The Malt and Music Festival on the Inner Hebridean island of Islay runs from tomorrow to 5 June. And where better to fill up after all the ceilidhs and whisky tasting than at the social hub of the whitewashed stone village of Port Charlotte, on the shore of Loch Indaal? Apart from its world-renowned single malt whiskies, Islay exports some of the best seafood in Britain. Since this is immediately ferried off to London and Spain, Islay's fresh lobster, crab, scallops and oysters can be hard to find on the island itself, although the hotel's 'Taste of Islay' menu has a fair selection. Try the Loch Gruinart oysters in a cream sauce with garlic, topped with St Andrews cheese. Or a fillet of locally caught halibut finished with Portnahaven crab mousse. Fresh lobster sells at £25. Islay is also well known for its beef and venison, both of which feature heavily, along with game birds such as woodcock and red partridge. There's a well chosen wine list with a £12 entry level, but the real glory here is Islay malt whiskies. The 100-strong list ranges from a ten-year-old Bunnahabhain at £4 a dram, to a 36-year-old from the now defunct distillery at Port Charlotte itself (£22.50 a dram) and an Arbeg Single Cask Strength Very Rare Old Malt (£30).
The dining room windows look out on to spectacular Loch Indaal. The shape of Islay has often been compared to that of a bent old witch, with Loch Indaal forming the space between the witch's chin, neck and chest. The distillery of Bowmore is on the far side of the loch, while that of Bruichladdich is a five-minute drive to the north. Frankly, though, there is no need to leave your seat in order to enjoy the best of the island's whiskies.
The starters on the three-course 'Taste of Islay' menu range from £5 to £7.75, the mains from about £9 to £18. Puddings are around the £6 mark.
The Port Charlotte Hotel, The Main Street, Port Charlotte, Isle of Islay, Argyll, Scotland (01496 850360)Reuse content