Orkney Gems – a food travel to remember

This very special archipelago has been home to Mesolithic tribes, Picts and Norse, and holds some of the best preserved Neolithic sites in all of Europe. Both Shetland and Orkney were under Norwegian rule awhile, Orkney returning to Scotland’s realm in 1472. In the 18thcentury, being largely on the side of the Jacobites, sympathisers fleeing northwards were helped to safety over the sea to Sweden. 20thcentury Orkney played a key role in WWI & II with its natural enclosure at Scapa Flow as a Navy base. The Churchill Barriers were constructed by Italian prisoners of war during WWII, sealing off most of the access points to Scapa Flow, and as a consequence the southern isles have a highly useful set of causeways for inter-island travellers in addition to an exquisite Italian Chapel. So much to see, such thought provoking sights and breath-taking scenery…and all before we even talk food!!

The most common launch point is Scrabster Harbour where fishing boats still land their catch and Northlink ferries depart for Stromness. Do plan your trip to allow time for a meal at the Captain’s Galley https://www.captainsgalley.co.uk Jim and Mary’s award-winning seafood restaurant by the harbour in what was originally the ice house before they skilfully renovated it. Jim Cowie is without doubt Scotland’s Seafood Expert and at the forefront of championing fish conservation, sustainability and seasonality. Whilst Bosse went for the Market Fish I opted for the Grilled Fillet of Hake with authentic paella, plus starters of cured mackerel and velvety partan bree. Desserts of lemon drizzle cake and rhubarb crumble completed our splendid meal – we would be keeping a firm eye on our intake the following day until we landed on Orkney! It was wonderful to have a catch up with Jim and Mary but be sure to book as they are on the North Coast 500 and it is a very popular spot.

Landing on islands always gives me a feeling of adventure and in glorious sunshine we headed for Sheila Fleet’s new venue, the Kirk Gallery & Café, by her workshop at Tankerness. What an inspiring and beautiful place. As the name suggests this local church has been transformed into a marvellous setting for Sheila’s superb jewellery designs in addition to a very fine café and gallery. The menu is inspired by produce from land and sea, heritage recipes and Orcadian delicacies. I can’t wait to return! https://sheilafleet.com/shops/the-kirk-gallery-cafe-orkney

We waved goodbye to Sheila and headed a few minutes down the road to Orkney’s capital, Kirkwall, where we were invited for fika with friends. Those of you who watch Nordic thrillers or visited Sweden will know fika is a social institution: along with coffee, key to this philosophy is the accompanying food and friends! This young couple (one of whom is Swedish) have settled in Kirkwall and absolutely love it, one working in the hospitality sector, the other diving for scallops, whilst both juggling parenthood of a bouncing toddler! We had a super time and amidst the delicious platters of food were scallops, pan fried in butter, mouth-watering and succulent, hand-dived a few 100 metres from where we were sitting! I can’t promise you Orkney scallops however if you wish to know more about fika why not join me on https://www.wendybarrie.co.uk/product-page/swedish-fika-fun

Part of our expedition was to conduct further research on North Ronaldsay Mutton, Slow Food Ark of Taste. Whilst we eat it regularly we had never visited so it was off to Kirkwall’s airport and skywards in an 8-seater inter-isle plane of unbelievably small dimensions! The skies were clear and the views stunning, the adrenalin pumping and the camera clicking!

North Ronaldsay has much to thank Billy Muir for: preserving the island’s rare breed of seaweed-eating sheep, Lighthouse keeper, airport and ferry duties plus a host of other job titles – indeed he recently won the Pride of Britain Award for his unstinting work for his community. He and his wife Isobel farm on the island and warmly welcomed us. We explored the sandy, flagstone and pebble beaches, photographed the multi-toned sheep in their coastal habitat…and climbed the lighthouse of course, the highest one on UK land! The attractive converted lighthouse buildings are available to rent and if you stay overnight there is a considerable discount on your flights lighthousecottages@northronaldsay.co.uk Beside the cottages are a café and craft shop with the unique North Ronaldsay wool too. https://scottishfoodguide.com/places/united-kingdom/orkney/orkney/slowfood/north-ronaldsay-sheep/

There will be a full article and updated entry when I publish my research so in the meantime suffice to say we had a trip to remember and I urge you to visit this beautiful isle.

