Food+Whisky in Tarbert (Scotland)


Tarbert is a charming town on the shores of Loch Fyne. It is located just a few miles from Kennacraig where the Islay ferries depart and arrive. On our way to Islay we arrived an hour and a half early and so spent that time in Tarbert. On the way back from Islay we returned to the town for lunch. The town seems to see a fair bit of tourist action and there are quite a few restaurants and b&b’s. Friends who’ve recently stayed in Tarbert without going on to Islay say it’s a worthwhile destination in its own right. I don’t doubt it. It would probably make a good base for exploration of the Loch Fyne area and down to Campbeltown, which is only an hour or so away. Here now is a quick look at the town, a brief account of our lunch and a view of a whisky store I randomly stopped in at. Continue reading

An Tigh Seinnse, Portnahaven (Scotland)


I have been trying to construct a hilarious joke about “An Tigh Seinnse” being the Gaelic name for Bruichladdich’s wine experiments but have failed. In fact, as far as I can make out, it translates as “the public house” or something along those lines (some sources say “the house of singing”), and that is in fact what An Tigh Seinnse is: a cozy pub in Portnahaven, a tiny town at the southwestern end (or one of the southwestern ends) of Islay, all the way at the opposite end of Loch Indaal from the American Monument (a few miles west from Port Ellen). We went to Portnahaven after my tour at Bowmore. We didn’t have anything particular in mind. We knew we were unlikely to see the seals that often lie on the rocks around the bay there—it was a grey and rainy day—but we did want to drive around more of Islay. So we went anyway, enjoying the scenery, and when we got there we happened upon An Tigh Seinnse, just as we were beginning to wonder what we should do for lunch. Herewith a brief account of this meal. Continue reading

Dinner at the Lochside Hotel, Bowmore (Scotland)


I described this dinner last week as the bad one between two decent meals at the Islay Hotel in Port Ellen. It was, in fact, the worst meal we had on Islay, and probably the worst we had in Scotland—the fish and chips from the food truck outside Fiddler’s in Drumnadrochit at least had the virtue of being much cheaper. We ended up here after our attempt to eat dinner at the Port Charlotte Hotel failed on account of our having failed to make a reservation. The dining room was absolutely empty but they could not seat us. Now, it’s likely they had reservations for every table and didn’t want to risk us going late but there was something about the pause and once-over the manager gave us before saying they couldn’t seat us that made us feel a little odd. But I digress. Leaving Port Charlotte, we thought about trying the Bridgend Hotel but parking was hectic and so we kept going and ended up in Bowmore instead. After parking near the pier we walked up the street which has the restaurants and as the Lochside Hotel came up first we poked our heads in; and when they said they could seat us, we sat down. There was a nice photograph of Pinkie MacArthur on the wall next to my head and this seemed like a good omen. Alas, it was not. Continue reading

Two Dinners at the Islay Hotel, Port Ellen (Scotland)


I only have a few meal reports left from our trip to Islay in June. As I said in my review of our lunch at Royal China, Canary Wharf last week, writing these reports, and then reading them later, is a good way to relive our time in the UK. Perhaps they’re of some use as well to people who might travel to these places too? Well, even if not, here’s an account of two dinners we ate at the Islay Hotel in Port Ellen on Islay. We did not stay at the hotel, which is located bang in the middle of Port Ellen—you pass it as you come off the ferry; we only ate at the restaurant, which is open to all. Continue reading

Ee-usk, Oban (Scotland)


When last seen eating in Scotland we were on Skye, at the Claymore in Broadford. I now pick up the story on the next day when we drove south to Tarbert to take the ferry to Islay. We’d left the day’s plans open. I was not sure of how much time to budget for the drive but decided to err on the side of caution—arriving an hour or more early for the ferry being a much better option than cutting it too fine and missing it. We weren’t sure where we’d stop for lunch. We’d hoped that that if the weather held up we’d be able to explore Glen Coe a little bit and figured we’d find somewhere to eat in the vicinity—maybe at the Lochleven Seafood Cafe. As it happened, the day was grey and wet and there was no question of stopping for a ramble. And it was too early for lunch. And so we kept going and stopped in Oban instead to eat. I’ve already posted a bit about the opportunistic visit to the distillery that resulted from this stop; here now is a quick account of our lunch at the wonderfully named Ee-usk*. Continue reading

Kilchoman


Here now is my last distillery report from our visit to Scotland in June. Fittingly, it’s of the most recently built, functioning distillery on Islay, Kilchoman. The smallest distillery on the island, it’s the one that’s least like the others: the most remote (relatively speaking), located not on the water but among farms, and absolutely independently owned. I’ve liked their malt since the very first one I ever tasted—a 3 yo bottled for Binny’s in 2010—and so I was glad to be able to stop in for a few minutes on our way for a ramble around Machir Bay (Kilchoman may not be on the water but you’re never far from the water on Islay). Continue reading

The Claymore, Skye (Scotland)


The Claymore was our fourth restaurant meal on Skye. We’d previously eaten at the Oyster Shed in Carbost, Cuchullin in Portree and Creelers in Broadford. Claymore is also in Broadford, more or less just down the hill from Creelers. We very much enjoyed all those other meals and were hoping to eat more excellent seafood at the Claymore. We were also hoping that we’d be lucky and manage to get a table. The Claymore does not take reservations and their website encourages people to not call for one (it’s also not clear from the website if the restaurant’s name is just Claymore or the Claymore Restaurant). Well, we got the last free table when we arrived at about 6.30. We couldn’t get a table in their bright, main dining room with a view of the bay; but with everyone after us being either turned away or being told to wait for 30-45 minutes, we had no complaints. And when the food arrived we had no complaints on that front either. Continue reading

