Galloway is a fabulous place to eat and drink good quality local food. Rich pasture, salt marshes and rugged hills support the production of fine cheese, beef and lamb. With 200 miles of coastline, Galloway produces excellent fish and seafood and if that were not enough, you can wash it all down with local beer and finish with a whisky distilled on the banks of the River Bladnoch, near Wigtown, in the heart of The Machars.
Our family have been regular visitors to Galloway for a generation and this is our guide to eating and drinking quality local produce in and around Newton Stewart and The Machars. We keep more detailed information, maps and leaflets at our holiday cottage, Burnside. We would be delighted to host your stay, as well as be your guide to Galloway. Check out our website and the link to our booking page at www.homeaway.co.uk below…
1.Scrumptious Scallops and Fresh Fish
Scallops are a speciality of Galloway. The Solway Firth and Irish Sea are a major scallop fishery and dredgers can be seen tied up all along the Galloway coast, particularly at Kirkcudbright, pictured, and the Isle of Whithorn. In bad weather, we have watched fleets of boats head for shelter at the Isle, a few miles from our cottage, Burnside. The small harbour, always home to a few scallop boats, has been full of craft, jostling for position at the quayside for the battered fishermen to land their catch.
The delicious sweet meat of the King Scallop is something to savour and they are always available at the Galloway Smokehouse on the A75, west of Newton Stewart They are delicious cooked in butter, either on their own or with a bit of bacon or chorizo. The Smokehouse also sells cooked crabs and lobsters and a wide variety of wet fish. Regulars on the slab include Lemon Sole, Bream, Salmon, Grey Mullet and Plaice, as well as wonderful smoked salmon (below).
2.Salt Marsh Lamb - A Galloway Speciality
Salt marsh lamb is another local speciality, particularly in The Machars of Galloway. The sheep are left to graze on the marginal, salty land that edges the estuaries of the Cree, pictured, and other rivers in this part of south west Scotland, imbuing the meat with a slightly salty flavour. The lambs are available from July and Steven Cronnie, the butcher in Wigtown, is the man to see.
Steven’s small shop in the corner of the square in Wigtown is a treasure trove of goodies. As well as lamb, he supplies excellent pork and lovely thick steaks, all locally farmed, which make for a mouth watering barbecue. If you give him a call he will source some game, too. We love Steven’s pies. Often warm from the oven, we smuggle them back to the cottage for an outdoor lunch. Then there’s Ayrshire bacon, the sausages are great…
3.’Galloway Beef is the best’
Galloway’s lush landscape and temperate climate is well-suited to rearing cattle and the result is top-notch beef. Galloway beef, from Belted Galloways or Black Galloways, pictured above, is amongst the best and most flavoursome meat in Britain, but it is not widely available. The animals grow more slowly than commercial breeds producing ‘marbled’ cuts, pictured below, a word that describes the presence of white fat within the meat itself. This dissolves when cooked but lends the meat great flavour and juiciness. There are efforts to promote Galloway beef, considered a specialist breed, but you often need to ask in butchers’ shops to find out if they sell it, or consult the Galloway Cattle Society. When I contact them recently, they simply stated, ‘Galloway beef is the best'‘. And I would agree.
Currently, shops stocking Galloway beef in south west Scotland include, Kilnford Barns in Dumfries (a wonderful farm/butchery business) and the Butchery in Lockerbie. However, the Galloway Cattle Society tell me that Ballards in Castle Douglas purchased a prize-winning Galloway at Livescot, Scotland’s leading winter show in 2018, ‘so they will have some at some point’. It is worth contacting them. Online you can obtain Galloway beef from www.blackface.co.uk .
Meanwhile, there is fantastic beef available all over Galloway. Butcher JD Owen in Newton Stewart provides a shop window for Galloway farmers. His meat is locally sourced and high quality. On many occasions we have returned from walks and cycles in the Galloway Hills, popped in on the cusp of 5pm and picked up a couple of well-deserved rib-eye steaks. They are always fantastic, in fact, some of the best I have ever had. While it is hard to look beyond the steak, Owen’s prepares kebabs and marinades that are brilliant for the barbecue and he bakes his own pies. There is a deli, too, and a good selection of cheese. If you love a pudding, he sells pre-packed sticky toffee pudding and essential jars of extra sauce.
Castle Douglas is a self-declared food town and it has some excellent butchers including, Grierson’s, Henderson’s and Ballard’s (mentioned above), all found on King Street. Closer to Burnside Cottage, butcher Steven Cronnie in Wigtown produces fine steaks, cut to order from well-hung meat. They are something to look forward to at the end of a day out. (See ‘salt marsh lamb’ above for more about Steven).