Feeling like seasoned island hoppers by now, we headed
for Westray where we had been invited to visit Jason and Nina of Wilson’s of Westray. Jason kindly met us off the ferry and gave us an island tour, introducing us to Ann Rendall of Pierowall Fish and produce from The Westray Bakehouse. Westray is quite a contrast to North Ronaldsay with its own style of beauty and vibrancy. Jason and Nina have a small herd of pedigree Ayrshires and farm organically, working with nature and creating pasture through sowing many varieties of grasses and herbs, giving high life quality for their cows and fine milk quality for their cheese production. Their incredible attention to detail and high standards ensure their cheeses are of exceptional quality so look out for them.https://www.orkneyfoodanddrink.com/wilsons-of-westray

In Part 2, we shall be visiting more food producers and sharing with you the wonderful dishes served at The Lynnfield Hotel, the place to stay whilst savouring these beautiful isles http://lynnfield.co.uk


Members’ News across Scotland…

East Haugh Country House Hotel has their next Seafood weekend coming up in September; the last one in July was amazing! This one will be held on Friday 14th, Saturday 15th& Sunday 16thof September. Their annual Game Weekend will be held on 23rd, 24th& 25thof November. https://www.easthaugh.co.uk

Experience a luxurious Prestonfield deluxe room, a bottle of chilled Champagne on arrival, plus a 3 course indulgent table d’hôte dinner in Rhubarb and their full Scottish breakfast in the morning. Available Sunday to Friday 1st – 31stOct 2018. Availability limited so book quickly to secure your stay. Click on link for more details. Luxury Bedroom: £249 per night & Suite: £349 per night https://www.prestonfield.com/

Did you know the Crinan Hotel can organise boat trips for you? Check it out on their website.  If you book to stay in the Crinan Hotel using one of their Dinner, Bed & Breakfast packages this includes dinner in the Westward Restaurant. These packages enable you to enjoy the fixed price dinner in the Westward Restaurant at £45 per head, reduced from the full price of £49.50. https://www.crinanhotel.com/en/westward-restaurant_46933/

Cringletie has a new Chef! – talented local Iain Gourlay (perhaps Iain Gourmet?)! Ian invites you warmly to sample his first Cringletie Autumn Menu that will be launched on 1st September. Book dinner for four and Iain will come and see you and also give you a bottle of pink bubbly!Call 01721 725750 to book your table!

We’re so impressed by all the lovely visitors who don’t let a summer downpour stop them enjoying everything Edinburgh has to offer at Café St Honore. Check out their latest news online… https://mailchi.mp/cafesthonore/summer-news?e=b49173a568

…so check out Walkers Shortbread to find your favourite accompaniment for your cuppa! https://www.walkersshortbread.com/uk/

Whitmuir has raw honey from their farm for the first time! It’s produced by Jim Lindsay, a local beekeeper, and comes from three hives near the orchard. There really is nothing like fresh raw honey – so make sure to get yours soon! You can find it on the online shop here. Check out their website for latest events too. https://www.whitmuir.scot

Laprig Valley’s Bramley juice won a GFF 1* and the Golden Delicious is shortlisted for the Great British Food Non Alcoholic drink category this year. Two more great single varietals from Laprig. http://www.laprigvalley.co.uk

Craigie’s Pick your own is still up and running so if you’re going to come along be sure to check fruit availability on their website first – it is updated daily. https://craigies.co.uk

The Lodge Autumn Deal at Lodge on Loch Lomond is a one night stay including dinner bed & breakfast for an amazing £139.00 per room per night.  Available throughout the Autumn and into Winter it provides the perfect opportunity to relax and re-charge the batteries.  Loch Lomond is spectacular during these months with the changing colours and magnificent scenery https://www.loch-lomond.co.uk

Celebrate Afternoon Tea Week in style at The Torridon – Whether you are staying at the Torridon Resort or passing by on the NC500 trail, one tourist attraction you do not want to miss is an indulgent afternoon tea at the Torridon. Sit back and take in the breath-taking views in the luxurious library whilst a selection of sandwiches, homemade cakes, biscuits and scones will be served alongside a selection of teas from Camellia’s Tea House. https://www.thetorridon.com








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