The coast of Scotland provides a treasure trove of tasty morsels and offers up a spread of seafood indulgences that leaves both eyes and mouths watering. People come from far and wide to taste the acclaimed nectar of the sea, such is the quality of seafood in Scotland.
Scotland is one of the major fishing countries in Europe and, throughout the North Sea, the Atlantic Ocean and the abundant sea lochs, over 65 species of seafood can be found. You can sample the freshest Scottish seafood available by visiting the picturesque coastal villages where the fishing boats unload their catch on a daily basis.
Places like the East Neuk of Fife are where you are most likely to find the best fresh seafood, with small communities where you can eat to your heart’s content and gaze out at the Firth of Forth. Further north in Moray, you’ll also find renowned villages waiting to show off their edible wares. And lest we forget the west coast, the Highlands, the Isle of Skye…read on for more inspiration on the best seafood in Scotland.
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In Scotland, you can get the finest fresh langoustine, oysters and scallops. Scottish lobster is also revered. In fact, Scottish shellfish and seafood is the country’s second-largest export, after whisky. Other fish readily available include haddock, mackerel, herring and salmon. Such is the quality of Scotland’s salmon that, for the last 20 years, the French government have awarded it the prestigious Label Rouge.
With over 6,000 miles of coastline offering bountiful seafood options every day, it’s hard to ignore seafood on the menu when you go out to eat. And with fish and shellfish offering health benefits and forming part of a healthy, balanced diet, it’s easy to see why it’s so popular with so many Scots. Haddock is arguably Scotland’s most popular fish, and lobster is a must if you want a true taste of Scottish seafood cuisine. Other well-liked dishes include tatties and herring, cabbie claw, Tweed kettle and crappit heids (although this last one is not for the faint of heart).
Scotland’s west coast and north-east region are where the majority of the country’s acclaimed seafood comes from, feeding off the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Oban, on the west coast, is Scotland’s seafood capital and so a lot of the seafood goes here to cater for the influx of foodies visiting the area who want to taste the best of Scottish gastronomy. Fear not though if you cannot make it to this town in Argyll and Bute, as there are so many small fishing villages and large resort towns dotted along both east and west coasts offering up high-quality seafood. Scotland even exports its seafood to more than 70 countries, but we highly recommend you visit the source.
Oh yes! Although the number of crabs caught on Scottish shores falls short of the amount of finfish taken up by fishermen, the quality of this Scottish crustacean is undeniable. The most popular crab is the edible or brown crab, followed closely by the velvet swimmer crab. Usually, the white crab meat is favoured by seafood lovers but more recently the brown meat has got the recognition it has always deserved, with Scottish Michelin-starred chef Tom Kitchin plainly stating, “Freshly cooked brown crab, eaten while still warm, is one of my all-time favourite dishes – served as fresh as can be, with some bread and crisp white wine, it is pretty close to food heaven.”
Types of seafood found in Scotland
We’ve covered some of the seafood available in Scotland throughout our introduction and FAQs but here is a more in-depth, if not exhaustive, look at the types of marine fish and shellfish available to you on your visit.
- Fresh Scottish langoustine – a soft, succulent white meat crustacean, often called scampi; they are related to lobster but are much smaller and have a more complex flavour
- Brown crab – the most commonly eaten crab in Scotland, the shell contains sweet flesh that is full of flavour
- Lobster – a dark blue crustacean, unlike their North American counterparts who are brown-orange. Scottish lobsters produce sweet white meat and are a delicacy
- Scallops – a mollusc related to clams, oysters and mussels, scallops consist of firm white meat with orange roe sometimes attached
- Queenies – also known as queen scallops, these are a smaller species of scallops
- Winkles – not usually eaten on their own but as part of a platter, these underrated snail-like shellfish are small, black and delicious
- Mussels – found on the west coast, the Highlands and the Shetland Isles, these molluscs are tasty and extremely healthy (depending on how much wine and cream you have in your moules mariniere!)
