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Caitlin Rush March 27 2019

“Eat local, eat fresh, eat natural.”

It’s a mantra resounding across the foodie world and, luckily, an easy goal to strive towards in Scotland. The entire foundation of Scottish food culture and identity is based on natural ingredients easily found in our great outdoors – think Scottish raspberries in a traditional cranachan dessert, haddock that abounds in the surrounding seas used to create our traditional fish soup Cullen skink, or a Scottish roast beef accompanied by local root vegetables grown in Scotland’s fertile green spaces.

 

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While haggis may spring to mind when you think of Scottish cuisine, what epitomises our cooking is not the stereotypical dishes but rather our fresh, natural produce. By the end of this blog, you may be sick of me using the words “local” and “home-made”, for they chime out of tiny cafes and large restaurants across Scotland.

Scotland’s west coast offers jaw-dropping scenery and some of the very best Scottish food experiences, and this is my guide to making the most of this foodie coastline. The incredible seafood bars and Michelin-recommended restaurants feature, of course, but so do smaller cafes that serve up a hearty slice of cake and a creamy cappuccino. It’s all about exciting your palate and warming your heart as you drive this stunning country …

 

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First nibbles …

Starting from Glasgow, my foodie journey begins by heading north to beautiful and mesmerising Loch Lomond – the biggest expanse of inland water in the UK and the perfect spot for a picnic. Take a stroll up one of the iconic hills close at hand such as Conic Hill beside Balmaha, or the Cobbler at Arrochar. Here you can have a welcome stretch of the legs ready to pack in as much food as possible.

At the picturesque village of Luss, stopping for refreshments at the Coach House Coffee Shop is compulsory. Here they fill their teapots to the brim and their cakes come in generous slices.

 

 

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Loch Fyne …

Venturing on towards the shores of Loch Fyne along the A83, you’ll travel past the iconic beauty spot the Rest and Be Thankful. On the shores of Loch Fyne is the legendary Loch Fyne Oyster Bar, a Scottish gastronomic icon where clean and unfussy seafood allows you to delve wholeheartedly into the fresh flavours and beautiful views. The menu continuously changes depending on the season and the catch brought in by fishermen each day.

The restaurant focuses on supporting the local community through the provision of the very best seafood sourced with the least environmental impact possible. Some favourite dishes are the oysters served with smoked anchovies and parmesan and the Tarbert scallops, smoked bacon and garlic butter – a sublime culinary experience.

 

 

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Close at hand the exemplary seafood can be washed down with a beer from Fyne Ales Brewery, made using water from the hills surrounding their spectacular Glen Fyne location.

Stock up on some bottles for later or perhaps choose to try the succulent steak pie served up in their bar, made using beef sourced from their own herd of highland cattle.

 

 

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Heading up the coast …

The coast now beckons, but along the way I’d visit picture-perfect Inveraray for some sightseeing at the 19th-century Jail. A caffeine and cake hit is again needed upon passing Lochgilphead – the thick chocolate tiffin from The Square Peg would be my traybake of choice.

From here it is just 15 minutes to Crinan where the renowned seafood bar of the Crinan Hotel awaits. Dinner is served just 50 yards from the pier where the freshest seafood is landed each day. Dine on jumbo prawns, crayfish, clams, lobster, mussels or oysters as you watch the bustling life of the sea lock.

Upstairs, the Michelin recommended Westward Restaurant offers five-course gourmet dinners overlooking the sea towards the Isle of Jura and the whirling Corryvreckan. Their seasonal menu features delights such as Sound of Jura lobster and whole Loch Crinan langoustines with garlic aioli, as well as non-seafood dishes such as a roast rack of mouthwatering Argyll lamb.

 

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On to Oban …

Meandering up the coastline to my next eating destination, stop for some culture at Kilmartin Glen. This is a special place and one of the most important archaeological sites in Scotland – start at the museum and be sure to visit their stone barn cafe and courtyard. The homemade (of course) white chocolate and cranberry scones are unequivocally delicious.

Reaching Oban, ‘Scotland’s Seafood Capital’ – the choice of seafood and classic fish and chips is overwhelming. By the ferry terminal, you can purchase langoustines plucked fresh from the sea. Nearby, a hot smoked salmon sandwich from the Oban Seafood Hut or Food From Argyll at The Pier may be the best bread and filling combination you’ve ever eaten.

 

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Along the main street, you can buy salt and vinegar-laden chips and look out to the harbour.

For something to satisfy that undeniable post-savoury sweetness craving, the Oban Chocolate Cafe serves up white and milk chocolate fish and chips in a newspaper-lined box, Irn Bru and whisky truffles, and chocolate orange waffles topped with handmade chocolate flakes.

 

 

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Hopping across to the Isle of Mull …

Having sat staring out to sea admiring the beautiful views and basking in the joy of trying some of the best seafood in Scotland I wouldn’t yet be content. The sea itself calls and my next stop is across the water.

A 45-minute ferry from Oban, the Isle of Mull is famous for wildlife, the coloured houses that line the pretty harbour of Tobermory and most importantly, its wonderful, locally-produced food and drink.

 

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Mull is home to the world-famous Isle of Mull cheddar – a brand synonymous with premium quality. At the island’s dairy farm you can watch firsthand as the ivory-coloured cheese is crafted to create a distinctively sharp and fruity flavour.

 

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A visit to Mull would be incomplete without visiting the amazing Cafe Fish in Tobermory where the portions are enormous and quality sublime.

Set idyllically overlooking the harbour, their menu is scribbled onto a board each day and features the freshest ingredients possible. Their Sound of Mull scallops with a Malaysian coconut and turmeric laksa sauce are the perfect fusion of international spice and sea flavours.

 

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Off the beaten track …

Would you take a ferry just to reach exceptional food? A delicious idea to me! Getting to The Whitehouse Restaurant by Lochaline is not easy, but after the Corran ferry and a 12-mile drive south, your tastebuds will be richly rewarded with a menu underpinned by locally-foraged ingredients and simple flavours. They offer a carefully-sourced 4 to 6-course tasting menu that is worth every picturesque mile.

Perhaps try smoked mackerel terrine, Gigha halibut exquisitely decorated with edible flowers, or crab and smoked salmon ravioli … need I say more?

 

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Inland to Fort William …

For the crème de la crème of Scottish dining experiences, head to the opulent Inverlochy Castle Hotel for a once in a lifetime meal in magnificent, royal surroundings. Their fine dining rooms are charmingly decorated with decadent furniture gifted by the King of Norway and their 3 AA rosette restaurant runs seamlessly under the expert rule of legendary father and son duo Albert and Michel Roux. Not to mention the setting …

 

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The menu focuses on modern British cuisine with French influences, created using the best local produce. Their tasting menu is a fabulous option to trial your taste buds on exquisitely presented and mind-bogglingly creative dishes such as their recent seaweed cured sea trout or roast Atlantic cod.

If you fancy a truly British experience you could also book in for afternoon tea for a memorably indulgent end to your Scottish foodie adventure.

 

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Eat Your Way Around Scotland

If you are a foodie like me I highly recommend basing your holiday around a few iconic Scottish culinary experiences. Didn’t I mention you’d be sick of me saying that everything is local? Come and see for yourself!

Caitlin Rush

P.S. Established in Edinburgh in 2004, Absolute Escapes are award-winning specialists in self-drive holidays in Scotland. Our team have turned our love of exploring Scotland into our day job – we know exactly where to find the best accommodation, the best food and drink experiences, and how to turn your trip into an unforgettable one. Send us an enquiry now and start planning your delicious trip to Scotland!

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