I was on a recent journey to visit the eight miles of the Munro-rich Glen Shiel in Wester Ross, a glen which as well as the Five Sisters of Kintail contains a further eleven munros, the highest concentration of peaks over 3,000ft in Scotland.
As many city-based walkers tend to leave early and drive the three hours up to the glen, places to stay and eat are few and far between in the off-season, a tendency which has been exacerbated by the 24-hour access to Skye via the bridge – no one ever misses the last ferry any more.
When we enquired, normal options like the Glenelg Inn or the Kintail Lodge were firmly shut, but thankfully we soon found that the Plockton Inn was open.
Nestled by the sea just 15 minutes north of the Skye bridge at Kyle of Lochalsh, Plockton is one of Scotland’s most beautiful little villages (and certainly one of the loveliest you can reach by rail).
Owner-run and staffed by locals, the pretty whitewashed Plockton Inn is at the heart of the village. In the summer months, the inn is often fully booked and the restaurant full to bursting. The welcome was friendly and the place was well staffed.
Part of its allure has long been its regular evenings of traditional music in the bar (every Thursday throughout the year, with an extra session on Tuesdays in the summer) where local musicians are often joined by youngsters from The National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music, which is based in the village.
But our interest was in the food. The Plockton Inn certainly talks a good game when it comes to provenance and localism – barman Martin lands the prawns and owner Kenny smokes fish in his smokehouse – and our first taste of this came when the ale of the day turned out to be from the Plockton Brewery.
Although it changes every day, the majority of the dishes on the jumbo-sized menu are made up of seafood options, with its fish and chips lauded by walkers and holidaymakers alike.
We started off with three oyster shooters, which consisted of a fresh oyster in a shot glass with vodka, tomato juice and herbs, and was exactly as advertised. Next on our list of starters was a mountain of nicely produced moules marinières.
Finally, we polished off some of the best haggis any of us have tasted for a while, which was accompanied by my favourite traditional Orcadian dish of clapshot (neeps and tatties mashed together).
If the starter portions were substantial, so too were our main courses. In particular, the pile of king scallops with bacon, garlic and cream (which was far less rich than it sounds) was a veritable mountain. The pair of sea bream fillets with a creamy prawn sauce and the nicely pink strips of duck breast with a plum and port sauce were also outstanding value.
We rounded off with a trio of excellent puddings. The infeasibly sticky toffee pudding was the pick of the bunch, although the cranachan ice cream, which was stuffed with raspberries, honey, whisky and cream, wasn’t far behind. The salted caramel and chocolate pot didn’t lack in flavour but was heavy, cloyingly rich and almost impossible to finish.
All in all, though, this was a largely enjoyable, unpretentious and sensibly-priced meal of locally sourced comfort food in a small inn in
one of the west coast’s most beautiful coastal villages.
As they say, what’s not to like?