The Highlands. Not a place you’d expect to find genuinely exceptional coffee and cake. But – despite my lack of bike on the day – this is cycling territory. And the owners – Morag & Ali Cameron – know their audience.
Mere metres from the eastern shore of Loch Ness sits Cameron’s Tea Room and Farm Shop, rising almost majestically from the boggy moss that covers much of the Highlands’ barren beauty.
Essentially nothing for 20 miles to the east – not even roads – and only a stone’s throw from the harsh landscapes of the Scottish west, this watering hole provides welcome respite for many a weary cyclist.
And what a watering hole it is. Just by looking at the building, you get a sense that real thought has gone into its presence. Panelled in wood not yet battered by the harsh Scottish winter, it fits nicely into the scenery, but looks welcomingly modern and hospitable. It is, perhaps, the least bleak construction from 20 miles around.
Much remains the same as you stride through the front door. Warm and cosy, but with a modern feel, the walls themselves compel you to sit at one of perfectly presented hardwood tables, many of which offer excellent views of the surrounding moors and Highland cattle.
There’s a real community feel here, with the art and knick knacks of many a native or inherited Scottish retiree carefully displayed for sale around the one, generously spacious room. If you’re in the market for an interesting painting or photograph of a great Scottish ruminant, you’ve come to the right place.
The Coffee & Cake
Between us – for there were three – we managed to scarf down a slice of Morag’s famous carrot cake, a rather well proportioned scone and a bowl of cauliflower soup – in addition to a black coffee, cappuccino and breakfast tea.
Not a single item disappointed – but I’ll comment on mine first. The cappuccino was strong and creamy, though the milk froth could have been better conceived. And the scone was light and delicious. Perhaps I would have preferred clotted to whipped cream, but let’s not split hairs.
Moving on, the carrot cake was met with noises of rampant affection, while the cauliflower soup was said to have hit the spot, offering superb flavour and a pleasant consistency. Had we cycled to the “coffee stop” there’s no doubt all would have been more than satisfied.
If social media is anything to go by, Cameron’s Tea Room and Farm Shop is the place to be for cyclists in the area. Seating could be more generous inside, but there must be space for at least 20 hungry mile-munchers. And during the summer I’d expect more seating to be placed outside.
But it almost doesn’t matter. There’s no better place for miles around; nothing in Inverness even comes close from what I picked up on. As far as my knowledge takes me, Cameron’s is the premier cycling cafe in the Loch Ness area, perhaps even the entire Highlands.
And they have a pet red deer – Bracken…