Salty, sweet and drizzled with lemon - the glistening oyster is a product from The Oyster Shed, the Isle of Skye's only oyster farm, and it is delicious.
Like many residents of the Carbost area, writes Roz Skinner, I can remember when The Oyster Shed was just that - an oyster shed. Located a minute's walk from the Talisker Distillery, it was simply a shed for processing and harvesting oysters. Owner, Paul McGlynn, took over from his father-in-law in 2008 and, since then, has developed what was once a hobby into a thriving business that has been featured in National Geographic, the L.A. Times and the New York Times.
However, it hasn't always been plain-sailing for Paul. He explains: "After I took over, I grew the farm from 400,000 oysters to just under two million. That was so labour-intensive, as I was working seven days a week." Paul's hard work paid off and in 2011, Paul's first batch of oysters was almost ready to harvest. Then came the oyster farm's darkest moment - one that seemed impossible to recover from! "A form of vibrio went through the adult oysters and over a million died!" explains Paul. "That was soul-destroying, but it was also a turning point."
In May 2012, Paul opened the The Oyster Shed, hoping for success, but reasoning that he had nothing to lose. "Our aim was to educate visitors about the oysters and offer fresh seafood at affordable prices," he says. Paul's never-say-die attitude and his determination to provide a memorable service for customers enabled his business to grow. Now, he can expect up to 200 visitors a day in peak holiday times - every one passionate to learn about where their seafood comes from and enjoying the quality products that Paul provides!
The success of The Oyster Shed is due, not only to the best of cuisine, but to the vibrancy and enthusiasm of Paul's personality. His passion for seafood is contagious. He says: "I love the times when families who have never tasted seafood come in - they can handle live prawns and crabs and learn about where their food comes from."
Paul is keen to ensure that his business works for him - not the other way round! "I always get asked if I would like to expand into a restaurant," he explains. "And I always say: 'No!' I want to keep The Oyster Shed a shed - it's about the rustic feel of it all. I am very humble about this - it's great the business has grown and we can stay open all year round and employ local people, but I don't want to be too busy that I can't enjoy what I do."
However, Paul has made a few upgrades to The Oyster Shed. Combining good food with great scenery, Paul has opened up a picnic area to the left of the Shed. "I deliberately put the benches together as I want the experience to be social," Paul explains. "Seafood is something that everyone should be able to enjoy and share." Paul goes on to sum up his outlook, saying simply: "I want to make seafood fresh and affordable to everybody. I love that people can come in and talk to me, the Oysterman, and have a good craic."
So, for hands-on experience with seafood, as well a unique dining experience, look no further than The Oyster Shed!