In the west of Scotland, The Airds Restaurant offers history, unblemished nature and a menu of fresh seafood.
The Airds Hotel
When you’re lucky enough to escape the kitchen and head for the proverbial hills, what makes for a memorable, even an adventurous, culinary experience? At the top of the wish list must surely be a menu that offers a few surprises – with unfamiliar, locally-sourced ingredients to arouse the curiosity and perhaps some creative local brews to complement a meal choice. This should not be a play-it-safe day of fish and chips!
Then there’s the atmosphere and décor that may range from deeply historical to thoroughly modern. And, of course, the service. However, the icing on the cake is not just a good view but a fabulous view speaking loud and clear that you have discovered a treasure to take your breath away between bites and sips. Long after hunger has been satisfied, it will be the view that makes you find an excuse to linger longer, committing to memory that perfect piece of countryside or that rugged castle, restored or in ruins.
Great Britain has an abundance of top-notch restaurants, pubs and cafés, both urban and rural. Here is a selection to consider for your next visit to England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland:
The Grill Restaurant, Conwy, North Wales
UNESCO ranks Conwy Castle among Europe’s ‘finest examples of late 13th & early 14th century military architecture’ – making it not a bad building at which to stare during dinner! That’s one boon for eaters at The Grill, part of the Quay Hotel in Deganwy, an estuary village close to Llandudno on the North Wales coast. The other is award-winning meals based on fine, locally-sourced ingredients, from Menai mussels to the finest Welsh beef and lamb. Equally regional are the bar’s Great Orme Brewery ales.
Credit: Grill Restaurant
The Airds, Argyll and Bute, West Coast of Scotland
Set on the craggy, dramatic west coast of Scotland near Oban, The Airds Hotel overlooks Loch Linnhe. Its acclaimed restaurant gazes across this seaside lake towards the Morvern Hills, and a west-facing position means the additional bonus of fantastic sunsets. Better still, this side of Scotland is known for offering some of the world’s finest seafood, and the consistent award of three AA rosettes proves that head chef Jordan Annabi certainly knows what to do with it.
Credit: The Airds Hotel
The Quays, County Down, Northern Ireland
The combination of sensational seafood and sea views is also promised in Northern Ireland’s easternmost settlement. Located on the pretty harborside of Portavogie in County Down, about 25 miles south of Belfast, The Quays Restaurant cooks fish fresh off the local boats, with the seasonal specialities including crab claws, lobster, Dover sole and turbot. Watch the last fishermen return to shore while you feast; the family-friendly establishment faces across the Irish Sea towards the Isle of Man, which can easily be seen on a clear day.
Credit: Quays Restaurant
Fifteen Cornwall, England
Fifteen is a restaurant brand run by British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and staffed with apprentice chefs. This Cornish outpost is arguably its most famous, thanks to a stunning position above Newquay’s romantic Watergate Bay. England’s far south-westerly county, Cornwall is renowned for its picturesque seasides like this. Reserve a window table for a summer evening, and watch surfers catch sunset waves as you devour Italian-inspired dishes made from local ingredients – including pastas using Cornish durum wheat.
Chaophraya, Edinburgh, Scotland
All of Chaophraya’s high-quality Thai restaurants boast lavish locations, but its recent Edinburgh opening, located right in the middle of Scotland’s capital city, quite literally sets a new high. 33 Castle Street is a rooftop establishment with spellbinding views – from the Glass Box, a transparent cube – overlooking Edinburgh Castle, one of Britain’s most iconic landmarks. The playful menu, meanwhile, blends Scottish-Thai offerings such as seared scallops and black pudding with mango, chili and palm sugar. Retire to the cocktail bar afterwards – the gorgeous skyline remains just as visible.
Hafod Eryri, Snowdonia, Wales
What with it being Wales’ highest peak, one would hope Mount Snowdon’s summit offered a decent view. And indeed it does: the Isle of Anglesey and vast swathes of rugged Snowdonia are gloriously on show. Less predictable is the fact that they’re also visible from a cafe. Opened on the 3,560-foot summit in 2009, Hafod Eryri serves sandwiches and soft drinks inside a £8M glass-walled building which doubles as a visitor centre. Its customers aren’t confined to triumphant mountaineers, either – the Snowdon Railway terminates here.
Credit: Hafod Eryri
The Old Forge, West Coast of Scotland
Officially Britain’s remotest pub – even the Guinness Book of Records says so – The Old Forge is only reachable via an 18-mile hike across uncompromising hills, or a choppy 20-minute ferry around the Knoydart Peninsula. And all that solely from the port of Mallaig, five hours north of Glasgow by train. It’s well worth it, though: partly for the bygone village feel, partly for the hand-dived scallops and venison, and partly for the window-watching, with Loch Nevis on the doorstep. If you fancy putting off the return journey, cosy cottages are at hand nearby.
Credit: The Old Forge
Gliffaes, Brecon Beacons, South Wales
Found in the middle of South Wales, the Brecon Beacons is a beautiful range of hills boasting moorland, Norman castles, market towns and the odd neolithic stone circle. The wisest visitors hole up at Gliffaes, a cosy country-house hotel whose conservatory restaurant (also open to non-guests) overlooks a particularly scenic Beacons stretch, and which serves high-quality Welsh meat at affordable prices. Go in autumn or winter for seasonal game dishes; go anytime for the extensive wine cellar.
Credit: Gliffaes Hotel
VisitBritain, www.visitbritain.com, is Britain’s national tourism agency. The VisitBritain Shop is the one-stop web shop for all British attractions, events, shows, travel and transport – helping visitors plan their travel in advance and saving money and precious time from having to wait in long lines.
Also see our feature article offering tips on budget travel to Britain, “Beat the Bank in Britain: 10 Tips for Saving on your Travels.”