Wednesday, 4 September 2013

A WW Foodie guide to Mull, Tobermory and the eating of seafood

Although it may already be receding into a happy haze of whisky and sea squalls, I did want to spend a little bit of time regaling you as to our recent trip to Scotland, not least because it is a part of the world that I have really started to fall in love with over the past few years.

We have been visiting Ardnamurchan, the most westerly point of the British mainland, since 2009 and every year we have made the ferry trip across to Mull.  This year we decided to base ourselves on the island itself. 

Mull is not a big island.  It may well be the second largest of the Inner Hebrides after Skye (thank you, Wiki) but you can still cover it pretty comprehensively in the course of a week.  It is, however, an extremely beautiful one and, with a population of less than 3000, vast swathes of it are empty.  The landscape is quite stunning – great, rolling, verdant hills stitched through with areas of dense woodland and bright strips of sea appearing on the horizon round every corner.  It is rich in wildlife; we treated ourselves to an organised tour and in the course of a single day saw a family of white tailed eagles, a pair of otters and a basking shark – not to mention seals, buzzards and even a horny toad.  It is also (and this, of course, may be why it so dear to our hearts) rich in fabulous seafood – fishing being historically one of the island’s main income sources.
Views of Mull
It is not a place to go if you crave glamour and nightlife.  It is a place to go if you enjoy walking and sitting staring out to sea.  There is also culture to be found: theatre, an arts centre and even an artist's community based around the village of Dervaig.  One of their projects is the Calgary Art in Nature walk, where sculptures are scattered throughout the wooded path down to Calgary Bay.

Calgary Art in Nature
We based ourselves just outside Tobermory, which is the island’s capital and home to a quarter of the residents.  Tobermory is quite ridiculously picturesque.  It was the setting for a mid naughties children’s’ programme called Balamory and quite understandably so – with its row of brightly coloured buildings and sweeping, bay side street it looks as if it has fallen out of a storybook.  The main problem (if it can be called such) with Tobermory is that pretty much every other person you meet is a tourist and if, like us, you go towards the end of the season, the locals are becoming somewhat frayed.  Having lived in York for many years I can sympathise. 

Isn't it lovely?  There is not a lot to Tobermory...the main road is pretty much it, and it is generally geared towards the tourist market being primarily pubs, cafes and crafty type establishments.  There is a very nice chocolate shop and a deli that sells Mull cheddar. Tobermory also boasts its own whisky distillery, pottery and handmade soap shop.  And, let us not forget, Tobermory Cat who spends most of his time suffering tourists, posing for postcards and maintaining his Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Tobermory Cat
If you stay self catering in Tobermory you should not expect to be able to purchase more than the basics once you are in situ.  There is a Co-op supermarket which can provide milk and tins, a nice deli and bakery and a fishmonger located just outside of the main town, but little else that we located.  This is not a major problem given that there at least three very nice places to eat.

The first, CafĂ© Fish, I have written about before.  It has been voted the top fish restaurant in the entire country by the Good Food Guide and that is mainly because it sources amazing produce and then cooks it with a sensitive but unerring touch.

The biggest razor clams you ever did see
Langoustines and squat lobsters
Our new discovery this year was MacGoghan’s, a pub cum restaurant located on the far end of the main street.  It is undoubtedly pub food but very, very good – D had a steak with scallops in a creamy paprika sauce.  These were not only ingredients of spectacular quality but the dish was also cooked incredibly well.  Surf and turf par excellence.

Tobermory steak: topped with scallops and a creamy paprika sauce
And of course, the fish and chip van seems to be something of a Tobermory institution.  We had our first taste of deep fried scallops this year and the combination of the sweet, dense flesh, perfectly cooked within its crispy batter was an utter revelation.  I covered mine in ketchup much to D’s disgust.

Fish, chips and deep fried scallops.  With ketchup.
If I say that no sooner had we got home then we started planning our next trip up there it will perhaps express how hard we have fallen for the West of Scotland.  As holidays go, this one was pretty much perfect.  And the fact that it ended with D asking me to move in with him come the beginning of October means that Mull will always hold a very special place in my heart as the location where a marriage was finally mended.

A collage of greed...


  1. Oh, what a fabulous holiday and such a perfect ending - so so happy for you! Xxxx

  2. Oh! I almost cried- I am SO happy for you! Glad he came to his senses. And Mull sounds wonderful.


  3. You cheeky mare....saving that little piece of news til the end!! Definitely a few tears in my eyes. I'm very happy for you both and very impressed how hard you've worked at it.

    Big hugs....L x

  4. Oh that's wonderful! Follow your blog and have commented a couple of times. So happy for you. X

  5. Amazing... and your twist at the end is just fantastic. So happy for you x

  6. VW Tobermory Cat

  7. Wow! Everything looks so amazing. I've never tried razor clams before but they are on my list as are deep fried scallops, my mouth is watering just thinking about them!