The Route to Rock Rose Gin: the North Coast 500

Below is an excerpt from the August 2015 edition of GINNED! Magazine about Rock Rose Gin and the Dunnet Bay Distillery. Every month, Craft Gin Club Members receive a bottle of amazing small-batch gins and gin complements accompanied by GINNED! Magazine which is full of information about the gin, the distillery and loads of fascinating features.

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The Dunnet Bay Distillery sits near the oceanside at the very north of the UK in the county of Caithness, a county of pristine natural beauty and top-quality food & drinks producers. To help introduce this amazing area and the rest of the North Highlands to more of the world, an effort coordinated by the North Highland Initiative (NHI) called the North Coast 500 was born. We caught up with the NHI’s Communications and Project Manager, Claire Farquhar, to learn more about the route and the region.

What is the North Coast 500?

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With the North Coast 500, we have joined the roads that connect the coastal towns and villages in the North Highlands into one route that circles the area. Beginning in Inverness, the route passes through the stunning scenery of Black Isle, Easter Ross, Caithness, Sutherland and Wester Ross by dramatic ocean cliffsides, crystal lochs and beautiful mountains. Travelers on the route, which has been hailed by the Daily Telegraph as “One of the World’s Best” and is also comparable to America’s iconic Route 66, immerse themselves in this scenery whilst enjoying the delicious food and drink our local producers have to offer and taking in the rich cultural heritage which dates back centuries to the days when the clans ruled. Visitors will see an abundance of castles which date back to the clans and travel through what are some of the most untouched and unspoiled landscapes in Europe.

How are you promoting the North Coast 500?

Apart from engaging with visitors to the area on social media, we organise events on the route. Our major event to date has been a classic car rally in Inverness this past May which has led to classic cars being driven around the route with lots of people sharing their images whilst they drive past the beautiful scenery in their beautiful cars. Another recent activity involved a cyclist named John Baikie who completed the 516-mile stretch of road on his bike to raise money for the Cash for Kids charity. Events such as these have helped garner us significant press coverage from Lonely Planet tour guides to the front page of the Scotsman. 

How did the North Coast 500 come to be?

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The North Coast 500 is one of a number of projects of the NHI which was founded in 2005 by HRH Prince Charles to support and develop the fragile communities of the North Highlands across three areas - food & drink, tourism and built environment. The route is one of NHI’s tourism projects which also includes events as the Wild North Festival which celebrates our local natural and cultural heritage and the members driven Tourism Project which works with local businesses to foster tourism in the area and collaborate on marketing to drive interest. For food & drink we have developed Mey Selections which encourages closer connections between our region’s farmers, producers and consumers and acts as an umbrella brand for their products. We began by focusing on our beef and lamb and have expanded to include biscuits and shortbread with additional products such as cashmere, salmon and regional cheeses. 

How has the Dunnet Bay Distillery and Rock Rose helped promote the North Coast 500?

Martin and Claire have created a unique gem in the region - the first and only gin distillery in the North Highlands. We are already home to a number of whisky distilleries such as the world renowned Glenmorangie, Dalmore, Old Pulteney, Balblair and Clynelish as well as real ale breweries like the Black Isle Brewery and Cromarty Brewing Company. These businesses, which are primarily near the coasts on the NC500 route, drive tourism to the region and the Dunnet Bay Distillery, only opened last year, is adding to the attraction. 

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