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History on the menu at new restaurant in Beauly

Kirsty Coutts
Kirsty Coutts

A new restaurant based at a historic coaching inn in Beauly has had to adapt to cater for present day restrictions on travellers.

The Coutts family had spent more than a year renovating the rundown 19th century hotel in Beauly into a restaurant and serviced apartments when the pandemic struck.

While the apartments received visitors during the summer, the restaurant opening was delayed for eight months, and now cannot attract people from outside levels one and two.

The Downright Gabbler provides menus featuring local produce, along with talks on historic connections to food and drink.

It is run by Garry Coutts, his wife Jane Cumming, and their daughter Kirsty, who trained as a chef at nearby Achnagairn Estate and designed the Scottish-focused menu.

Mr Coutts, who is also chairman of the University of the Highlands and Islands court, said: “We want a visit here to be a special experience for our guests.

“They’ll hear interesting stories, enjoy great food and drink and maybe make some new friends.

“We’ve changed the focus of our events a little to give them more appeal to people locally as we’re only able to welcome guests from other level one and two areas.

“There’s no doubt it’s been tough this year and we’ve had to spend quite a bit of time working out how we could change our plans to deliver the events safely in these new circumstances.”

He said the Beauly restaurant is responding to changes in the tourism market, which show visitors are keen to enjoy experiences while they are travelling, as well as a growing interest in locally-produced food and drink.

Downright Gabbler

A lot of work has been done on ensuring safety and three successful pilot events have been held.

Ms Cumming, who chairs the Highlands and Islands Committee of the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, said: “We think the shorter events will appeal to a local audience more and we’ve been heartened by the level of interest we’ve had from people locally.

“We may not be able to have visitors from further afield, but equally people in the local area can’t travel to tier 3 or 4 areas, so are looking for something to do nearby.

“We hope it will bring a bit of cheer.”

Initially, it was planned the Downright Gabbler, named after a forgotten woman of the Scottish Enlightenment, was to feature a seven-course banquet which looked at beer, claret and whisky.

Due to pandemic restrictions, the restaurant will host a series of shorter events with a maximum of 10 people.

The first will celebrate the role of beer in Scotland’s history, including how it helped fuel both the agricultural and industrial revolutions and also helped support the Empire.

A whisky event will be held in the new year, followed by an afternoon tea with gin, although guests will not be restricted to the drinks featured.

One-off occasions are also being considered, including one for International Women’s Day, focusing on women who have made their mark in the food and drink industry over the years.

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