Although it is only a little over 600 square miles in size and over 100 miles from a large city, the Isle of Skye has become a mecca for exceptional food.
Despite its isolated locale, Skye is continually recognized for its quality ingredients and the skill of the chefs that use them. Two restaurants hold Michelin Stars: the Three Chimneys Restaurant and Kinloch Lodge. All Skye restaurants have a focus on sourcing local ingredients, grown ethically and mindfully, by farmers who know the land and are dedicated to producing excellence. From oysters and cockles to lamb and pork; Skye is a chef’s paradise. The fine dining Skye has to offer is definitely worth trying, but what amazed me most were the small lunch stops and cafes that exuded as much passion and distinction as the top restaurants. Local bakers and cooks, gardeners, and small-batch producers have teamed up to create destinations in every price-point that would have any food-lover enamored.
Small details like freshly baked breads and produce from a garden meters away from your lunch table became the ones I remembered most once my time in Skye had come and gone.
Red Roof Cafe & Gallery
Holmisdale, Glendale, Isle of Skye, UK
Open seasonally 11am-5pm Sunday-Thursday. Website.
“Always home baked, fresh, seasonal, fairly traded, local and organic wherever possible.” Driving down a remote single-track road, rolling hills speckled with sheep on both sides, you will come across a small chalet with a bright red roof and fenced-in chickens peering as you approach. Inside, baked goods are made fresh daily by a local baker, a pot of sauerkraut ferments on a shelf, and local artists showcase their paintings on the walls. When I visited, Karelian-style stew with local venison, pork, and lamb was being served, and a tray of sticky cinnamon buns had just came out of the oven. Red Roof Cafe had an everlasting effect on me, and not only because the stew was the best I ever had. When speaking about the cheeses, meats, and vegetables, the owner could point out the window to pinpoint the farms they came from. This was stones-throw local. The coffees are premium, fairly traded varieties served in stunning clay pottery, and the teas are particularly chosen and presented with a timed hourglass for you to know when it’s ready to drink. On their regular menu are platters with freshly baked breads, Scottish cheeses, chutneys, salami, or smoked mackerel. It was the type of cafe that in the time it takes to drink your tea you could find yourself envisioning a life of baking bread and tending sheep.
Ellishadder Art Cafe
Elishader, Culnacnoc, Portree IV51 9JE, UK
Open seasonally 12-430pm Monday-Friday. Website.
A few minutes away from the stunning Kilt Rock waterfall is a quaint cafe with a large garden that produces much of what you will eat inside. Potato scones are served with crowdie, a highland soft cheese, and salads are decorated with edible flowers. The salad leaves are grown by Roger Whiddon of “Isle of Skye Fresh Produce”, a farm in Orbost, Skye. The tomato soup pierced taste-buds with its heartiness and tang, served with delicious, warm, freshly baked bread and real, creamy butter. They also make tarts of fennel and goat cheese slices, with caramelized red onion, and flavoured with rosemary. It’s very cozy, with a fireplace for cooler days, and every dish is fantastic down to the last detail.
Single Track Art Gallery & Espresso Bar
Kendram, Kilmaluag IV51 9UL, Scotland
Open seasonally 1030-5pm Sunday-Thursday. Website.
Featured on the home design show Grand Designs, Single Track is one of two buildings that were built by the owners to blend into the rustic Skye landscape. The cafe, with wood paneling and a turf-covered roof, was originally built as a studio for their art but was converted after a Kickstarter funding campaign in 2013. Now the cafe is not only a visually-striking bout of architecture in a landscape of rolling greenery and the aqua bay, but also serves some of the best coffee in all of Scotland. For dessert, the two-woman show serve up carrot cakes, brownies, soups, and cakes, each made with local ingredients and baked fresh daily. Definitely worth a stop, even if you’re just picking up a snack for a hike in the Trotternish Peninsula.
Skye Pie Cafe
Culnacnoc, Isle of Skye, IV51 9JH
Open seasonally 12-4pm Monday-Friday. Website.
Savoury pies are a Scottish specialty, and there is no better place to try one than Skye Pies. Whether you’re eating in, or getting a pie for your adventures throughout the day, Skye Pies makes gourmet pies with local, organic, and seasonal ingredients. Savoury pies include chunky highland beef, or Skye mutton with apricots and coriander, or a veggie pie with lentils and sweet potato. For sweetness, there is apple crumble, chocolate and cardamom, raspberry and almond, or sticky toffee pudding, each covered with custard, fresh cream, or vanilla bean ice cream.