Heart of Argyll Food Trail
Enjoy a gastronomical journey through the Heart of Argyll. This food trail winds through some of Argyll’s most stunning landscape, taking in Inveraray, Knapdale, Kilmartin and Crinan. You’ll discover the freshest seafood, the tastiest homemaking and oodles of delicious local, seasonal produce. You’ll also find a host of great eateries in beautiful locations from coffee shops to fine-dining restaurants. As well as filling you in (or filling you up!) on great places to eat and drink, you’ll also find recommendations for things to see and do along the way. For more information about this area see Heart of Argyll and Explore Inveraray.
Inveraray to Ardrishaig
Start your food journey through the Heart of Argyll at Inveraray. The Duke of Argyll employed the services of Adam and Milne, renowned architects of their time, to create the first planned town in Scotland: Inveraray. The original buildings in the main town are whitewashed with blackened window surrounds.
Inveraray holds a natural affinity with food; the industry of the town was herring. The smoking of these fish produced the famous Loch Fyne Kipper. Loch Fyne Oysters Ltd at the head of the loch produce arguably some of the best smoked varieties of salmon in Scotland. Be sure to visit Inveraray Castle and the Inveraray Jail as you explore the town.
If you are a coffee connoisseur you really must pop into Brambles Bistro. Brambles make their coffee using artisan beans that are roasted in Glasgow and delivered to Brambles twice a week. The blend is fresh tasting and aromatic, with plenty of fruity flavours to choose from. Try some of their delicious home baking while you are there too!
Inveraray offers a choice of great places to eat. Samphire, a small seafood restaurant at the south end of the town, prides itself on letting the main element of each dish shine through without overcomplicating or shadowing the fresh delicate flavours. The grade A listed building, which was once a butchers shop and greengrocers, has been lovingly renovated giving Samphire a modern feel while holding onto its historic roots.
The George Hotel has built a great reputation for ambience, friendliness and its home-cooked fare. With its original solid flag stone floors and four roaring log and peat fires, the George is a lively haunt for both local characters and visitors alike with a wide choice of real ales, 100 malt whiskies and an extensive wine list. The menu uses the very best local ingredients, including West Highland beef and lamb, and seafood bought from the local fishing port of Tarbert.
As you make your way to the outskirts of the town, you’ll find the Loch Fyne Hotel and its Clansman Restaurant. The menu here is varied, using locally sourced ingredients. But look out for the customer favourite ‘Stornoway Benedict’ - a toasted muffin topped with a slice of Charles Macleod Stornoway Black pudding, hollandaise sauce and fresh asparagus.
A short two-mile drive South of Inveraray you’ll find the Argyll Caravan Park, where Skippers Bistro offers fresh local produce along with traditional favourites. You could even build up your appetite and walk to the bistro along the Loch Fyne shoreline.
Heading south on the A83 for a further four miles you’ll reach the historic township of Auchindrain and the Auchindrain tearoom. Most of what is served in the tearoom is made on the premises, and the menu varies daily. There is always a wide choice of home baking, soup, sandwiches and snacks.From time-to-time, the menu features ‘heritage’ dishes, typical of what would have been eaten by the people of the township. Eggs from the Auchindrain hens are usually on sale here.
Give yourself time to explore the old township of Auchindrain which is still a working farm, and home to cattle sheep and hens that represent breeds that were here is past times. The last tenant left the township in 1958, but you can explore the houses and learn about the people that used to live here and get an understanding of how they made a living from the land. Turn left as you head out of the township of Auchindrain and follow the A83 as it makes its way south down Loch Fyne to reach Lochgilphead.
In Lochgilphead, tucked away down Smiddy Lane (opposite Fyne Wines) you’ll find the characterful ‘Smiddy Bistro’, offering tasty light lunches every day and an imaginative menu. Pop in and enjoy the cosy atmosphere of this stone-walled building that still retains the character of the original village blacksmith’s workshop.
Head northwards on the A83. At the mini roundabout continue straight on as the road becomes the A816. The road follows the route of the Crinan Canal and after approximately two miles a turning on the left takes you to Lock 8 where you will find the Cairnbaan Hotel. It has locally sourced, seasonal produce on the menu for both lunch and evening dining. You can choose from the restaurant, the friendly bar, the conservatory overlooking the canal or eat al fresco (if the weather allows!).
Turn right as you leave the Cairnbaan, crossing the canal by the small bridge and head west until you reach a turning on the left signed for Tayvallich (B8025). Take this turning and follow the road until you reach a fork.
