When it comes to the best cruising destinations for gastronomic delights Britain is full of options. Our experts share their favourite spots for a foodie treat

One of the real pleasures of picking cruising destinations is to find one you know will provide excellent food to satisfy an appetite freshly whetted by the wind and waves as you step ashore to browse through a bustling market full of tasty treats that you can’t buy at home, and then get back on board for a picnic in the cockpit.

There’s a great wealth of heritage foods and local delicacies to discover and enjoy in ports and anchorages all around the British coast. There’s salt marsh lamb and homemade haggis from specialist butchers, amazing cheeses and chocolates from artisan producers, a superb variety of smoked fish and meats, lovely local veg and super-fresh shellfish straight out of the sea, sold right on the quay.

These are just a few of our personal favourites, well worth a detour on your next cruise. So forget about those rusty Fray Bentos tins in the bottom of your galley locker and enjoy a bit of gastro-navigation by picking cruising destinations for their food options – and which also offer some fabulous sailing.

Sheep on machair, Traigh Scarista beach, Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides, Scotland.

Sheep graze on herbs and heather, giving the meat a unique flavour. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

Stornoway, Lewis

Recommended by Kieran Flatt 

The Outer Hebrides are the Holy Grail of British cruising and some of the local food is spectacular too. The mutton and beef taste different, with a lot more flavour because the animals live entirely outdoors grazing on heather and herbs, and are raised to full maturity over three or four years.

Wild goose is also available. The best producers are scattered far and wide on crofts throughout the islands, so Stornoway, the capital of the Outer Hebrides, is the place to stock your galley with amazing ingredients.

Stornoway black pudding is deservedly famous. Three local butchers make the very best black stuff (and also brilliant haggis) to their own recipes.

Stornoway Smokehouse (www.stornowaysmokehouse.co.uk) is the last producer of traditional double-smoked salmon, which takes four or five days to cure in a brick kiln.

Good Food Boutique (www.thegoodfoodboutique.co.uk) in the centre of town sources fine produce from all over the Western Isles, from Barra to the Butt of Lewis, and there are two top-notch fishmongers on the quays.

Cruising destinations – Getting there

The weather out here can be wild indeed but Stornoway is sheltered in all weather.

The approach and entrance are straightforward at any state of the tide with a buoyed channel and a sectored light to guide you in at night.

The modern marina (www.stornowayportauthority.com) in the inner harbour provides excellent shelter with walk-ashore pontoon berths for boats up to 24m LOA and 3m draught.

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Manx Queenies, Isle of Man

The Manx Queenie is the Isle of Man’s national dish. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

Port St Mary, Isle of Man

Recommended by Kieran Flatt

Manx seafood is internationally esteemed. It commands high prices in European markets and on the menus of London’s top restaurants, but it’s hard to find elsewhere in Britain.

The world-class quality of Manx fish and shellfish is down to careful management and strict regulations to encourage sustainable fishing and an extra-large catch.

Manx queenies – queen scallops – are the stand-out delicacy. They’re wonderful served raw on the half shell with just a squeeze of lemon or pan fried with bacon, butter and garlic.

The intensely flavoured local kippers should also not be missed. You can get fresh queenies and kippers at any of the island’s harbours, but the best place is arguably the fishing village of Port
St Mary, with excellent specialist fishmongers right on the quay. And if that doesn’t sate your appetite, take a short stroll from the harbour to an excellent chippy, The Fish House (07624 292999), for that other Manx delicacy: cheese, chips and gravy.

Cruising destinations – Getting there

Careful pilotage and tidal planning are required, especially if you’re approaching from west or south.

The inner harbour dries out with a firm, sandy bottom. There are visitor moorings in deep water with good shelter except in easterly and southeasterly winds.

Depths of 2m or more can be found alongside Alfred Pier, but you’ll need to tend your lines as the tidal range is huge.

