Excellent Eats on Islay, Scotland

The island of Islay is perhaps best known for its many whisky distilleries including Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Caol Ila, Kilchoman and Bruichladdich. Many of the fifty thousand or so visitors a year go for the whisky, a huge number of them during Islay’s annual whisky and music festival, Feis Isle. Pete and I have attended the festival four times in the years from 2006 to 2015. But the island offers far more than a good dram, and we also love Islay for its stunning natural scenery, beautiful and fascinating historic sites, excellent bird life, and cracking good food.

Views over Loch Gruinart, Islay

This year we decided to visit outside of the festival week, opting for early May when the weather is warm and sunny but the midges haven’t descended in full force.

We’d been absent eight years since our previous trip to Islay and one of the positive changes we noticed straight away when we arrived for trip number five was the presence of several excellent new restaurants opened during the last several years. Old favourites are still going strong too.

An Tigh Seinnse, Portnahaven

Macaroni cheese and chips, Scallops in garlic butter with chips Crab claws Scallops in garlic butter

This has always been one of our favourite places to visit on Islay – a tiny little pub in a beautiful village right at the westernmost tip of the island. Run for years by friendly and welcoming landlady Laura, we learned shortly before our latest visit that a new owner had bought the building, and the pub had been closed for a fair while. Fortunately, it opened under new landlady Meghan (and chef Caleb) just days before we arrived. I’m happy to report that the welcome is as warm and friendly as before, and the food is just as tasty.

During our two visits, the group’s menu stand-outs included homemade macaroni cheese, scallops in garlic butter, cracked crab claws, and fresh salmon fillet with new potatoes and seasonal vegetables.

The pub looks out onto the beautiful harbour where you’ll nearly always spot seals swimming or basking on the rocks.

An Tigh Seinnse pub in Portnahaven, Islay Portnahaven Harbour, Islay

The Illicit Still Cafe, Ardnahoe Distillery, Port Askaig

Highlander Burger Haggis Nachos

Ardnahoe is the newest distillery to have opened to visitors on Islay, and their shop, bar and cafe are all open to visitors. As whisky takes time, they don’t have any of their own made whiskies to offer just yet, but as the distillery is owned by Hunter Laing & Co, they have a large range of their various whisky bottlings on sale, and available to taste.

The bar-cafe offers an excellent menu in a room with glorious views across the Sound of Islay to Jura.

Pete and I shared half each of two dishes: the Highlander Burger–a thick beef patty in a bun with haggis, caramelised onion and cheddar cheese, served with sauteed potatoes–and Haggis Nachos, layered with haggis and cheese, and come with salsa, guacamole and sour cream on the side.

Both were really excellent. This is a great option for lunch when visiting Bunnahabhain distllery, Caol Ila distillery and Ardnahoe itself, Ardnahoe being between the other two on the north east coast of Islay. If you can plan your time accurately enough, booking a table in advance is worthwhile as they were very busy when we visited and we had a 45 minute wait (during which we tasted some drams and enjoyed the views).

Kilchoman Distillery Cafe, near Bruichladdich

Kilchoman Distillery Visitor Centre Hot chocolate and chocolate brownie Kilchoman Distillery Visitor Centre

The first time we visited Kilchoman they were very new (like Ardnahoe this visit) and had no whisky of their own to sell yet. We bought some of their first new make spirit as a memento of the visit. But since then, we’ve returned to the distillery on each of our visits to Islay, and the whisky here has quickly become one of Pete’s favourites.

We booked their limited edition tasting and tour for 4 of our group, and it was amazing to walk into their “new” visitor centre (new to us, but opened in 2020). In this huge and wonderful space is the main shop and bar, some tasting rooms, and their cafe.

We booked a table in the cafe on arrival, to enjoy lunch after the tasting. The cafe is quite small so do book if you know your arrival time in advance. The menu is simple but delicious offering soups, sandwiches, baked potatoes, and desserts. Or you can stop in for a drink and a slice of cake.

I loved my Cullen skink served with fresh bread and butter, and the Haggis and Red Onion Marmalade Toastie Pete had was fabulous. Baked potatoes were generously filled. Desserts were superb with big thumbs up for both the warm chocolate brownie and the lemon drizzle cake drenched in new make spirit and served with cream. I had an off-menu mini dessert of a scoop of ice cream with a puddle of fabulously rich Sanaig whisky-infused butterscotch sauce!

Haggis Toastie Warm chocolate brownie dessert

Lochindaal Seafood Kitchen, Port Charlotte

Fish and chips at Lochindaal Seafood Kitchen Seafood Plate at Lochindaal Seafood Kitchen

Owned and run by The Lochindaal Hotel, as the name suggests, the speciality of this restaurant is seafood, and the menu gives plenty of choice from what’s in season.