- Oysters – a shellfish that takes on the flavour of the waters it lives in, the best oysters in Scotland will be found on the north and west coasts where the waters are clear and cool
- Haddock – a versatile white fish used in fish pie and soups, but most notably used in chip shops where it is battered and fried, or in Finnan Haddie, a traditional Scottish breakfast. Also, freshly caught haddock is smoked in pairs giving rise to the Arbroath Smokie which has geographical status protection in the same way that Champagne and Parma ham are safeguarded
- Mackerel – an in-demand fish that is of high importance to Scottish fishermen in terms of value and volume, mackerel makes for a tasty pate
- Salmon – mainly coming from the clear waters of the Highlands and the Islands, this farmed fish is pink in colour and can be poached beautifully as part of a Tweed kettle
- Monkfish – also known as anglerfish, this North Sea fish was originally a bycatch but since has become a staple due to its tasty meat and versatility
- Cod – a popular east coast fish, cod has a mild, clean flavour and is often found in fish and chip shops
- Skate – this cartilaginous fish can also be found in chippies after being caught in the North Sea off the north-west coast
Popular destinations to eat Scottish seafood
The East Neuk of Fife has a sublime coastline backed by towering mountainous slopes, giving the region such a varied and alluring landscape that you’d want to visit the area even if the sea didn’t offer up such delicacies as razor clams, oysters and whelks.
Small communities like St Monans and Pittenweem sit looking out at the Firth of Forth and offer an abundance of eateries to choose from. Or you could visit Anstruther and try their award-winning fish bar which Prince William frequented when he was studying in the area.
The west coast of Scotland is renowned for producing some of the world’s premium seafood, with the cold and clear waters providing the perfect environment for shellfish to thrive. Mussels, langoustine and scallops are all of the highest quality, with the latter often being obtained through hand diving, as they lie in areas inaccessible to trawlers. This also means there is no waste or bycatch.
The coast even has its own self-drive tour, the West Coast Seafood Trail, a romantic journey through renowned seafood restaurants in Glasgow, Fort William and Oban to name but a few.
West Coast cottages
In the Highlands, you can get seafood that is so local that it almost swims straight into your mouth! With a multitude of inlets and islands supporting the needs of harbour villages and inland towns, you’re sure to find an amazing seafood shack, restaurant or even an olde-worlde pub somewhere in this majestic region.
Try Fort William which makes up part of Scotland’s Seafood Trail, or Ullapool with its acclaimed seafood shack (see further below).
Over on the north coast, above Cairngorms National Park, you’ll find Moray where the coastline on the Moray Firth plays host to several communities well worth a visit on a seafood safari. Banff, Portsoy and Buckie are all coastal gems serving up quality seafood wares daily.
There’s also Cullen, where Cullen Skink was born. What better excuse to try some of that Scottish haddock? The white fish is cooked with potatoes, onion, parsley and milk to create a hearty soup to comfort you on a windy Scottish day.
Isle of Skye
Even if you don’t find seafood appealing, Skye is absolutely worth a visit. However, if you’re chomping at the bit for scallops with lemon or some cured salmon, plus you love mystical landmarks like The Fairy Pools or the Old Man of Storr, then this is a match made in heaven.
You’ll find Michelin-starred restaurants alongside traditional inns offering pub-style food, so whatever your budget or appetite, you’ll find it here, often accompanied by a fantastic coastal view.
Isle of Skye cottages
Our top 5 seafood restaurants in Scotland
Captain's Galley Seafood Restaurant | Scrabster, Caithness
A visit to Captain’s Galley is very much like a box of chocolates. The owners, Jim and Mary, have a philosophy of seasonality, traceability and sustainability, meaning that they use whatever ingredients are available locally.
Because they don’t know what seafood will be available on any given day at the fish market, the menu changes daily and you are likely to have a completely different choice from one day to the next. This unpredictability only adds to the experience at this wonderful award-winning eatery, one of the best seafood restaurants in Scotland.
