Isle of Mull Oysters are locally grown in the clear tidal waters of Loch Cuin, near Croig. Just a few miles from Treshnish! You can try them for yourselves whilst on the island – they are delicious! The Mull and Iona Food Trail Map will be in the cottage when you arrive. This will help you find places which sell or serve island produce.
We were lucky enough to go on a tour round the oyster farm last weekend. We walked from nearby Am Birlinn, down to the shore where the oysters are grown. The landscape is ancient and unspoilt with hazel woodland, open grass pasture divided by crumbling stone dykes.
Our guide was Nick Turnbull who with his fishing partner started growing oysters 25 years ago. His son Gordon has taken over now, and they have stock of nearly 4 million oysters! What a lovely spot it is, with wonderful views across to the other side of the sea loch, and northwards to the Isle of Rum. The trestle tables are situated in the shallow waters of the sea loch. Oyster farming has minimal visual impact on the environment. It is only at low tide do the trestles stand out.
Tractors and trestles
What a lot of hard physical labour goes in to rearing oysters! We came away with huge admiration for those who farm oysters. They work in all weathers, and standing in cold sea water humping bags of oysters around cannot be much fun.
Growing oysters starts with tiny 2mm seed oysters (Pacific oysters). The oysters grow in bags. As the oysters grow they have to be graded and put into bags with different sized mesh, according to their size. They lie on the trestles, so have to be picked up one by one and moved using the tractors and trailers. In between the grading and sorting, the bags have to be turned so that the growing oyster does not grow into the plastic mesh. Each bag has four clips which have to be opened before the bag is turned over. And then closed again once the bag is turned. This keeps the bags from slipping off as the tides flow around them.
Rows and rows
At low tide you can see rows and rows of trestles with the bags of oysters laid out on them.
It takes 3 to 4 years to grow them from 2mm to the size required by the supermarkets. Native oysters are not grown commercially as they take too long – about 10 years. Pacific oysters do not naturally breed in UK waters so there is no risk of contaminating the native oyster.
Friend of The Sea
Mull Oysters are sold to a co-operative on the mainland so you may well be buying them, without realising, in your local supermarket. Isle of Mull Oysters are accredited as a sustainable seafood by an organisation called Friend of the Sea. So you can enjoy eating them safe in the knowledge that they are being sustainably grown!
If you want to enjoy these delicious oysters back in the cottage, rather than in a restaurant, you can usually buy them at The Tobermory Fish Company at Baliscate just on the edge of Tobermory.