Eating and Drinking in Cowal and Kintyre

22 November 2016

 loch fyne

The Kintyre Peninsula and the adjoining Cowal Peninsula are famous for many things, with the most popular attractions being the scenery, the beaches, the historical sites and golf courses. What many people do not realise is that the area is also one of the best destinations in the country for eating and drinking.

Loch Fyne makes a great starting point for a culinary tour. Loch Fyne oysters are famous and it would be remiss for anyone to pass by without sampling them. You can sit at a table in the oyster bar and gaze out over the waters where they originated from, fresh, local and sustainable. Is that not just the perfect combination? To complement this then how about sipping a locally produced ale. Loch Fyne Ales produce some of the most distinctive beers on the market, brewed specially to complement some of the area’s natural ingredients. A particular favourite is the Fynebank, a peat smoked golden ale produced in collaboration with the Springbank Distillery in Campbeltown. Raineachan overlooks the shores of Loch Fyne, an inspiring place to retire to after some over indulgence.

Heading south west to the top of Kintyre the next stop on our foodie tour is Kilberry. The Kilberry Inn holds a prestigious Michelin Bib Gourmand and has counted royalty among its long list of famous patrons.  This tiny unassuming building houses one of the most renowned seafood menus in the west, hardly a surprise as it sits right on the coast. This is what makes the dining experience so special. Had this restaurant been in the middle of a busy city it would be packed to the rafters and booked solid years in advance. Instead we have what is like an open secret, amazing, inventive cuisine in a relaxing and informal setting. It’s a short drive from here to Achaglachgach Stables. It too has the feeling of being like a secret hideaway, it is rural and so quiet and relaxing, but only a short hop to all the facilities you need.

The drive south to the foot of Kintyre is a stunning experience and one that it is best not to rush. Campbeltown, once referred to as “The Whisky capital of the World” is the destination here and the Springbank Distillery, a relic of whisky production from a bygone age. Hand made the traditional way with 100% of the process taking place on site, the whisky from here is truly unique. A distillery tour is a must and will give you the opportunity to sample a large range of vintage malts. Load up the car afterwards, then head back to Kirkland House. A comfy seat beside the log burning stove here is the perfect location to crack open a bottle and savour some of the finest hand crafted whisky you can find anywhere. If beer is more to your liking then try Whisky Macs, one of the best real ale pubs in Scotland that has an ever changing menu of up to 24 craft beers from around the world as well as an American themed diner.

The Skipness Seafood Cabin is a classic informal dining experience. Sit outside on a wooden bench and enjoy the finest shellfish served up with the minimum of fanfare. The food speaks for itself here unadorned by sophisticated flavours or decoration. It is hearty, wholesome and unpretentious and makes the perfect lunchtime stop when you visit the nearby castle.

It’s a short ferry hop from Tarbert to get back to Portavadie on Cowal and the final indulgence on our itinerary, the Royal an Lochan Hotel in Tighnabruaich. The specialty here is Tarbert landed langoustines, recently championed by top Scottish chef Tom Kitchin. It’s a splendid unashamedly old fashioned building where you can choose the formal dining of the main restaurant or the rustic charm and clamour of the shinty bar, which can be quite an experience on a busy weekend. Kilfinan House is just a few miles away, and makes a great spot to relax. It feels like another world but you are still only an hour and a half drive away from Glasgow.