Never a bet­ter time for gas­tro­nomic trip

DEAN KIRBY en­joys the fresh lo­cal food of the north east of Scot­land on a week­end trip to Aberdeen­shire

Macclesfield Express - - TRAVEL -

THE north east of Scot­land might seem a long way to go for a bite to eat, but with di­rect flights from Manch­ester, Aberdeen­shire is much closer than you think.

You can be there in just over an hour and can be sit­ting at your din­ing ta­ble for a real culi­nary treat shortly af­ter­wards.

And there is no bet­ter time to head north and celebrate Aberdeen­shire’s nat­u­ral larder, as 2015 is Scot­land’s Year of Food and Drink.

Our first stop from Aberdeen Air­port was the pretty coastal town of Stone­haven, where we were promised the coun­try’s best fish and chips.

We were not dis­ap­pointed by the multi-award win­ning The Bay Fish and Chips, which takes the hum­ble fish and chip shop to a whole new level.

Owner Calum Richard­son is able to tell you which boat landed your North Sea had­dock and which lo­cal farmer grew the pota­toes for your chips. The fish is then gen­tly fried in Calum’s home­made bat­ter.

Our first taste of Aberdeen­shire was a box of had­dock and chips supplied with per­fec­tion by Aberdeen­shire’s lo­cal trawler fleet.

We sat eat­ing our fish and chips over­look­ing the North Sea – fol­lowed by a de­li­cious box of lan­goustines.

Af­ter tak­ing a quick peak at the nearby stun­ning cliff-top Dun­not­tar Castle, we turned north­wards to the pic­turesque fish­ing town of El­lon, where we were stay­ing.

Our bil­let for the next few nights was the town’s fam­ily-owned Buchan Ho­tel, which prides it­self on de­liv­er­ing good, lo­cally-sourced food and tra­di­tional Scot­tish hos­pi­tal­ity.

We set­tled down that night to a plat­ter of smoked seafood, fol­lowed by a mor­eish plate of beef medal­lions with a won­der­ful oat­meal stuff­ing and whisky sauce.

Af­ter a good night’s sleep, we set off next morn­ing on a drive through miles of rolling Aberdeen­shire farm­land, un­til we reached For­mar­tine’s on the edge of the Haddo Es­tate.

John Cooper, For­mar­tine’s vi­sion­ary owner, gave us a tour of his re­mark­able eatery and shop, which sells prod­ucts in­clud­ing Haddo veni­son and fish from For­mar­tine’s own smoke­house, fol­lowed by a stun­ning wood­land walk around the neigh­bour­ing trout lake.

The fine but un­pre­ten­tious food, the friendly at­mos­phere and ru­ral sur­round­ings make For­mar­tine’s a must-see visit on any trip to Aberdeen­shire.

Af­ter our walk, we set­tled down to two house spe­cials – warm toasted Gruyère scone and For­mar­tine’s per­fect scotch eggs – fol­lowed by home­made cake and mar­vel­lous cof­fee, which is freshly roasted in Scot­land. There are plenty of sites of in­ter­est nearby, in­clud­ing Haddo House it­self, the Pitmed­den Gar­dens and a host of other cas­tles and whisky dis­til­leries.

But we set off north to the coastal trail that took us through the pretty fish­ing vil­lages of Col­lieston and Cru­den Bay.

The fol­low­ing morn­ing, we made a bee­line for the fab­u­lous Eat On The Green res­tau­rant in Udny Green. Owner and in­spi­ra­tional chef Craig Wil­son told us the story of the res­tau­rant, which re­flects his pas­sion for fine food served with tra­di­tional north east hos­pi­tal­ity.

Only the best in­gre­di­ents make it on to the Eat on the Green menu – from lo­cally reared An­gus beef to Stornoway black pud­ding, High­land veni­son and home­grown fruit and veg­eta­bles. Craig even took us to the res­tau­rant’s poly­tun­nels and picked some pars­ley which was on our plates less than an hour later.

Our fab­u­lous meal in the res­tau­rant – com­plete with its own cham­pagne lounge – in­cluded a starter of hag­gis and beef kofta, spinach, nut­meg creme fraiche soup, con­fit duck with ap­ple and ginger and goats cheese salad.

This was fol­lowed by fil­let of Aberdeen­shire beef with caramelised onion and mush­room, hand cut chips and a pink pep­per­corn cream.

It was a per­fect lunch for a per­fect day.

The fi­nal stop on our gas­tro­nomic tour of Aberdeen­shire was The Store in Foveran.

This ex­cel­lent farm shop was es­tab­lished by the Booth fam­ily of beef farm­ers who have been work­ing the land for four gen­er­a­tions.

Their aim is sim­ple – to pro­mote high qual­ity re­gional food with a pas­sion.

The shop now stocks prod­ucts in­clud­ing fresh veg­eta­bles, cheese and lo­cal berries to com­ple­ment the farm’s finest Aberdeen­shire An­gus beef – which is ma­tured for a min­i­mum of 21 days.

Dur­ing our visit, we were able to see the butch­ery and even had a trip up to the farm to see the herd for our­selves.

It was fan­tas­tic to be able to see where some of the best lo­cal pro­duce on the re­gion’s ta­bles is made.

We took home some An­gus beef sausages and, just over an hour af­ter tak­ing off from Aberdeen Air­port, we were back home eat­ing them for our tea.

Iain Sar­jeant/VisitS­cot­land

●● Linn O’ Dee, near Brae­mar, Dee­side

●● For­mar­tine’s eatery and shop in Tarves, Aberdeen­shire

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