The Highland region of Scotland has an amazing larder of ingredients, and some top hospitality talent to showcase them! Here’s my round-up of some of the best places to eat in and around the North Coast 500. If you find this guide helpful in planning your trip, you can choose to buy me a coffee via Ko-Fi.
Please do check opening times for yourself and if necessary book in advance – businesses in some rural areas are seasonal and have winter closures or shorter opening hours.
CAITHNESS & SUTHERLAND
Caithness and Sutherland may have a smaller food scene than other parts of Scotland, but there are some must-visit places if you are travelling on the North Coast 500:
- Pier Cafe, Lairg – I sometimes wish that I could teleport myself out to Lairg as the photos of their food shared on social media often have me salivating! We’ve eaten there once on a little trip to Lairg, which included very substantial portions of cake, never a bad thing!
- The Courtroom, Dornoch – Formerly known as the Courthouse Cafe, this space will soon be opening in the evenings too. A lovely welcoming place to enjoy good coffee and lunch. Check out the famous wall mural of people linked with Dornoch.
- Dornoch Castle Hotel – We had a beautiful afternoon tea here, which is also the home of Thompson Brothers Gin, and a well -stocked whisky bar for those who like a dram!
- La Mirage, Helmsdale – The favourite place for Caithness locals to get a fish supper if you’re on the long road home from Inverness. The 70s quirky decor and HUGE portions have to be seen to be believed!
- River Bothy, Berriedale – We’ve eaten breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea here in the Berriedale valley (not on the same day of course!) – the quality of food and service here is second to none!
- The Bay, Dunbeath – wood-fired pizzas and more to eat-in or take-away. We love the amazing view of the harbour and coastline south of Dunbeath!
- Whaligoe Steps Cafe – One of the only places in Caithness not to feature more classic British dishes on their menu, as Mediterranean food features heavily due to the chef’s experience of living in Malta. One of the most stunning locations in the Highlands, perched on the cliffs overlooking the Whaligoe Steps (NOTE – April 2021: The Steps are currently closed for repair). (2021 edit: The Whaligoe Steps cafe has been closed since 2020, look out for new premises, The Printers Rest in Wick opening soon)
- Puldagon Farm and Restaurant, Haster (near Wick) – Meet the resident Highland cows, then have some lovely Caithness views while enjoying your breakfast, lunch or dinner (Dinner is served Fri-Sat evenings only).
- Mackays Bistro, Wick – Be a record breaker dining on the shortest street in the world, enjoying the best of local Caithness produce.
- Annie’s Bakery, Gills Bay – Newly opened for 2020, local lass Annie provides bakery items through local cafes and shops, and now has opened her own small cafe with views over the island of Stroma and boats travelling between the mainland and Orkney.
- Stacks Cafe and Bistro, John O’Groats – one of the few pooch-friendly cafes in Caithness, Stacks has a seasonal inventive cafe menu and opens evenings during the longer summer nights.
- Ynot, Thurso – A lively restaurant (with rooms), Ynot prides itself on being the place to go at the weekend, with a menu showcasing local produce . They have a inventive vegan menu too!
- Blue Door Diner, Thurso – Award winning ice-cream and sundaes are what draws the crowds to the Blue Door Diner!
- Capilla Tapas, Scrabster – Book a table early or risk disappointment, this authentic tapas restaurant serves up small but perfectly formed tastes of Spain.
- Melvich Hotel, Melvich – Four words necessary: Amazing wood fired pizza. (See my review here)
- Cocoa Mountain, Balnakeil – A nice little spot in the middle of Balnakeil Craft village. Their hot chocolate is the stuff of legends!
- Kylesku Hotel, Kylesku – Excellent seafood with excellent mountain views.
EASTER AND WESTER ROSS, & THE BLACK ISLE
- Platform 1864, Tain – In the local railway station building, a spacious and stylish restaurant and bar serving good quality gastro-pub daily.
- IV10, Fortrose – Inventive dishes and a cute wee deli to take some purchases home with you. And possibly the best brownie you’ll ever eat!
- Sutor Creek, Cromarty – wood fired pizza in the heart of arty Cromarty.
- The Storehouse of Foulis, Evanton – Light and substantial breakfasts lunches and cakes are available from this restaurant and farm shop. Grab a table in the heated marquee out the back and enjoy a view of the Cromarty Firth while you eat.
- Bad Girl Bakery, Muir of Ord – Bad Girl Jeni is taking over the world – from going wholesale to opening her own diner style cafe and supplying other local cafes and the Caledonian Sleeper, she also runs masterclasses so you can learn all of the ‘Bad Girl’ tips of the trade, and you might even see their 50’s style trailer serving up treats locally!
- Corner on the Square, Beauly – A favourite with locals; good coffee, a well stocked deli and seats outside – a great spot to sit and watch Beauly life go by.
- Gille Bridghe, Diabaig – worth the trip on a tiny road out from Torridon to Diabaig, we had an amazing seafood platter here on a stunning summer day.
- Applecross Inn, Applecross – with views over to Skye, this is one of the most picturesque places to dine on the West Coast, with the best Scottish produce featuring on the menu.
- Seafood Shack, Ullapool – still on my list to visit, run by two Ullapool ladies who use fresh fish and seafood straight from the local boats.
IN AND AROUND INVERNESS
- MacBains by the River – a family run restaurant serving up tasty Modern European food! Review
- SHIMCA Lotus Blossom Cafe – one of Inverness’s best kept secrets to eat chinese food (until I wrote about it and let the cat out of the bag)
- MacGregors Bar – Excellent Highland food, drink and live music, and a beer garden! Dog friendly too.
- Thai Dining – a family run restaurant, one of our favourites for a bit of authentic Thai dining.
- Saffron – out of town in Culloden, our favourite Indian restaurant when we lived in Inverness.
- Chez Roux at Rocpool Reserve – one for a special treat or anniversary, I received a complimentary meal here in 2019 and I still regularly think about what a stunning experience it was!