Scottish Highlands Restaurants
Boat of Garten , Scotland
Tel: 44 1479 831466
This family-run operation, 30 miles south of Inverness, has converted a fishing tackle shop into an informal restaurant. The decor is simple, with wooden floors, a bar made from wine cases, and local art on the walls. Lunch tends to offer straightforward dishes such as sausages and mash, deviled kidneys on toast, and homemade soups. It's not elaborate but it is prepared with care, is cooked to order, and uses seasonal, local ingredients—ideas which could be considered dangerously radical in many other catering ventures in the Highlands. In the evenings, the menu steps up a few gears and features dishes such as grilled rainbow trout fillets on a beet and orange salad with arugula pesto or braised wild boar belly from Beauly.
Open Wednesdays through Mondays 12 to 2 pm and 6 to 11 pm.
Applecross , Scotland
Tel: 44 1520 744262
Applecross, on the west coast directly across from the Isle of Skye, is a long way from anywhere. One approach involves negotiating the hair-raisingly steep Bealach-na-Ba road. It's worth it. Looking out over Applecross Bay to Raasay and beyond that to Skye, the location is breathtaking, especially at sunset. The inn is not the place for silver service and Riedel glassware. Instead there is a lively bar with a good range of malts and simply presented fresh seafood hoisted from the bay. Sitting in the beer garden by the water with a pint pot of squat lobster tails and a bottle of sauvignon blanc is the sort of experience that encourages you to toss your PDA in the water and go native.
Open daily 12 to 9 pm.
Tweed Mill Brae
Kingussie , Scotland
Tel: 44 1540 66 11 66
Set by a river in the village of Kingussie, 20 miles south of Inverness, the dining room in this converted tweed mill is whitewashed and has beamed ceilings and an open fire. It's all perfectly comfortable and pleasant but won't distract from The Cross's two main attractions: Its imaginative food and intriguing wine list. The kitchen keeps on racking up awards for dishes such as organic Shetland salmon marinated with lime and ginger, a combo that makes a pleasant change from the ubiquitous smoked salmon. Another starter of sweet, seared scallops comes with a contrastingly sharp dressing of capers and a cauliflower purée. Local ingredients such as a well-flavored roast partridge might be married with a buttery root mash and then spiked with slightly more exotic cowberries. The wine list is less concerned with expensive grand crus than it is with lesser-known but interesting bottles that reflect the owners' catholic tastes. They list 40 dessert wines, which may well be a record for Scotland. And if you sample too much, there are eight reasonable en-suite rooms.
Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 7 to 8:30 pm.
Isle of Islay , Scotland
Tel: 44 1496 810330
As well as its seven bedrooms and public bar, the Harbour Inn's dining room is a major selling point, with scenic views across to Jura, a neighboring island of the Inner Hebrides. Given the easy access to some of the best seafood in the world, it's no surprise that the Harbour Inn majors in all things finned, and the dining room's decor reflects its maritime setting. The seafood chowder is as chunky as it is creamy, while a fillet of pearly halibut might come with a chardonnay and saffron sauce. The shellfish are superb: Try the zingy crab and prawn tian jazzed up with a lime and chilli dressing, or the huge, fleshy Loch Gruinart oysters that have a salty, peaty taste.
Open daily 12 to 2 pm and 6 to 9 pm.
Oban , Scotland
Tel: 44 1631 56 6000
There are few airs and graces about this tiny west coast restaurant which serves fish caught by owner Eilidh Smith's brother, but what it lacks in sophistication it makes up for in the freshness of its seafood and great views out to the islands. The menu will depend on what has been landed recently. Typical choices include cracked crab claws, oysters on ice, grilled lobster with asparagus, and scallops in garlic butter.
Open Wednesdays through Sundays 6:30 pm to 11 pm.
Isle of Skye , Scotland
Tel: 44 1470 511 258
Perched in one of Skye's more remote corners, this former farming croft opened as The Three Chimneys in 1985. Today the restaurant is one of the more celebrated places to eat in the U.K. and, despite its location, booking is advisable for even a Monday lunch. The menu reads like an ingredients map of Scotland: Langoustines from Loch Dunvegan, Lochalsh chanterelles, Glen Hinnisdale lamb, and Skye red deer all make star appearances. For all its accolades, the food here isn't complicated and the menu body-swerves the more persnickety excesses of haute cuisine in favor of well-defined flavors. If you want to know what Scotland tastes like, then the poached Inverness-shire Limousin beef with pearl barley broth, croft summer vegetables, and a wild thyme and horseradish cream points in the right direction. Six well-appointed bedroom suites with views over Loch Dunvegan are available at the adjacent House Over-By.
Open daily 6:30 pm to close.