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Happy little bike gang- two wheeled adventures in Applecross

This is our happy little bike gang…

So happy!

What do happy little bike gangs adventuring in Scotland have for breakfast?

Porridge with banana and honey of course!  Yum!  You may not believe it, but trust me- YUUUUMMM!

So, what do happy little bike gangs see pottering round the beautiful Applecross peninsula on Scotland’s west coast, after a belly full of porridge ?

Well, they see this…

and this…

and go here

and here…

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Highland photo journal, part 4- Applecross (a foodporn installation)

I promised foodporn…. but I also have to share my journey here and the provide a bit of background on the place that makes me happiest in all the world.

Having returned to Mallaig, we just managed to catch the calmac sailing to Skye.  Here’s our little adventurercar on board.

We skipped across Sleat and off over the bridge.

It may seem a long way round to sail to Skye, drive through it, then off again over the bridge, but it was much quicker than driving up over the mainland.

On arrival at Applecross we set up camp and made a spot of lunch using the local hot smoked salmon.

Yes, it was pretty amazing.

We then headed straight for the Potting Shed in the Walled Garden for carrot and walnut cake and a glass of wine.  The garden was looking beautiful, even in the light of the slightly greyed skies.

 

The last time we were here was in March when everything was suffering after the harsh winter.  It’s hard to believe the garden could have recovered, so it was nice to see how lush and colourful it was.  It looked like a scene from a fairytale.

 

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After the rain…comes more food

Summer is late this year in Scotland.  Very, very late- even by our standards.  After 40 days and 40 nights of rain (I may exaggerate, but it feels like an age), finally the clouds parted and out came the lovely warming, vitamin D enriched sunshine I have been missing these last few weeks.  Aaaah.  This could only mean one thing….

….Bike!

My trusty steed and I did our first cycle in weeks tonight and it was magic.  It felt good to get the wind through my hair, a face full of midges and muddy from head to toe.  

 

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Cooking and eating and cooking some more

Things have been quiet lately. We seemed to have returned to autumn so the bike has been feeling rather dejected, as I been spending a lot of time with the cooker.  Good thing happen when the cooker and I hang out together. Here are just a few examples:

Magical chowder…

Saute one small chopped onion in olive oil with a sprinkling of thyme leaves. Once soft add one large Maris piper, or other floury potato, peeled and chopped into small cubes. Season well and allow to heat through before adding a good glug of white wine to the pan. Stir, allowing the wine to completely soak in before adding two teaspoon of plain flour. Stir though allowing the flour to cook off for a few minutes before adding one or two bay leaves. Gradually add some milk. Allow to thicken each time before adding more. Once the potatoes are half covered, season and put a lid on the pan. Cook on a low heat for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. If sauce gets too thick, add some water.  Add a good drizzle of double cream to make sauce nice and rich, and season.  Add a handful of frozen peas. Chop a large undyed smoked haddock fillet into large pieces an layer on top of the potatoes and cook for a further 5 mins.  Add some chopped parsley, cooked prawns and a large handful of spinach.  Stir through- the fish will start to break up. Once the spinach had wilted it’s ready to serve! Check seasoning before piling into warm bowls. No need for bread, this is a monster or a meal!

Ok, next rainy day dish…

 

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exciting possibilities…by boat and by bike

Today, I am pretty excited.  Plans for our next adventure are coming together and, I think, they are rather special.

We will be covering Arisaig, Knoydart, Sleat and Trotternish on Skye and, of course, Applecross.  Arisaig, Skye and Applecross will be repeat visits.  I know what awaits me there and I can’t wait to get back.

Given the remoteness of most areas this involves some careful travel and accommodation planning.  Passenger boats, car ferries, bikes and kayaks will all be making a contribution to our journeys up and around Scotland’s west coast.  I think it sounds amazing!  I can’t wait to get paddling again, it’s been too long…

However, I am actually starting to see the appeal of canoeing instead of kayaking- It’s a bit more flake advert and a bit less Bear Gryls.

I am particularly looking forward to experiencing Knoydart, totally inaccessible by road and can only be reach by rather lengthy hike through mountains.  Alternatively, and this is our preferred route, by boat from Mallaig.

