THEY are queuing out the door when we take our much-coveted seats at The Fish Market Restaurant in the west coast port of Mallaig.
It’s an indication that the food is good, but we feel a little sorry for those standing out in the cold, peering through the windows, waiting for us to leave our table.
Beyond their line we spy ice cream-toting children, milling around in Hogwarts robes and wielding wands with their free hands.
They’re obviously straight off the Harry Potter Hogwarts Express – that’s the Jacobite steam train from Fort William.
Backpackers scan maps before heading off to buy ferry tickets to remote and wild Knoydart, and grannies and grandpas, cosily wrapped in hats and scarves, sit on a bench watching the boats come and go.
We are in town for a light lunch followed by our favourite indulgence – freshly-baked scones with cream and jam.
And while we don’t want to hurry, our conscience is dictating otherwise.
So, as Kayleigh, our cheery waitress, takes our order, we offer to share our table.
Sipping our drinks – a cranberry juice and a chilled Pinot Grigio, don’t mind if I do – we tune-in our eavesdropping ears.
We pick up a plethora of languages as visitors from around the world swap tales with fellow tourists or quiz locals on menu choices.
We are very tempted by the specials on the board, such as the local mussels steamed in white wine and garlic, but opt for a half-portion of haddock with salad and chips and a cheese, ham and onion toastie, served with salad and crisps.
We’re leaving room for our priority purchase – the scones.
Kayleigh is right about the fish, it’s so fresh you can almost taste the sea and a half-portion is more than adequate for a midday meal.
The toastie receives a similar thumbs-up. But it’s the scones – and the vibe in the eatery – that impresses most.
The bakes are melt-in-the mouth good, soft and slightly moist.
Crumbly to bite and with plenty of fruit, they come with lashings of cream. Only the jam fails to match their standard, an ordinary wee tub of the shop-bought variety. A home-made alternative would have been preferable.
Our bill – a reasonable £24 – is delivered as the queue outside begins to diminish and last in the line are finally seated.
The restaurant is still buzzing as we leave. Waitress Ana is chatting in Portuguese to punters who have been touring the ragged peaks, deep lochs and picture-perfect beaches of this spectacular part of the world.
She says she loves the people and the beaches of this part of the world.
She left its scones off her list but we can forgive her that. She’ll learn.
Warm welcome 8/10
Location, Location 8/10
Scone Score 8/10
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