The restaurant ask for 24 hours notice for their seafood plates and platters, and the oysters. The rest of the menu needs no advance ordering.  The seafood is fresh as can be–the oysters I had arrived to the restaurant after we did for our evening reservation! Pricing is very reasonable.

Between four of us we had beer-battered cod and chips, beer-battered haddock and chips, two seafood plates, and a side of two oysters. Everything was really fresh, perfectly cooked and absolutely delicious!

Peatzeria, Bowmore

Peatzeria, Bowmore Salt and Chilli Squid

Located in Bowmore (one of the two main towns on the island) this pizzeria is understandably popular with locals and visitors alike. We went as a group of six.

Two of us had a starter of Salt and Chilli Squid (£8.95) which was simple, fresh, and well cooked. One of the group had Bruschetta (£11.50) topped with pesto, vine tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, toasted pine nuts and Parma ham. That was impressive but filling so may be worth sharing between two unless you’re really hungry!

I couldn’t resist one of their signature seafood pizzas, the Bradan Rost and Smoked Mussels (£24.50) on their thin crust. This beauty has tomato crème fraiche base, buffalo mozzarella, bradan rost (hot kiln roasted salmon), smoked Argyll mussels, fresh herbs and extra virgin olive oil. Genius pizza! A thicker focaccia base is also available for an extra £2.95.

Our home cooking has already been inspired by this particular pizza; we’ve been experimenting with the new pizza oven I got Pete for his birthday and the very first pizza we made featured a tomato pizzasauce mixed with crème fraiche, and hot smoked salmon and cheese on top.

Bradan Rost and Smoked Mussels Pizza at Peatzeria, Bowmore Spiced Meatball and Jalapeno Pizza at Peatzeria, Bowmore

Other pizzas enjoyed were the Diavolo (£16.95) with hot spiced beef meatballs, pepperoni, spiced calabrese sausage, mozzarella, tomatoes, peppers, red onions, jalapenos and chilli flakes; and the Spiced Meatball and Jalapeno (£15.95) which is also on a tomato and mozzarella base, and drizzled with sweet chilli sauce.

Another welcome aspect is that gluten free bases and vegan options are available, and you can buy 6 inch pizzas for kids or small appetites.

The Old Kiln Cafe, Ardbeg Distillery, Port Ellen

Whisky tasting in The Old Kiln Cafe, Ardbeg Distillery Haggis Pakora at The Old Kiln Cafe, Ardbeg Distillery Stornoway black pudding with goats cheese, red onion marmalade and salad at The Old Kiln Cafe, Ardbeg Distillery

There’s been a lot of rearranging in Ardbeg since our last visit and their onsite cafe has moved from the large room that is now only the shop to a long and narrow room opposite.

They don’t take bookings so if you’re visiting the island during peak season, get there early to be sure of a table.

Between us we had the Haggis pakora with salad, Stornoway black pudding with goats cheese, red onion marmalade and salad, and a smoked cheddar macaroni cheese with garlic bread and salad. All freshly cooked, and well priced. You can pair these with whisky tastings if you like, either individual drams or pre-grouped tasting flights.

Port Charlotte Hotel, Port Charlotte

Seafood starter at the Port Charlotte Hotel Beef carpaccio at the Port Charlotte Hotel

We’ve had elegant and delicious meals at the Port Charlotte Hotel’s restaurant before. For some reason, our booking this time was seated in their pub area instead of the main dining room, but menu and service were the same.

Between us we enjoyed starters including the Assiette of Islay seafood, Islay scallops with granny smith dressing, braised endive and fennel, Warm salad of new season asparagus with baby gem, walnut and lemon dressing, and Carpaccio of Octomore beef with truffle, parmesan and rocket.

Mains included Argyll venison with squash and vanilla puree, spring greens, potato puree and redcurrant jus, Argyll salmon served with with creamed peas, asparagus, chorizo, spring greens and sauté potatoes, and the Octomore farm beef burger in a brioche bun with bacon and cheese, and hand cut chips.

The quality ingredients were cooked beautifully–taste, textures and flavour combinations were excellent. This is always a great choice for a slightly more formal menu offering.

