Ever been on an exotic holiday and felt like a fish out of water? Don’t worry... there’s a series of Scottish staycation destinations that are perfect for you, especially if your gastronomic preferences are for all things from the sea. Join Alex Burns on the Argyll and Bute section of Scotland’s mouth-watering Seafood Trail

The quality of Scotland’s seafood cannot be overstated. Some of the finest restaurants in Europe proudly serve the catches from our waters, and the quality and variety of Scottish seafood gives it a reputation that goes far beyond our borders. But if you want to sample some of the best fish and shellfish in the country, where better than at the source? Scotland’s Seafood Trail meanders around the west coast of the country, allowing you to sample the freshest possible produce on a ‘pier to plate’ basis, while taking in some spectacular scenery. Located principally around Argyll and Bute – with its meandering coastline that’s a remarkable 2,300 miles in length – the trail can be explored entirely at your own pace.  

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1. Royal an Lochan Hotel
Tighnabruaich, Argyll
If you are travelling from the central belt, the most logical place to start the seafood trail would be at the Royal an Lochan Hotel in Tighnabruaich, accessible via the ferry to Dunoon. This high-end hotel is famed for its views of the Kyles of Bute – with rooms that boast a panorama across the water – as well as the freshest of seasonal food. Their fish is sourced from Tarbert, with seabass, scallops and smoked haddock particularly popular, though the menu changes on a weekly basis to reflect the best of what’s in season. And, if you plan to make the most of your visit and stay the night, four-legged friends are also warmly welcomed at the Royal an Lochan.
While you’re there…

Often described as ‘Argyll’s Secret Coast’, the shoreline around Tighnabruaich is charming while also being mercifully quiet. You won’t find a bustling nightlife scene while visiting, but there is a great selection of walking trails and cycling routes, as well as opportunities for rock fishing, sailing and yachting. Those following the seafood trail north would do well to stop off at the Loch Ruel viewpoint, high above the water, for one of the best views in Argyll.
theroyalanlochan.co.uk

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2. The Creggans Inn

Strachur, Loch Fyne, Argyll

This family-run venue on the shores of Loch Fyne has a fascinating history. First established in the mid-19th century, the Creggans Inn was purchased by Sir Fitzroy Maclean in 1957. Sir Fitzroy, an original member of the SAS, is thought to have been an inspiration for the character of James Bond, owing to his military adventures and friendship with Ian Fleming. Modern visitors can expect to enjoy warm hospitality (which is extended to dogs), views over Loch Fyne and a highly regarded menu themed around ‘loch, glen and mountainside’. The locally caught mussels and scallops are excellent, as is the chef’s home smoked salmon and the indulgent ‘surf and turf’.

While you're there...

You might be eating a lot on the seafood trail, but make sure to leave space for a meal at Michelin-starred Inver. Located just down the road from The Creggans Inn, it has only been open since 2015, but Inver is already one of the most sought-after restaurants in Argyll. Guests go wild for their simply prepared seafood and impeccable wine list.

HeraldScotland: Kenny Lam/Visit Scotland Kenny Lam/Visit Scotland

3. Loch Fyne Oyster Bar and Restaurant
Cairndow, Argyll
If you don’t fancy tackling the trail in its entirety, you could instead begin at the famous Loch Fyne Oyster Bar, just over an hour’s drive from Glasgow. As well as the picturesque restaurant, which serves scallops, mussels, langoustines, lobster, salmon, squid and (of course) oysters, they have their own popular deli and online shop with Loch Fyne-branded produce. We recommend visiting for a late lunch, giving you time to explore Loch Lomond or Loch Fyne en route before settling down to enjoy the food, and views, from the restaurant. And if you plan on exploring the seafood trail in a motorhome, the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar has some overnight spaces available for visitors to use.

HeraldScotland: Grant Paterson/Visit Scotland Grant Paterson/Visit Scotland
While you’re there…

Those not travelling in a campervan would do well to stay in the nearby town of Inveraray. Less than 15 minutes’ drive from the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar, the Inveraray Inn boasts a great spot overlooking the water as well as spacious, modern rooms. Visitors to the town should also pay a visit to Inveraray Jail where you can walk around the cramped cells and enter the county courtroom, listening to extracts from real trials held there. Also worth a visit is Inveraray Castle, the spectacular Gothic seat of the Duke of Argyll, which recently starred in the BBC series ‘A Very British Scandal’.
lochfyne.com

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4. Cairnbaan Hotel
By Lochgilphead, Argyll
Who said seafood had to be complicated? At the Cairnbaan Hotel on the Crinan Canal, you’ll find fuss-free haddock and chips, prawn cocktails and fish pies — all incredibly fresh and full of flavour. They also have an ever-changing specials board featuring a variety of local seafood and, to wash it down, Loch Fyne Ales on tap. 
This local, family-owned brewery was established in 2001 to bring jobs, tourism and industry to the local community and has won several accolades for its beer and visitor experience.
While you’re there…

Travel two miles down the Crinan Canal from the Cairnbaan Hotel and you will find yourself in Lochgilphead. This journey itself makes for a lovely walk or cycle, but when you reach Lochgilphead there’s shops, cafés and restaurants to explore, as well as the impressive Kilmory Castle. Alternatively, head in the opposite direction from the Cairnbaan Hotel and you’ll reach the Argyll Beaver Centre, where there are hands-on displays, wildlife feeding stations and a viewing hide.
cairnbaan.com

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5. The Seafood Cabin

Skipness, Tarbert

You’ll have to take a southerly diversion to visit the Seafood Cabin— but we promise it will be worth it. Set at the foot of the 13th century Skipness Castle, which is impressive in its own right, the cabin’s outside seating offers wonderfully uninterrupted views over the sea and the hills of Arran beyond. And the food is pretty special too; rolls filled with crab or hot smoked salmon, salads topped with pan-fried king scallops, plates of oysters for just £10. You can even go all-out with the Skipness Seafood Platter, with oysters, langoustine, queen scallops, brown and white crab meat, smoked salmon, hot-smoked salmon, poached salmon, gravadlax, mussels. It’s a steal at £18.

While you're there...

Don’t miss a walk around Skipness Castle, an imposing ancient monument with plenty of history and its very own (friendly) ghost. The nearby village of Tarbert has a harbour where you can sit and watch the boats with an ice cream, as well as a charming nine-hole golf course for anyone who has brought their clubs along. It’s also well worth a drive to the spectacular beaches of the west of Kintyre— Muasdale, in particular, is stunning.

skipnessseafoodcabin.co.uk

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6.The Pierhouse Hotel
Port Appin
The most northerly stop on our list, the Pierhouse Hotel is the last frontier of Argyll before you enter the Highlands. And the scenery is suitably dramatic, with a wonderful outlook across the shores of Loch Linnhe to the island of Mull, the hills of the Morvern peninsula and the ferry sailing over to Lismore. 
The Pierhouse is the sister hotel of the famous ‘Three Chimneys’ on Skye and it shares the same emphasis on locally sourced, quality seafood. Standout dishes include Loch Linnhe creel caught langoustines (grilled in garlic butter) and a fillet of North Sea sole served with smoked Loch Leven mussels. The menu even includes the names of the fishers who caught the seafood, a nice touch that emphasises the relationship that the Pierhouse have with their suppliers. 

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While you’re there…

A visit to Castle Stalker, a ten-minute drive from the Pierhouse Hotel, is a must. You can stand on the shore and admire the 15th century castle, set on a tiny island in Loch Linnhe, or travel on an organised boat trip to tour the castle itself and find out about its starring role in the film Monty Python and The Holy Grail.
pierhousehotel.co.uk