In this mini April heatwave we’re having, quite alien to us in the north, and given the circumstances, it’s important that time in the garden is time well spent! And how brilliantly British to sip away on what could be claimed to be almost a national drink – the venerable Gin & Tonic!
We’re blessed here in the Highlands to have ridden the gin boom wave over the last decade, and can boast in our opinion some of the most original and delicious gin’s on the market. Biased? Of course! If it’s from from the Highlands we love to sample it and we can buy it from our deli Corner on the Square!
Not forgetting the all important accompanyment – tonic. Walter Gregor’s is the Scottish go to premium tonic. Made in Aberdeenshire and highlighting mint tones, it adds a delightful and unique taste to your G&T.
An honorable mention also to our stag horn bottle opener maker Hugh (Instagram @p.i.c.a.d.a.e). Sustainable use of all all the bi products of one of Scotland’s much loved meats. We send Hugh the antler from some of the local estates we work with and he makes various handmade sticks and accessories for us. Thanks Hugh!
Below are Nic and John’s top three gins in no particular order.
Family owned and set in the Cairngorm National Park, Kinrara gin is fruity and floral. Using water, foraged berrries and flora from the mountains above, it’s a lovely smooth gin, with a long subtle orange and juniper finish.
From the western Isles comes one of their best summer exports in our opinion! Delicious distinctive taste, using sugar kelp as part of the recipe along with 8 carefully selected botanicals. It’s smooth, complex and refreshing and captures the maritime nature of the island.
ROCK ROSE GIN
From the rugged north coast comes this cracker. Privately owned and family run, Martin & Claire have come up with a much celebrated local recipe! The nose is delicate, the palate fruity, with a snotty but lingering lemon sherbet finish. I want one now!
Late May was wet in the Highlands! Very wet. That in itself is not uncommon, and something we’ve grown used to, but catching salmon in the Highlands rivers certainly has been a challenge of late. That was until an old school friend of John’s (Mungo Ingleby, Sporting Lets, Galbraith) rang John on Sunday evening and said “grab your rod and head north if you can, tomorrow you will be guaranteed a fish”! John was clearly sceptical, knowing that 2018 was not a vintage year on the Carron, and that Mungo had not fished this river before, so there was an element of uncertainty. In addition, for marketing purposes, John was required to do plenty of photography, and therefore his time with rod in hand would be limited.
Despite this, of he headed, camping the night at his parents-in-law in Ardgay, and then at the crack of dawn trekking up the glen towards Glencalvie to the Gruinards beat. With the preceding four days having been rain rain rain, the river was nice and high, but being a spate river, this never lasts for long, so one had to “make hay while the sun shines” as they say! Daniel Logie, the head ghillie, was ready and waiting in his beautiful Campbell’s tweeds, and off we went to see if Mungo’s predictions were accurate…..
The rest is history now, but some history it was, and will be for many years to come, as the 3 rods managed to catch 21 fish between them in the day, beating the record of 19 which had stood for over 40 years! Mungo himself caught a whopping 15 salmon! No sooner had John taken the photo’s of one, then Mungo had another on the line! We must find out the secret of his flies! It’s therefore quite impressive also that despite being a beginner, and despite having a camera in his hand for large swathes of the day, John managed to catch his 1st, 2nd and 3rd bars of silver! Great work! The first has a story to tell, with a large gash on it’s starboard side, most likely a seal looking for an expensive dinner! Well played Mr Salmon, he must have been quicker than Usain Bolt to have got out of that encounter! With Campbell’s addiction to taxidermy, all three will adorn the new office stairwell come next month, a fitting reminder of a stupendous and unforgettable day on the Carron.
Sitting in the bath, once back at Campbell’s HQ, Black Isle beer in hand, it only then began to sink in. What an incredible day! Not just catching 3, but seeing the other 18 caught. It was simply one after another! Real Highland life. Mungo was equally shell shocked and in need of a night cap on return to Stirling-shire. So when the weather’s right (and it is right now in fact, more rain!), there’s no better place to fish than the magical Highlands. The scenery, the wildlife, the whisky……
Unforgettable. Tight lines. And for some of the best fishing in Scotland, contact Mungo Ingleby at Sporting Lets, Galbraith.
Eating out in the Highlands is something you want to get right and there are plenty places to choose from. Our favourites are located on the NC500, the Black Isle and in Inverness.
The Rocpool, Inverness £££
A family run restaurant with a very reasonable and delicious set menu for lunch, a larger a la carte menu is also available. The menu often shows a gentle nod to more Asian flavours of coriander, sesame and chilli. Service is slick and efficient, with owner and Maitre’d Stephen running the show. Gin and tonics are served Spanish style in big goblets. Reservations are necessary and easy to do online. Firm favourites of ours are the oriental chicken salad, scallops, crab and sweetcorn soup and pigeon. We go for Birthdays, special occasions and pre-theatre.
