The Wester Ross Food Trail - Poolewe to Aultbea and Laide
Just a few miles along the road from Gairloch, you arrive at Poolewe (just beside the world famous Inverewe Gardens). Here, the food Trail guide takes you to "Bruach Bakery" - neither a restuarant nor a hotel, this is one of the few "real" bakeries in Wester Ross where the products are made by hand, rather than re-heated in an oven after making the journey to Wester Ross in the back of a van! Run by Susan Kirkness (and in her own home), Bruach not only does delicious home made soups, breads, and cup cakes, but also specialises in all sorts of amazing celebration cakes for weddings, birthdays and other occasions.
So, although you can't actually buy anything directly from a Bruach shop - if you see any local shops or restaurants telling you they stock "Bruach" products, you know they are both high quality and made by hand.
Now on to Aultbea (just another few miles along the road - there's no getting away from all this good food here, you know. Every village has its stars!). The Aultbea Hotel was taken under new owners in 2014, and what changes they have brought about! A complete renovation to the building, new website, new menus...new everything!
Two log burning stoves now keep the "Fat Whippet"restaurant cosy in the winter and access to the gardens in the summer allows you to enjoy the influence of the Gulf Stream and smell the sea air. On the menu you’ll find simple recipes that combine wonderful ingredients from close to home, sourced from local suppliers and exciting flavours from afar. With some advanced notice wonderful local lobster and occasionally oysters can both be sourced. The dining room is also a space for local galleries and artists to display works, including the Solas Gallery in Gairloch and Photographic pieces by Mark Appleton. The final touch is the in-house artisan baker, keeping guests topped up with tempting desserts and bakes and freshly ground coffee and delicious "BrewHaha" teas are served.
Taking advantage of the newly renovated rooms and facilities, perhaps you are staying at the Aultbea Hotel while you are here? In that case, take a wee trip out the next day and call in at the Isle of Ewe Smokehouse the next stop on our trail! Stopping off at the Smokehouse, this is one of Wester Ross's best adverts for fresh, natural produce -
Smoked salmon Smoked cheeses Freshly smoked scallops
A family run smokehouse (designed and built by the owners), not only supplying a growing number of retail outlets, hotels, and restaurants across Wester Ross, but also welcoming customers to their smokehouse shop, or sending out award winning products via couriers and post. All the fish are traditionally smoked in stone kilns, using aromatic chipped whisky barrel staves to give it its own unique flavour. The fish are hung by the tail in the kilns and smoked slowly, building flavour and allowing the fish to dry out between each fire. (The writer can testify to all this - the finished products are possibly the best he's tried!) Feel free to call in - there's a shop selling a wide range of products, including smoked cheeses and meats.
We are not finished with the Aultbea area yet, though....there's still the Aroma cafe to try! This is much more than a cafe, and is also the Perfume Studio, a gift shop, and a Photographic Studio! There is a focus throughout of using local produce (both in the cafe and the Perfumery), and the bright and airy Café has spectacular views across Loch Ewe towards the Torridon mountains. They serve a distinctive range of aromatic coffees and teas, and a delicious selection of hot and cold food including locally smoked fish and homemade cakes.
Refreshments can be enjoyed on outside tables while watching for otters in the Loch, or inside on comfortable surroundings over a luxury hot chocolate. And when you are finished your meal there's an original range of perfumes, fragrances, skin creams, toiletries and soaps which are sold in the gift shop.
Now....having taken full advantage of the range of venues on the "Food Trail", perhaps you are heading off home? Or at least back to your hotel, B&B, or self catering house? Finish the day with the Sugar Croft Faerie, bringing you handmade sweets, using traditional methods and old-fashioned recipes.
Ingredients include Scottish butter and cream, British sugar, Madagascan vanilla and Belgian chocolate. Where possible, Highland produce (such as fresh raspberries) is also used - environmentally-friendly packaging is used where ever possible. Although Sugar Croft Faerie does NOT have a shop, there 's a mail order service, and her sweets are available in many local shops and markets.