hello i will be flying into prestwick airport in a couple weeks, and will be heading up north a day or 2 after. my friend wants to wing it, but id like to seek out places that are foodworthy and should not be missed. we are basically on student budgets, but id like to splurge on at least one nice dinner. i love all seafood, and am really looking forward to eating some of the best salmon, fish & chips, maybe some game, etc. i also would like to sample some nice whisky; how expensive can it get in a pub would you say? we should probably stop off at one distillery at least; any suggestions? regarding towns to overnight in, we'll most likely stay in ft. william (hopefully we'll get to hike ben nevis), stop in inverness, but am not really sure what other towns to stop/overnight in (and that arent crazy expensive or touristy!). i think thurso looks and sounds exotic, but i feel like it's all like that in the highlands. we only have 4-5 nights tops as well, cuz i have to make it back down to london for the 31st. i especially enjoy weird and bizarre, off-the-beaten path type places, so any places that you know of like that, please divulge! thanks for your assistance!
Finding inexpensive and tasty food in the Highlands is not easy. You should be able to find excellent shellfish (scallops, mussels & langoustines) there.
I can recommend the Badachro Inn on the west coast, just south of Gairloch.
On the east coast, Luigi's in Dornoch is very good. It is not Italian, despite the name. They do a very good job with shellfish, especially with mussels.
I'm assuming you're driving if you want to get off the beaten track? If so, I would avoid staying in the major towns if you want to see some of the countryside and eat in unusual places. Having said that, I second the recommendation for Crannog in Fort William - really good seafood and fish dishes.
One other suggestion is that you don't attempt to go all the way up the country - if you only have 4/5 days, it doesn't give you a chance to explore the places away from the main towns. And remember that driving on the West coast always takes longer than you think it will.
You can probably find most of this by searching the board, but here are my recommendations for places on the West Coast:
Oban has a couple of places worth a look - Ee-Usk and Coast.
Two places which take some driving to are:
The Royal Hotel in Tignabruaich in the Kyles of Bute. Gorgeous scenery and very good seafood and game. You can eat in their restaurant or more informally in their bar. It's not much further north than Glasgow, but the drive is quite long - but you can shorten it by getting the car ferry from Greenock to Dunoon.
After the Kyles of Bute, you can drive round Loch Fynne and further West to Loch Sween to eat at the Tayvallich Inn - very good value fresh fish and seafood. It's very out of the way, but we didn't regret the detour. It's under new ownership now (as from 2008).
If I was doing this trail, I would spend a night in Tignabruaich (there are places to stay which are cheaper than the Royal Hotel, but you can still eat there), perhaps another night in Tayvallich. Then a night in Oban and the last night in Fort William.
i ate at crannog in fort william which was very good fish/seafood - full review on my blog, incl a b&b recommendation: http://eattherightstuff.squarespace.c...
in inverness i ate at the mustard seed which was nice enough bistro style food but not particularly interesting or exciting. iirc they do have a good value set menu though.