TGO Challenge: Fine Dining Report

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Humphrey Weightman and Colin Ibbotson at the Boat Inn, Aboyne.

Well, I said I would report back on the Challenge dining experience this year (it was a pretty easy route).

A mixed bag I guess, but here goes.

On the journey up Kate, Humphrey, Colin and I had just enough time in Edinburgh to pop into the Café Royal between train connections. this is a fine establishment which is just a few minutes away from Waverley Station.  It has a fine interior the feeling you can get from the photo below. They serve good beers and decent food. We all took bowl of rather wonderful Cullen Skink. We felt as if we were starting our journey in luxury.

Cafe Royal Edinburgh













The Café Royal


That evening we ate at the Dornie Hotel, the sign-off point for Dornie. I’ve been here before and had a fine venison casserole. Sadly, this was not on the menu when we were there. We had perfectly acceptable pub meals even if the steak pie toppings were suspiciously the same dimensions as the serving plate. Brake Brothers I suspect.

Next up was the Slater’s Arms in Cannich. I once had a very odd experience here but on this occasion the welcome was warm and the staff couldn’t do enough for us. Nice fish and chips. Decent pub food if not spectacular.

Next up was the Fidler’s Arms in Drumnadrochit. This is a firm favourite for lunchtimes on the Challenge. The burgers were good and the beer excellent. A piece of cake for pudding was a little odd.

Then it was on to the Mountain Café in Aviemore for breakfast. This is a wonderful place (set on top of a gear shop) which serves wonderful breakfasts. We told Dan and Christy from the US that this was the only place to have breakfast. Dan was so delighted he was quite prepared to spend the rest of his Challenge in there! Not a cheap breakfast but excellent quality.  I am unable to go through Aviemore without having one of they full breakfasts!

That evening Kate, Dan, Christy and I found ourselves in Glenmore. The Squirrel café had already treated us well. is there any better welcome for a pair of tired feet than their apple strudel and ice cream? I doubt it!

In the evening we sidled over to the Glenmore Mountain Centre Bar. This is a truly wondrous place. It serves Cairngorm beers (superb) and provides really good home made food. The steak and ale pie is particularly recommended. This is a proper hime made pie with proper home made pastry — none of that flaky nonsense. Every hiker should sample one of thee pies once in their career.

At Braemar Croydon recommended that we went to Gordon’s (with Shap McDonnell) for breakfast rather than the Old Bakery. This was a fine breakfast with high quality ingredients. An old fashioned kind of a place but very hospitable. In the evening we ate at the Old Bakery which was pushed to the limit dealing with all the Challengers. Good pub food such as lasagne. I had fish which was passable but had a freezer look about it.

The days after we were in Ballater. The Alexander Hotel served a perfectly acceptable — if not exciting — evening meal to Humphrey, Kate, Colin, Rob Slade and myself. we took breakfast the next morning in the one café that was open from 7.30 — I forget the name but it was a good breakfast.

At Montrose we had a rather long-winded meal at the Asian restaurant in the high street. We seemed to wait for hours as they struggled to cope with numbers. The food, once it arrived, was fine (except for the started that Colin and I had which was stone cold). Breakfast at the Coffee Shop was great — a basic greasy spoon. The less said about the food at the Park Hotel for the TGO Dinner the better! Still, we don’t go there for the food.

But there was one stand out establishment on this trip, the Boat Inn at Aboyne.

Since I was here two years ago the dining too has been refurbished but the welcome was just as warm and the food was found by all to be exceptional. This was worth a diversion for (or in our case a massive road walk afterwards). Sadly, the miniature train that runs around the roof was broken. We all had a three course lunch, it was that good. wonderful crab dishes and fabulously big and beautiful fish.

So, the Boat Inn was a clear winner. sadly, I won’t be going this way again on my next Challenge as I’ve done that road walk two challenges in a row. However, if I was feeling really hungry …


  1. Hi Andy, it was good to meet you in Drum at lunchtime.

    I can recommend the Old Bridge Inn in Aviemore (next to the hostel) – we had an excellent meal there. The slow-cooked bely pork was particularlry good. And the Gathering Place in Braemar had good bistro food.

    I was interested in your comments on the Boat Inn. It was decidedly ordinary when we were there a few years ago but it seems that it’s well worth a revisit.

    • The Bridge is very good but I didn’t stop there this year. I’ve had two great meals at the boat now!

  2. Alan Callow says:

    The Boat has changed ownership in the last couple of years and is indeed excellent; ANdy if you’re coming up for the Cairngorms again this year I’ll treat you to dinner there

  3. James keen says:

    I can also vouch for the Mountain Cafe in Aviemore. Their full breakfast is a guilty pleasure (add in the black pudding), but must be had each visit. A chilled out place with good views of the hills. Plus a good gear shop downstairs!

    • Great breakfasts and a gear shop – perfect combination James! I’m in Aviemore two or three times a year and somehow each visit includes breakfast!

  4. This year Alan R and I ate in Braemar’s Old Bakery three times – not bad for a 24 stay in the town! We found our choices to be excellent. From memory (it was a long time ago) we had the burger, all day breakfast and lasagne. Not all at the same time!

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