If you’re on the hunt for a little hidden gem on the North Coast of Scotland then I have just the recommendation for you. Annie’s Bakery, run by Annie Body, is a bakery, shop and cafe situated in a remote part of the countryside between Dunnet and John O’Groats in Upper Gills, Canisbay.
I recently took a trip with my mum, sister and best friend (and former flatmate) Mara. I am not going to lie, this was a long awaited trip. The bakery’s opening times can be a bit tricky to navigate as they aren’t open on a Saturday and my sister and I have busy working schedules. However, in saying that, I can definitely say it was worth the wait.
Before I even mention the food I thought I would inform you of the journey as it wasn’t the easiest. We went nearer John O’Groats than was probably needed, taking the turn off to Gills. Google maps then proceeded to inform us of two locations for the Bakery which meant we had to ask a very nice man on the side of the road where we were going. But it doesn’t stop there, after a wrong turn and a lack of signage we still managed to go in the wrong direction. Thus, the moral of the story is: add 30mins to your journey just incase. I have been informed since then that if you take the turn off opposite Castle of Mey, you MAY (ha..ha) find an easier route that is quieter and a lot better to navigate. I am not sure if the whole google maps situation is fixable but if it is it would be nice to take the wrong location off (or make it more obvious which one is correct). If you are stuck or are looking to take a visit please use the map and address they’ve supplied on their Facebook, don’t use Google Maps.
Anyway, when you eventually get to Annie’s Bakery you are greeted with stunning views of the Pentland Firth, a lovely shop/bakery and a Marquee for sitting in (also with outdoor seating so you can take dogs).
The shop was like a breath of fresh air. The set up was simple, clean but very inviting and something which I think the local area was missing. Not only can you browse the array of cakes, tray-bakes and savoury goods (see image) they also sell pickled veg, preserves, individually wrapped cookies and (sadly which I missed out on and really wanted to get my hands on) bread.
The shop is also where you place your food order (whether that is for takeaway or sit in). Focussing on Soup, Sandwiches, Sausage Rolls and Pies, and the infamous Mac Dog – which was sadly out of stock but sounds right up my street – means you are spoilt for choice. Although possibly simplistic in its offering, I think this is a considered choice where every item is made to perfection rather than bombarding you with 1000 options.
After you place your order you take a numbered spoon and either take a seat in the marquee or outside. We were very lucky and went on a warm day so I can’t exactly inform you on what its like when the Scottish weather shows its full colours. The Marquee is lovely, with loads of the iconic Bakery’s colour, yellow, dotted around the place. The seats are picnic benches with the addition of the odd table and chairs. For what I thought would be quite uncomfortable, did not bother me at all. I mean you can’t help but have a smile on your face when you walk into somewhere with pops of yellow and sunflowers. And to top it off, if you are lucky, you can sit with George, the extremely well natured and petted cat.
Now for the best part… THE FOOD. I went for the pulled pork pie with salad and crisps (usually also comes with coleslaw but I am not a fan of the creamy stuff), a latte and a mars bar crispy slice. I was thoroughly impressed by the pie. Filled with delicious pulled pork in what tastes like a more tomato based BBQ sauce. The portion is the perfect size, especially if you want to accompany it with one of their baked goods. It comes with lightly salted crisps, which for a fussy crisp eater (no sour cream and chive thanks) I was delighted. Coming from a traditional area when it comes to pies (there are 3 bakery’s in town which almost compete for the best scotch pie) I was delighted that they had scotch pies, steak pies and pulled pork ones. Perfect for both the traditionalist and the experimental.
My sister also had the pulled pork pie and was impressed by the flakiness of the pastry which matched her opinions of her favourite one in town. However, as she rightly pointed out, they are for different reasons. Annie’s hard pastry shell with a flaky top made her pie stand out from the more traditional but tasty hardshell pies found in town.
Alongside this they had a caramelised onion sausage roll which sounded delicious. We aimed to take this back for a treat for my dad but they were sold out. I think that says it all. Mara however managed to score herself one for lunch.
Mara’s quick fire review was ‘loved the decor, atmosphere, so friendly, DELICIOUS FOOD, but the best bit was George’ I mean, I can’t argue with that!
My mum had the chicken soup with a coronation chicken sandwich on lovely brown bread. After tasting Annie’s bread at my work (I do housekeeping and breakfast shifts at a local lodge) I was very impressed by the quality of their loafs, hence why I wanted to get my hands on one. Thus, it was no surprise that my mum was delighted with something as simple as a sandwich. The chicken soup looked delicious and if it was a colder day I definitely would have had a bowl.
Savoury food aside, I couldn’t not touch upon the baked goods, especially when there was a whole display cabinet dedicated to them. My mars bar crispy slice was good, I don’t think I could necessarily say much aside from that. It was a lot softer in texture than I expected and was missing more of the crispiness which I’ve found in other slices. I’m not sure if this was because they aren’t refrigerated or because I arrived just before 1 o’clock (they shut at 2 on a Sunday) which meant they were out for longer. My sister had the malteser option and felt very much the same with hers. I can’t however fault the portion size, you get a large slice of everything and when sitting in there is also takeaway tubs available on the ‘help yourself’ counter which was a very nice touch. My sister also bought the brownie which she took to work later in the day and was very happy with it, so it comes highly recommended as something to try.
My mum on the other hand enjoyed a bit of the coconut slice traybake which, coming from a fellow baker, she said was lovely. Although the portion sizes were rather large for her appetite she enjoyed it all the same. I also managed to stop by at the end to grab some of their homemade marmalade which I can confirm is very tasty!
Now for the price. For 2 main meals (a pie with salad, coleslaw and crisps), an individual sausage roll, a soup and sandwich combo, a mars bar slice and a coconut traybake slice, 2 cold soft drinks, a latte and a tea all came to £32.80. Now for all that I’d say that’s pretty affordable, right!? Great food + at a fabulous price point, what is not to love?
So, for both locals and tourists alike Annie’s Bakery is a small spot of heaven away from more of the hustle and bustle surrounding the likes of the Castle of Mey and John O’Groats. It has been lovely to see them going from strength to strength over the past few years and I’m delighted that I finally got the chance to experience it for myself.
Annie’s is a family run business and you can truly tell that when you’re there. The staff are extremely welcoming and friendly (even the cat) which puts you immediately at ease. You can find the bakery on both Instagram and Facebook if you want to keep updated with what they are doing.
You can even make a day out of it by stopping there for some lunch or brunch and then head off to John O’Groats or another one of the many beautiful places the North of Scotland has to offer. Check out my post on John O’Groats from last year if you want some inspiration.
Annie’s Bakery is situated in Bridle Way, Upper Gills, Canisbay, Caithness, KW1 4YD and is open 10-2 Wednesday-Friday & Sunday.
Are you planning a trip up North anytime soon – would you add it to your list? If you’ve been what do you think? And finally if anyone can tell me where to get my hands on some of that bread I’d be very grateful!
Sending lots of love,