Those delightfully stylish readers of Spey may note with what excitement we report on all things Scotland. From the heritage of Scottish Honours to the modern-day fight to preserve the threatened pearl mussels that call our namesake River Spey home, Spey is a champion of the ties we make and the bridges we build between Scotland and Washington, DC. So it must come as no surprise that we take this light sojourn to reveal a saltier side of Bonnie Scotland: Scottish oysters. For indeed the Isle of Skye boasts not only some of the most spectacular vistas in the Inner Hebrides, but also a single oyster farm teeming with those favorite mollusks.
On a breezy summer day one might find Paul McGlynn, proprietor of The Oyster Shed, bustling about his farm shop and hatchery. The oyster farm was established over 35 years ago by Mr. McGlynn’s father-in-law, Kenny Bain. Since that time the business, like all those tied to the whims of the land and sea, has seen both ups and downs. But when disease struck large swathes of Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas) populations in 2011, three years after Mr. McGlynn assumed control of the property on the west coast of the island, a new direction was forged from the few remaining mature Scottish oysters spared from blight. Remember: like canaries in a coalmine, oysters are most sensitive to changes in water purity and ecosystem health. Though oysters’ shells are hard, their insides are acutely tuned to changes in fortune. So too is Mr. McGlynn.
The following spring Mr. McGlynn opened doors to The Oyster Shed, inviting guests to shuck and dine on some delectable Scottish oysters. Hitherto the Scottish oysters were destined for conglomerates and restaurant groups; now they were available directly to the public. And the public was hungry. Today the range of offerings on the south shore of Loch Harport has expanded to include local shellfish like crab, lobster, langoustines, mussels and smoked salmon, too. With wee drams from Talisker Distillery a short jaunt down the hill, The Oyster Shed is the perfect location to find oneself on a gloriously sunny summer day on Skye.
Now with happy Scottish oysters in pristine waters and a public eager for each haul, The Oyster Shed is a testament to true grit and determination. Perhaps therein is also a hint at a sustainable solution to the endangered mussels of our beloved River Spey. Certainly food for enterprising thought…