If living in Scotland has taught me one thing, besides that Scots are amongst the friendliest people one will ever meet, is that you don’t let a glorious sunny day go to waste. So on one of the sunniest Saturday mornings I have ever experienced in Scotland, with “The Rough guide to Scottish Highlands & islands” always on one hand and backpack on the other, we were off to the Highlands!
The mission? To EAT! More specifically, to feast our way through the West Highlands on some of Scotland’s best and freshest seafood, which is famous all over Europe! I‘m talking splendid Scottish salmon (whose exports this year reached a record-breaking £600 million!), succulent scallops, ginormous lobsters, amazing oysters and more. And I was about to consume all of the above – and then some – whilst making my way to the Seafood Capital of Scotland, the beautiful Oban.
• SATURDAY morning
– Loch Lomond:
First stop on Saturday morning? Loch Lomond! With just a mere 45 minute scenic drive from Glasgow we found ourselves in Luss, a pretty little village on the western shore of Loch Lomond, which serves as a super popular day-trip destination or pit stop to a longer Highland route. Entering the village one is instantly welcomed by charming rows of sandstone cottages beautifully displaying their colourful gardens, before reaching the loch’s sandy shore. There you can enjoy a lazy walk by the water (make sure you visit the Luss Pier), do sports such as paddleboarding, take selfies and pet people’s dogs, which is exactly what we did – minus the paddle boarding.
| More on Loch Lomond here.
• SATURDAY lunchtime
– Loch Fyne Oyster Bar + Deli:
Just 30 minutes north east of Luss, after driving up and down rugged mountains and twisty roads, is where we stopped for the most lavish lunch. Loch Fyne Oyster Bar & Deli is the name of the game, and you should do yourselves a favour and head there ASAP. It’s an excellent restaurant, heavenly deli shop and splendid smokehouse, and serves – hands down – the best seafood in Scotland and some of the best in the whole of the UK. Don’t be fooled by the name; the eatery does not just provide superb oysters, but a variety of other world-class seafood produce as well. And whether you are having the roasted lobster, the smoked salmon fillet or the loin of cod – all sourced by the divine waters of Loch Fyne – one thing is for sure: you are going to love every mouthful.
Ok enough chat, time to eat. Grilled Loch Fyne oysters with garlic breadcrumbs to start, a whole Tarbet lobster with chips, garlic aioli and a rocket and parmesan salad for main, and a sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream for dessert, and I was in food Heaven.
Tip: Can’t get a seat at the (usually packed) restaurant? Don’t have time for a sit-down meal and want a quick lunch break in your road trip? Don’t want to “waste” a good sunny day and prefer eating outside? Then the Deli counter is your answer! Tasty fish pies, filled bagels, salads and more wait to be served to you or be collected (call 01499 600 483 ahead of time to place an order for collection) before you head your way!
• SATURDAY evening
3 hours later (it takes a long ass time to scoop lobster meat off those claws!) we were on our way to THE Oban (*enters praise hands emoji*), a charming port town on the west Highlands and, rightfully so, proclaimed Seafood Capital of Scotland. Besides feeding people fresh seafood, Oban also serves as the getaway to the surrounding islands, such as the gorgeous Isle of Mull which is only a 45 minute ferry ride away.
Around sunset time, (which is like 10pm in late spring in Scotland), we checked in our accommodation and headed down town. Being so renowned for its seafood Oban has no shortage of great restaurants and taverns (Ee-usk, which means “fish” in gaelic, Cuan Mor and The Waterfront Fishouse Restaurant) are amongst the best). We ended up dining at Cuan Mor (which translates to Big Ocean in gaelic), which I totally recommend since it serves awesome food until after 9pm (so convenient!) is right across the water and has a really cool atmosphere. We devoured an exquisite lemony trout, a delicious grilled salmon fillet, loads of sweet potato fries and a crisp cold bottle of white wine, after which we and went straight back to the B & B and fell in a food coma.
• SUNDAY morning
– Oban & Castles:
Sunday morning was all about sightseeing, but not before stuffing our faces with a full Scottish breakfast (I’m talking Stornway black pudding and everything) at the B&B. Sightseeing in and around Oban is a delight, as there are so many things to see within a short driving distance. A bunch of epic medieval castles (such as the 1220s Dunstaffnage Castle – how the hell do you pronounce its name? – and the romantic and very photogenic 1400s Kilchurn Castle and 1320s Castle Stalker), the beautiful Loch Etive, the Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary, Oban’s McCaig tower and more!
Fun Fact: Interested in Marine Biology? Then listen up! Right next to Dunstaffnage Castle and surrounded by the sounds of the sea lies one of Europe’s leading marine science research organisations, the renowned Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS). The centre, which is part of the University of Highlands and Islands, offers undergraduate and postgraduate (MSc, MPhil, PhD) courses, in subjects from Oceanography and Marine Robotics to the Biotechnology of Algae (Is it too late to do another PhD studying zooplankton or something?).
• SUNDAY lunchtime
– Oban Seafood Hut:
There was one thing and one thing only on my mind before returning to Glasgow, and that was to experience THE Oban Seafood Hut. A green shack famous all over the UK – and world! – for serving superb seafood (the place has an IMPRESSIVE 5/5 rating from 1600 Trip Advisor reviews!!!) for essentially pennies. The location? Right on the dock opposite the colourful fishing boats and ferries, which makes the experience that much more authentic. The food? A vast selection of FRESH (when we were there someone literarily got off a boat and brought a bunch of gigantic crabs to the owner) no-nonsense seafood options, from lobsters to crab sandwiches and from scallops in garlic butter to oysters. The prices? Absurd. The most you can pay is £25 on a seafood platter for 2-4 people, which contains lobster and other goodies. I mean I got a freshly prepared crab sandwich for £4.00 for crying out loud, which is how much a ham and cheese sandwich costs at Starbucks! Of course the prices reflect, to an extend, the fact that it is still just a hut with a limited amount of chairs (in fact, were they any chairs?) serving its food in polystyrene plates. But sometimes when you come across meals that good, a plastic fork is all you need.
• SUNDAY afternoon
Driving back to Glasgow we stopped for a stroll at the beautiful Inveraray, paid a visit to its must-see castle and soaked up the sun at the shores of Loch Fyne. If our stomachs could take it, we would have stopped for an early dinner at Samphire, a great restaurant (thank you Katie for the recommendation!) with solid seafood menu that is more gentle on your wallet than places like Loch Fyne Oyster Bar & Deli.
Having been to the West Highlands many, many times, I did not need another reason to love them more.
And yet this weekend has given me many delicious memories that make the “West of Scotland” experience hard to beat in my book.