Ayrshire's best foods and local produce
- Jay Thundercliffe
- 24 March 2015
Discover a taste of Ayrshire and Arran with our guide to the best food grown, reared, landed, brewed and made in the region
Fruit & Vegetables
The importance of Scotland's first potatoes each year to see sunlight is being backed up by a PGI application to have the Ayrshire 'earlies' name protected. Girvan Early Growers Ltd are a cooperative of farmers and companies, including the mighty Albert Bartlett and Scotty Brand, dedicated to getting their spuds – often regarded as the UK's best – out the ground as soon as Spring is sprung.
Over on Arran, Robin's Herbs ship their herbs, salad leaves and other vegetables to some of the best restaurants on the mainland, including Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles. Also benefitting from the island's climate and fertility is Stark Produce, who make rapeseed oil. Another Arran producer is Arran Fine Foods, whose range of mustards, preserves and chutneys can be found across Scotland and beyond.
Gathering up veggies in boxes is The Little Veg Company at Fenwick, with produce mainly sourced from Scotland, and delivered throughout the west including Glasgow. Prestwick's grocer WA & E Grant also supply veg boxes, delivered free in the surrounding area, or pick up from their shop. For organic produce, Drumullan Organics produce fruit and vegetables on their farm near Girvan. EverythingChilli, based in Fenwick, create a range of sweet and savoury preserves featuring the spicy pepper. Alison Stokes's Splendid Soups and Such specialise in quality homemade soups as well as preserves and chutneys, while Little Doone Foods produce a range of sweet balsamic vinegars, including chilli, raspberry and garlic versions as well as their original concoction.
Beef, Lamb, Game & Other Meat
Ayrshire's fertile rolling fields is prime farming land, producing beef, lamb and pork of exceptional quality. Dalduff Farm are butchers dedicated to local meat, including lamb from Ballantrae and pork from Ardrossan, creating top-quality cuts and other meaty ready meals from their farm shop and kitchen. Other producers rear their own such as Nethergate Larder whose rare-breed pigs and cattle on their farm near Dunlop go into top-quality sausages and bacon made on site, and Auchengree Farm whose farm shop stocks produce from the farm and home-made pies and sausages. Also farming and butchering is Cairnhill Farms, and their retail arm We Hae Meat, who rear their cattle and pigs in the Girvan Valley and sell their meat and other products online and at Dowhill Country Fayre farm shop in Turnberry.
Another company dedicated to all things pork is Robertsons Fine Foods, run by the great-grandsons of the founder, they deal in the whole pig from green and smoked bacon to ribs, houghs and whole backs. Thomsons Square Sausage need little explanation about the much-loved Scottish breakfast item they produce. West of Ochiltree is Tarelgin Farm Foods & Smokehouse, producing all manner of traditional meats, haggis, sausages and smoked products – watch for their mobile smoker at farmers markets and events. JW Kay & Co have been farming near Straiton for over a hundred years producing beef and lamb from their blackface sheep. Another blackface specialist is Glenkiln Farm at Lamlash on Arran.
Braehead Foods near Kilmarnock have grown from a small game supplier to providers of produce to some of the country's top chefs, from game gathered on estates around Scotland to meat, poultry and purpose-made sauces, stock and terrines. Their offshoot company the Scottish Charcuterie Company produce a range of salami and air-dried meats made from Scottish ingredients.
Aye Love Real Food can be found at farmer's markets and other events selling their rare-breed pork and haggis and black pudding Scotch eggs, using free-range eggs sourced from Corrie Mains Eggs, near Mauchline. Another egg producer is Scotlay Eggs, who source their free-range eggs from various producers as well as the chickens on their own farm near Maybole. KellyBronze Scotland near Stewarton is home to the award-winning bronze turkey breed,with all birds hatched and reared on their 50-acre farm and supplied to butchers and customers across Scotland.
Fish & Shellfish
With over 100 miles of coastline, the waters around Arran and off Ayrshire's coast are literally teeming with seafood. Much of it some of the finest shellfish – particularly langoustines – to be found in the world, exported from here to some of the top restaurants in Europe. Fencebay Fisheries, based in Fairlie, have a farm shop and host a farmers' market, while producing smoked goods in their smokehouse from the catch from local waters. HQ Shellfish are Ardrossan-based fishermen, catching lobsters, crab and mackerel. Ardtaraig Fine Foods are a long-standing specialist supplying a range of Scottish gourmet products including traditionally smoked Scottish salmon, fresh oysters and various hampers and gift boxes.
Few regions can offer the farm to cheese fork – or ice-cream spoon – that Ayrshire does, thanks to the region's famous brown and white cows, officially named the Ayrshire. At Dunlop Dairy near Stewarton, Ann Elizabeth uses milk from her small herd of Ayrshire cows to make various cheeses including traditional Ayrshire Dunlop. Also using their own Ayrshires is Barwheys Dairy, whose unpasteurised milk goes into their hard cheese.
On the island, Arran Dairies Ltd produce ice cream, while the family-run Island Cheese Company sell a range of cheeses under the Arran Cheese Shop banner, which are a common sight in delis and farm shops across the country. The Bellevue Creamery produce Arran Blue, a great taste award winner, and a brie, Arran Mist, both produced from the milk of island cows. Another Arran-based cheese producer is Torrylinn Creamery who create Isle of Arran cheddar, including a Dunlop variation, utilising milk from three local farms.
Bread, Cakes & Chocolate
Scotland's sweet tooth is well catered for in the region. The Dessert Depot, and sister operation The Handmade Cheesecake Company, have a range of desserts, three of which have won Great Taste Awards. From their base near Coalhall, Baking Sinsations offer various cakes ranging from cupcakes to multi-tiered wedding cakes, while Mary's Marvellous Munchables range of home-baking and preserves can be found at farmers' markets in the area. Wooleys of Arran have been baking on the island since the mid 1800s and produce a range of speciality oatcakes.
Hoteliers Costley and Costley also create handmade chocolates for sale at their patisseries. From the farm near Kilbirnie, Lime Tree Larder produce a range of confections as well as their ice cream, and have workshops to help you make your own, while Threepwood Fayre sell their range of handmade chocolates and sugary confections at various markets and events. Over on the island is the Arran Chocolate Factory, whose tradename James of Arran offer a range of sweets for the discerning chocolate fan.
Whisky, Beer & Other Drinks
Spirits have a strong presence in the region, with William Grant & Sons' Girvan and Ailsa Bay distilleries producing lowland grain whisky as well as Hendrick's gin. The Arran Distillery at Lochranza is a rare independent operation, producing single malts, blends and a cream liqueur at their distillery and visitor centre. Beer lovers can enjoy a taste of the region thanks to the Arran Brewery and the Ayr Brewing Company, both of which have been decorated with multiple awards.