Why not try: pan-roasted monkfish tail, Mediterranean vegetables, pearl couscous (we cannot guarantee this will be on the menu when you visit)
The Seafood and Grill Restaurant | Lossiemouth, Moray
Making the most of the amazing Moray coastline, The Seafood and Grill Restaurant sources its produce from the fishermen that bring their daily catch to the nearby village harbours.
The restaurant is also surrounded by beautiful woodland and farmland too and head chef and owner, Ian McGhie, uses local farmers and butchers for all his land-based ingredients. Not sure what to have? Try their popular tasting menus where you can choose delicacies either ‘From the Land’, ‘From the Sea’ or 'From the Land and Sea'.
Why not try: codling fillet, scallop mousse, seared Shetland scallops, truffle parmesan fries, pea puree, spring greens
Shieldaig Bar and Coastal Kitchen | Shieldaig, Highlands
Utilising the experience and expertise of the local village fisherman, as well as taking advantage of creel-caught and hand-dived methods, the Shieldaig Bar and Coastal Kitchen pride themselves on using sustainable methods to feed the seafood lovers they serve, be they local or tourists.
On a typical day, you can expect to choose from a menu consisting of langoustines, scallops, mussels, crab, oysters and lobster. If you need to carb up, there’s plenty more on the menu including wood-fired pizzas, and meat, vegetarian and vegan options.
Why not try: Loch Torridon langoustines or hand-dived local scallops
Crannog Seafood Restaurant | Fort William, Highlands
This Highlands restaurant has been doing it right since 1989. It seems to have it all: a deluxe seafood menu; a welcoming dining ambience; and a waterside location that will produce a sigh of contentment as you gaze out over it.
Sitting next to the water where Loch Eli meets Loch Linnhe, Crannog Seafood Restaurant is in a prime position for taking advantage of Scotland’s bountiful larder, whether it’s fresh langoustine from Loch Linnhe or rope-grown mussels from Loch Eli. Sit back in the red-roofed restaurant, watch the boats come in with their catch and order some of the freshest seafood you’re likely to find in Scotland. After dinner, you can even book on the historic vessel, Souters Lass, and cruise both Loch Linnhe and Loch Eli and spot dolphins, seals and porpoises.
Why not try: Loch Etive sea trout with spring vegetables, wild garlic gnocchi and a buttered fish cream sauce
Waterhouse Fishouse Restaurant | Oban, Argyll and Bute
It would be remiss of us not to mention a restaurant from Scotland’s seafood capital and, in a town that clearly has a wealth of high-quality eateries, the Waterfront Fishouse Restaurant is one of the finest seafood restaurants in Oban. ‘From the pier to the pan…as fast as we can’ has been their motto, but by no means does the quality suffer.
Lunch and early evening service present a slightly simpler menu and then later in the evening, the offerings turn it up a notch given that the chefs have had time to prepare the catch that the local fishermen have landed that day. Take a seat in the first-floor waterfront restaurant and admire views of the islands of Lismore and Kerrera, as well as the mountain, Ben More, beyond.
Why not try: crab and crayfish rillette served with seeded bread
Our top 5 seafood shacks in Scotland
The Seafood Shack | Ullapool, Highlands
The clue is in the name, and it may sound simple but The Seafood Shack does what it does very well. Owners Kirsty and Fenella were concerned that a huge amount of the amazing seafood brought in by boats in Ullapool was leaving the village. They saw a gap in the market, and they decided to act. Now, years on and still trading extremely successfully, they provide their local community with fresh seafood that is cooked simply and with heart.
They use several local fishermen from oyster specialists to experts in scallop hand diving, and even Kirsty’s partner who owns one of the local boats. Service is first-come-first-served and, once your food arrives, you can admire Loch Broom and the mountains in the distance whilst tucking into food you know is local, sustainable and as fresh as can be.
