Stranraer Oyster Festival has been hailed a ‘phenomenal success’ by organisers, as it returned for its third year. 17-18,000 people are thought to have attended the three day event, up 25% on last year.
The community-run festival is organised by Stranraer Development Trust. It takes place next to Loch Ryan, which contains Scotland’s last remaining wild, native oyster fishery, and the festival celebrates the town’s native oyster heritage alongside a programme of entertainment and activities.
Chairman of Stranraer Development Trust Romano Petrucci said:
“Without a shadow of a doubt this year’s festival was bigger and better in every way. It was a phenomenal success and we are overwhelmed by the positive comments from visitors, traders and local folk alike.
Our wee oyster festival has truly come of age. It is amazing to think that in just 4 years we have taken Stranraer Oyster Festival from a quirky idea to now establishing it as one of the south of Scotland’s biggest events. And by doing so, establishing Stranraer as a vibrant destination for people to visit.
We are deeply grateful for the generous support of local businesses and the energy and enthusiasm of our volunteers who made the festival site so welcoming. It shows what Stranraer can do when we all pull together as a community.
We are now starting the planning for our 2020 festival in earnest to help celebrate Scotland’s Year of Coast and Water 2020, and we are looking forward to once again putting Stranraer on the tourism map and showing just what our toon is capable of.”
Highlights from Stranraer Oyster Festival 2019
Scottish Oyster Shucking Championship
Tristan Hugh-Jones, of Loch Ryan Oysters, shucked his way back to the top spot at this year’s Scottish Oyster Shucking Championships. Tristan, who won the title in its first year in 2017, will now represent Scotland at the World Oyster Opening Championships in Galway later this month. Organised by Seafood Scotland and hosted by world Guinness record holder, Patrick McMurray, 16 of Scotland’s finest shuckers competed against each other and the clock to win the title.
Scottish Oyster Eating Championship
New for the 2019 festival was the Scottish Oyster Eating Championship with Loch Ryan Oyster Fishery once again scooping the championship title. Fin Bullough was the top oyster eater, getting through six oysters and a pint of Guinness in an incredible 12.46 seconds!
Rural Affairs Minister visits the Loch Ryan Oyster Bed
Mairi Gougeon, the Scottish Government’s Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, visited Stranraer Oyster Festival with her family and took a trip out on the Vital Spark to see first-hand the sustainable approach to native oyster management in Loch Ryan.
Local Politicians ShuckOff!
Local politicians got a special lesson in oyster shucking from expert Patrick McMurray. Emma Harper MSP and Councillor Adam Wilson joined Mairi Gougeon in learning how to deftly open a native oyster. Constituency MSP for Stranraer Finlay Carson visited the festival with his 93 year old father, who proved it’s never too late to try an oyster for the first time!
Local Produce Extravaganza
Local food and drink was showcased throughout Stranraer Oyster Festival with record sales reported by traders. The festival also produced some innovative collaborations – should Scotch Pie-aella be on the menu next year? Scotch Pie World Champion Kerr Little and Giant Paella expert John Henry had a test run this year!
Creatures of the Deep
It’s not just oysters that can be found in Loch Ryan! The Extreme Pond Dipping event showcased some of Loch Ryan’s other fascinating creatures, including a dogfish, a Scottish lobster, starfish and a selection of crabs.
Tony Singh Sold Out
Celebrity chef Tony Singh delighted the crowds at Stranraer Oyster Festival with his passion for great food, his humour and his stories. Tony’s events were complete sell-outs and he spent time enjoying the festival atmosphere with friends Massimo and Douglas Lisi.
Former footballer, Allan Jenkins, now Project Manager for Stranraer Development Trust, helped land the first native oyster catch of the season. He commented:
“It was fantastic to be out on the Vital Spark oyster boat at the start of the native oyster season, and to get a personal oyster fishing lesson direct from Scotland’s native oyster experts. The story of these oysters is just fascinating, and it’s great to hear they’re in such high demand in some of the world’s top restaurants.
“Before Stranraer Oyster Festival started three years ago it was almost impossible to find these in Scotland. A big part of Stranraer Oyster Festival is about making our iconic local produce accessible to local people and visitors alike, and enjoy introducing more and more people to native oysters at the festival.”
Romano Petrucci, Chair of Stranraer Development Trust, said:
“We are delighted to work closely with Loch Ryan Oyster Fishery who have supported Stranraer Oyster Festival from the very first spark of an idea into what has now become one of Scotland’s most exciting food festivals.
It is a privilege for the festival team to be involved in landing the first native oysters of the season and an honour to spend a few hours on the Vital Spark experiencing the beauty and the majesty of this loch and learning more about the precious oysters hidden beneath its waters. They truly are the jewels in Stranraer’s crown and we always look forward to sharing them with visitors to Stranraer Oyster Festival.”
Stranraer Oyster Festival is a 3 day celebration of the town’s native oyster heritage, making Scottish native oysters accessible and available for local people and visitors to experience. The coastal food festival programme is headlined by Scotland’s spice king Tony Singh. The packed programme of events includes the #ShuckOff, where more than a dozen of Scotland’s top seafood chefs will compete to be named Scottish Oyster Shucking Champion. There’s also a host of cookery and cocktail demonstrations, live music, artisan produce and family activities; including the harbour-side Extreme Pond Dipping challenge, where children can explore creatures found at the bottom of Loch Ryan.
Councillor Adam Wilson, Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Events Champion, said:
“Dumfries and Galloway Council is delighted to support the third Oyster Festival. The Festival’s success over the last few years has been thanks to the Development Trust, many volunteers and the local community. This year’s Festival once again will celebrate Loch Ryan, our local food and drink industry and provide a huge economic boost for Stranraer and the wider Wigtownshire area.”
Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland’s Director of Events, said:
“EventScotland is delighted to be supporting the Stranraer Oyster Festival again through our National Events Programme, showcasing the town’s native oyster heritage. Scotland is the perfect stage for events, and the festival will undoubtedly prove popular with visitors and locals alike who will get the chance to sample some of Scotland’s best seafood as well as enjoy a fantastic programme of cookery demonstrations, live music and children’s activities.”
Stranraer Oyster Festival is part of Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight, the two week promotion of Scottish produce which launched yesterday. The festival includes a celebration of local and regional artisan produce, which has been supported by Connect Local’s Regional Food Fund.
Background to the festival
Stranraer Oyster Festival is Scotland’s first major oyster celebration. It was designed to celebrate the seafood heritage of Stranraer, including Scotland’s last remaining wild, native oyster fishery in Loch Ryan.
Romano Petrucci, said:
“Our first oyster festival three years ago was when Stranraer fell back in love with the sea. Our beautiful town has always had an affinity with Loch Ryan and with the sea, but when the ferries left town our connection with the water went with it. We lost a bit of our identity, but our first Oyster Festival has given us that back.
We may no longer be a ferry town, instead we are now a destination to visit rather than a place to travel through. Our oysters have helped us to craft a new identity for our town. Stranraer is rapidly becoming known as a tourism and food destination, somewhere to visit for incredible seafood, warm hospitality and stunningly beautiful vistas.”