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Fishermen heading out to hand rake mussel in Conwy

For centuries, the mussels have been hand-raked from the bed of the Conwy estuary. Credit: Getty

Conwy, north Wales

Recommended by Kieran Flatt

Almost all the mussels we eat are farmed. The highly prized Conwy mussels are fully wild and bigger than farmed mussels with a distinctive, meatier taste.

They aren’t grown on ropes or trestles, and they aren’t dredged up mechanically from the seabed either, like most other wild-caught mussels, at great environmental cost.

Here on the north coast of Snowdonia, mussels are raked by hand from the Conwy estuary by men in small open boats, as they have been for 200 years. They’re sold from a shop on the town quay from September to April, so you’ll need to come early or late in the sailing season.

At any time of year, another good reason to come here is the award- winning Edwards of Conwy (www.edwardsofconwy.co.uk), one of Britain’s best butchers. The meat counter is the star attraction with local hill farm lamb and Anglesey salt marsh lamb (June-October), but the deli counter comes a close second.

Cruising destinations – Getting there

The estuary has a drying bar and on springs, the ebb tide runs at up to 5 knots, so aim to arrive above half-tide on the flood. Avoid it in strong NW winds.  A buoyed, lit channel leads in from Conwy Bay.

The two marinas, Deganwy and Conwy, have lock gates and visitors’ berths. There are also mid-river pontoon berths and moorings (call the harbourmaster on VHF Ch14), or dry out alongside the town quay.

North Wales Cruising Club (www.nwcc.info) welcomes visitors.

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Gubbeen cheese which is made in west Ireland

The curing process is what gives Gubbeen its savoury, nutty flavour. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

West Cork, Ireland

Recommended by Graham Snook

Ireland’s south-west coast is awash with local producers and heritage foods.

Whether it’s Bantry Bay mussels and seafood, the many local cheeses or smoked salmon, kippers and mackerel from Union Hall, you can buy great local fare in any of the small harbours from Glandore to Castletown Bearhaven and beyond.

In the heart of this rich cruising ground is Schull Harbour. Every summer Sunday there’s Schull Country Market (www.schullmarket.ie).

Schull market attracts many local producers including the Ferguson family, owners of the famous organic producer Gubbeen Farm (www.gubbeen.com), which is just a few miles from the town. Their award-winning Gubbeen is a semi-soft cheese with a pink rind and lots of flavour. The cheese, like the farm’s pork charcuterie, is smoked at the on-site smokehouse and can be bought online or at local farmers’ markets.

Cruising destinations – Getting there

Schull Harbour is well protected in all but a southerly gale, in which case head for shelter north of Long Island.

Schull can be accessed from the west, going either north or south of Long Island. Approach from the south after rounding Cape Clear Island, or via the inner island passage from the north of Baltimore Harbour and Sherkin Island.

Look for the large white beacon on the east end of Long Island, then Bull Rock. Leading lights will bring you in on a bearing of 346°. Land via tender at the quay.

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A woman holding a tray of Cornish pasties

Chough Bakery’s Cornish pasty is made using local ingredients. Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

Padstow, Cornwall

Recommended by Graham Snook

The Cornish town of Padstow is known locally for the annual ‘Obby ‘Oss Festival and internationally for the celebrity chef Rick Stein – the cause (some would say curse) of its moniker, ‘Padstein’.

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But the town’s real culinary star is the Chough Bakery Cornish pasty (www.cornishpasty.com), voted the best pasty in the South West. Owners Elaine and Rob opened their bakery over 40 years ago.

Elaine used her knowledge as a domestic science teacher to create the best-tasting pasty: from the perfect pastry to the top-quality beef skirt and the perfectly judged combination of potato, onion and swede. The bakery overlooks the harbour. If you can see the queue from your cockpit, best get moving, it will only get longer.

Cruising destinations – Getting there

It’s a 60-mile trip from Newlyn, around Land’s End and up the north Cornish coast to the Camel Estuary.

Whether you’re coming from south, north or east, aim to arrive two hours before HW Padstow.

