Scotland’s regional diversity makes it rich in culinary discoveries. From the pristine seafood of the Scottish Isles to the famed beef and lamb of the Outer Hebrides or the local produce of the Highlands, head to a different corner of the country and you’ll encounter new and exciting gastronomic traditions. Our recent trip to Oban and Mull had everything we were hoping to taste in Scotland: fresh seafood, artisan products, and of course, great whisky. Oban, a resort town on the west coast, is known as “The Gateway to the Isles” and is Scotland’s seafood capital. It’s also an excellent base from which to explore tucked-away food gems in the surrounding Argyll region. A short ferry ride across the bay from Oban is the Isle of Mull, where you’ll find breathtaking scenery, renowned cheese, and more bounty from the frigid northwestern seas. Don’t miss these unforgettable food experiences on your own voyage to Scotland’s Oban and Mull.
1. Oban Distillery
Start your journey off right by sampling one of Scotland’s oldest sources for single malt whisky. The Oban Distillery, located off a main stretch of town overlooking the sea, is also one of the smallest in the nation, with only two pot stills. Characterized by light and fruity tasting notes with a hint of smokiness, the whisky is renowned for its blend of island and Highland flavors. Tours of the distillery are held daily throughout the year, and Monday through Friday during the month of December.
2. Isle of Eriska Restaurant
Drive 10 minutes from Oban for a meal at the Michelin-starred Isle of Eriska Restaurant, located within a five-star hotel. Chef Ross Stovold crafts the daily-changing menu from seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients. On a recent visit, a Mull Cheddar soup with braised onion was followed by Loch Fyne langoustine and local cod loin. Even a potato-based vegetarian dish stood up to the meat entrées in flavor and complexity. Resist the urge to eat chocolate for dessert and order the farmhouse cheese trolley, from which you can sample over 40 different varieties of British cheese.
3. Inverawe Smokehouse
The best Scottish smoked salmon is also a short drive from Oban at the family-run Inverawe Smokehouse. Take a short tour of the visitor center, where you’ll get an inside look at Inverawe’s traditional slow-smoke process, then explore, hike, or fish the surrounding fields and lochs. Finish your visit with lunch in the café, where you can taste the results of the smoking next door.
4. Seafood Temple
Back in Oban, wander along the resort town’s stunning coastline and enjoy fresh-caught seafood at the aptly named Seafood Temple. With a setting overlooking the bay and the islands, this tiny restaurant serves only locally caught fish and shellfish. The chef and owner Eilidh Smith gleans her knowledge from her father and brother, who are both fishermen. This hidden gem seats only 22 diners, so be sure to book in advance.
5. Cafe Fish
Embark on the ferry across the bay to the Isle of Mull, and enjoy more fresh seafood at Cafe Fish in the colorful village of Tobermory. At this small, bustling eatery, you’ll enjoy sweeping views of the harbor while tasting the harvest of the local fishermen docking at the port below. Cafe Fish even goes so far as to source shellfish from its own fishing boat, and other ingredients also come from the surrounding region.
6. Isle of Mull Cheese
Take a drive through Mull’s winding cliffs and stunning coastlines to Isle of Mull Cheese, a small family-run dairy farm producing artisan farmhouse cheeses. It is the only dairy farm on the island, renowned for its sharp, nutty Cheddar and delicate blue cheese. Wander from the cellar to the barns for a behind-the-scenes tour of the cheese-making process, or enjoy a rustic lunch in the airy Garden Barn.
7. Tiroran House
A stay in the Tiroran House Hotel and Restaurant is the perfect finale to your food tour of Mull. Every evening begins with canapés in the parlor, where you will be welcomed with hors d’oeuvres and apéritifs by your kilt-clad host. The dishes are composed entirely of seasonal, local ingredients. A recent meal began with a painterly replication of a “mushroom garden,” with “dirt” made from ground wild mushrooms and garlic mousse, then led to a saddle of Argyll venison, followed by dessert, whisky, and petit fours back in the parlor. Though the service is what you would expect from a luxury hotel, you manage to leave feeling like you’ve stumbled into the world’s best home-cooked meal.