Are you going to Tour Scotland?


Blog

Scotland Travel Blog June 2017

Tearoom Tours

If you’ve ever bought one of our travel guides, you’ll realise that we make a point of peppering the route directions with suggestions for tearooms and cafes. There are good reasons why we do this. Getting some refreshments and a slice of cake being the obvious ones, but tearooms can often serve as a welcoming refuge on a wet day. They can also become the whole reason for a day out, and that’s what this Blog is about.

When I was dating a girl up in Morvich, the winter Sundays could be very depressing, but the cozy café at the Glenelg Candle shop  was a shining beacon of warmth that could lift your spirits on even the wettest of days. Sadly, the Café and Candle shop burnt down quite a few years ago. I guess that there is some cruel irony in that.

The demise of the Glenelg café meant that we then had to drive a 4 hour round trip to the Hillbillies Café in Gairloch to get a good coffee on a wet Sunday. (actually it was nearer 3 hours because she was a very spirited and capable driver and it was winter so no tourists getting in the way).

That was over 15 years ago and the number of good coffee shops in remote parts of Scotland has increased exponentially since then. Indeed, opening a coffee shop in a remote seems to have become a very popular lifestyle choice with people moving up from England to escape the rat race down south. If you’re looking for a coffee stop on the drive from Morvich to Gairloch, you would now have a choice of half a dozen good places before you even got to Gairloch.

But the point of this blog is to talk about tearooms that are destinations in themselves and not just stopping places along the route. Rannoch Station Tearoom is the first such place that comes to mind. Few people drive out to Rannoch Station unless they are heading to the Tearoom, or else got terribly lost. It is one of our favourite drives, in fact it is a section of this road that we feature on our “Scotland Tours” page. The drive takes you to the edge of the treeless windswept expanse of the Rannoch Moor with the eastern entrance to Glen Coe just visible in the distance.

In most cases, railway stations are built to serve the needs of a community, but it happened the other way round with Rannoch Station. The station and nearby hotel appeared in the early 1890's as accommodation for engineers working on the West Highland Line. It was only afterwards that it was  connected by 16 miles of road  to the nearest community at Kinloch Rannoch. The fact that there is a railway line here at all is an amazing feat of engineering and perserverance, but the Victorians seem to have enjoyed building railways in difficult places. The challenge with Rannoch Moor is that it is a bit of a bottomless pit and you have to go down 20 feet in some places before you hit a solid surface. To overcome this problem, some sections of the railway line were built on what were effectively floating rafts of brushwood.    

Bill and Jenny Anderson are the brave souls who have moved up from the very south of England to open this most isolated of tearooms in the old waiting rooms of Rannoch Station. Quite a daunting change of environment, but they seem to be coping admirably and offer an amazingly diverse menu given that Pitlochry and the nearest supermarket Is about 37 miles away. As you might expect, trains are part of the theme of the tearoom and it would make a good filmset for a remake of "Brief Encounter". We were also very impressed by the display of home baking (when you live this far away from everywhere else the baking has to be done at home), but were so full after our well packed toastie that we had to decline the tantalising strawberry cream sponge cake. 

Moving to the north west and the shores of Loch Torridon, Gille brighde café / restaurant is also at the very end of a dead end road, but it sits within the small village of Lower Diabaig and was once the schoolhouse for this remote crofting community. Although it is not such a long trek to the road end, some of the steep 1:4 ascents / descents and twisting single track sections might make you abandon your tea break plans. If you do persevere, you will find a mouth watering menu that will make the thrills and spills of the road all worthwhile. For example, how do you fancy “Gairloch Haggis Stuffed Chicken in Smoked Bacon with Tarragon Leek Cream” or “Crispy Skin Kinlochbervie Hake on Pea and Watercress Puree with Lemon, Parsley  Butter”. If you do decide to take this detour, you should first make sure that they’re open as we once made the mistake of going on a Monday and they don’t do Mondays.

If you look at the picture below, Lower Diabaig might seem a bit familiar. The red telephone box on the shore front might make you think of the film "Local Hero", but Diabaig's starring role came in the rather corny Ted Danson film called "Loch Ness". If you look at a map you'll realise that Loch Ness is quite a distance away from Lower Diabaig and it is a fresh water loch whilst Lower Diabaig stands by the sea. 

Going back to the Glenelg area (remember the candle shop café that burnt down), if you continue through the village and travel for another 11 miles, following the shores of Loch Hourn, you will eventually run out of road at a pretty little cluster of cottages in the village of Corran. There are a few places in Scotland called “Corran” and the name means “Crescent” or “Sickle” in Gaelic. If you look at a map, you can see that Corran sits on the edge of a bay that does have a distinct sickle shaped hook. The reason for venturing to the end of this road is not to marvel at the shape of the bay, but to enjoy the cozy atmosphere of “Sheena’s Tea Hut”.

The tea hut has been running for quite a long time now and has become a bit of an institution. The term hut might lead you to expect something quite small, but it is actually closer in size to a double garage and has an eclectic mix of chairs, tables and cushions. It oozes a warm welcome and an eccentric “Highland” charm. For many years the hut had a regular visitor who was known locally as “Osama Bin Laden”, or just “Bin Laden” to his friends. Don’t worry, nothing dangerous, “Bin Laden” was a Stag who enjoyed dining out on the leftovers from the café. He came by his nickname because he hid in the hills and was partial to exploring bins.

