Who can resist a trip to a place whose name means ‘cloud island’? Especially when the trip involves such diverse foodie experiences as dining on Michelin-starred food in a sumptuous Scottish hotel and foraging for limpets before cooking them in the open air... I set off to Skye with food firmly in mind. Yes, Scotland’s second largest island is famed for its dramatic landscapes and clan-warfare history, but this time I was focused on the prospect of a 5-course dinner prepared by the acclaimed Marcello Tully at Kinloch Lodge, not to mention the intriguing idea of foraging for a wee appetiser beforehand. You can arrive to Skye by ferry or car; I chose the latter so that I could whizz over the impressive Skye Bridge (it arcs like a rainbow – a fitting entrance to cloud island) and get to my luxury home for the night as soon as possible. At Kinloch I was directed to a sweet cottage next to the main house, my room impeccably – and very Scottishly – decorated, and with views over the sea that had an instantly calming effect. But my excitement levels quickly rose again when I saw what was on the bed: the night’s menu. There was no time for drooling yet, as it was time to lace up my walking boots for a foraging excursion along the pebble beach that lies just beyond Kinloch Lodge’s grounds. I joined my merry band of fellow foodie travellers, and we were greeted by Malcolm O Reilly from Wilderness Scotland, who was here to guide us through the country’s ‘natural larder’. The first edible item we spotted among the pebbles was a pearlescent blue mussel that had become dislodged from its rock – but still alive, as Malcolm identified by its shell being firmly shut. We pocketed it for cooking later, and Malcolm turned our attention to Mr Mussel’s crustacean cousin on a nearby rock: the limpet. Limpets’ teeth are the strongest natural material ever tested, and they sink them into rocks with a stubbornness that looks hard to dislodge. Turns out it’s not so hard though, and a swift bash with a pointy stone will do the trick, so we set about finding pointy stones and collecting the green-shelled creatures. A little bit of sea lettuce and some periwinkles (small black snails) later, and we had the makings of our appetiser. Malcolm filled a small stove with sea water, set it to boil and dropped in the mussel, limpets and snails. We had only found 1 mussel, so a lucky member of our group got to pronounce it ‘delicious’. I tried a limpet, which was quite sweet and the same texture as a snail, and some sea lettuce which tasted… very green. Periwinkles were prodded out of their shells by sticks we found on the ground, and I could imagine tucking into a pile of them with a cold beer. Weather conditions in the Hebrides can be unpredictable, but we hit on an afternoon of complete sunshine and a blue sky, which were perfect conditions for our al fresco picnic. We all agreed our taste of the island so far had whet appetites for the dinner to come. Back at the hotel, upon inspecting the menu, sure enough there were mussels – but would they be the pearly blue ones from the beach today? They were indeed, and the whole dinner was a masterpiece by Marcello. When he says ‘slightly spicy pea’, he means ‘the most delicious pea you’ve ever tasted’, and when he says passion fruit parfait, he really does mean perfect. Post dinner, my beautiful bed was beckoning, but so were my fellow forager-diners… to the honesty bar in the drawing room, where we were greeted by roaring fires, a table laden with whisky, and a stuffed grouse in a display box. Or was it a pheasant? It provoked much debate. Following a peaceful night’s sleep, just when I thought my Kinloch stay couldn’t get any more delicious: breakfast. The night’s dinner had shown that Marcello can turn food into something more like art on a plate, but to be able to turn porridge – the Scottish staple – into a memorable meal was a masterstroke. Apparently it’s down to using pinhead oatmeal, and mixed with brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Marcello will you come and be head chef at my house, please?
Kinloch Lodge is on the Isle of Skye, the largest island in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides. You can fly to Inverness, and Kinloch can arrange a transfer from there; or else go on a road trip from Edinburgh or Glasgow.