To get to the next eatery you will need to stay on the B8025 taking the right hand fork, but it is worth parking in the small carpark on your left here and visiting the Scottish Beaver Trial information hut. If you have time take a walk further along the road and onto a forest track that takes you to one of the sites where the beavers were released back in 2009. You are only likely to see beavers at dawn or dusk, but during the day there is still plenty to see. A viewing platform provides a view of the first lodge that the beavers built, and a floating pontoon lets you view the dam that the beavers constructed. Further along the path you are likely to see beaver activity such as felled trees and tooth marks in bark!
Back on the road to Tayvallich travel for about four miles. The Tayvallich Inn is directly in front of you as you enter the picturesque village on the shores of Loch Sween. The inn overlooks the beautiful natural harbour of Tayvallich Bay. Established over 30 years ago, the Tayvallich Inn specialises in fresh, locally caught seafood, much of which is landed on their doorstep from the waters of the sound of Jura. Other fresh produce is also offered, sourced locally where ever possible.
Beyond the village is the National Nature Reserve of Taynish. This is worth a visit at any time of the year. The varied habitats provide a wealth of opportunities to spot wildlife, whilst the restored buildings of The Mill and the Piggery often host outdoor art exhibitions.
On leaving Tayvallich head back northwards along the B8025 until you reach the canal. Turn left here (it is a tight turn!) and follow the canal for a couple of miles. The road leaves the canal and takes you uphill to a fork junction. Take the right hand fork and climb down into the picturesque village of Crinan on the Crinan Canal basin. This is a lovely spot to while away an hour or two just watching the boats pass through the sea lock.
Depending on how hungry you are, the Crinan Hotel offers something for everyone. The Westward Restaurant has fine views with fine dining. Enjoy the sunset with a five-course menu and coffee. The Crinan Seafood Bar has an 'a la carte' menu and is perfect for lunch or dinner. On a fine day you can enjoy lunch outside overlooking the canal. The Crinan Pub, known to the locals as The Panther Arms, is the ideal place to enjoy refreshments, local beers and fine local whiskies. The Crinan Coffee Shop is just a few yards away from the hotel on the edge of the canal basin. Enjoy fresh home baking, light lunches and an excellent view of the boating activity outside!
Crinan to Loch Melfort
Leaving Crinan head back the way you came in to the canal. When you reach a swing bridge crossing the canal at Bellanoch turn left across the canal via the bridge. This is the B8025 again. This road is long and straight, taking you across the Moine Mhor (The Great Bog). A special habitat for wildlife you might see Hen harriers, Cuckoos, deer and much more if you are lucky.
This road meets the A816 after a few miles. Turn left onto the A816 and follow the road for about a mile into the village of Kilmartin. On your left you will find the Kilmartin Museum & Café. If you are lucky enough to bag a table in the green oak conservatory overlooking the glen, you can be guaranteed one of the best 'tea views' for miles around. The menu offers fresh, delicious food wherever possible sourced from local suppliers and from the museum garden. Don't miss the homemade daily specials, tempting puddings and delicious cakes.
Make sure that you take the time to explore the museum and if you have time take a walk in the historic Kilmartin Glen, where within a mile of the museum you will find an avenue of Neolithic cairns, standing stones, stone circles and cup and ring marked rocks.
On leaving the Kilmartin Museum, turn left back on to the A816 and head north again for about six miles. When you see the left hand turning marked with a giant wooden-hand sculpture (B8002), take the turning and follow the road for about a mile into the village of Ardfern. As you pass through the village you will come across the Galley of Lorne on your left, a 17th-century Drovers Inn with a homely traditional public bar, a lounge bar and a spacious restaurant with panoramic views over Loch Craignish towards Jura & Scarba. You can tuck into delicious lunches or dinners that use local ingredients including seafood and game.
Returning back to the A816 and heading north again look out for the turning on the left for Loch Melfort Hotel and Arduaine Gardens.
The beautiful coastal and woodland gardens of Arduaine are worth exploring especially when the rhododendrons and azaleas are in flower.
The Loch Melfort Hotel offers great options, including tasty bistro snacks, excellent Scottish fine dining, picnic hampers and afternoon tea. In the AA 2 Rosette Asknish Bay Restaurant choose from freshly caught langoustines, lobster and crab, Islay scallops, select cuts of meat from Airds Farm in Ardfern and game, seasonal vegetables and aromatic herbs, all sourced from local suppliers.
In the Chartroom II Bistro you can enjoy high quality dining at reasonable prices. Choose fresh, local seafood, succulent burgers, amazing pizzas and much more.
You've reached the end of you Heart of Argyll Food Trail. Sit back, relax and enjoy the views.