A local seafood takeaway perfect distance for a fresh seafood lunch. It is outdoor dining so good weather is imperative. Run impeccably by two local ladies and their team, you walk off the high street into a little seafood oasis with fresh food cooked infront of you. The menu is small and changes daily, we highly recommend the half lobster with dilled potatoes, crab linguine and the tempura haddock wrap.
A firm favourite of ours, quite a drive from Beauly but we always make the effort with friends because the langoustine are incredible. Served on a medieval looking spit, they come hot or cold with chips and lashings of garlic butter or mayonnaise (served seasonally so best to check before setting off). The setting is stunning, recently refurbished the Kylesku has a more modern feel to it with floor to ceiling windows with views onto the pier – where your lunch was landed from only hours before. Favourites are the Ullapool oysters, langoustine on a stick and scallops with kedgeree.
Newly opened and worth a drive on the Black Isle for coffee, lunch or dinner as the atmosphere is fantastic, a strong design element is at play here and it feels very comfortable. We went recently for John’s Birthday and it was jam packed which was great fun. The wine menu is extensive and carefully put together by the owner who was able to tell us much about each bottle we picked. The menu has plenty to choose from and changes from day to night and on a Sunday. We often struggle to decide as everything sounds great but the Rib eye went down very well. Reservations are necessary. IV10 is also a deli so there are lots of delicious things to purchase and take away with you.
A firm favourite of ours for when friends are visiting, a 45 minute drive along the Black Isle with plenty places to stop for a dog walk including the beach in Rosemarkie or the Fairy Glen. Sutor Creek has a wood fired pizza oven and they make delicious thin pizzas. The Black Isler is a meaty favourite. They also have a daily specials board packed with local seafood. I usually order the mussels with a side of chips and they are delicious, served in a broth with fennel and parsley. Excellent puddings too and all of the staff are charming. Reservations are necessary.
Luigis is run by a charming couple who have been experts in their field for many years. Book in because it seems everyone in the area goes here, particularly at the weekend. There is a regular menu – the chorizo and prawn linguine is a winner on this menu. But also, a daily special board with treats like lobster thermidor and cheese souffle available. They are very child friendly here and have tolerated many a messy toddler in my time.
The recent addition to the Mac & Wild Group with two restaurants in London sourcing all of their game from the Highlands, the team have opened at the Shin Falls and are offering a great array of delicious cakes, sandwiches and their full menu including the award winning VeniMoo burger. The site is very child friendly with a great play park and woodland walk right there, as well as the main draw – watching the salmon leaping up the Falls. Recent visits have been with family and we have enjoyed the VeniMoo burger, Wild Bowl and there is a Wee Bairn Happy Meal for £5.
On Saturday 23rd March John and Nicola visited the Clynelish distillery in Brora. Owned by Diageo, Clynelish is not a household name in terms of Scotch whisky distilleries, however, it is regarded as one of the finest malts by experts and is in fact one of the key components used in the famous Johnny Walker Blue label blend. We have always wanted to visit the distillery, as it was Nicola’s Australian grandfather “Puffa’s” favourite malt. Slange! On this occasion, we visited for the launch of the new Game of Thrones range, Diageo having released a collection based on the TV series, with the shows eighth and final season starting soon.
The Game of Thrones Single Malt Scotch Whisky Collection, features eight Scotch whiskies paired with one of the iconic Houses of Westeros, as well as the “Night’s Watch”. In addition, there is a “White Walker”, named after the characters in the show. The full collection is as follows:
The whiskies featured in the collection are as follows:-
Game of Thrones House Tully – Singleton of Glendullan Select
Game of Thrones House Stark – Dalwhinnie Winter’s Frost
Game of Thrones House Targaryen – Cardhu Gold Reserve
Game of Thrones House Lannister – Lagavulin 9 Year Old
Game of Thrones House Greyjoy – Talisker Select Reserve
Game of Thrones House Baratheon – Royal Lochnagar 12 Year Old
Game of Thrones House Tyrell – Clynelish Reserve
Game of Thrones The Night’s Watch – Oban Bay Reserve
We were delighted to sample many of the malts and one of the guests that we were visiting with bought the full collection!
Have a look through the gallery below to see some images from the day:
I entered and completed my first Highland Cross alongside two friends, Gemma and Heather, we stuck together and completed this tough local duathlon in a time of 7.5 hours and we raised £945! The Highland Cross is a 50 mile duathlon comprising of 20 miles by foot, followed by 30 miles by bike from the west to the east of Scotland. It attracts hundreds of participants per year of all athletic capabilities, starting at 18 years old and with no maximum age limit. It is an all terrain route starting in Kintail, snaking through the beautiful Scottish west coast, through Affric and finishing in Beauly – just outside the Campbell’s front door. It is a spectacular day to observe the determination and endurance of all those involved.
