Native oysters are fan-shaped, almost circular, with one half of the shell being flat and the other cupped. The sea-like taste is determined by the feeding, and varies from loch to loch. In terms of the quality of the flavour, all Scottish oysters are Grade A, that is, they have not been purified by passing through purification tanks or held in aerated holding tanks before sale. Lochs chosen for oyster farming must have shelter, a total lack of pollution and a rich supply of nutrients.
Where to stay
With more than 19.5 million acres and 14 regions to explore, finding a great place to stay in Scotland can seem a somewhat daunting task.
For a family welcome
Near the border and in often overlooked Dumfries & Galloway, it’s worth looking up Knockhill B&B (01576 300232) at Ecclefechan. If you choose to dine with the hosts, you’ll be invited to drinks in the comfortable sitting room before a delicious homecooked supper.
For fine food
Travellers venturing to the west coast of Scotland should not miss the Michelin-starred cuisine at Knockinaam Lodge (01776 810471; www.knockinaamlodge.com) near Stranraer. Set in 30 acres, this most romantic and private of hotels even has its own beach.
In Aberdeenshire, savour old-fashioned Scottish grandeur at Darroch Learg (01339 755443; www.darrochlearg.co.uk), Ballater.
For the heights of luxury
With unabashed luxury, exemplary service and fine food, Edinburgh’s Prestonfield (0131-225 7800; www.prestonfield.com) is a must.
Live like a lord
But for those for whom nothing less than a Scottish pile will do, try Saddell Castle (01628 825925; www.landmarktrust.org.uk). Set on the east coast of Kintyre with views to the Isle of Arran, the
castle, built in 1508, sleeps eight, plus two well-behaved dogs.
What to look for
Some 90% of Britains red-squirrel population is north of the border. Keep your eyes open for golden eagles, pine martens, capercaillie and the shy wildcat. As autumn bites, head to the Hebridean islands of Jura and Rum, the Perthshire High-lands or the Galloway hills to witness the red deer stags’ annual rut.You can witness a wildlife spectacle on the Solway coast, when the entire breeding popu-lation of barnacle geese from Spitsbergen descends, or venture up the west coast to see grey seals and their fur-coated pups at isolated sites such as Oronsay and the Monach Isles.