Why not try: tempura haddock wrap served with salad and a lemon mayo pesto
The Lobster Shack | North Berwick, East Lothian
Come take a seat at the harbour of North Berwick and see why it’s not just the west coast that’s worth visiting if you want to sample some fine Scottish seafood. Located just over 20 miles from Edinburgh, which itself has many fine seafood restaurants and shacks, The Lobster Shack sits on the southern shores of the Firth of Forth and boasts unbeatable views across the water.
Sustainability is key to owners Stirling and Jela Stewart, who only use Berwick seafood suppliers with sustainable sourcing and even use cutlery that is biodegradable. Sit outside in the recently upgraded seating area so that you can enjoy your food undercover and next to heaters if the weather turns. Choose from fish tacos, warming chowder or a whole lobster with garlic and herb butter if you’re feeling adventurous.
Why not try: salt and pepper squid followed by half a kilo of Shetland rope-grown moules mariniere
Oban Seafood Hut | Oban, Argyll and Bute
Another seafood capital staple, the Oban Seafood Hut, known locally as Oban’s Famous Green Shack, can be found on the Railway Pier and has been serving locals and visitors since 1990. Founder and fisherman, John Ogden, wanted to provide the inhabitants of the coastal town with affordable luxury which didn’t scrimp on quality, all supplied by local fishermen. The produce is so fresh that it’s often still alive when on sale and then can be cooked up on the spot while you wait.
Choose from sweet crab and lobster, huge scallops or an entire seafood platter for the price you’d pay for one meal in a mid-range restaurant. You might be expected to stand up whilst you eat or eat with your fingers, but this is all part of the experience and is what makes this one of the best seafood shacks in Scotland.
Why not try: everything, as it won’t break the bank…oysters, mussels, whelks, shrimp, langoustines, cockles, scallops, hot smoked salmon, herring and more
Kishorn Seafood Bar | Kishorn, Highlands
Magnificent coastal views await when you visit Kishorn, a small village on the banks of the loch of the same name. Marry these vistas of the Applecross Peninsula and the Cuillin Hills with incredible seafood from Kishorn Seafood Bar and you’ve got a match made in sensory heaven. Like many seafood shacks, this sky-blue log cabin serves up the fresh daily catch mere moments after it comes in off the local boats, including hand-dived scallops, langoustines and squat lobsters.
Sit either inside, where the atmosphere is more fitting to that of a restaurant than a shack, or on warmer days and evenings, rest outside on the wooden benches and sip a cool white wine whilst you wait for your colourful platters to arrive.
Why not try: seafood sushi or a seafood platter for two with whatever fresh shellfish comes in that day
Skipness Seafood Cabin | Skipness, Argyll & Bute
Starting life as a trailer next to Skipness Castle on the east side of the Kintyre Peninsula, Skipness Seafood Cabin has since grown in popularity, leading to a change in location and size. One thing hasn’t changed though and that’s its philosophy of serving the freshest fish sourced from the most local suppliers possible.
Creel-caught langoustine from the Kilbrannan Sound, oysters and scallops from Loch Fyne and salmon and kippers smoked in the Skipness Smokehouse and Tarbert respectively all contribute to this ethos. Eat outside on the tables with views of the loch, the abbey and the castle as your backdrop and be reminded of the reason you chose Scottish seafood.
Why not try: a plate of oysters or gravadlax followed by a classic crab roll
Choose one of our coastal cottages
By now, your mouth must be watering with the thought of sampling all this magnificent seafood. It certainly can’t be argued that Scotland doesn’t produce some of the finest seafood in the world. But to make the most of these Scottish seafood restaurants and shacks, you’re going to need somewhere to rest your bones after filling up on prawns and mussels. We have welcoming cottages all over Scotland, from luxury castles to dog-friendly lodges and much more. Cast your net wide and find the perfect cottage for you.
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please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.