Tags: arran, Arran Brewery, Arran Cheese Company, Arran Distillery, Brodick, Café Thyme, Cal Mac, Creelers, Douglas hotel, Eating out, islands, Patersons of Arran, restaurants, Scotland, Scottish food, Scottish islands, Scottish restaurants, Things to do in Scotland, Torrylin Creamery, Wooleys
The food and drink on some Scottish islands is not always the best, but there is one island that has really emerged lately as a foodie hub. With a whisky distillery, brewery, three cheese producers, a chocolatier, baker famous for its oatcakes and its own smokehouse Arran is a wonderland of fine food and drink as I found out even before I reached terra firma.
As the scenic Cal Mac ferry ploughed over from Ardrossan I was already immersed in Arran produce. I tasted a wee dram of Arran whisky at the Visit Arran tourist kiosk on board, before proper steak and Arran Ale pie in a restaurant with a view. Then I rounded things off with a bottle of Arran Dark ale, while the rugged peaks of this spectacular island loomed into view.
My base was the sparkling new Douglas Hotel right on the waterfront by the ferry. This stylish boutique haven is all smooth fabrics and tasteful colours, with most bedrooms offering sweeping views of Arran’s famous mountains. The hotel restaurant was definitely worth staying in for as they use a special Vapo Grill. I savoured a beef espetada, with big chunks of perfectly cooked fillet served on a swinging kebab skewer Portuguese-style. The seafood was spot on too and there was a range of decently priced wines.
Next up was the Arran Cheese Company. Here I watched their famous cheddars being flavoured and waxed through a window from the shop into the factory. There is also a creamery in the south of the island, the Torrylin Creamery, which produces a sensational Dunlop cheese too using their own milk. The west side of the island is where it is at for me when it comes to cheese though. Bellevue Creamery conjures up a decent Brie and the global award winning Arran Blue. I know a bit about blue cheese and this really is a stunner!
All of Arran’s cheeses are best enjoyed with oatcakes, or ‘oaties’, from Wooleys, a baker in Brodick. I enjoyed combining these with a variety of the chutneys made by Patersons of Arran and sold in their Kitchen Shop in Lamlash. They came flavoured with the likes of Arran Whisky and even fiery Arran beetroot.
Those gorgeous oatcakes are also great with smoked salmon from the island’s smokehouse, Creelers. Creelers also offered all sorts of excellent smoked fish and they had one of the island’s best restaurants on site too. A new favourite eatery of mine, just opened a few months ago, was Café Thyme. It is run by a welcoming Scottish-Turkish couple, who built their own traditional Turkish wood fired oven, which makes superb bread and Turkish pides, a sort of calzone like pizza. Their haggis and cheese pides are divine. Seriously!
Arran abounds with superb food produce these days, but its drinks are also world class. The award winning Arran Brewery produces a spot on range of beers, which you can buy direct from the brewery. My favourite is the Arran Blonde, a light hoppy ale. In the north of the island in the picturesque village of Lochranza is the Arran Distillery. Only set up in 1995 this independent distillery shows what can be done with determination and unstinting effort. As well as their signature Arran 10-year-old they have also branched out into the likes of Amarone, Sauternes and Port finishes.
The Arran Distillery also produces Arran Gold, a gorgeous cream liqueur that for me knocks the socks off the likes of Baileys. I enjoyed one on the ferry on the way back to the mainland, toasting the Scottish island whose bountiful food and drink are reason enough to visit on their own, never mind the remarkable scenery that earns Arran its ‘Scotland in Miniature’ epithet.
Ferry Information – www.calmac.co.uk
Tourist Information – www.visitarran.com
Taste of Arran –www.taste-of-arran.co.uk