Loch Hourn is also a good area for spotting otters, but these animals are much harder to spot than "Bin Laden" and they certainly won't be bold enough to join you at the Tea Hut. Some of these otters might be the descendants of "Mijbil" the otter made famous in the autobiographical book "Ring of Bright Water" written by Gavin Maxwell about his life in this area with his pet otter. Maxwell lived in a house called Camusfearna near Sandaig (on the road between Glenelg and Corran). The house burnt down many years ago, but there is a small memorial near the spot where it stood and where Gavin's ashes are buried.

More Articles ...

  1. Scotland Travel Blog April 2017
  2. Scotland Travel Blog March 2017
  3. Scotland Travel Blog February 2017
  4. Scotland Travel Blog December 2016
  5. Scotland Travel Blog November 2016
  6. Scotland Travel Blog October 2016
  7. Scotland Travel Blog September 2016
  8. Scotland Travel Blog August 2016
  9. Scotland Travel Blog July 2016
  10. Scotland Travel Blog May 2016
  11. Scotland Travel Blog March 2016
  12. Scotland Travel Blog February 2016
  13. Scotland Travel Blog November 2015
  14. Scotland Travel Blog September 2015
  15. Scotland Travel Blog August 2015
  16. Scotland Travel Blog July 2015
  17. Scotland Travel Blog June 2015
  18. Scotland Travel Blog May 2015
  19. Scotland Travel Blog April 2015
  20. Scotland Travel Blog March 2015
  21. Scotland Travel Blog February 2015
  22. Scotland Travel Blog January 2015
  23. Scotland Travel Blog December 2014
  24. Scotland Travel Blog October 2014
  25. Scotland Travel Blog September 14
  26. Scotland Travel Blog July 2014
  27. Scotland Travel Blog June 2014
  28. Scotland Travel Blog February 2014
  29. Scotland Travel Blog December 2013
  30. Scotland Travel Blog November 2013
  31. Scotland Travel Blog October 2013
  32. Scotland Travel Blog September 2013
  33. Scotland Travel Blog July 2013
  34. Scotland Travel Blog June 2013
  35. Scotland Travel Blog April 2013
  36. Scotland Travel Blog February 2013
  37. Scotland Travel Blog January 2013
  38. Scotland Travel Blog December 2012
  39. Scotland Travel Blog October 2012
  40. Scotland Travel Blog August 2012
  41. Scotland Travel Blog July 2012
  42. Scotland Travel Blog May 2012
  43. Scotland Travel Blog April 2012
  44. Scotland Travel Blog March 2012
  45. Scotland Travel Blog January 2012
  46. Scotland Travel Blog November 11
  47. Scotland Travel Blog September 11 - The Orkneys
  48. Scotland Travel Blog August 11
  49. Scotland Travel Blog July 11
  50. Scotland Travel Blog June 11
  51. Scotland Travel Blog April 11
  52. Scotland Travel Blog March 11
  53. Scotland Travel Blog February 11
  54. Scotland Travel Blog December 10
  55. Scotland Travel Blog October 10
  56. Scotland Travel Blog August 10
  57. Scotland Travel Blog July 10
  58. Scotland Travel Blog June 10
  59. Scotland Travel Blog May 10
  60. Scotland Travel Blog April 10
  61. Scotland Travel Blog March 10
  62. Scotland Travel Blog January 10
  63. Scotland Travel Blog December 09
  64. Scotland Travel Blog November 09
  65. Scotland Travel Blog October 09
  66. Scotland Travel Blog September 09
  67. Scotland Travel Blog August 09
  68. Scotland Travel Blog July 09
  69. Scotland Travel Blog June 09
  70. Scotland Travel Blog May 09
  71. Scotland Travel Blog April 09
  72. Scotland Travel Blog March 09
  73. Scotland Travel Blog February 09
  74. Scotland Travel Blog September 08
  75. Scotland Travel Blog November 08
  76. Scotland Travel Blog August 08
  77. Scotland Travel Blog July 08
  78. Scotland Travel Blog June 08
  79. Scotland Travel Blog April 08
  80. Scotland Travel Blog March 08
  81. Scotland Travel Blog February 08
  82. Scotland Travel Blog January 08
  83. Scotland Travel Blog December 07
  84. Scotland Travel Blog November 07
  85. Scotland Travel Blog October 07
  86. Scotland Travel Blog September 07
  87. Scotland Travel Blog August 07
  88. Scotland Travel Blog July 07
  89. Scotland Travel Blog June 07
  90. Scotland Travel Blog May 07
  91. Scotland Travel Blog April 07
  92. Scotland Travel Blog March 07
  93. Scotland Travel Blog February 07
  94. Scotland Travel Blog January 07
PlayVideo

Browse Scotland Tours

Browse Our Scotland Tours to find an Itinerary for a route that matches your interests and schedule.

To quickly and easily find the tour you want, use our Tour Wizard.

Customized Tours

Tell us what you want and we will create a Customized Scotland Tour just for you!

Money Back Guarantee

Full refund if you are not satisfied with our service.

Testimonials

Read what Clients say about Secret Scotland on Facebook, Tripadvisor and in their Blogs

View Testimonials

Good Stuff

Save 10% on Car Hire when you Buy a Secret Scotland Tour

More about Car Hire Discounts

Authored on Google+