Burger at the Port Charlotte Hotel Salmon at the Port Charlotte Hotel Venison at the Port Charlotte Hotel

Sea Salt Bistro, Port Ellen

French toast with bacon at Sea Salt Bistro Lorne sausage in bread roll at Sea Salt Bistro

Staying up in the Rinns (at the north west of Islay) we tended to choose evening meals that were closer to our base than Port Ellen. But the menu at Sea Salt Bistro really appealed and Pete and I squeezed in a delicious breakfast while waiting for the ferry back to the mainland at the end of our visit.

My French toast with maple syrup and bacon (£10) was superbly good, probably the best eggy bread I’ve had in a decade–soft and fluffy inside, with a light crispness to the outside. And loads of (real) maple syrup! Pete had Lorne sausage in a soft white roll (£3.50), and said it really hit the spot!

The welcome is warm and friendly, and service is great. The space is lovely, close to the beach in Port Ellen. On our next trip we will visit for their lunch and dinner menus which are very appealing.

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18 Comments to "Excellent Eats on Islay, Scotland"

  1. Linda (LD Holland)

    We would certainly want to visit Islay and try the great whiskeys. It would be great to visit during the annual festival in Islay. Good to know that the Kilchoman and Ardbeg Distilleries offered such tasty treats and I loved the great variety offered at An Tigh Seinnse. And I was surprised at how many places you found great seafood options too.


    Yeah festival time is a great time to visit, especially for first time visitors who love whisky!

  2. Tami Wilcox

    Wow! The seafood dishes from An Tigh Seinnse do look delicious. I wish we had consulted a food guide before our trip to Scotland, because I never felt like we found amazing food. We also didn’t make it to Islay — maybe that’s what went wrong! Islay truly is beautiful and worth visiting.

    The Port Charlotte Hotel’s food also looks wonderful — would it be a good place to stay while visiting Islay?


    I’ve not stayed there myself as we tend to get a self-catering house with friends, but it’s well-reviewed on google and we’ve eaten dinner there on multiple trips!

  3. Pamela Mukherjee

    I never heard about The island of Islay. But after reading your article and seeing the mouth watering food pictures, now I am eagerly waiting to visit this place and try all the food joints you have mentioned.


    It’s a stunning island, we first heard of it because of Pete’s interest in the whisky made on the island!

  4. Ami

    Quite like you, I am partial to the smaller home run outlets like An Tigh Seinnse. Somehow they give you more a cultural feel and the local flavors are more authentic. Lochindaal Seafood Kitchen sounds good too – though the 24 hour notice might be a deal breaker – especially if you are in town for less than that time.


    Don’t worry, you only need 24 hours for the seafood plates and platters, not the main menu. And no one visits Islay for 24 hours, you need to fly or take a ferry from the mainland so most visitors are there for at least 2 or 3 nights if not longer. We went for a week, as usual.

  5. Maria Veloso

    These various Islayan places all seem to be excellent! At An Tigh Seinnse, I’d really like to taste their seafood meals. Kilchoman Distillery Cafe has a mouthwatering-looking chocolate brownie. And without a doubt, I wouldn’t walk past the pizza place in Bowmore! Additionally, since Sea Salt Bistro is close to the beach, it looks like a great place to grab a bite.

  6. Adele Gee

    This is a post after my foodie heart. I love to travel for food and it never occured to me to do so in Scotland. Now looking at the mouth-watering food pictures here, Scotland with this post as a reference will be on my list. Crab claws, scallops, salmon all sounds so good right now!


    Scotland has such high quality local produce, especially meat and seafood, that there is always good eating to seek out!

  7. Joanna

    As a seafood lover, I know I would have a wonderful time eating around the island of Islay. I am very intrigued by the seafood pizzas from Peatzeria. I would love to try smoked mussels on a pizza, that is such a unique topping. I would also love to dine at the pub and enjoy that beautiful view of the harbour, trying to spot seals whilst I’m enjoying the food.


    It’s great for a seafood lover, for sure! You can’t see the seals whilst sat inside the pub, but from the shore literally right outside the pub, you can usually spot them!

  8. Clarice

    Happy to know that there are many food options in Islay. The seafood selection from Lochindaal Seafood Kitchen looks really good. I think their 24-hour notice is very reasonable since they really serve fresh seafood. Would love to try and visit soon.

    The Islay Scallops from Port Charlotte Hotel look good too. By the way, love their presentation.


    Yes the presentation at Port Charlotte is always so pretty. The seafood across the island is excellent, we definitely enjoyed it at both the Lochindaal Seafood Kitchen and at An Tigh Seinnse.

  9. Ashley

    Exploring the culinary scene of Islay seems like an absolute delight, especially for a seafood lover like me. I would like to check out Lochindaal Seafood Kitchen and Peatzeria someday. Smoked mussel on a pizza piques my curiosity.


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