It started as a holiday daydream. Charlie Haddock and her partner, chef Paul Rankin, had been to a festival at Mhor 84 in Balquihidder. Feeling a little jaded afterwards they headed off to Skye in a campervan to visit their friend Michael Smith at the Lochbay restaurant and recuperate. They visited the pub next door.  

The Stein Inn sits on the shore at an impossibly beautiful point on the Isle of Skye beside a scattering of whitewashed stone buildings and a small harbour. “We joked to each other, “wouldn’t it be great to own a place like this?” Charlie explains. “Then suddenly we were in Catalonia with my son on holiday a couple of years later, and Michael calls to say the pub has come up for sale. We put in an offer and it became reality. I moved out of London, where I had been for 22 years, with my kids. We had fallen in love with the place, the nature, where it is located. We got the keys at six o’clock on 12 July 2019 and we were open that night.” 

Since then, the family have embraced island life, adding their own story to the pub with rooms, the oldest inn on Skye. “My daughter, who is 16, is in London at school but she comes with her friends every holiday and waitresses. My son is a junior manager with his motorbike outside. Jack who is only 10, everyone loves him, he likes to check in guests to their room. Over the summer they are out swimming in the loch at night.”

HeraldScotland:

The Stein Inn is the definition of Scottish destination dining, at the end of a single road track, isolated even from the rest of Skye. A secluded spot to rest with a glass of wine and some seafood. People travel from far and wide to be here, but much of the catch of the day is landed within sight of their front door. 

“Ian from Loch Bay Shellfish, he brings the crab. There are langoustines literally on the doorstep. Diners can see it all happening. Lobster goes from the sea to the plate in minutes. The fishermen will walk in with it.”

HeraldScotland:

Charlie has felt a sense of belonging since moving from London, but it has been a process of adjustment. “I was used to having everything the city offered. I feel accepted by the community here, we know our neighbours and you don’t necessarily have that in the city. I felt their support during lockdown.

"WiFi can be a challenge. Obviously, I can’t just walk down the road to get an avocado from the supermarket.”  But who needs avocado for breakfast when you can have lobster? “Lobster every day!” Charlie laughs, “I realised the grass isn’t greener in London, it’s just cut different. It’s about putting things in perspective.”

HeraldScotland:

The Stein Inn is flying the flag for local produce. “I’ve actually got the Skye flag, which I need to put up outside. I’m a blow-in but everything we do is about local suppliers and sustainability. We are booked out until November and we are so delighted that people are coming from all over the country to visit us. This is an incredible place. Whether it is fish or lamb or venison or mushrooms, we are presented with fantastic stuff in the kitchen and we want to present it in the right way."

thesteininn.co.uk

HeraldScotland:

Actor Jack Lowden says Scorrybreac is his favourite restaurant in Scotland. “In came this plate of fish that the maître D’ had caught himself that day and the brilliant chef had done daft with it with oranges and sprinkled Douglas Fir through it. The whole thing just worked” he explained in an interview this summer.  

The maître D’ is the quietly charismatic Will Humphries, a Welshman with an enthusiasm for provenance. He does most of the heavy lifting in the dining room, both conveying plates and the story behind the ingredients. Ask him questions about wine and local produce before he glides off to a nearby table. 

The brilliant chef is owner Calum Munro, son of Runrig singer Donnie. Brought up on Skye, Calum trained in kitchens on the mainland before moving to Paris. He returned home and started a supper club at his parent’s house, cooking dishes on the family Aga.

This evolved into Scorrybreac, a cosy fine dining experience housed in a gloriously kitsch converted fisherman’s cottage, overlooking Portree harbour.

There’s eight table in the front room, with a view into the narrow kitchen that resembles a ship’s galley. “The tasting menu will change day to day based on what ingredients are the best, but the style will remain the same” the restaurant states as it’s guiding mantra.

HeraldScotland:

Our visit coincided with a procession of dishes that included monkfish with sea arrow grass and samphire, a scene-stealing combination of hot smoked cauliflower, rosemary and cured egg yolk before the robust flavours of Black Angus beef with carrot and star anise. You can expect to enjoy locally caught mackerel, Dunvegan roe deer from the northwest of Skye and Staffin lamb rump, often served with vegetables from the local community garden.  

Scorrybreac is fast becoming a byword for confident, sustainable modern Scottish cooking.

scorrybreac.com

HeraldScotland:

Seumas’ Bar is a whisky cathedral. A huge cabin with a vaulted ceiling, there’s a dazzling collection of malts – over 400 bottles in total from every corner of Scotland. We are between the Red and Black Cuillins, mountains shaped 60 million years ago by fire and ice, the remnants of a huge volcano that was sculpted by glaciers. It is a dramatic setting for a dram.

The Black Cuillin ridge contains 11 Munros and 16 other summits, the most challenging mountain range in the country. Climbers have been glad of the informal hospitality at Seumas’ since it opened in 1987, an extension to the Sligachan Hotel that has sat at this crossroads since 1830.

Whisky flights present the easiest way to navigate your way around the packed gantry of bottles. The introduction to malts starts with Auchentoshan and jumps to a Balvenie Doublewood via Cragganmore and Glenkinchie.

HeraldScotland:

The island hopper selection goes from Arran to Orkney with Highland Park, then Jura before returning to Skye with a Talisker 10 Year Old. Enjoy with a locally sourced cheese board, oatcakes and chutney.

For more substantial fare there is Cullin skink, battered North Sea haddock with rustic fries, or haggis, neeps and tatties.

Deirdre Curley grew up on Skye before moving to Glasgow. She returned to become the fourth generation of her family to run the hotel with her husband Gary.

Taking inspiration from their landscape, they have launched Cuillin Brewery at Sligachan. Don’t miss the chance to enjoy a pint a few metres from where it is brewed.

Their recent coffee milk stout is a collaboration with Birch café in Portree. An intriquing seaweed IPA is made with hand dived Loch Sligachan sugarkelp. You can order online at cuillinbrewery.com.

sligachan.co.uk/seumas-bar