Eating Around Appin

by Keith Savage

The view across Loch Linnhe from Port Appin

Last spring I spent a week in Appin along the shores of Loch Linnhe at the Ecopods. This beautiful part of the west highlands lies wedged between Fort William and Oban, straddling Argyll and Lochaber, and makes an excellent base from which to hike, explore, and relax. One of the great things about this trip was that I had companions! Sarah joined me, as did our friends from Melbourne, Michael and Katherine, and this was particularly nice because this part of Scotland can feel pretty out there. Whenever I travel with others, inevitably I wind up eating out at restaurants more often. Since there aren’t that many options in this region I thought it would be useful to provide an overview so you know what to expect when you visit Appin. Because you should — it’s gorgeous and a little off the tourist path.

The Creagan Inn

The Creagan Inn lies just north of the Creagan Bridge and east of Port Appin. This is a cozy restaurant with views and a deck overlooking Loch Creran, and it makes a great place to have a pint after a hike in the hills, say at the Fairy Bridge of Glen Creran. The food here is fairly typical of nice pubs across Scotland — sandwiches, soups, burgers, and classics like haggis, steak and ale pie, and haddock — and they pride themselves on sourcing much of it locally. I was happy to find real ale on draught, and I learned they have traditional Scottish music at times throughout the year.

The Pierhouse Restaurant

Going west from the A828 will take you to tiny, peaceful Port Appin. Here’s you’ll find stunning views across Loch Linnhe to Lismore, Morvern, and Mull. You’ll also find The Pierhouse Hotel & Restaurant. The Pierhouse prides itself on fresh seafood — there’s literally a pier right outside the front doors where the catch comes in — and rightfully so. The mussels I enjoyed here were fresh and delicious, and we actually ate here more than once during our week. Cost-wise, The Pierhouse is middle of the road, though the bill can escalate quickly if you’re going all in with wine, appetizers, and desserts.

Airds Hotel & Restaurant

The Airds Hotel & Restaurant is certainly one of the classiest places to have a fine meal in Appin. As a recipient of three AA rosettes, Gold Award with Eat Scotland, and a recommendation in the 2016 Michelin Guide, you know you’re getting fine dining with an inventive twist. With dishes like Roast Loin of Newtonmore Venison, Pommes Anna, Celeriac, and Salt Baked Beetroot, the thrust is toward French techniques using local Scottish produce. The Airds is not the kind of place you want to roll into with grubby hiking clothes, so be prepared for a certain atmosphere with your meal.

Castle Stalker View Café

The fine folks who run the Ecopods also run the Castle Stalker View Café nearby. The café is as good as its name suggests, providing an incredible view of Castle Aaaaaargh from Monty Python, and serving up really tasty breakfasts and baked goods. You’ll also find soups, sandwiches, paninis, and other light bites, as well as a gift shop loaded with local crafts and gourmet products. This is a perfect stop on the journey between Oban and Fort William.

The Holly Tree

Up the eastern shore of Loch Linnhe past Kentallen you’ll find The Holly Tree, another combination hotel and seafood restaurant. The Holly Tree serves hearty fare with an emphasis on seafood, naturally, and I particularly enjoyed the Hebridean oyster pictured below. The dining area has a glass wall facing the loch that welcomes in the amazing environs. The food was good, though it did not push the envelope on creativity or value.

Clachaig Inn

While not technically in Appin, the Clachaig Inn nestles in Glencoe and makes an ideal stop after hiking Signal Rock and An Torr, for example. We arrived in the middle of the day and the inn was very quiet, but I can tell this place gets going at night. With great beers on draught, an attractive interior, and delicious staples like haggis, neeps, and tatties and highland game pie on the menu, you can’t go wrong with a stop here. I was particularly impressed by that highland game pie, which was made with gin and juniper berries and had an earthy savoriness that really hit the spot.

There’s a handful of restaurants in Appin that’ll keep your belly full and the good times rolling. If you’ve got favorites, included here or otherwise, let me know in the comments!

Photo of the Clachaig Inn by Andrew Bowden via Flickr/Creative Commons

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