and therefore far too busy to pay attention to what he was eating.
They also serve other treats like yummy smoked salmon, pickled herring and – fantastically – a good range of artisan ice cream, which you can get in a cone to take away.
So, all in all, an excellent feed. But the beauty of this place is not just the food (and the friendly service, which is worth a mention too): it’s also the location. To get there, you take a wee road off the main road just past Scourie and you end up at this bay:
The restaurant is just to the right of the boat, up a wee slope. This wee landing bay is where you get the boat to Handa Island (can you see that bit of sand in the distance on the left? That’s Handa).
Handa Island is a very, very special place. For a start, the scenery is stunning:
Folk come from all over because it’s a *properly* good place for bird watching. Cos there are hunners of birds there. Hunners. I’m not a twitcher: my limit is “oh there’s some kind of – bird of prey?!” or “bastard seagulls!! stop laughing at me!!” but even *I* can spot a puffin – and there are plenty of them on Handa:
The island is looked after by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and their seasonal rangers are lovely folk who are very knowledgeable and passionate about the place. You start your visit with a chat with them in their wee hut and they give you the necessary warning about the big huge skuas that swoop down and give you the Proper Fear. Then you’re free to have a good wander, take in the views and – if that’s your bag – watch all the birdies. It’s one of those places that has cliffs that are just *covered* in nesting birds (I’m sure this depends on the time of the year, though) so it’s quite something to behold. I bloody love a puffin, so I was really chuffed that there were loads of them there the first time I visited Handa, about five years ago.
Aye! I took that photo! Get me!
And then of course, once you get the boat back, you can finish your visit with food at the Shorehouse! Win, win! Be aware, though – it’s a small restaurant and everyone else getting off the wee boat with you *might* be having the same idea, so make sure you get off that boat first! 🙂