Argyll’s hills and pastures provide some of the tastiest meat and game in Scotland. Kintyre, Islay, Mull and Bute are all famed for their beef and lamb, while the hills of Cowal are stalked for venison. Argyll is a wild and challenging landscape, but generations of farmers and crofters have found creative and productive ways to work here. From lambs grazing on salt marshes to Highland cattle roaming on rough hill pastures, it’s the land that creates the unique taste of the meat.
Glengorm Estate is 5,000 beautiful acres of hill pasture on north-west Mull. Here, Highland cattle, black-faced sheep and wild red deer roam the hills spending their entire lives outside. The slow and traditional rearing of these animals produces the most wonderful tasting meat. All the butchering and processing is done on the island, ensuring food miles are kept to a minimum. Visit the lovely coffee shop and farm shop on the estate to taste and buy the meat. All the food is cooked on the premises using produce from the farm, with ingredients sourced from other local suppliers. You can join guided nature walks across the estate too, and see the cattle and sheep while you’re out and about.
At Shellfield Farm, a 2,500-acre hill farm on the Cowal peninsula, sheep have been roaming free among the craggy hills and nutrient-rich saltmarshes for well over a hundred years. Reared on a diet of wild grass, heather and berries combined with essential salts and minerals from natural tidal marshes, Shellfield Farm lamb is beautifully tender and offers a unique taste. A number of local restaurants have Shellfield Farm produce on the menu, and you can also try their slow-cooked lamb and ‘naturally tasty’ burgers at events and festivals.
Winston Churchill Venison
In the early 1990s Winston Churchill started stalking deer the hills around Dunoon. He was passionate about stalking, but soon began to take an equal interest in the meat. And so began Winston Churchill Venison. Winston taught himself butchery in order to sell to friends and family and slowly the business grew. Now, with a purpose-built facility to process the carcasses, as well as two full time butchers, Winston Churchill Venison is sold through a burgeoning mail-order business, local butchers, restaurants and farmers’ markets. His latest venture has been Scotland’s festivals, where the venison burgers and sausage rolls go down a treat.
The Real MacKay Stovie Company
For many farmers in Argyll, diversification is key to survival. From pie-making to smoking meat, many draw on old recipes and traditions and breathe new life in to them. No more so than The Real MacKay Stovie Company. Ruaridh MacKay's traditional blackface sheep roam the hills between Inveraray and Dalmally at Stronmagachan Farm, grazing on wild grasses and heather. He started making home roasted lamb stovies using his own lamb and hasn’t looked back. Real MacKay Stovies are now being served up at a variety of festivals and events across Scotland and beyond.
The Mull Slaughterhouse provides a slaughtering and butchery service for the island of Mull and beyond. It’s an invaluable service, saving animals the stress of travelling long distances while avoiding extra transport costs for farmers. The Mull Slaughterhouse also sells a small quantity of meat and steak pies, as well as a supply of pet food and bones.
Find out more about Argyll’s farmers on the Food from Argyll website.