Don’t attempt crossing the fearsome sounding Doom Bar (with variable shoals less than a metre in depth) if there’s a swell running or in strong winds from N to W, the discretion of anchoring in Port Quin Bay being better than the valour of crossing the Camel River bar.

In fair conditions, the entrance shouldn’t pose a problem. Anchor in the pool to the NE of the town until the tidal gate to the inner harbour opens (approx HW+/-2). Visit www.padstow-harbour.co.uk to obtain the latest depths.

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Bottles of red and white wine standing on top of a barrel

Sharpham Estate has been producing wine for the last 40 years. Credit: Graham Snook

River Dart, south Devon

Recommended by Graham Snook

If you’re in the West Country for some late season cruising, you could check out the Dartmouth Food Festival from 22-24 October (www.dartmouthfoodfestival.com). But if you are passing the Start Point area at any time of year, the River Dart is worth exploring.

On the upper reaches of the Dart, on the way to Totnes, there is a real gem on the western shore. Sharpham Estate (www.sharpham.com), on a bend in the river about 7 miles above Dartmouth, has a vineyard and a creamery. The estate’s Jersey cattle roam the fields below the steep hills of the vineyards. The creamery has won awards for its range of cheeses, including its deliciously creamy Sharpham Brie and light golden Sharpham Rustic. Tours of the winery can be booked in advance.

Cruising destinations – Getting there

Dartmouth can be entered at all states of the tide. The high hills at the mouth make the winds unpredictable, but usually offer good shelter to get the sails down.

If your draught will allow it’s possible to navigate up to Totnes. If not, pick up a mooring off Stoke Gabriel (1m CD) and explore the rest of the way by tender.

Approaching the Sharpham Reach you’ll see a boathouse and a quay, but these are private. Instead, head around to the north side of the Sharpham promontory where there’s a footpath leading up to the winery, shop and café.

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Rock Oysters served on a plate with lemon and ice

Rock Oysters are farmed in Poole Harbour and are available all year round. Credit: Graham Snook

Poole, Dorset

Recommended by Graham Snook

Dorset’s Jurassic Coast is home to some of the best shellfish in the British Isles, and shops along the coast sell its wares. The fertility of these waters has been boosted by marine conservation zones and restrictions on dredging and trawling in areas like Lyme Bay, where scallop divers handpick their quarry sustainably.

In the vast waters of Poole harbour are cockles, clams and farmed oysters, all of which are exported worldwide and can sometimes be found in UK supermarkets.

But for the freshest shellfish (or indeed any fish), look for the Greenslade name. Frank Greenslade Ltd on New Quay Road in Hamworthy has been in the fish-selling business for over 100 years, while Greenslade’s Fish (greensladefish.co.uk) is a fourth-generation fishmonger on Kingland Crescent in Poole town. Both shops sell the local catch.

Cruising destinations – Getting there

The approach to Poole harbour is straightforward and the Swash Channel is well marked. With strong winds from E-S, and especially on the ebb, the entrance to Poole harbour can become uncomfortable, but once within the harbour the sea soon flattens out.

Take care passing the harbour entrance; the chain ferry and strong tides conspire to catch out the unwary. Berthing at Poole Quay Boat Haven (www.poolequayboathaven.co.uk) gets you in the heart of the town.

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People examining produce at the Central Market in Jersey

Open Monday to Saturday, the Central Market is filled with local Jersey produce. Credit: Getty

St Helier, Jersey

Recommended by Kieran Flatt

Jersey’s capital is the only all-weather harbour on the island with deep-water marina berths. It’s snug inside, but when it blows hard from the west you can get stuck here for days.

Thankfully the heart of town has two excellent covered markets, Beresford and Central, where you can buy a wide range of local produce.

There are, of course, Jersey royals galore (spud lovers take note: the season is March to July), but all through summer there’s oodles of fresh local veg, meat and seafood.