Bruichladdich, Barely (Summer 2017)


Here is my penultimate distillery visit report from our recent visit to Islay. I’ve already gone over my longer visits to Lagavulin, Laphroaig and Bowmore (where I did tours) and to Ardbeg (where we ate lunch) and short stops at Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila. Here now is a brief look at Bruichladdich. We stopped here a little after my tour at Bowmore. We were on our way to Portnahaven, trying to figure out where to have lunch, and stopped at Bruichladdich to see if they might have a cafe (for some reason I’d thought they might). They do not, but I took the opportunity to take a quick look around and take a bunch of photographs.  Continue reading

At Ardbeg, Pt. 2: Lunch (Scotland)


On Wednesday I posted a brief description of the Ardbeg distillery grounds and visitor centre, replete with far too many photographs. Today I have a brief write-up of two lunches at their Old Kiln Cafe, which were the focal points of our visits to the distillery. Don’t worry, there aren’t quite as many photographs today though I do have—in what represents either a high or low for me (depending on your point of view)—four separate pictures of the same dish. The food on Islay, with one exception, was far better than I’d expected it would be, and our lunches at the Old Kiln Cafe were, in sum, the best of our meals on the island.  Continue reading

Lunch at Cuchullin + Breakfast at Hillview, Skye (Scotland)


We only spent one full day on Skye—a fact that I sorely regret. But it was a very good day. We spent the morning at the so-called Fairy Glens up near Uig. Their location is a bit hard to get a fix on but and the last bit of the drive, on a very hilly one-track road with quite a bit of traffic, is not fun, but this was one of our favourite outings in Scotland. And we lucked into a bright sunny morning to boot. We decided to eat lunch in Portree before heading to Dunvegan Castle in the afternoon and it began to rain as we made our way there. We parked in the central square in Portree. None of the parking machines seemed to be working but everyone seemed to be parking anyway and we took a chance (and happily didn’t get a ticket). As the rain was picking up we went into the first restaurant that caught our eye, Cuchullin. And we didn’t regret it. Here is a quick report on our lunch followed by a quick plug for the b&b we stayed at in Broadford, Hillview, and especially their breakfasts. Continue reading

At Ardbeg, Pt. 1 (Summer 2017)


We visited Ardbeg on our first and second full days on Islay but on neither occasion was it for whisky-centered action. I did not do any of the tours or tastings the distillery offers. Instead, we were there to eat. Old Islay-hands already know this but Ardbeg’s Old Kiln Cafe may very well be the best place to eat on Islay—it certainly was where we had our best meals. I’d originally thought I’d only have the one post on our visits to Ardbeg, centered on food. But when the time came to resize and crop pics this weekend I discovered that, predictably, I’d taken an amount known to mathematicians as a shit-tonne—and I felt that it would be cruel to deny you the opportunity to look at all of them: many of which are of the same subject from multiple angles, taken with different white balance and aperture settings on different cameras. (There is no need to thank me.) Accordingly, my post on the Old Kiln Cafe will come on Friday. Today I have pictures of the distillery grounds and the visitor centre/shop, which we wandered while waiting for tables to open up.  Continue reading

At Bowmore, Pt. 2 (Summer 2017)


On Wednesday I posted a look at the grounds and visitor centre of the venerable Bowmore distillery. Here now is a look at the interiors of many of the distillery’s most important buildings. As I’d mentioned, my initial hope had been to do the comprehensive Craftsman’s Tour but it was booked up before I got around to emailing the distillery. The basic tour was a consolation prize. This turned out to be a good thing though. For one thing, it meant I did the Warehouse Experience at Lagavulin (which was the highlight of the whisky parts of our Scotland trip); for another, it meant we had time on this day to visit Kilchoman and go on to Machir Bay—and our time at Machir Bay turned out to be one of the highlights of our entire trip. And as it happened, the basic tour at Bowmore is pretty damned good in its own right.  Continue reading

Creelers, Skye (Scotland)


We noticed Creelers out of the corner of our eyes while trying to find our b&b in Broadford. It didn’t look like much but when time came for dinner on our first night on Skye, it was conveniently close at hand. Lunch had been at the Oyster Shed in Carbost, and after touring Talisker we’d driven aimlessly for a good while and didn’t want to drive again after dinner. (I can recommend the drive from Broadford to Armdale highly; though I suggest that if, like us, you stop your car in random places to walk down to the shore, you take care, unlike us, to not step into what turns out to be very soggy terrain.) Having learned our lesson in Drumnadrochit, we’d made reservations for dinner.  Continue reading

At Bowmore, Pt. 1 (Summer 2017)


After Laphroaig, Bowmore was the Islay distillery I most wanted to visit. The distillery evokes a love-hate response from most whisky geeks and I’m one of those who is in the love camp, most of the time. (What can I say? I’m all about love and positivity.) And more than any distillery tour I’d wanted to do the Craftsman Tour at Bowmore, a 4 hour extravaganza that leads you through the entire process of whisky making and ends with a tasting session inside their legendary No. 1 vaults. Alas, I left making a reservation too late and they were full up the entire time that we were on Islay. On the plus side, it’s because of this that I ended up doing the Warehouse Experience at Lagavulin, and if you’ve read my report you know how happy I am to have done that. At Bowmore I contented myself with just the basic 1 hour distillery tour. I can tell you that this is a pretty good tour—probably better than the tour portion of the Laphroaig Distillers’ Wares experience and about 500 times better than the perfunctory tour at Talisker. This post, however, does not describe that tour—that’s coming on Friday. This post merely presents a look at the distillery grounds and the shop and visitor centre. I have too many pictures, you see, and can’t be arsed to crop and resize them all at once. Continue reading