TRAVEL

The Herald Magazine - - CONTENTS -

MERCIFULLY gone are the days when the culi­nary high­light of a trip to the Scot­tish isles was a chip butty on the boat. Today even the CalMac fer­ries serve up the likes of Barra seafood and Ar­gyll Smok­ery salmon as a wave of fresh pro­duce, Miche­lin star restau­rants and ex­cit­ing young chefs rip­ples across the Clyde and out into the He­brides. Scot­land has long boasted a rich nat­u­ral larder as its Gulf Stream wa­ters are a fer­tile breed­ing ground for ev­ery­thing from first­class white fish, through to lan­goustines, ra­zor clams and on to lob­ster. Tra­di­tion­ally the best of it has been spir­ited off to the fine din­ing ta­bles of London, Mi­lan and Paris, but this is no longer the case as do­mes­tic de­mand has in­creased amidst a re­newed in­ter­est in prove­nance.

This rich bounty of seafood in the isles is backed up by su­perb lamb and veni­son and that’s with­out even swirling whisky into the mix. Sa­muel John­son fa­mously grumped his ways through the bleak He­brides in 1773. If he set off today I’m pleased to re­port he would be able to un­der­take the kind of culi­nary odyssey that has put Scot­land’s isles firmly on the global gourmet map. It’s easy for you to em­bark on too. Here’s my six favourites. The Firth of Clyde’s largest is­land is much eu­lo­gised as Scot­land in Minia­ture, an ep­i­thet that it lives up to on the plate. Ar­ran is home to a whisky dis­tillery, with a sec­ond in the pipe­line that is mooted to bring a smok­ier fin­ish to the is­land’s malts. Ar­ran also sports a brew­ery and, in the form of Creel­ers, pro­duce as lo­cal as can be – their own fish­ing boat plucks seafood from the Ar­ran coast, in­clud­ing Lam­lash lob­ster, while their smok­ery cre­ates de­li­cious de­lights that they sell in both their shop and restau­rant. The is­land has a trio of cheese pro­duc­ers, with the su­perb Belle­vue Cream­ery con­jur­ing up the mul­ti­award­win­ning Ar­ran Blue. Stir in Ar­ran Dairies ice-cream, a choco­latier, Ar­ran oat­ies from Woo­leys bak­ery and the Taste of Ar­ran food co-op­er­a­tive, and the is­land of­fers a com­pelling cock­tail. This In­ner He­bridean charmer has emerged thanks to its fa­mous farmed hal­ibut that today stars on menus from Mel­rose to Man­hat­tan. The best place to en­joy it on this bi­jou self-sus­tain­ing is­land (their wind tur­bines now sell elec­tric­ity back to the Na­tional Grid) is the Boathouse. Tucked in an old stone build­ing over­look­ing a typ­i­cally starched white He­bridean beach – you can camp here if you like – this Tardis serves

PHO­TO­GRAPH: COLIN MEARNS

What­ever He­bridean is­land on which you choose to in­dulge your pas­sion for seafood and other trea­sures of the na­tional larder, a CalMac ferry is al­most cer­tain to be your mode of trans­port

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