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Caithness Smokehouse – a journey to the end of the isle

The Caithness Smokehouse and proprietor John InglisI will go to the ends of the earth to uncover gems and gourmet delights for ALTB readers. This time I went to the very north of Scotland to the Caithness Smokehouse in Barrock. Barrock is only about five miles from Dunnet Head, the most northerly point on mainland Britain, and about three hours of driving into the wilds north of Inverness. I had the good luck to meet John Inglis, the owner of the Caithness Smokehouse and ‘smoker’, who kindly agreed to talk to me about the smokehouse and show us around. John is enthusiastic about promoting local produce and applauds the move away from fast food to local artisan products with the emphasis on taste. He uses traditional methods and only top quality local produce, such as hand dived Orkney scallops and Scrabster fish and seafood. The food produced at the smokehouse is luxurious by anyone’s definition, yet visitors are welcome to have a look around as John is a cheerful, laid-back kind of person who delights in the opportunity to tell people about his venture. The smokehouse is situated right next door to the house John shares with his wife Christine, and it’s not unusual for a coach load of tourists from Canada, America, Germany or the Netherlands to show up at the house hoping for a tour. But don’t start thinking about the oxymoron of “luxury coach travel”. Look instead to John’s impressive list of customers. As well as supplying local hotels, restaurants, retail outlets and visitors to the smokehouse, the Caithness Smokehouse also supplies Mey Castle (which was the home of the Queen Mother in Caithness) and Skibo Castle (where Madonna held her wedding). Skibo Castle is also home to the exclusive Carnegie Club, named after Andrew Carnegie, once the richest man in the world, who owned an estate at Skibo. John was also proud to tell me he had been asked to smoke the largest trout ever caught in Caithness – a whopper weighing in at 11lb 10oz. He offers a smoking service to anglers, other individuals and food producers. As he says, “You supply it, we smoke it, you eat it.” There’s all kinds of things already on offer at the Caithness Smokehouse: cheese, bacon, ham, eggs, and of course fish and shellfish, and they’re expanding their range all the time. The emphasis is always on top quality local produce. The smokehouse has made it to the finals of the Scotland Excellence Awards for food and drink for the last couple of years – no mean feat for a relatively new business. By now you’re probably wishing you could just pop up to the north to get a piece of the action, but it’s a wee bit far to go. No worries, you can order by phone or online and have Caithness Smokehouse produce delivered to pretty well anywhere in the UK within 48 hours, so you don’t have to miss out on this treat. That said, I would say that the whole area is worth a visit even if just to visit Dunnet Head and John o’ Groats (too many cyclists!) and for the marvellous photo opportunities of the beautiful scenery.

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  1. Aahh, if only! Scotland is on my list of must-see places. You make it sound truly a good discovery to explore. Thank you!

  2. Hey, David

    Thanks for your comment. It truly is a beautiful place. In a way I quite envy your mum and dad for living there, but I went in July and I’m not sure how I’d hope with the harsh winters up there.

    Finances permitting, I’m definitely planning to return. I’ve not had such terrific food in a long time as the wonderful produce we could find so easily up there.

  3. PS: Sorry, I meant “cope” not “hope” with the winters. Mind you, maybe I would have to hope as well. I’m not very well acclimatised to Scotland these days. :-)

  4. Kay, I think the word hope would be my choice as a snow covered Scotland is ideal for some snowboarding! But Caithness would be too far North as there are now Winter Sports Resorts North of Inverness.

  5. The smokehouse sounds like a must see place,its nice to see that you still get places that is traditional in what they do and what they use .

  6. what a fabulous place it sounds like a great place to explore and you are making me hungry just reading it, there is nothing better than smoked fish. my gran used to live in arbroath so when we visited we always stocked up on arbroath smokies. have never made it to caithness yet which is terrible as i am in glasgow but one day and the smokehouse will be a definite stop.

  7. Caithness doesn’t seem so far if you look on the map, but it’s still a good three hours drive beyond the Kessock Bridge at Inverness.

    I am desperate to go back. Next time I’ll revisit Orkney too.

  8. My tummy is rumbling reading that – nice to see traditional methods and local produce going strong, would love to try the scallops. Looks like a really interesting (and tasty) place to visit!

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