Inveraray Castle is the ancestral home of the Duke of Argyll, Chief of the Clan Campbell and the iconic, must-see visitor attraction on the West Coast of Scotland.
You are a fantastic champion of local produce. What does supporting and promoting the area’s larder mean to you?
I think we’re incredibly lucky to be surrounded by the most amazing landscape, which in turn means we have a diverse and extraordinary supply of good, natural produce. With the salty, herby Machair in Tiree providing outstanding lamb and potatoes, to the Oysters and Langoustines from Loch Fyne. To be able to offer world-class dairy, seafood, meats and more from the West of Scotland is something we are all incredibly proud of.
The Castle Tea Room, which has Taste our Best status, is a huge success – what are the secrets of this popularity and what role does the food offering play? What are the most popular dishes/products on the menu and why?
My aim for the Castle Tearoom was to be able to show off what we produce so well in Argyll, although in a slightly more micro way! We offer simple, fresh lunches and teas and using (as much as we can) the best that is produced within hours of the area. All our baking is done in house or on the Estate, the salmon is from Inverawe, the cheeses from Mull and Arran and I’m very fussy about what coffee we serve! I have carefully chosen the menu and work with a fantastic team who take as much pleasure as I do in serving the best of Argyll and the West to visitors from around the world. A Salmon with Dill Sauce Panini is always popular, our Millionaire’s Shortbread is the best I have ever tasted and The Duke’s Special Hot Chocolate is the winner for my children!
Best of the West is a fantastic example of how local food and drink has been given a star role at the event, and a key part of the visitor experience – can you tell us more about this?
The Best of the West is a fantastic weekend that shows off our amazing surroundings and people and our unbeatable produce. We have live music throughout the weekend from a variety of bands (this year we have Skipinnish, Manran and The League of Highland Gentlemen as our headline acts, as well as young talent, local bands, Gaelic choirs and more) and free children’s entertainment. We are lucky enough to have 20 whisky distilleries on this side of Scotland have a dedicated marquee where one can sample and learn about Scotland’s most famous drink. One of the huge draws of the weekend are the Live Cooking Demonstrations which take place over the weekend and range from the Michelin Star to a fantastic Thai chef. Our only criteria are that they have to use local produce and then let us all learn (and taste) how to create their masterpieces! There is also a food marquee serving a huge range of delicious food to sample, eat on the day and take home.
Any food and drink plans over the next 12 months or so?
We are always on the lookout for more producers and ideas. There is a new smokehouse at Luss which is producing the most delicious salmon, and a new chocolatier who has won the chance to take a stand at the Festival. I’m also in the early stages of a cookbook.
If you could pick one desert island local food product what would it be and why?
The Inverawe dill sauce. It would go so well with the fish I’d catch. Can I sneak in some Chocolate and Love chocolate too? Their dark bar with salt and caramel is absolutely outstanding (and nearly local as it’s from Perthshire!) The beautiful wrappers would cheer up my hut too
Who are your own, personal food heroes?
Andrew McGlugash has opened his restaurant Samphire here in Inveraray. He produces some of the best food I’ve ever been lucky enough to taste. Tuggy Delap is our neighbour and she farms unbeatable beef and I’m a huge fan of all the ‘television’ chefs who are opening our eyes to the issues such as school food, packaging waste, obesity and unethical practices that need shouting about.
Find out more about Best of the West via http://www.bowfest.co.uk/ and @Bowfestinfo
Further information about visiting Inveraray Castle and the team room can be found here http://www.inveraray-castle.com/