Crab rolls slathered in mayo, a showstopping Michelin-recommended fish dish – for a real foodie treat, check out this Scottish seafood tour that takes you from Loch Lomond and the Trossachs to Port Appin. And book your lodgings along the way with Culture Trip.
Strap yourself in for 220mi (354km) of travel across the west coast of Scotland – where describing the route as spectacular doesn’t do it justice. You’ll be journeying through dramatic landscapes, with scenery that’s sculpted by the elements into a craggy, rigid aesthetic.
You may be fortunate enough to pick the one day of the year when the sun decides to show its face in Scotland. More likely, though, you’ll be met by a frantic whirlwind of rain, sleet and possibly even snow – making it all the more cosy when you arrive at your next welcoming hostelry, close the door behind you and feast on some of the finest seafood in the world.
Although the fresh highland air remains chilly, when blue skies emerge from behind the clouds and the water sits perfectly still to create a mirror’s edge, there’s no better sight. And this journey will take you to some of the best places to take in these sights. You’re in for a treat.
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Luss Seafood Bar, Loch Lomond
The first stop on your seafood journey is Luss Seafood Bar. If you’re setting off from Glasgow, it’s a 45-minute drive northwest through delightful villages, into Balloch Castle Country Park and up along the first of your many lochs, Loch Lomond. Luss’s speciality is beech smoked salmon produced in the village smokehouse.
If you want to make the most of Loch Lomond and enjoy Luss Seafood Bar for dinner, the Glenlaird Bed and Breakfast is on the other side of the loch. You’ll receive a warm welcome to this family-friendly stay and be a five-minute drive away from Buchanan Castle.
A half-hour drive north takes you to the coastal hamlet of Cairndow – a stop-off point for Queen Victoria in 1875. For a dinner fit for royalty, visit Loch Fyne Oyster Bar, a company that was a pioneer in the Scottish food and drink scene. Of course, it would be rude not to try its produce, freshly caught from the loch.
For a peaceful night away from it all, this Victorian lodge is near the town of Callander, in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. The drive from Cairndow is around an hour and a half, but it might just be the most beautiful drive you’ve ever taken, as it winds through the national park and past the peak of Ben More. Wake up to a home-made breakfast that will set you up nicely for the day ahead.
Take a 15-minute drive down Loch Fyne, bordered by fields, arched bridges and forested hills, to Strachur, with clear views across the loch. This landscape is the Creggans Inn’s larder, where you’ll be dining next. The chefs often catch your supper themselves – whether that’s scallops, langoustines, mackerel or mussels. The award-winning dining room serves a table d’hôte four-course menu with canapés and petits fours.
The Creggans Inn on Loch Fyne | Courtesy of The Creggan Inn / Expedia
About 25mi south (40km), Tighnabruaich, a village on the Cowal peninsula and a popular sailing destination, is also home to one of Scotland’s most successful shinty clubs. If you don’t know what that is, look it up, or even better, watch it live. It’s a ferocious game. After a sail and some shinty, head for dinner at the Royal an Lochan.
A 10-minute drive from the restaurant is one of the best spa and wellness retreats in Scotland, Portavadie. This sleek, Scandi-inspired hotel offers spa treatments using Outer Hebrides-developed Ishga products that harness the healing qualities of Scottish seaweed and spring water from the Isle of Lewis. Relax in the infinity pool and take in deep breaths of the fresh West Highlands air.
In the next part of your Scottish adventure, you need to catch a ferry from Portavadie to Tarbert, then drive south for an hour through the untouched rural countryside of Kintyre. Skipness Castle and Kilbrannan Chapel (also known as St Brendan’s Chapel) are worth a stop en route. For a rustic dining option on the journey, head to the Skipness Seafood Cabin for lunch, where you can tuck into a wholemeal crab roll while enjoying the spectacular views across the Kilbrannan Sound to Arran.
Now it’s time to head an hour north to the canalside village of Cairnbaan. The canal provides perfect walking and sailing opportunities, or you can visit the Iron Age Dunadd Fort or Achnabreac Forest. After a long drive and lots of exploring, a huge bowl of mussels and a pint of prawns are waiting for you at the Cairnbaan Hotel. And you won’t have to travel far to get to your bed, so we’d recommend enjoying its wide selection of drinks at the bar.
The Cairnbaan Hotel has a colourful history. Once the roughest pub in Argyll – it was said that no crime was considered serious enough to get you barred – it’s now a delightful place that has hosted the great and the good, including the Princess Royal and the Clintons.
Ready for the final and longest leg of the journey? Still hungry for more seafood? Well, let’s take you an hour and a half north, across the Connel Bridge and up to Appin, a coastal district in the Scottish West Highlands. This port town is where you’ll find the Pierhouse Hotel and Seafood Restaurant on the shores of Argyll’s Loch Linnhe, near the impressive Castle Stalker. Dine at the award-winning restaurant and enjoy a drink by the wood-burning stove at the Ferry Bar, stocked with more than 100 malts. You might want to try them all now that you’ve come to the end of the journey. And you can stay upstairs, so give it your best shot.
At the Pierhouse Hotel, you can feast on fresh seafood and then retire to your room | Courtesy of The Pierhouse Hotel / Expedia
The Pierhouse Hotel is an intimate accommodation with views of the isles of Lismore and Mull. It has seven yacht moorings available and can arrange therapeutic massage treatments and outdoor activities for guests.