Creagan Inn is a delightful pub which sits on the main A828 road between Ballachulish and Oban in the rural coastal area of Appin on the west of Scotland. It is located in an enviable position on Loch Creran with stunning views across the bay to the hills of Mull in the far distance. The famous Castle Stalker, guarding the entrance to Loch Laich, was the one time home of the Stewarts of Appin and is located around five miles from the Inn.
Originally believed to have been built as a ferryman’s cottage in the 1740s, it is possible that where Loch Creran narrows at this point there may have been a ferry service before the road or even the rail bridge was built.
And, Creagan is a far cry from the days I enjoyed its public bar with the then host Alex Wardlaw on many clay pigeon shoots at Fasnacloich back in the 80s, being completely unrecognisable now, with the exception of the original stone building’s façade.
There’s ample parking with three separate car parks, but I’d urge caution as this is a busy road, particularly in the tourist season, so take care when entering or exiting any of the car parks.
Disabled access is good with ramped or level access throughout the building, as well as a couple of marked disabled bays in one of the car parks.
Inside, it’s basically all open-plan with a mix of table sizes, some of which have lochside views. There’s also an outdoor dining area, which I can only imagine would be stunning on a summers evening as the sun sets across the Loch Creran. At the time of our visit it was cold, wet, grey, and in good Scottish parlance, a ‘dreich’ day!
It might well have been cold outside, but it wasn’t only the wood burning stove inside that made the welcome warm. The first thing you’ll probably notice is the fact that this is not only a restaurant, but it’s also a local pub, so don’t be put off by the bar area with a pool table sitting side-by-side with the dining area. There’s music playing, but at the time of our visit, it wasn’t intrusive.
As for decor, well, it’s easy on the eye and a mix of natural colours and materials, with a wee nod to a nautical theme. At the time of my visit, there was three staff working. We were invited to take any table that we liked. The place was already quite busy at 1pm. Drinks orders were taken, and a slight problem with mine merited a replacement, but this was done without any drama or huffing and puffing, meaning it was professionally handled by the young lady in question.
The restaurant offers table service and is fairly standard pub grub type food. The difference is, that as standard fayre as this is, it’s all cooked freshly, so expect to wait until the kitchen has your order ready. I suggest you chill out and enjoy the views offered. Prices vary but are in keeping with other similar establishments with one exception – desserts, but more about that later.
Service is available from 12 noon until last orders at 9pm. Creagan Inn offers free wi-fi, which I can confirm worked a treat. Remember, you’re in the countryside here and don’t go expecting blistering hot 4g speeds – you won’t get them!
We were stopping here for a light lunch, being en-route to Oban to carry out a full review of another restaurant, and didn’t want to fill up too much.
We chose the macaroni cheese with chips and a small side salad. No, don’t worry the side salad is provided with the main dish. Most who know me will be fully aware that very little salad touches the sides of my stomach. A club sandwich, a brie, ham and cranberry sandwich as well as a ham and cheese panini. The latter three were served with a side salad and a smattering of crisps (chips to my USA readers).
I have to say at the outset that this was one of the best mac cheese dishes I’ve had. It was stupendously good. The pasta was soft but not overcooked so that it fell apart, the sauce was creamy, full of cheese flavour from an obviously good quality mature cheddar, and the hint of mustard drew the sauce together perfectly. Top that with a good covering of crispy melted cheddar and this was a mac cheese aficionado in seventh heaven.
Al the sandwiches were packed with fillings, particularly the club sandwich and the brie, ham and cranberry.
The bread for the club sandwich was a fairly standard white which was filled with chicken mayo, cheese and bacon. Number one son had no problems with it, and before I had the opportunity to taste a bit, well, it was gone.
Similarly, the brown bread requested for the brie offering was also a standard wholemeal variety layered with thick slabs of a nice soft creamy brie, topped with a cranberry sauce and a slice of ham. It would have been nice to have seen a good bloomer style thick-cut bread used, but it’s certainly not a deal breaker, and I appreciate that different bread would probably alter the pricing.
There’s not a lot one can say about a panini. It is what it is and did exactly what it says ‘on the tin’. There were no complaints about it from my rather fussy child number two, who like number one, made very short work of it.
Now to the problem area. The Inn offers warm scones – fruit plain or cheese, along with cakes and tray bakes, and a table blackboard of desserts, the latter being priced at £5.50. So far so good. A dessert, albeit a good quality one will easily cost the same in many restaurants. But, and it’s a biggie, what you’ll get there for your £5.50 is a proper dessert and not a cake on a plate for that price!
Frankly, this was unacceptable pricing for what it was. We opted for a summer fruits trifle, well I did. It was delicious, and I’d easily pay £5.50 for it anywhere, and in my experience as a food writer, can easily fall into a dessert pricing structure. However, as you will see from the images, the remainder of the party had a strawberry tart, a millionaires shortbread tart, and a chocolate brownie with a single scoop of ice cream. Now bear in mind that these are classed as desserts and not part of the cakes or traybake options. I’ve never paid £5.50 in my life for a strawberry tart, even a homemade one, nor for a piece of millionaires shortbread.
I’m sorry Creagan, but you’re really going to have to rethink your pricing for desserts. £22 for three slices of cake, a trifle and a scoop of ice cream. No matter which way you explain this away, it’s wrong.
Unfortunately, all had been going so well up to this point. I’d suggest if you are going to dine here, forego the desserts because they are simply not worth the price – unless you want the trifle that is.