Using Your Initiative
The North Highland Initiative was instigated by the Duke of Rothesay (a.k.a HRH Prince Charles south of the border) as a means of creating an identity — a brand if you will — for the far north of Scotland. The project brings together small businesses, the farming community and the tourism industry.
We bang on constantly about provenance. Championing brands and products under a regional banner is a great way to articulate the uniqueness of the region's offerings. And to give a good reason to visit. (It is great that Somerset now has its day too.) Why visit somewhere if it offers the bland kind of fast-food and fast-fashion you can find anywhere (and we've all rejected)? You're not interested in that kind of tommyrot. So what can you find in the North Highlands of Scotland that would pique your interest?
Doing the Northern Highlands
Well there's the North Coast 500 — 'Scotland's answer to Route 66' — to start with. The North Coast 500 is a 500-mile driving route that loops around the northern coast of Scotland, south from Inverness up to John o' Groats and around — and is the perfect way to find out what the North Highlands has to offer.
You will need a classic E-Type Jaguar for this adventure. Give yourself plenty of time for stops at the beaches, like Achmelvich beach below, and other attractions.
Close by to John o' Groats is the attractive Castle of Mey (below) — the most northerly inhabited castle on the British mainland. The castle was the home of the Queen Mother in Scotland. Having restored it to its former glory and enjoyed many summers there, she handed the castle over to a trust in 1996 to maintain it for the benefit of the local community.
Eating the Northern Highlands
Load the boot of your vintage car with delicious Northern Highlands food and drink as you proceed on your journey. You could truly live the good life as a 'locavore' with what's on offer. The drinks trolley back home could be pretty much filled up too — lots of smashing distilleries up here.
- Caithness Smokehouse - smoked food
- Applecross Smokehouse - smoked food
- Isle of Ewe Smokehouse - smoked food (You see a pair of their delicious-looking kippers below.)
- Reids of Caithness - shortbread
- Mey Selections - beef and lamb from within a 150-mile radius of the Castle of Mey
- Highland Fine Cheeses - cheese
- Black Isle Brewing - craft beers
- Cromarty Brewing - craft beers
- Old Pulteney - single malt whisky
- Rock Rose Gin - gin
- Glemorangie - single malt whisky
- Dalmore - single malt whisky (That's a bottle of the Cigar Malt Reserve at the top — perfect with cigars.)
- Clyneish Distillery - single malt whisky (and their own tweed)
Wearing the Northern Highlands
Our good chums at Johnstons of Elgin support the Northern Highland Initiative with the Mey Selections tartan range. The range includes the tweed above and the cashmere scarf below.
Do you know what? I'm a born and bred Englishman, but these initiatives have done the trick. They've made the remote north of Scotland appear very attractive indeed; and made me seriously consider swapping my bowler hat for a tam o' shanter. I've always loved haggis and I wouldn't mind wearing a kilt.
Thinks: If I moved, I would just need to ignore the politics. That would be easy with Tweed TV....