Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Last of the Scotland Trip

And here it is ... finally!  The last post covering our food and other dining experiences in Scotland.  Whew!

Once we headed out of the city and into the Scottish countryside, I knew it would be a lot harder (if not basically impossible) to find vegan cuisine.  Since I didn't want to subsist on random side items or raw fruits and veggies for three days, I decided to officially cut my losses and accept vegetarian food as my baseline requirement.  This proved critical on our very first night, when we ate dinner in the hotel dining room at the Letterfinlay Lodge in Fort William.  We were a little frazzled from our first forray into wrong-side-of-the-road driving, and didn't feel up to finding some other restaurant, so we decided to take the easy (and high-priced) route of eating right in the hotel. 

I was actually impressed by the vegetarian offerings (there were several, at least), but needless to say the only vegan items were on the sides list.  I started the meal with tomato soup served with "warm, crusty" bread.  The soup was good, but I use the quotes on "warm, crusty" because the bread was neither. 

For my entree I ordered mushroom ravioli, which was also very good, if not particularly mushroomy.  The sprinkle of truffle oil on top helped mildly, but still not enough that I would have guessed it was mushroom ravioli if I hadn't known. 

The highlight of the meal was definitely dessert.  Still flying high from the sticky toffee pudding at the 13th Note, I ordered the toffee pudding again and was even more blown away.  Since this version wasn't vegan, it came with a side of vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.  It was so amazing - another plate licker!  (I didn't, but I wanted to.) 

After the sticker shock of dinner, the fact that the next morning's breakfast was included in our room rate was nice.  But it also meant that we both felt like we needed to earn our money back with a nice, big breakfast.  Amongst the traditional Scottish breakfast offerings, they again offered a vegetarian dish (but no vegan option).  I ordered an egg, tomatoes, mushrooms, vegetarian sausage, and a potato scone.  In case you couldn't figure it out, the scone is that fried wedge on the top right.  It's the reason I decided that the word "scone" is basically meaningless to the Scottish.  The sausage was also basically mashed potatoes shaped into a log and deep fried.  Not exactly the breakfast of champions ...

Once we were on the road we headed to see the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which has been used in the Harry Potter films as a location showing the route of the Hogwart's Express.  Since I'm such a huge HP fan, it was a necessary stop.  We even got to see the steam train going by! 

After seeing the train, we stopped into a little cafe on the side of the road called the Glen Rowan Coffee Shop.  Again, not a lot in the vegan department, but plenty for vegetarians to enjoy!  Josh and I each ordered the vegetable soup with actual crusty bread!  The soup wasn't as good as Letterfinlay's, but it was warm and satisfying.  And did I mention the crusty bread?!

We also ordered a sandwich to split, and combined several menu items to make our own creation - a cheese, tomato, onion, and pickle sandwich!  The pickle was actually more like relish, but it was quite tasty.  It came with  chips (crisps) and a great salad on the side - not just lettuce, tomato and carrot, but with corn, cucumber, and onion as well!

After getting into Skye the second night, we quickly headed up to Portree for dinner, and fortunately got in just under the wire at Cafe Arriba, which closed at 6 pm.  We'd seen online that this little cafe had lots of vegetarian and even vegan options, on request, but since we slid in about five minutes before closing I decided not to be obnoxious with my ordering and just take what I could get. 

Josh was feeling less dinnery than me, so he opted for a waffle topped with ice cream.  Meanwhile, I ordered the macaroni and cheese topped with leeks.  I'm not sure exaclty what was in there, but the cheese didn't feel as disgusting and heavy as it so often seems to.  Maybe they had blended cauliflower mixed in or something?  I've heard of people doing that before.  Either way, it was a delicious dinner.  We wolfed everything down and weren't even the last people to leave! 
The next day we spent in a whirlwind trying to get to all our planned stops on Skye, including three hikes, a tour at the Talisker Distillery, and one restaurant I had pre-scouted as a vegetarian-friendly destination, the Ellishadder Art Cafe.  Fortunately, it seemed like there was a flyer for the cafe at almost every little stopover we made, so even though it's a bit off the beaten path, it proved very easy to find.  The cafe itself is setup in what was once a normal home, with the living area set up as the diningroom and the food prepared in the home's kitchen.  In the dining area there is also a little display of locally-made crafts and other items for sale.  I loved the liquid soap in the bathroom so much I would have bought some if I could have brought it through security! 
The cafe's menu is small, but with lots of tasty-looking offerings.  Since the lunches we ordered (two tarts) are made to order and would take about twenty minutes, Josh and I opted to start with dessert and work backwards through the meal.  Since I loved the fruit scone from the Royal Botanic Garden so much, I decided to order the same thing again.  It was just as good this time.  Mental note: make vegan fruit scones at home soon! 
After dessert, our lunches came out.  The vegetable tart was very good, but the real highlight for me was the couscous salad on the side.  I wish I knew exactly what was in there, but it definitely had mint.  The tarts were also served with a carrot salad, potato salad, and a "normal" salad that was topped with edible flowers (all straight from their garden)!  I couldn't bring myself to eat the large orange flower on top, but I tried the others.  They were okay, but won't exactly become a staple in my diet. 
This cafe was so lovely, we were sorry it would most likely be our one and only visit ... ever.  But if we do ever happen to find ourselves on the Isle of Skye again someday ...
Sadly, that's the end of our Scotland story.  A little out of order, since after we left Skye we still had one more day each in Glasgow and Edinburgh, see previous posts here, here, and here
Who knows if we'll ever find ourselves in Scotland again?  The sad thing about international travel is that each trip is probably the first and last time you will ever see a place.  If you do ever make it back again, that's because you're missing some opportunity to see a brand new part of the world.  And who wants to repeat an old experience when you could be trying something exciting and new?  But then again, there are plenty of places in Scotland we didn't get to.  And if we ever decide to get to those other areas, there may just be an opportunity for some overlap with our old favorites too.  Until then ...

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