Hay's Way: Two smokies swinging from my rucksack - a perfect snack and social deterrent

So much for the spring weather this week...

I decided to hit the coast in Angus this week after a few days exploring the glens and talking to farmers further inland.

The day I arrived in Arbroath it wasn’t the weather to go down to the beach, so I went for a wander around the harbour instead. It was here I started to pick up an oaky, smoky, salty scent drifting through the air. Following my nose, and with a worked up appetite, I was led to the back door of the Abroath Fisheries – one of many businesses in the town that produce the famous Arbroath smokie. I lurked around outside like a seagull, plotting its moment to swoop, until I mustered up the courage to shout “hello” through the wind and the rain.

I was warmly welcomed in by Campbell Scott, the owner, who was just hosing down the place after a day's work. After commenting on me looking soaked to the bone, he disappeared for a moment before re-emerging armed with a smokie. He showed me a squeezing technique to use when opening up the fish to help pull out the spine in one go, then handed me the freshly smoked haddock on a plate. “Enjoy,” he said.

Having a smokie at Arbroath harbour (pic: Katharine Hay)Having a smokie at Arbroath harbour (pic: Katharine Hay)
Having a smokie at Arbroath harbour (pic: Katharine Hay)

We agreed I'd come back at 9am the next morning to watch how it's all done from start to finish. There's nothing like peering over a fire in a smoke house filled with thick, fishy, woody fumes to nurse a hangover brought on by generous locals buying me beers at the Commercial Inn the night before. Thank you Derek, Margaret, Alex, Albert and Gary.

After about two hours watching whole, fresh haddocks become appetising pairs of copper brown-coloured smokies tied at the tails, I was handed two for the walk ahead. The resident seagull, Elvis, was definitely giving me a look as I set off with the pair swinging from my rucksack.

The sea breeze picked up and I could feel the smokie fumes billowing out from my clothes and hair as I walked down the coastline.

You’d have thought I’d have had enough of the flavour with the smell following me around all day but the fish made for the perfect snack while walking to boost energy.

Smokies at Arbroath Fisheries (pic: Katharine Hay)Smokies at Arbroath Fisheries (pic: Katharine Hay)
Smokies at Arbroath Fisheries (pic: Katharine Hay)

Arriving a bit weather-beaten at a hostel that night and producing a half eaten fish from my bag, it was little wonder I sat alone in the communal area for dinner. It was quite handy though that the smokie was likely a social deterrent as I needed a bit of peace and quiet to write this piece.

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