The lobsters are plentiful, the oysters are large and the spider crabs are especially good. And don’t miss the dairy treats: butter, cheeses and ice cream made from the extra-rich milk of local Jersey cows.

While you’re here, grab some scones, black butter (thick apple syrup) and a pot of yellow double cream for a Jersey cream tea back on board.

Cruising destinations – Getting there

Various passages and fairways lead in to St Helier from the west, south and east. Consult an almanac or pilot book and pick one that suits the weather.

The tide can run fast in the approach and its range is vast – nearly 10m at springs.

Keep an eye out for ferries. The approach is well buoyed and lit, and reasonably deep with at least 2m at chart datum all the way to the lock and holding pontoon for St Helier Marina, where all the visitors’ berths are.

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Orford General Store offters plenty of locally sourced food

Sourdough bread, pastries and chocolate awaits cruisers who venture into the Pump Street Bakery. Credit: Richard Langdon/Ocean Images

Orford, Suffolk

Recommended by Kieran Flatt

The lovely little town of Orford has some gorgeous old buildings and a well-preserved (and unique) castle keep, but many people come here just for the food.

Right on the quay there’s Pinney’s of Orford (www.pinneysoforford.co.uk), a much-loved traditional fishmonger and smokehouse with its own fishing boats moored out front.

Up in town, the owners have their restaurant, the Butley Orford Oysterage, and the molluscs in both places come from Pinneys’ own oyster beds, downstream in Butley Creek.

But there’s a lot more than fish to eat in Orford. Pump Street Bakery (www.pumpstreetchocolate.com) is one of the best in East Anglia and has branched out to become a very high-class chocolatier.

Orford Meat Shed (01394 459890) is also worth a mention – a charming little butcher-cum-deli with top-notch local rare-breed meat. If you fancy a bit of foraging, there’s plenty of good samphire picking along the river.

Cruising destinations – Getting there

The entrance to the Ore is shallow (about 0.5m) and it often shifts. Consult www.eastcoastpilot.com and enter in daylight, on the flood and above half tide. Don’t try it in strong onshore winds. The ebb tide can exceed 6 knots on springs. Pick up a visitor mooring off the quay in deep water or anchor in Butley Creek.

The quay is short stay only (max 1 hour).

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A line of Arbroath Smokies

It takes just an hour to ‘cook’ the Arbroath Smokie. Credit: Getty

Arbroath, Scotland

Recommended by Graham Snook

No gastronomic tour of the British Isles would be complete without a visit to Arbroath to sample the famous Arbroath Smokie. Although the haddock mostly comes from Peterhead and Aberdeen these days, there are still several artisan smokehouses in town where you can buy the smoky, fishy treat.

A short walk north from the harbour brings you to Seagate where you’ll find Arbroath Fisheries (www.arbroath-smokie.co.uk), and a little further along, Alex Spink & Sons (01241 879056).

The Arbroath Smokie didn’t originate in Arbroath, but in Auchmithie, a smaller fishing village a few miles north. Auchmithie residents sought the bigger harbour and better housing of Arbroath and brought their Smokies with them.

For the non-fish lover, Arbroath lies in the county of Angus which, along with Aberdeenshire, is the origin of the Aberdeen Angus breed of beef cattle. Head to Fleming Butchers for the best local beef  (www.flemingbutchers.co.uk).

Cruising destinations – Getting there

Arbroath, Tayport and Port Edgar are the only harbours between Edinburgh and Peterhead that welcome fin-keeled yachts.

Arbroath has a drying outer harbour but an inner harbour with a depth of 2.5m and a tidal gate that opens 2-3 hours either side of high water.

Both Peterhead (65 miles) and Port Edgar (50miles) are all-tide harbours, which makes it easier to plan your passage to arrive at Arbroath with enough water to enter the inner harbour.

There are leading lights at 299° and a dredged channel, both of which must be adhered to.

Welcome Anchorages 2020 is free, available to read or download from www.welcome-anchorages.co.uk


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