“ Address: Viewfield Road / Portree / Isle of Skye / IV51 9EU / United Kingdom / Tel: +44 (0)1478 613649 „
The Aros Centre is located on the road into Portree from Broadford, on the south side of the town on the Isle of Skye. Aros is a kind of mixed cultural/visitor centre, the kind you can come across all over the Highlands of Scotland.
The centre is free to visit, although it sometimes has exhibitions you have to pay to get into. It has a cinema, exhibition area, gallery, shop and café.
I visited earlier this year with my parents. The first section we went into was the gallery, which showcases local sculpture and painting, usually for sale. It was small, with not a lot on display, although what was there was good and quite interesting - I liked some paintings of the game of shinty. Having visited before, my mum commented that it was a considerably smaller display than she had seen there previously.
At the time we visited, the cinema was advertising two current release films. Although quite possibly the only cinema for miles around (I don't know where the nearest is on the mainland), the Aros cinema does not serve a large population so doesn't have many showings, just a few a week - best check in advance before you plan to go.
We decided not to visit the exhibition which was on at the time, about Sea Eagles. A year or two ago the Aros Centre held an exhibition of Runrig memorabilia, which I had heard was made permanent, but sadly that was not the case. From Runrig to Sea Eagles though, that shows the range of exhibitions which the Aros hosts.
The shop at the Aros Centre is large, but a bit odd. It has some nice, good quality Scottish products and souvenirs, such as the Ness range of accessories, and some Scottish handmade soaps and the like, but it also has a large amount of tat. Cheesy greetings cards, cheap looking toys and ornaments, and a large kitchenware section. It also has a small book section, which contains books about Scotland, about Gaelic, by Scots, taking the mickey out of Scots. Although small, it is actually quite good. There is also an outdoorwear section, but not for the serious walker - an example of a product from it is welly boots with a liquorice allsort design. Fun but perhaps not practical. In the end we didn't buy anything from the shop, although I was tempted by some Gaelic Christmas cards - but as it was September, I just couldn't do it. I believe that the Christmas season is December.
The café is also quite large, and is nicely positioned at the front of the building so there is a nice view over the glen and towards Portree. There is a large menu of snacks, sandwiches and main meals. My mum had lentil soup and my dad had a brie and bacon toastie, with no complaints from either - as they ordered it as one soup and toastie special, it was £5.50. I was intrigued by one of the fillings on offer with a baked tattie - macaroni cheese. I'd never though of that in a baked tattie, and it sounded tasty. I need to point out however how it was listed on the menu - it was presented as a filling, so the menu read something like "baked tattie with: cheese, beans, tuna, macaroni cheese, or chilli". When it came, I had a large dish of macaroni cheese accompanied by a plain baked tattie and side salad. I think someone in the kitchen misunderstood something. I can't complain, it was very good, and given the quantity, excellent value at £6 - just not presented as I expected!
I think we spent around an hour in the Aros Centre, including our lunch. You could quite easily spend longer there if you were to take in an exhibition. It's definitely worth a stop on the way into Portree, and I would recommend it for lunch.