As well as seeing these stunning places, I am excited as this trip will give me the opportunity to eat at some fabulous food establishments.

1. I can’t wait to try the Knoydart prawns!  I here they are a major contender to the infamous Applecross bay prawn I am so partial to.

2. The possibility of eating at The Three Chimneys.  I’ve done this once before and it was outrageously good.  I would love to repeat it and hopefully we can get a table- better book now- it can take 2-3 months for a reservation!

3. Jann’s cake shop in Dunvegan, Skye. You have not had a muffin until you have had one of Jann’s muffins, topped with home made chocolates!

4. The possibility of eating at Kinloch Lodge, Claire McDonald’s restaurant.  Another michelin star restaurant on Skye (in addition to The Three Chimneys).

5. Prawns at the Applecross Inn! -an oldie but a goodie.

6. Dinner at the Potting Shed in the Applecross Walled Garden.  It’s been too long!

7. Dinner at the Shieldaig Coastal Kitchen again, hopefully outside on the roof terrace.

8. Cooking big pots of squat lobster on the camping stove or steaks on the barbecue and eating them al fresco (the weather will, of course, be amazing and there will be no midges).

With all this eating I have in mind it’s a good thing we plan some serious outdoor activities.  I was unfortunate enough to have my bike stolen from under my bedroom window in the middle of the night just a month or two ago.  The cheeky so and so’s wheeled it right by my front door at 4 in the morning.  What’s worse, is the noise of the wheels squeaking actually woke me up but I couldn’t figure out what it was and didn’t until we found the cut security chain dangling lamely from the drainpipe a few days later.  Luckily it was insured and I now have a shiny new bike which I have been getting some practice on recently.

It’s easy to forget what you have on your doorstep and this is something I have been guilty of lately.  I should really make good use of the cycle network my house sits on and since the weather took a turn for the better I have been doing this when I can.

Until I journey off next, I have a feeling I am going to be getting quite familiar with the cycle network and I am looking forward to it.  Since I must be burning off at least ten thousand calories an hour I already feel justified in the extra food intake of late.  I do need my fuel after all!  Speaking of which, the picture of Jann’s cake has put me in the mood…I’m off for a rummage in the fridge.

An Applecross prawn a day keeps the doctor away

I’ve just spent seven heavenly days in my favourite place in the world and I’m feeling pretty happy and chilled out.  My body may be back behind a boring desk at work for 8 hours today, but my spirit is still firmly in Applecross bay with the prawns and the squat lobsters and all the other lovely edible creatures just waiting to sacrifice themselves to please my belly.

I have eaten a lot this week.  A lot.  I may be having a food baby now, but it was worth every last mouthful.  In keeping with tradition our first meal was at the Applecross Inn where I devoured whole Applecross prawns swimming in garlic butter.  These bad boys were huge and juicy and oh so delicious.  It’s always the first meal of holiday prawns that are the most memorable.  Maybe because, after a few months since I was last in Applecross, my memory of them had started to fade, so when they arrived at the table on the first night there was a fanfare playing in my head.  When placed in front of me I felt like they should leap up off the plate with big jazz hands (or claws) going “ Taaa-Daaaaaa!”.  Yes, I know- that mental picture was pretty awesome, right?

Anyway, moving on from my prawn day dream…

Many other fabulous meals were had, including big beefy steaks, crispy fish and chips, half pints of prawn tails with cocktail sauce and lovely squat lobsters which you can find in abundance in and around Applecross, but not may other places further south.  This is a shame, as they are fantastic.  Apparently they don’t travel well- Perhaps they get car sick?  Let’s not dwell on that mental image.

I also concocted my very own creations in our wee but-n-ben- a slow cooked lamb and haricot bean stew in velvety tomato sauce yumminess, home baked shortbread and the vital scottish breakfast of kings (and queens) square sausage, fried onion and tatty scone in a roll!

Apart from the eating I did some moderate outdoor activities, including a walk to the mast above the Bealach-na-ba. Here is the view from the top:

However,most of my newly acquired protein fuelled energy was burnt on a walk through shin deep cow field muck and rivers to reach a beautiful remote beach only visible when the tide is super low.  It was probably one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen and not another soul around for miles.  It also helped that this was on the most glorious day of the year so far.  I think I had a bit of a moment and tried to capture it on camera, but it just didn’t do it justice.

