Fancy a fish box, anyone?

Magnus Houston, Coast & Glen
Magnus with some of his wares.


MAGNUS Houston is a risk taker. Growing up in Ardross, he got on his first motorbike at the age of 12 and was riding professionally for Suzuki until an accident put him out of the racing game.

"I was a bit lost about what to do after racing," says Magnus. "Then I went out in lobster boat with a friend and loved it, so I began fishing full-time out of Cromarty."

It was on his way home each night that Magnus spotted a gap in the market and hatched a plan.

"I started selling crabs and lobsters to hotels on the way home and eventually had enough places to sell everything I'd caught and needed more."

However, the other Cromarty Firth fishermen weren't prepared to sell small amounts of their catch – after a day on the water they wanted an uncomplicated sale. Magnus had to think bigger. That's where risk #2 came in.

"I bought the whole lot," he smiles. "All the shellfish was getting exported to Europe before anyone had a say in the matter, so I thought we'd skim off what the local market needed, then what we couldn't sell here could go abroad. They were landing half a ton of shellfish a week – so if someone in Inverness wanted to buy two kilos it'd be fine."

Risk #3 was undertaken Christmas 2010 and was a bit of a eureka moment: "I exported our first lobsters and crabs to France. When realised that was possible I set up Coast & Glen."

Now seven days a week live lobsters leave the base at Inverness at 1pm to be in Boulogne by 5am the next day. Catches also go to many local restaurants including The Dores Inn and Rocpool Reserve.

"But just doing shellfish wasn't going to keep the business going," says the young entrepreneur. "And my customers started asking me to add on stuff, so I started buying fish from day boats and 4-day markets. If a boat's been out fishing and it has fish on it that are older than 4 days it can't land at certain markets. So boats just go out for one or two days and they're landing fish that are only one or two days old. Even with the transport down to Inverness they're still a lot fresher."

And the difference between shop-bought and Magnus' fish is clear. "I thought fish had a short shelf-life of just three days. But that's because it's been on a trawler for 10 days, then gone to market, then processed, then made it to the supermarket. The taste of fresh fish is just a world away from that."

So he had the fish. He had the shellfish... how could he get it in the hands of the people normally buying it from supermarkets? Risk #4 has just been unleashed: a fish box, bringing the fruits of the sea to doorsteps across the Highlands.

With £10-£12 boxes for one person, up to £15-£20 boxes for a family of four, Magnus is able to share his fresh fish and shellfish with the people who live by the water it comes from.

"We work it so there's a tick list of what you don't want and anything else that's in season goes in the box. So if we get a big landing of one fish we can share it through the boxes. We'll have preparation and recipe cards for everything that's in there."

Something tells us risk-taking Magnus may just have a great idea on his hands.

* To find out more about the fish box scheme call Magnus on 07738071664 or go to Coast & Glen's Facebook page and send them a request or email them at

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