Where to eat and drink in the Scottish Highlands

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Carmen McCormack

Guest Expert

5 min read

Scotland has long shrugged off its associations with deep-fried Mars Bars, and a rich and varied foodie scene has sprung up, not just in the cities, but out in the rural wilderness too. Expect warm nourishing fare that leaves you well-fed and content: porridge for breakfast, Cullen skink soup for lunch and haggis with neeps and tatties (turnips or swedes and potatoes) for supper. But the culinary revolution has swept beyond traditional meals to include the very best and freshest local produce from land and sea served in charming pubs, high-end restaurants and shoreside seafood shacks. And, of course, we can’t not mention whisky, Scotland’s single malts are much feted but so too are a proliferation of craft ale breweries and gin distilleries. Here’s our guide, with owner recommendations, to the best places to eat and drink on your holiday in the Highlands.

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Where to go for whisky

Dalwhinnie Distillery, Cairngorms National Park

Recommended by Strathspey Lodge

In a lofty position in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park, surrounded by stunning mountain scenery, Dalwhinnie lays claim to being the highest distillery in Scotland. With access to sparkling clear spring water and an abundance of peat from the surrounding bogs Dalwhinnie’s single malt has a gentle flavour with notes of heather, honey and sweet malt. Visit for a tour and tasting masterclass. 

Book a stay at Strathspey Lodge >


Glenturret Distillery, Crieff 

Scotland’s oldest working distillery dates back to 1763. Today Glenturret still makes whisky in the traditional style and is the only distillery in the country to produce its tipple using a hand operated mash tun. Glenturret whisky has a sweet, smoky flavour with a hint of salt thanks to its ingredients: crystal clear water from the River Turret, a tributary of the Tay, and earthy peat from the riverbank. 


Balblair, Dornoch

Balblair Distillery occupies a remote setting overlooking the Dornoch Firth, on land that was once an ancient Pictish gathering place, watched over by the solitary Clach Biorach standing stone. Made from Black Isle barley and clear, crisp water flowing from the Edderton Hills, this is a whisky made with age-old processes for a light yet earthy flavour. 

Where to go for fine dining 

Loch Bay, Isle of Skye

Recommended by The Lookout Skye

On the Waternish Peninsula in Skye is a snug, intimate and informal Michelin-star restaurant, set in an old crofter’s cottage with lovely views to distant hills. Husband and wife duo, Michael and Laurence Smith, are the talented chef and urbane front of house. Smith is classically trained and it shows in his perfectly executed dishes as he adds a French flourish to Scottish menus packed with seafood from the surrounding ocean.

Book a stay at The Lookout Skye >


Shieldaig Lodge Hotel, Gairloch

Recommend by Arrowdale 

At the lapping edge of Loch Gairloch, set amongst the stunning scenery of Wester Ross is a gorgeously revamped Victorian hunting lodge. Menus are packed with the very best and freshest local produce, much from their own 26,000 acre estate. Start with home-cured gravadlax, followed by Highland ribeye, or loch-fresh langoustine and hand-dived scallops. There’s a sublime tasting menu if you fancy a real treat – five courses paired with wine.

Book a stay at Arrowdale >


Applecross Inn, Strathcarron

Recommended by The Birdhouse

With a menu packed with sublime, just-caught seafood from the surrounding sea it’s no wonder this friendly inn is bustling in summer. Lap up gorgeous watery views across the Inner Sound to the isles of Raasay and Skye as you dig into half a dozen plump local oysters. Other delights include fat langoustine, traditional Cranachan, and a superb range of locally brewed ale, whiskies and gin. 

Book a stay at The Birdhouse >

Where to go for an off-the-beaten-track pint

The Old Forge, Inverie

Recommended by Knoydart Hide

The only way to get to The Old Forge is an 18-mile hike over Munros or a seven mile sea crossing from Mallaig. You’ve got to be determined, thirsty, or both, to get here. Rescued by the community in May 2022, this Guinness Record holder of ‘remotest pub in mainland Britain’, in the hamlet of Inverie (population circa 100) offers an enthusiastic welcome and a cracking pint in an unbeatable shoreside position. 

Book a stay at Knoydart Hide >


Glenuig Inn, Lochailort 

Eight miles from the nearest hamlet, Glenuig Inn, is slap bang on the beach down a tiny no through road on the Sound of Arisaig. The other way to arrive is by sea: kayaks can glide right up onto the grass at high tide. There’s plenty of real ale on offer, single malts and local gins too. And it’s all run on 100% renewable energy.


Stein Inn, Isle of Skye

Skye’s oldest and most atmospheric inn can be found on the remote Waternish peninsula in the far northwest of the island. Tucked on the shore of Loch Bay, its whitewashed exterior hides a comfortable, beamed interior. It’s an unfussy sort of place with a welcoming bar, a roaring fire in winter and a sun-trapping beer garden for fine days.

Where to go for craft beer and small batch gin 

Cairngorm Brewery Co., Aviemore

Aviemore, the outdoors capital and gateway to the Cairngorms, is home to the award-winning Cairngorm Brewing Co. Established in 2001, they run a 20 barrel brewhouse, producing up to 6,500 litres of ale a day. Water from the Cairngorm Mountains and the finest malted barley and hops creates a range of ales from light continental style offerings to traditional Scottish Milk Stout.


Kinrara Distillery, Aviemore 

Another award-winning Cairngorms distillery, but this time, it’s gin. Their small-batch production process allows an innovative approach to taste and flavour at this purpose-built distillery, opened in 2018. Pick up a bottle or two from the bottle shop, and if you can’t decide, book a tasting session for some expert guidance. 


Browse all our places to stay in the Scotland Highlands >

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Carmen McCormack

Guest Expert

Carmen is a freelance writer specialising in travel. She once lived in a bus in north Wales, skipped off to study in Barcelona, and now calls Bristol home. When she’s not tapping away on her laptop, she can be found reading (a lot), lake swimming (a little), and pottering on the allotment with husband and two kiddos. She’s currently dreaming about cold cerveza and torta in Mexico.

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