Kippers for breakfast, finally! They were lightly smoked, and went perfectly with a tomato and onion salad. Despite being a Scottish staple, at least in my head, we’d not been able to find any in Asda, but Tain’s fishmonger did us proud. I am a bit partial to kippers, I have to say. You soon get over the smell.

At 11am we left the cottage to walk to Iver via Portmahomack. It was still a tad windy but we’d come prepared with thermals, and so were able to enjoy watching the white topped waves, and collecting sea shells as we walked along the beach. The landscape on this side of the village is much more mudflats than cliffs, but it’s still very pretty, and interesting if you’re into ornithology. Sadly I can only just about identify gulls and curlews.

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At Inver Links we cut across the sand dunes and headed into Skinnerton and Inver – two hamlets which now meet in the middle. Because the weather can sometimes be severe, most of the houses face away from the sea, and are largely single storey. It must be a pretty exposed place in the thick of Winter.

We re-traced our steps, collecting the shells we’d squirrelled away on the walk out, and arrived back at the cottage in time for tea and biscuits, or in my case – Cocoa Mountain cranberry and almond dark chocolate. What can I say, the sea air gives me an appetite, which is a good job as Cyn and Pete later treated us to a meal out at Portmahomack’s one and only restaurant – The Oystercatcher.

We didn’t quite know what to expect when we arrived. As the only guests at an eating place well off the beaten track, we were all a bit hesitant. The decor is brilliantly quirky – a real labour of love with clouds painted on the ceiling, suspended lobster pots, murals of sea creatures painted on the walls, and a bottle of practically every different type of whiskey ever produced on a big shelf above what must be the world’s biggest mirror. In the background, a CD played wave and seagull noises, making the experience that much more authentic.

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Carrot crab
Carrot crab

As well as a restaurant there are three bed and breakfast rooms upstairs, all overlooking the sea front. Susan, our waitress for the evening, and her husband – a self taught chef, have taken it on as a retirement project, having previously run a large restaurant in the city. The menu is a combination of tasters, and choose your own two courses. Our first taster was a local speciality – a sort of fish chowder called cullen skink. This was followed by haggis dumplings; nettle and Fearn Abbey cheese soup; and a Ross and Sutherland hotpot – another local dish. I even got presented with a warm gluten free bread roll, despite not having given any advance warning that I can’t eat gluten. Susan didn’t bat an eyelid and took it all in her stride. Even the wines were delicious. I won’t pretend to know what I’m talking about when it comes to wine, but Pete certainly does, and he was a happy bunny.

Cullen skink
Fearn and nettle soup
Hotpot
Hotpot

The creme de la creme however, had to be the menthol and mint sorbet sprinkled with the adult equivalent of ‘space dust’. In case you don’t remember what space dust it – it was the pack of candy that you emptied straight into your mouth so that it could pop and sparkle on your tongue! What a surprise to experience this again some thirty years later! Talk about memorable. The food is so obviously cooked with love and passion, and the service is personable and endearing. It really is in a league of its own, and we all agreed that we’d go out of our way to eat there again. We only wish we’d discovered it sooner!

Space dust sprinkles!
Space dust sprinkles!

Last but by no means least, I have to mention the ladies loos. Posh toilets are much of a muchness. The Oystercatcher’s however, are beyond magnificent, and I would gladly move in permanently. Every possible type of sanitary ware is provided, free of charge. There are new toothbrushes, flannels, and music starts playing as soon as you enter. There are even magazines and hand lotion. Forget five star hotels, give me toilets with this much pizazz any day.

The throne room
The throne room

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