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PICTURES: Highland Shortbread Showdown final takes place at Inverness Cathedral

By Rachel Smart

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Hundreds of people flocked to Inverness Cathedral at the weekend for a sweet treat.

Organised by Visit Inverness Loch Ness (VILN) the final of the Highland Shortbread Showdown took place on Saturday where tourism businesses competed to make their best version of Scotland's much-loved biscuit.

Mackenzie's Bakery from Portree took first place, with baker Paul Mackintosh being presented with a trophy at the grand final. His winning shortbread was flavoured with salted caramel and sea salt sourced from the Isle of Skye Sea Salt Company.

On being crowned winner, he said: “It was a fantastic weekend and build up to the final in Inverness. When I saw all the different shortbread presented in Inverness Cathedral, I did not think for a minute we would win!

“It really was amazing to see so many different shortbreads from all over the Highlands, which really does show that it is the home of the shortbread.

“I have a feeling we will be making a lot more shortbread this year and Mara Stewart my go-to shortbread maker in the bakery is very pleased with our accolade.

“I would like to thank all the people behind the scenes, the judges, sponsors and all the contestants who took part and helped make the Highland Shortbread Showdown such a great event.

“On a personal note, I would like to pay tribute to my fantastic staff, my shop manager Marie Nicolson and to all our loyal customers in Skye. Special mention to my Auntie Mary Flora Clark and my wee granny Joyce Macdonald for passing on the baking skills over the years – I’ve gifted the trophy to them.”

Joint second place was awarded to the Speyside Centre, and Apartment at No 8, both representing the Cairngorms. Third place was awarded to Atholl House on Skye.

The grand final saw winners from each of the region’s eight Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) in Inverness and Loch Ness, Moray, Nairn, Skye and Lochalsh, Dornoch, Caithness and Sutherland, Lochaber and the Cairngorms. In all, 63 businesses entered the competition.

The shortlisted shortbread biscuits were judged by four well-known bakers from the Highlands - Kirsten Gilmour (KJ) from KJ’s Bothy Bakery (formerly the Mountain Café); Jeni Iannetta from Bad Girl Bakery; Craig Wilson aka The Kilted Chef; and Steven Traill from Rain Bakery.

Speaking about the event, which attracted around 800 visitors, Michael Golding, chief executive of VILN, said: “What a fantastic final! Huge congratulations to Mackenzie’s Bakery from Skye but also to everybody who took part. There was a great atmosphere at Inverness Cathedral on Saturday with locals and tourists alike coming along to sample the amazing shortbread and try out the other food and drinks vendors from across the Highlands.

"Coinciding with the first anniversary of the Highland Food and Drink Trail in Inverness, I hope it shows that Inverness and Loch Ness and the whole of the Highlands is an outstanding destination for great food and drink.”

During the final, which was free to attend, there was also live music from UHI students Ceara Campbell, Lola O'Dorel, Ailsa Black and 'The Chosen Lonely' aka Steven Barclay. There were live baking demonstrations for visitors to enjoy, plus a Highland business showcase, treasure hunt and shortbread designing.

A recipe book of all the shortbread recipes that entered the Highland Shortbread Showdown was on sale at the final to raising £765 for Highland Hospice. The book can still be purchased directly from the Highland Hospice.

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