7 food stops not to miss on the NC500
We just got back from our amazing holiday doing the North Coast 500 (NC500) route in Scotland. For me, a major highlight of our NC500 trip was the huge range of amazing food options scattered throughout the route. I’d already read about a few of the places and had identified them as good stops for us, such as The Seafood Shack in Ullapool. Others were recommended to us en route or were random stops when we got really hungry after a long day driving. If you’re thinking of doing the NC500, don’t miss out on some of these amazing food stops and discover there’s much more to Scottish cuisine than haggis and fried Mars Bars!
1. Mustard Seed Bistro, Inverness
For a great value set menu lunch
This restaurant is perfectly placed right on the banks of the River Ness in the capital of theHighlands. You get great views from the top floor and it has a lovely cosy atmosphere with a great menu using lots of local ingredients. The food was tasty, interesting but not overcomplicated and well-presented. We went for the set menu at lunch, which was great value at £9.95 for a starter and a main. Sometimes I find that set menus can be very restrictive, but the Mustard Seed had plenty on offer. We also added cocktails and desserts, which made a lovely first meal out in Inverness!
2. The Torridon Inn, Torridon
For a tasty burger
This stop was very ad hoc as our drive had been longer than anticipated on our first day driving the NC500. It was starting to get dark and we saw a sign for the Torridon Inn so guessed we could grab whatever they had on offer before it got dark. When we went into the restaurant, it seemed like most of the tables were reserved (usually a good sign). It was decorated with a lot of wood and managed to get the balance just right between modern and rustic. They had a good selection of burgers on the menu, so I went for the ‘NC500 burger’ (of course). The flavours were delightful with brie, pickled shallots and chive mayo complementing the juicy beefburger perfectly. They also offer other local delicacies, such as cullen skink, haggis and a venison burger.
3. The Seafood Shack, Ullapool
For a twist on takeaway fish
The Seafood Shack was somewhere I’d read about when I’d been researching the NC500 route and I’d decided I wanted to try this place out 100%. I’m so glad we stopped off here as it was perfect for a quick lunch stop in Ullapool. They had a few different options on the menu, including a couple of salads. I got a haddock wrap, and it was honestly the largest wrap I’ve ever seen in my life. The fish was super fresh and so tasty, and there was also salad, lemon mayo and pesto in the wrap, which complemented the white fish beautifully. There was also a lovely outdoor seating area just in front of the shack, which gave you a view of some of the seafront houses with the sea in the background.
4. Lochinver Larder, Lochinver
For a hearty, filling pie meal
We’d been assured that Lochinver was famous for doing amazing pies, so we just had to stop off at the Lochinver Larder when we arrived in Lochinver in the evening. It was really busy (like so many restaurants on the NC500 route) but they managed to seat us in the cafe area at the back. They had an incredible range of pies, from meat and fish options to vegetarian. As well as pies, they also offered pasties and some amazing desserts (I got a giant slab of rocky road for the road). Going back to the pie, I went for salmon with dill and potato which came with salad and a jacket potato on the side, which was lovely, but very filling! Definitely not one to miss but don’t expect your pie meal to come cheap – it was around £14 for a pie with sides.
5. The Whale Tale, Durness
For something a bit different and special
I think of all our food experiences on the NC500 route, this was the most intriguing. The Whale Tale is actually located just one mile outside of Durness in the craft village of Balnakeil. As with so many other villages on the NC500 route, there were fairly limited food options, but we’d seen that this restaurant got pretty good reviews online (we actually had internet access for a change!). We’d already parked our camper van up at the campsite, so we decided to walk down to The Whale Tale. We headed down at about 6pm as we were pretty hungry, and it was a good job we arrived early as the restaurant was nearly fully-booked for the evening. Balnakeil was constructed as a Cold War military base, so it was pretty eery when we arrived as there was no-one around. We started to doubt our choice of restaurant, but as soon as we stepped inside the atmosphere was completely different. The restaurant probably had no more than 10 tables so was very cosy. The decor was maritime-inspired, with the lightbulbs hanging from artfully knotted ropes and a sofa and bookcases towards the back of the restaurant. The menu mainly offered seafood that was very simple but incredibly tasty. I had a beautiful mackerel mousse to start, followed by salmon with asparagus on a bed of alfredo linguine. They also offered langoustines, and I had a delightful chocolate mousse to finish. If you’re planning on heading to Durness, I would highly recommend booking a table at The Whale Tale in advance so you don’t miss out!
6. Cocoa Mountain, Durness
For ‘the best hot chocolate’
We stopped in at Cocoa Mountain in Durness for a mid-morning taste of what has been dubbed ‘the best hot chocolate’ before we hit the road again. Cocoa Mountain is also located in the Balnakeil craft village, not too far from The Whale Tale. Unfortunately, we’d already had breakfast so we didn’t get to sample some of the incredible-looking croissants drizzled in chocolate, but we did go for the hot chocolate tasting option; you get your mug of hot chocolate along with two truffles of your choice (I went for champagne and rose Turkish Delight). And I have to say, the truffles were divine, and the hot chocolate may well be the best hot chocolate you’ll ever have. Cocoa Mountain serve their hot chocolate with actual melted white and milk chocolate generously drizzled artfully down the side of the mug. I made sure to get all of the chocolate with my spoon! This hot chocolate is lovely and frothy on top, and just the right amount of sweet; I hate it when hot chocolate is bitter. And then to top it all off, I’d nearly finished my drink when I discovered the melted chocolate surprise at the bottom of the mug. I think Cocoa Mountain’s hot chocolate really does deserve its name.
7. Sutor Creek, Cromarty
For pizza lovers
Sutor Creek was a great find – our camper van hosts had mentioned there was somewhere around this area that did great pizza, so after a quick Google, Sutor Creek came up. Cromarty is a beautiful, historic fishing town, so Sutor Creek also offers a lot of fresh fish and seafood on their evening menu. We rocked up at about 4pm, which was perfect as it was a weird time so we managed to get a table. At this time, they were only offering their pizza menu, which was perfect for us as this was exactly what we were after! We got a lovely flatbread with goats cheese, caramelized red onions and garlic oil as a sharing starter, and then I got ‘The Sutor’ pizza, which was topped with parma ham, artichoke hearts, spinach and olives and was absolutely delicious. The pizzas are cooked in a wood-fired oven, and were so tasty we polished all the pizza off without having to take any away! The restaurant had a lovely atmosphere, with slate placemats, a seaview and pizza served on wooden pizza plates. It is small though, so make sure you book in advance if you want to eat in in the evening – they were turning a lot of people away whilst we were there. There was also quite a long wait on takeaway pizzas so if you want one, place your order early!
So as well as seeing stunning scenery, we had a great little foodie road trip around the Highlands too! Have you done the NC500? What’s your favourite restaurant? Let me know in the comments below!