On Wednesday we were joined by friends from London who flew to Inverness and completed the journey in true ‘romantic’ highland fashion- by stinky diesel train.  However, I am underselling this as, if you have to travel by train, the route from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh is the one to do it on.

I’ve been to the Applecross area so many times over the years and I love it a bit more each time, but since my wedding there a few years ago, I forgot how much fun it was to show it to someone for the first time.  The drive over the Bealach-na-ba for starters- it’s a bit like the marmite of the road world. If you love driving, you will love the Bealach-na-ba, but if your not so confident, it’s hell on earth.

Personally, I love it and the views from the summit (on a clear day) are probably the most spectacular roadside views you’ll find in the world…or for at least….20 miles, bearing in mind the coastal road between Applecross and Shieldaig is equally as stunning.  As well as showing off the scenery it was a joy to impart our knowledge of all the food produced locally and share some lovely meals.  We destroyed cheeseboards from the West Highland dairy, decimated venison sausages from Roddy, the butcher in Lochcarron and obliterated all the Torridon and Shieldaig smoked salmon we could find.  Even the honestly box eggs from the roadside cupboard were the best eggs we had ever tasted and, over the week, we cleared out the top shelf leaving only the hats and gloves for sale (they were rather nice too, but it was just too sunny to justify knit wear, it was above 5 degrees after all!).

I can’t think of anywhere else in Scotland there is such a fantastic range of foodie places in such a small area, especially somewhere so remote.  On the down side, we missed the start of ‘the season’ by one week, therefore we missed out on food at the Kishorn seafood bar, The Potting Shed in the Applecross Walled Garden– my very favourite place to eat in all the world, not just because food is amazing, but it is also where I had my wedding- and Nanny’s place in Shieldaig.  Maybe just as well as I don’t think we had enough meals in each day to cover them all.  However, we did pay the Applecross Inn frequent visits and had a lovely lunch at the Shieldaig Bar and Coastal Kitchen where we were very pleased to see Clootie dumping with Drambuie custard on the menu.  I don’t think it surpassed the sticky toffee pudding from the Applecross Inn though- Sweet spongy syrupy magic in a bowl.

In between all this eating and occasional moderate/minimal exercise, we also did a good job of working our way through our very special bottles of whisky from Tam’s Drams in front of the stove, not to mention a good few more on offer behind the bar at the Applecross Inn.

Does this all sound very indulgent?  It was!  …..Most pleasing 🙂

Ahhhh, if only it could have gone on forever. I fully intend on moving to Applecross and when I do this will be doing every day.   I also intend on winning the lottery to fund such activities and maybe to invest some sort of cholesterol and calorie burning device.  On a tangent, we did befriend a lovely chap, we shall refer to as Santa, and I came close to negotiating the purchase of a caravan from him once he had finished building his new house and had moved out of said caravan.  I really believe I could have been spending many a happy weekend stuffed into Santa’s wee caravan in the middle of nowhere, full of squats and prawns and whisky….if only we had one more round of drinks to finalise the deal.  However, I was swiftly removed from my bar stool and promptly marched home under the light of the super moon, safely away from the temptation to trade the family jewels for a tin can on wheels….It would have been nice though!

Anyway, it all had to end at some point, so we finished our visit with a grand finale at the Applecross Inn where we had our last prawny supper, a lovely bottle of red (connoisseurs choice, no less) and many many whiskies to fuel our final journey home through the creepy woods, made slightly less creepy by our raised alcohol levels.  On Saturday we made a pit stop at Roddy’s butchers where the London collective bought the remaining stock of smoked fish to take home and we purchased a half cow half venison sausage monster, followed by a quick visit to the Carron Pottery where many tea towels and sheep skin slippers were adopted.  I am pleased to report they are now living happily with their new family in London.

I had a fabulous week and I’m glad everyone else had just as nice a time.  We all plan on a return visit soon, very soon.

Watch out prawns!

In the mean time here is the best of the rest…

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