By Jessie Voigts
Scotland – gorgeous country, friendly people, strong literary tradition…delicious food? Yes! If you’ve been under the impression that Scottish food is not-so-healthy (and not-so-appetizing – fried mars bars?), it’s time to clear the air. Scotland is a foodie’s paradise – locally sourced ingredients, the freshest seafood, delicious highland beef, and more. I love to walk into a Scottish food store, and see the amazing varieties of yogurt (rhubarb! Gooseberry!). While you can find a bad meal in Scotland, there are so many excellent restaurants – and recipes – to explore.
Classic Scottish Food
Let’s start with the classic Scottish food – Haggis. Made from chopped sheep organs and cooked in a sheep’s stomach, it sounds revolting. But here’s the trick – they add in oatmeal, and lots of garlic – and it’s delicious! If you’re not into eating innards, here’s a delicious vegan haggis recipe that I make often.
Scottish Food from the Sea
Head outside – there is SO much Scottish food to enjoy. From fresh salmon (travelers from all over the world head to Scotland to fish salmon) to Highland Angus beef to game, you can sometimes acquire your own (with a fishing/hunting guide, of course), and then eat well. Or, there are plenty of restaurants that feature both seafood and game. The best meal I’ve ever eaten in Scotland included freshly caught Mallaig prawns, eaten harborside in Mallaig.The shells were poky and sort of hurt my fingers, but each bite was a taste of heaven. Loch Fyne Oysters, naturally located in Loch Fyne (with several outposts around Scotland), offer incredible delicious oysters (and more).
BEST Fish and Chips
Are fish and chips your thing? The Bay Fish & Chip Shop (Stonehaven) has been named best fish & chips in the UK – must be all those locally sourced ingredients! I also love the Anstruther Fish Bar, in Fife – while there are huge lines, it’s worth the wait. One of the most scenic fish & chips meal can be had at the Dores Inn, located at the mouth of Loch Ness. Delicious!
Scottish Food: Fruit
if you’re lucky enough to be in Scotland in the summer, fresh fruit abounds – strawberries, raspberries, black currants, and more. I’ve made fresh fruit cobbler by picking blackberries along our country lane, and rhubarb from the front yard of the home we rented on Loch Ness. If you can’t get to Scotland in the summer, source some jams and preserves (I love Dundee brand) – somehow, the Highland air gets in and makes it even tastier than you’d expect.
The most famous Scottish sweet is called Tablet. It’s a hard fudge, sort of like maple sugar candy. You pinch off crumbles and let it dissolve in your mouth. YUM! If you’d like to make your own, one of Scotland’s best food bloggers has a great recipe for tablet.
Wendy Barrie is another excellent proponent of Scottish food, with her Scottish Food Guide website. It’s full of recipes, recommendations, and even a Scottish Cheese Trail. I’d definitely plan a trip around that!
Scotland (at least in the larger cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow) has a thriving international food culture. There is excellent global cuisine, from Indian to Mongolian to Chinese and the like. A Traveler’s Library contributor Kerry Dexter recommends Khulai Khan Mongolian restaurant, in Glasgow, as one of her favorite eats. My brother found the best Indian food he ever had at the Wee Little Curry Shop (also in Glasgow).
Scottish Food Stores
Sometimes, you want to keep driving and just stop and grab a bite to eat – or a picnic. There are wonderful delis all over Scotland, but my favorite is the Clive Ramsay Deli, located near Stirling at the Bridge of Allan. It is both a grocery store and a restaurant with outdoor seating. The vegetables and fruit are arranged beautifully, spilling artfully onto the sidewalk. The yogurt is wonderful! You can also find all kinds of Scottish items – oat cakes, shortbread, tablet. If you want to stock up on supplies for a picnic, this is the place to be. If you’d like to sit down and have a delicious deli meal, eat in!
Eating out with Scottish Food
There are incredible gourmet restaurants all over Scotland. In Inverness, be sure to hit River House, Mustard Seed, and the Kitchen. In Edinburgh, the Gardener’s Cottage is highly recommended. All of these focus on locally sourced, fresh, seasonal ingredients. Check out Wendy Barrie’s Scottish food guide (linked above) for specific geographic recommendations.
Drinking with Your Scottish Food
Ah, Scotland, the home of whisky! Any visit to Scotland needs some whisky (my personal favorite is Laphroig). For recommendations, Keith Savage at Traveling Savage is a whisky connoisseur with plenty of distillery visits to back up his extensive knowledge.