Our first stop is the Restaurant & Oyster Bar which remains located on the original site overlooking the loch. Inside however has enjoyed a recent refurb and the menu of course is overseen by Roy Brett. A dozen oysters that have traveled no more than a mile to our plate give us a Loch Fyne welcome and they truly are fabulous. Loch Fyne has exceptionally pure water and the oysters deliver intense salty freshness that is as good as it gets. Roy is in the kitchen today and the food keeps on coming. Smoked salmon is clearly a must and that too is of the highest quality. Four amazing scallops with venison sausage are delivered while Roy's hot seafood platter that is one of many triumphs at his Edinburgh restaurant is also delivered to the table here and leaves us delighted, but by the end, beaten. Indeed, it wasn't till day three that we could even approach dessert, for me a Glengoyne Whisky Tart that has also made its way from the Ondine menu.
To balance out our lunch, a bracing walk along River Fyne in the afternoon with Virginia Sumison, head of marketing and events at Loch Fyne and niece of founder John (Johnny) Noble filled us in on the wonderful history of her family and the origins of Loch Fyne as an oyster business. Johnny sadly passed away in 2002 but was surely the type of person all of us wish we could know. In the obituary published in The Guardian it states:
He ate in his own restaurant several days a week... anonymous to the coach parties that surrounded him... he had a gentle manner but a loud whisper, which got him into difficulty. Once, in his restaurant, a woman luncher overheard him discussing another, obnoxious luncher with a member of his staff, and asked that he be removed. Noble left obediently with the words "fair enough"'
But as the article also observes early on:
His largest achievement was the prosperity and optimism he brought his own small community in Argyllshire.
The result is that in Cairndow where Loch Fyne's operations are based, there are more jobs than there are people such that Loch Fyne is as much a community as it is a business and that was demonstrated by the warmth and pride of the many people we met during our time there.
As if we weren't already lucky enough to be at Loch Fyne, we must say a huge thank you to the Sumison family who let us stay at their remarkable family home, Ardkinglas, a house that is simply breathtaking as it first comes in to view as you proceed up the driveway. See the pictures below to view just how fabulous this house is and for anyone visiting the area, it is possible to have a private tour of the house, a wedding, or even stay there as we did (details available on the Ardkinglas website.)
Sunshine. Blue skies and a walk down to the loch before breakfast. It's little wonder we love Scotland so much.
Andre was amazing and yet another perfect ambassador for the Loch Fyne community and of course, put us in the mood for another dozen oysters at the Restaurant and Oyster bar where some crab also seemed like a good idea.
Sea legs for the afternoon as we board a RIB and head out to Loch Fyne's IMTA site to see first hand the very latest developments in sustainable aquaculture. IMTA stands for Integrated multi-trophic aquaculture and the ever useful Wiki describes it thus:
Integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA) provides the by-products, including waste, from one aquatic species as inputs (fertilizers, food) for another. Farmers combine fed aquaculture (e.g., fish, shrimp) with inorganic extractive (e.g.,seaweed) and organic extractive (e.g., shellfish) aquaculture to create balanced systems for environment remediation (biomitigation), economic stability (improved output, lower cost, product diversification and risk reduction) and social acceptability (better management practices)
Put another way, Loch Fyne has salmon farms and that leads to a concentration of certain factors in the water surrounding these farms. Can this be balanced out by the encouragement of other native species around the farms for improved environmental practices and enhanced sustainability? Yes is the current best thinking on the topic and therefore alongside the salmon farms marine biologist David Attwood is overseeing the cultivation of seaweed, mussels, oysters, scallops and even sea urchins providing a win-win for the business and the environment.
We got so see the tiniest baby Queen Scallops alongside the bigger versions. It was really something to see David and Iain bring up some sea urchins from the loch also, though perhaps the highlight was to pull up the oysters and shuck them while still wet out the water. A bottle of Chablis had even found its way on board to be enjoyed alongside the oysters, but this was a highly educational trip and our thanks to David, Iain and Richard for spending time with us to explain what is very much a leading edge research project.
Can't be lucky forever and it's raining again on Day 3 but Ardkinglas looks lovely in all weathers. Fortunately our activities are mostly indoors today.
Our thanks then to all those mentioned above as well as Campbell and Bruce with whom we enjoyed a very pleasant dinner, learning more about Loch Fyne from the top down view, as well as Martin, Richard, Alastair and Moyra in the restaurant and deli who looked after us so well every day and kept those oysters coming. And three years from hatchery to plate: never again will we take oysters for granted.
Disclosure: we were guests of Loch Fyne