If you love seafood, then buying a lobster straight off the boat is as good as it gets. Port William fisherman Paul Maguire fishes for whelks, crabs and lobsters across Luce Bay. Most of his catch goes abroad but he will happily sell you some if you get in touch. He is out most days if the weather holds. We leave his mobile phone number in Burnside Cottage so you can call Paul and arrange to meet him on the quayside at the Port when he comes in on the tide. A 1lb would do one person, but if there are two of you ask for a two-pounder since you pay for less shell. Paul can advise you. At the cottage we keep a giant pan for cooking lobsters. If you are out and about you can buy cooked lobster at the Galloway Smokehouse, Creetown, or ask in the Steam Packet Inn at the Isle of Whithorn - they may be able to point you in the direction of a fisherman.
5.‘The Best Smoked Salmon in the World’ Comes From Dumfries and Galloway
Now we’re talking… this area of Galloway around Newton Stewart is fortunate since there are two brilliant purveyors of smoked salmon: The Marrbury Smokehouse at Carsluith and the Galloway Smokehouse at Creetown.
Marrbury smoked salmon has been described as ‘the best in the world’ by the two-star Michelin chef, Andrew Fairlie. The salmon is smoked, pictured, over juniper berries after salting. It has been ranked in the world’s top 50 luxury foods by The Independent and was once served to the Queen at a G8 summit meeting in Edinburgh. In addition, there is a wide range of smoked foods at Marrbury and a café serving fabulous sandwiches and meals. The smokehouse is in the grounds of Carsluith Castle, which dates from the 16th century and during part of its history it was owned by Catholic families, who were accused of sheltering Jesuit priests there after the Protestant Reformation.
Meanwhile, the Galloway Smokehouse also produces magnificent smoked salmon, albeit in a different style. Each smokehouse has its own recipe and this one is known for its rich flavour and firm texture. The team at the Galloway Smokehouse, pictured, cure the fresh salmon in salt, rum and dark syrup before smoking in a kiln, fired by wood from whisky barrels. One of our favourite meals when visiting Galloway is a plate of King Scallops and smoked salmon from the Smokehouse, served with brown bread and butter.
6.Award-Winning Cheese from the Galloway Farmhouse
Galloway Farmhouse Cheese, pictured, is special. If you like sheep’s cheese you are in for a treat. Alan and Helen Brown produce award winning cheese that is sold throughout Scotland, but fortunately you can also buy it at their farm shop, near Sorbie.
The Brown’s speciality is cheese made from their flock of Friesland sheep, which they have been producing for more than 20 years. They also sell cow’s and goat’s milk cheeses as part of their Cairnsmore range.
The couple have a passion for healthy food and sustainable production. Their ewes are only milked once a day, compared with twice at many farms, because they believe it is better for the animals – and the cheese.
The shop is well signposted from the road between Whauphill and Sorbie, it is about 10 minutes from Burnside Cottage.
7.Whisky from the Bladnoch Distillery, Dumfries and Galloway
Bladnoch is a beautiful distillery, one of just six in lowland Scotland and the most southerly of them all. It has perched on the banks of the River Bladnoch for more than 200 years. In recent times the distillery has had a turbulent history, but the good news is, it’s back!
It became part of Bell’s in the 1980s, passed on to the United Distillers’ Group and closed in the 1990s. However, Bladnoch enjoyed a renaissance in recent years under the ownership of a Northern Irishman, Raymond Armstrong, who came across the mothballed distillery while on holiday and bought it. The site went back into production, turned out some interesting and enjoyable malt and blends, before it closed again in 2014.
The distillery is operational now and a new visitors’ centre is planned by the Australian entrepreneurial owner, David Prior, which will be fantastic. Currently, the site is closed to visitors, but the whisky is available to purchase at the newsagent on George Street in Whithorn or online at www.masterofmalt.com. The distillery’s website has an interactive map to find sales outlets near you.
8.Brilliant Beer Brewed at the sulwath brewery in Galloway
There was a time when Scotland was a barren place for real beer. Not any more. The Sulwath Brewery in Castle Douglas is a microbrewery established in 1996 and during the past 20 years the team, pictured, has perfected crowd-pleasing brews that are a pleasure to drink. The brewery is open to visitors on Mondays and Fridays with tours at 1pm, or by appointment. Sulwath, named after the Solway Firth, was listed among the 15 Best Breweries to Visit in Britain in The Daily Telegraph in 2017. There is a pub on site and you can fill up a carry-out to enjoy back home. Sulwath beers are on sale throughout Galloway and can often be enjoyed in The Machars at the Steam Packet Inn, Isle of Whithorn, which is a cracking location in which to sink a couple of pints.