If the city heat is getting you down, it's time to head for the coast for a pick-me-up dose of fresh air and lovingly prepared seafood. With a growing emphasis on local and sustainable produce, the UK is brimming with first-rate piscatorial experiences - whether that's rock pool foraging, lobster safaris or bespoke 'boat to beach barbeque' trips, where catch goes from sea to plate in a matter of hours.
While some hotels are established classics when it comes to seafood (think Rick Stein and the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar) others are fast garnering accolades for their creative, modern cuisine (a nod to the Harbourmaster Hotel's Welsh crab bahjis). There's also a growing trend for seafood pop-ups, with remote beach huts and sheds being transformed into chic hideaways devoted to fresh crabs, scallops and grilled lobsters with chips.
From the remote glens of the Scottish Highlands to picturesque fishing villages on the Cornish coast and fine dining on a fort in the Solent, here are some of our favourite places to escape to for seafood in the UK:
Head to the Hell Bay crab shack
With New England style décor and seating for just 25 people, this seafood pop-up from Hell Bay hotel on the tiny Scilly island of Bryher is a true hidden gem. A converted shed with a marquee extension, it is open every Monday evening over the summer season. Head chef Richard Kearsley serves up three sizes of crabs - including the 'Monster' option for especially hungry guests - plus scallops and mussels served in Portuguese cataplanas (traditional copper pots shaped like clamshells).
From £135 per person per night for breakfast and dinner, hellbay.co.uk
Fish from a fortress in the Solent
If it's a unique setting you're after, look no further than Spitbank Fort, a fortress that's been converted into a luxury hideaway island on the Solent off England's south coast. Guests have the opportunity to fish for mackerel, sea bass, crab and lobster - all of which will be prepared by on-board chef Nikolaus Boyle in time for supper. Or they can leave it to the kitchen team, who, on a sunny day, will cast a line off the side of the fort and reel in some sea bass and mackerel for dinner service.
Weekend overnight breaks from £350 per person, spitbankfort.com
Try Cardigan Bay's crab bahjis
Nautical chic abounds in boutique hideaway the Harbourmaster Hotel on Cardigan Bay in Wales. Its restaurant is based on the ground floor of the original harbourmaster's home and features locally produced Welsh cuisine that has caught the attention of the Good Food Guide every year since 2002. Highlights include Cardigan Bay crab bahjis and panfried sewin (sea trout) with celeriac and white wine cream.
Doubles from £110 per night, mrandmrssmith.com
Flex your fishing skills around Rye bay
Grab some sea air with a day's fishing on the rich waters of the south coast. The Gallivant's sea fishing expeditions leave Rye Harbour early in the morning, with enthusiasts joining hotel chef Trevor Hambley to trawl for sea bass, cod, pollack, sea bream and a variety of flatfish. Back on shore, in the chic and eclectic surroundings of The Gallivant, guests can help clean and gut the catch and even - depending on the haul - prepare the freshest sushi imaginable.
Sea fishing weekends from £350 per person, including two nights' accommodation, the gallivanthotel.com
Join a lobster & chips pop-up in St Mawes
Former yacht club Hotel Tresanton is located in St Mawes, one of the most picturesque fishing villages on Cornwall's southern coast. The seafood menu changes daily according to local catch, with dishes such as St Mawes crab with egg and mayonnaise and mackerel on a bed of Cornish new potatoes. 'Fish 'n' trip' expeditions to catch your own dinner can be booked via the hotel, which also runs 'Hidden Hut' feast nights featuring delights such as lobster and chips and wood-fired paella.
Doubles from £190 per night including breakfast, mrandmrssmith.com
Taste Isle of Wight steamed cockles and cream
The Priory Oyster brasserie is nestled within the 60-acre estate of the Priory Bay Hotel, with gardens and woodland running down to the spectacular Isle of Wight bay. Ex-Noma chef Oliver Stephens sources fresh seafood caught off the coast of the island, including produce foraged from hotel land. Don't miss the steamed cockles with Isle of Wight cream, barbequed local squid or locally line caught sea bass. Guests can dine al fresco overlooking the tranquil coast line below.
Two night stays from £399 per person, including a tasting menu in the Island Room and a three course menu in the Priory Oyster, a Priory high tea and arrival champagne, and return vehicle crossings with Red Funnel, priorybay.co.uk and redfunnel.co.uk.
Grab oysters near Loch Long
Part of the appeal of fishing is in its tranquillity, something that's guaranteed on the shores of Loch Long in western Scotland. Surrounded by the Argyll Forest Park with spectacular views of the Arrochar Alps, this picturesque spot offers a wide variety of catch including cod, plaice, wrasse and spurdog. Forest Holidays has oak cabins based on the shore of the loch, with outdoor hot tubs and there's luxury takeaway to be had at the world-famous Loch Fyne Oyster Bar just up the road.
From £600 for a three night break in a cabin for two people, forestholiday.co.uk
Enjoy boat to beach barbeques in St Agnes
Ever fancied catching and cooking your own seafood barbeque? Here's your chance. Private chef Ben Quinn (pictured) offers catch and cook trips for groups of up to seven people staying at The Sea Thatch, a 15th century thatched cottage located a stone's throw away from the beach in St Agnes on the Cornish coast. Ben is brimming with local knowledge about all things piscatorial and runs boat to beach barbeques or three course meals, with the first course - such as sashimi or ceviche - served on the boat before guests head back to the cottage for the main course and dessert.
