The blue boat sails in the harbor waters then attacks the unprotected swell with confidence. This little profession is on a mission and I hope it is in my name. I sigh in relief as she walks over to a buoy and the fisherman begins to lift a lobster trap. It’s my dinner set.
Portpatrick, on the west coast of the southwestern tip of Scotland, is a beacon for artists and shellfish eaters. Picture perfect, the port filled with boats is framed by colorful buildings and we quickly understand why it has become an artists’ colony. It is a pleasant resting place on the Wigtownshire outskirts of Dumfries and Galloway, with beautiful bustle contrasting with the wilder landscape of the Mull of Galloway to the south.
Or. Fernhill is where you get great value for money, a hotel that makes the most of its assets: sea views, specially designed rooms with balconies, country house treatments and a superb dining room.
The hotel is all set for the life of Covid, including a one-way route to the dining room.
My room is in the cottage annex, a converted stone building with four twin beds. I have a sea view, a full bathroom and although there is a place to sit, the main hotel reception, dining room and elegant lounge make the most of the view impregnable on the port.
Is this one of the best meals I have ever had? It certainly comes close. “Lobster Sensation” says the menu and chef Bruce McLean is raising the bar. He’s new to Fernhill, but has been an award-winning chef at sister hotel, North West Castle, and intends to put Fernhill on the culinary map. This is exactly what it does in the six courses on this menu. From cappuccino to lobster bisque through scallops, black pudding and lobster until the show that stops “surf and turf” – lobster thermidor and fillet steak – everything is thrilling: chills to the taste buds and pure feast for the eyes. While the lobster is the obvious star, the desert is also an Oscar nominee. The constant side view of the harbor as the sun goes down makes it a special experience.
Worth getting out of bed for
Logan Botanic Garden is the exotic sister of Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden and just 26 miles away. From its palm-fringed welcome to the multitude of plants that shouldn’t grow outside at this latitude, it’s a living treasure, thanks to the Gulf Stream that feeds this corner of Scotland. The gardens of Castle Kennedy, near Stranraer, are also worth a visit, in a landscape more natural than Logan, but still planned and cultivated.
I caught the end of the rhododendrons and was ahead for the full glory of the lily pond, but the evergreens – including an avenue of monkey puzzles – are still beautiful. Both gardens also have excellent cafes.
If rugged scenery is your thing, head to the Mull of Galloway where, on a rugged headland, a lighthouse guards Scotland’s southernmost tip. Designed by Robert Stevenson, it has been guiding sailors around its cliffs since 1830. The Gallie Craig – a cleverly nestled clifftop cafe – is a layer of civilization for this spectacular place that fascinates bird watchers and flora watchers.
This is one of three family-run McMillan hotels and you can use the leisure facilities – including the swimming pool and curling rink – at the North West Castle Hotel in Stranraer, just 8 miles away.
The sensational lobster is just the icing on the cake in this corner of Galloway.
Lobster Sensation, six-course dinner menu, £ 57.50 per person (prior reservation required). Available for non-residents.