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Issue 45 - The lure of the Isle

Scotland Magazine Issue 45
June 2009

 

This article is 8 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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The lure of the Isle

Rob Allanson finds a gem of a hotel and pub on the Black Isle.

There is nothing quite like a pub with excellent accommodation that puts itself right at the heart of the community. The Anderson, in the centre of the seaside conservation village of Fortrose, is just that.

Once you walk in the door there is an air of quiet and relaxed service, one of those places where you can be assured that you will be quite at home for the length of your stay.

Most of the structure dates from the 1840s, although parts of the wine cellar are nearly 200 years older.

On the ground floor you will find the 50-seat dining room decked out in understated decor, a cosy whisky bar and firelit country pub.

Upstairs there are nine ensuite guest rooms which are comfortable and functional, featuring a combination of antique decor and modern conveniences.

There are three wonderful strengths to this establishment which make it a must-visit oasis in the Highlands: beer, whisky and food. What more could you ask for? But let’s also not forget the fact that the place is within easy walk of pristine beaches, dolphin watching, forest walks and a seaside links golf course designed by James Baird.

The food is sourced from some of the best producers in Scotland, from Aberdeen Scotch beef to West Coast seafood to Scotland’s finest creameries and wild game.

These ingredients are then used to create some outstanding dishes from across the globe. Expect everything from American inspired chowders to French Cassoulet and plenty of shades inbetween. One highlight to look out for is the Black Isle burger, this bacon and haggis topped delight will satisfy many a hungry traveller.

You will also be spoilt for choice when it comes to beer, whisky and of course wine.

The comfy fire-lit bar offers more than 200 single-malt whiskies, many of which are hard-to-find without being hard-to-afford.

There is also the collection of more than 90 Belgian beers, one of the largest in Scotland, and the extensive wine list is fashioned to complement the vivid flavours of the multicultural cuisine.

Owner Jim and his other half Anne, have been expanding the bar’s whisky and beer lists since they took over the place in 2003.

Both have extensive backgrounds in the drinks and restaurant industries, with Jim being a former beer magazine publisher and writer. He says: “When we bought the place, there were 15 malts on the shelf. Anne thought we should have a lot more, and when I asked, ‘How much is a lot?’ she said, ‘Well, I think we ought to have 200, so we’ll be noticed.’ Talk about a dream assignment!

“We overshot our goal by a few malts, because bottles keep turning up that I’d mentioned to someone a long time ago and completely forgotten about. I have now, however, officially run out of shelf space!” This enthusiasm for malt and beer has rubbed off on Jim’s staff, who are extremely knowledgeable and happy to lead the novice through the wonderful world of whisky.

Jim explains: “We see a lot of visitors who don’t ordinarily drink whisky, but want to give it a try while they’re in the Highlands.

“If my staff have learned anything from me, it’s to identify a novice whisky drinker’s broad taste preferences and suggest a malt that won’t have them running upstairs to brush their tongue.” You can sense the steps that Jim has taken to make the Anderson the heart of this Highland community, in a way that pubs once were, and it’s working. Something you can see if you drop in on a knitting night, yes knitting.

Jim runs through how the circle came about: “Anne is an avid knitter. So, when a couple of our knitting staff asked if we could hold a knitting night, it seemed like a fun idea.

“We now have a dozen or so knitters in front of the fireplace every other Monday night, and it’s great! A pub should be for getting together and having a drink to enhance the experience, but too many pubs up here end up being nothing more than gin mills.”