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Travel: A foodie stay in Beauly – a beautiful place in name and nature

© SALLY STEVENSThe pretty village of Beauly in the Highlands;
The pretty village of Beauly in the Highlands;

The French translation for Beauly is “beautiful place” and that refers as much to the village as to where we stayed. The Downright Gabbler is a family run former coaching inn which dates back to the 1830s and which now hosts four luxury self-catering apartments along with a small dining room and well-stocked bar.

It is not a traditional restaurant with rooms, but rather a place for people to come and relax while enjoying a wide range of food events ranging from afternoon tea to a Highland Banquet. Special events, such as International Women’s Day, are also marked.

The Downright Gabbler has a policy of sourcing as much as possible of its food and equipment from local suppliers, some of the dining room crockery has been specially designed and produced by nearby Cromarty Pottery and cheeses supplied by Highland Fine Cheeses of Tain and Connage Dairy of Ardersier.

Their aim is to source as much as possible from suppliers within a 20-mile radius of the village, and so diners can be assured that their meals have as few food miles as possible and is of the highest quality, cooked to perfection by chef daughter Kirsty.

While the menu is fixed, there are vegetarian and vegan options and everything is done to ensure food allergies and preferences are taken care of.

Excellent locally sourced dining at the Downright Gabbler. © JIM HULLY
Excellent locally sourced dining at the Downright Gabbler.

The small dining room is where themed lunches and dinners take place, hosted by master storyteller Garry Coutts and his wife, Jane. There are a number of different themes which take place at different times of the year but each week there are generally three or four events on, including a Living the Dram dinner and a Month of Sundays lunch, which are the events we attended.

Between each course we were treated to Garry’s encyclopaedic knowledge of the history of whisky and present-day operations in a fascinating journey from the earliest days of the spirit drunk only by the poor, through to illicit stills hidden from the excisemen to today’s multi-billion pound industry.

As Kirsty prepared our delicious locally themed food in the kitchen, we were regaled with tales of how the drink matured through the ages as well as shown artefacts relating to the distillation process.

The Downright Gabbler. © SALLY STEVENS
The Downright Gabbler.

Garry was the host the following day when we had a Month of Sundays lunch. This took us through how society in Scotland has evolved through the centuries with respect to the Sabbath. It reminded us how, within our living memory, this day was devoted to church services and bible study, followed by Sunday lunch. The highlight of the day being the delivery of The Sunday Post where adults could read about the world round about them and the, by now bored, children could get some light relief by enjoying the exploits of Oor Wullie and The Broons.

Again, illustrated with artefacts, we were taught about Communion Tokens and shown some examples of these lead, coin-shaped, items which allowed you to take Communion at your church.

This leisurely and informative lunch event lasted around two hours and left time for exploring the local area afterwards.

Master storyteller Garry Coutts. © SALLY STEVENS
Master storyteller Garry Coutts.

Beauly is 12 miles from Inverness, but is also only an hour’s drive from the west coast fishing village of Ullapool, or less travelling time if you want to explore the Black Isle and villages such as Cromarty. Drumnadrochit is around a half-hour’s drive away where you can visit the newly refurbished Nessie attraction, take a one-hour Nessie hunting cruise or visit the nearby iconic Urquhart Castle.

We chose to travel to the Glen Affric Nature Reserve, one of Scotland’s most beautiful glens and where the hidden gems of the Dog Falls and the spectacular 150ft-high Falls off Plodda can be reached at the end of single track roads.

Giving views to the back end of the Kintail range of mountains, the car park marks the end of the road and the only way to complete your crossing from west to east coasts is on foot, and recommended only for the most experienced and hardiest of walkers.

Situated just off the village square, there is a supermarket close by the Downright Gabbler, along with a range of specialist shops, and a deli called the Corner on the Square which also serves excellent breakfasts and is literally a two-minute walk away.

There are also a number of traditional restaurants and both Chinese and Indian takeaways if you want to eat in your apartment when not attending a food event downstairs. Parking is free and right outside, and there are four EV charging points within a couple of hundred yards in the village’s main car park, where you can charge up if needed.

P.S. And where does the unusual name come from? Frances Wright was born in 1795 to a wealthy family in Dundee but was orphaned at a young age.

She had a fierce intellect and was a passionate advocate of equality, and met with three of the first four US presidents, Adams, Jefferson and Maddison. She ran a series of public lectures across the USA, unheard of behaviour for a woman, and argued that to live up to the ideals of the founding fathers they must have universal suffrage, free education for all children and improved conditions for workers.

This did not endear her to many of the rich and powerful men of the day who organised noisy protests at some of her meetings where they would disrupt proceedings by loudly hissing. This led one newspaper to portray her with the head of a goose, captioned the “Downwright Gabbler, or a goose who deserves to be hissed”.


The Downright Gabbler, High Street, Beauly, IV4 7EG. Tel: 01463 782800 Apartments range from £80 to £135 per night with a 10% discount if you have dinner at The Gabbler.