The Highland Cross started out as a Charity Challenge in 1983 – back then, titled “The Midsummer Madathon”. The aim was for 3 teams to cross from Loch Duich to Glen Affric, a total of 60 miles to raise money for the Highland Scanner Appeal. The challenge quickly grew and has become a historic route to test your fitness abilities, all while raising money for notably worthy causes. Today, 795 people in teams of 3 enter the race each year, with all sponsors donated to help local causes, those disadvantaged by disability, in ill health or in social need.
In mid June John headed to the Isle of Lewis to visit Harris Tweed Hebrides. In the Campbell’s Land Rover of course, an early start to catch the morning ferry, beautiful skies and a flat calm sea, John arrived in Stornaway and headed for the mill in Shawbost. Harris Tweed Hebrides is a spinning and finishing mill. This is because the weaving of Harris Tweed is done independently by the hand weavers. Once the fibre is dyed, carded and spun into yarn, the warps are prepared and sent to the individual and independent weavers to weave up by inserting the weft yarns. The pieces are then collected by the mill and returned to the factory for QC and finishing. The final part of the process is to insert the Orbel, signifying that the tweed is official Harris Tweed. Harris Tweed has a very distinct look and handle, it is the king of all “Shetland type” fabrics, with a slightly coarse handle and rugged look to it.
At the factory John had a tour of the production facilities and the new state of the art dyehouse that has been installed. It was then onto focusing on design and looking at the many new patterns that have been produced for the new range, selecting which were suitable for Campbell’s, and then taking swatches of this selection back to Beauly for final selection. In the coming weeks, we will finalise which we will purchase and then send in our bulk orders for these cloths. Lead times can vary from 12-16 weeks depending on how busy the mill is, and at this time of year, and on this occasion, the mill is very busy! We also had a special commission of Hunting Macpherson tartan to get remade, last made on the islands in 1992!
In May 2017, John and Nicola took to Seville, Spain to visit the family run factory in which our beautiful Spanish Leather and Suede boots are manufactured. This region of Spain, Andalucia, is where some of the finest leather is sourced and produced into these high quality boots, hand crafted with great attention to detail and care.
Valverde has shown consistent quality in shoemaking since the 19th century. In 1873, the first shoemaker from Valverde won ‘Best Shoe’ at the International Exhibition in Vienna. Today, the shoe industry has developed vastly. From the complex hand-crafting in the shoemaker’s homes in 1912, to the introduction of sewing machines to simplify the production process while still maintaining high standards of care and quality. It was great to meet the talented leather cutters and seamstresses who hand make all of our leather and suede products. There were many similarities between our work room above the shop and this small family run factory in Spain, it was fascinating to see the old tools working so well alongside modern machinery.
Take a look at some of the images of the hand cutting tools and sizers below:
Following the success of ITVs Tales from the Coast with Robson Green we thought we’d share some pictures from our similar trip to Harris and Lewis at the end of last year, it truly is a magical place to visit. The Campbell’s team headed off on the CalMac ferry in the iconic Land Rover Defender to Stornaway. We were joined by mascot cocker spaniel sisters ‘Islay’ and ‘Sula’ and started our four day trip with a tour and tasting session at the famous Harris Gin Distillery which was fascinating, Informative and executed in an innovative way. You really can taste the flavouring from the hand dived sugar sea kelp coming though the gin, giving a slight saltiness. The sugar kelp is supplied by Lewis Mackenzie photographed below who also took Robson Green out to view the local wildlife, we were lucky enough to also see the stunning Sea Eagle, and I was delighted with my photographs of it mid-hunt.
The main reason for our trip was to find some stunning Harris Tweeds to take back to the Highland Tweed House and share with our customers. Margaret Macleod of Harris Tweed Hebrides looked after us beautifully, with a private tour of the factory we were able to see the entire process unfold in front of us, dyeing, spinning, design and pattern making, to the distribution of the work to the 10’s of local ‘cottage industry’ weavers in the islands and then the finishing process where the woven cloth comes back to the factory where it is washed, pressed and finally stamped with the Harris Tweed orb – all under careful supervision from the Harris Tweed Authority. We caught up with legendary Donald John Mackay of the Luskentyre Tweed Company who gave us a lesson on peddling a single width traditional loom – it certainly is a workout and a half.
Campbells of Beauly Defender on Harris
Harris Gin Distillery Bottles
Harris Gin Distillery Copper Hops
Lewis Mackenzie who hand dives for sugar kelp
Donald John of Luskentyre Tweed Company
Harris Tweed Orb Stamp
Harris Tweed being finished at Harris Tweed Hebrides
John Sugden admiring Harris Tweed
Layers of Harris Tweed
Nicola and John Sugden browsing Harris Tweed patterns
Nicola Sugden selecting Harris Tweed for Campbells of Beauly
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