From £897 for a week at The Sea Thatch, boat to beach barbeques from £30 a head, goodcornwallguide.co.uk
Go rock pool foraging in Carmarthenshire
Carmarthenshire in south west Wales is home to some of the cleanest and most deserted beaches in the UK and you can spend hours here exploring rock pools for prawn or mussels, or even casting a line out from the shore for a spot of sea fishing. Head inland for the county's famed rivers, including The Cothi, Tywi, and Teifi, where sea trout and salmon abound. Or book in at Ro Fawr Farm near Llandeilo, based on one of the best stretches of the river Tywi for fly fishing.
Photo shows a boathouse owned by Dylan Thomas overlooking the coast of Carmarthenshire. Credit: Rex Features
Embark on a seafood pilgrimage in Padstow
"I've never thought of our restaurants as temples of gastronomy, they're just places where the fish is fresh and exhilarating and the atmosphere is alive and full of fun," says Rick Stein, outlining a philosophy that has had gourmands flocking to his Seafood Restaurant in Padstow on the Cornish coast since 1975. Watch out for Oysters Charentaise - freshly opened oysters served with hot, spicy sausages - and Padstow lobster steamed with mayonnaise. Visitors can also choose from 40 beautifully designed bedrooms dotted around the town.
From £100 - £290 per night, sawdays.co.uk
Feast on Scottish langoustine
Indulge in sweetbreads and grilled langoustine sourced from the west coast of Scotland at Turnberry Resort, a luxury bolthole on the Ayrshire coastline overlooking the Irish Sea and the Isle of Arran. Executive chef Justin Galea sources all his seafood from the local fishing town of Girvan and the hotel's award-winning James Miller Room is committed to sustainable fishing, meaning shellfish is line farmed or creel caught, scallops are hand dived and wild fish is caught locally or taken from certified fisheries.
Rooms from £240 per night, turnberryresort.co.uk
Go sea fishing around Mawgan Porth
For a seafood experience that's truly hands-on, head to Bedruthan Steps hotel just north of Newquay. Its sea fishing course based on the remote sandy bay around Mawgan Porth allows you to soak up some beautiful scenery while landing your catch. Learn about tackle and other basic skills before putting your skills to the test with a day’s sea fishing for mackerel, pollack, wrasse and bass. There's also a chance to spot sea birds and seals before taking a well-earned break in the hotel spa.
From £330 per person for a two night break, bedruthan.com
Join a lobster safari in the English Channel
OceanBlue's sea safaris off the Isle of Wight let you experience the thrill of hauling lobster pots in person. Departing from Ventnor Haven, the boats head towards the southern tip of the island with hidden coves and huge prehistoric landslides. Then it's show time as you help to search for, empty and re-bait crab and lobster pots, before throwing each one back. It's a great chance to find out about the island's crab and lobster fishing practices, and why they're important to sustain future generations.
Create seasonal seafood dishes in Bath
Learn how to prepare fresh shellfish in style at Lucknam Park, a beautiful country house hotel near Bath. Chef Hrishikesh Desai (who won the National Chef of the Year Award in 2010) puts an emphasis on sustainable fishing and seasonal produce as he shows guests how source quality shellfish, followed by a practical session of fish filleting and the art of obtaining different cuts. The group then gets to sample their culinary talents, with wine pairings for each dish.
One night Stay & Cook breaks from £298 per person, lucknampark.co.uk
Sample fresh catch off Daymer Bay
The St Moritz Hotel overlooking Daymer Bay in north Cornwall offers up art deco-inspired retro charm and sumptuous seafood in roughly equal measure. Head Chef Jamie Porter publishes the menu at 5pm every day, after he's scoured the fresh catch brought ashore by the day boat fishermen from Port Isaac and Newlyn. Specialities include Whole Camel Estuary lobster with shellfish sauce, tarragon, parsley and chervil, which you can enjoy while admiring the hotel's glamorous Miami-style architecture.
Rooms from £145, stmoritzhotel.co.uk
Book a seat on the Royal Scotsman for locally sourced scallops
For a seafood adventure with a twist, climb aboard The Royal Scotsman, a luxury sleeper train run by the Orient Express group. Here, executive chef Mark Tamburrini serves up a series of sensational locally sourced dishes as the train rushes past the dramatic landscapes that supplied them. There's smoked fish from Inverawe Smokehouse and scallops and langoustines from the Kyle of Lochalsh (pictured), served with potatoes from the Isle of Arran. Soak it all up in opulent style as the train rushes through the heart of the Scottish Highlands, with rugged glens, remote mountain ranges and wild river passes.
From £2,350 per person, including all meals, drinks, accommodation and excursions, royalscotsman.com
Pop by the Beachside Grill in South Devon
Acclaimed head chef Stuart Downie draws inspiration from his coastal surroundings to create locally sourced and delicious seafood offerings at boutique retreat the South Sands Hotel near Salcombe in Devon. Local seafood specialists Salcombe Crab Traders provide the restaurant with oysters, scallops, lobsters and sea bream and restaurateur Mitch Tonks is a consultant chef, helping to infuse the menu with a distinctive flavour of the sea. We love the sound of "Fish Fridays" with five seafood courses matched with wine - and the dressed Salcombe crab with ciabatta and garlic mayonnaise from the hotel's Beachside Grill.
From £150 per night on a bed and breakfast basis, southsands.com
Go lobster potting by twilight in North Wales
St George’s Hotel overlooks the postcard-perfect Llandudno Bay in North Wales and offers bespoke lobster safaris with Sea Fishing North Wales. Over the course of the two-hour evening trip, a qualified marine biologist shows what happens behind the scenes on a lobster potting boat and explains about the life and conservation of lobsters. The route goes through The Great Orme, with an opportunity to spot seals and the famous Kashmiri goats that live wild on the Orme, before heading back to the hotel where the head chef to cook the freshly-caught lobster for supper.
Words: Anna Brech