The quality of Scotland’s larder means you can enjoy the very best ingredients that the sea and land can provide. With dedicated chefs and cooks using local suppliers, it’s possible to discover the most exquisite cuisine in pubs, restaurants and coffee shops throughout the country.
Foodies should check out the 'Taste our Best' scheme that promotes the use of local produce cooked with flair and imagination. You’ll find everything from small tearooms, and B&Bs to fine city restaurants and hotels all featured. See the VisitScotland Taste our Best webpage for more information.
In Edinburgh, you’ll discover exceptional dining and café culture. The city boasts 4 Michelin star restaurants where you’ll experience fine-dining with a Scottish twist. Make the short journey to Leith to discover an eclectic selection of cuisines. In Glasgow, you’ll find an impressive gastronomic scene where young, talented chefs produce fantastic food to an appreciative clientele.
French cooking has long been an essential part of Scottish cuisine due to the country's historical alliances with France. Scotland is also renowned for seafood, Angus beef and lamb. Poached salmon caught fresh nearby and aged venison from the deer-studded Highlands are particular favourites.
Vegetarian and vegan food is widely available, particularly in the cities, so eating out will not be too much of a challenge. You’ll find that many restaurants label their veggie and vegan dishes on the menu and, if not, the staff will be happy to offer advice.
If you are travelling on a budget, ask to see the pre-theatre menu if you are dining in the early evening. These menus usually comprise of house-specials and offer excellent value. Don’t worry; you don’t need to go to the theatre afterwards unless you want too! Online you can find fantastic deals at websites like www.5pm.co.uk where restaurants will offer enhancements like free drinks or desserts if you book to eat at quieter times.
Besides restaurants, look to pubs and bistros for informal meals, especially at lunchtime. The increasing number of gastro-pubs offers high-quality food in a relaxed and informal setting. In most towns, you’ll find an array of World cuisines with Indian, Chinese, Thai, Italian and Mexican being the most popular. You’ll also find all your favourite fast food joints, but for an authentic 'take-away' meal nothing can compare to traditional fish and chips eaten al-fresco from the wrapper.
If you’d like to hone your culinary skills, then why not include a lesson at one of Scotland’s cooking schools in your travel plans? One-day or weekend immersion classes are availablecovering specific menus such as seafood or general Scottish cuisine. The best part is that after time slaving over a hot stove, you can relax and enjoy tasting your dishes in the company ofyour fellow pupils.
The country's national dish, has a reputation that usually precedes it, even with first-time visitors, many of whom are predisposed to dislike it because of its description. More adventurous eaters often find it quite tasty; anyone who likes sausage won't find haggis that different. It's a large sausage or pudding made from oatmeal and meat mixed with suet, onion and spices. Traditionally it was cooked in a sheep's stomach, but today it is usually prepared in a modern synthetic skin and often served with 'neeps and tatties' (mashed turnips and potato). There is also a vegetarian version.
Besides fresh fruit, juices, cereals, eggs, bacon, sausage, rolls and jams, Scottish breakfasts often feature porridge (a hot oatmeal dish), smoked fish such as kippers (herring) and haddock, and tomatoes or mushrooms.
The fish is usually haddock which is battered or served in breadcrumbs. In the best establishments, you’ll have a short wait as your order is freshly cooked then served with chips (thick-cut French fries). If you are dining in a coastal community, you’ll find this rustic experience to be a culinary delight!
Discover more about the excellent seafood available in Scotland with our Guide to the best seafood in Scotland blog.
A hearty soup with barley and vegetables
This tasty soup is made with smoked haddock, potatoes and onions and hails from the Moray coast.
Scones and shortbread are the most well-known, but gingerbread, fruit bread and cakes of all varieties are popular too. These baked goods, along with jams and local honey, are essential to a real afternoon tea.
This is a late afternoon/early evening meal that includes a hot dish such as fish and chips, with bread and butter. Traditionally it is served with an array of baked goods and jams, and tea or coffee.
If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll find this confection to be delicious. It is often served as an accompaniment to tea or coffee after a meal.
The popularity of Scottish cheeses has never been higher thanks to the efforts of cheesemongers like I J Mellis or George Mewes. As well as having their own shops they also supply delis and restaurants throughout the country. Look out for delicious artisan cheeses such as Isle of Mull cheddar, Caboc or Ayrshire Dunlop - best enjoyed with a traditional oatcake.
The word 'whisky' comes from the Gaelic 'uisge beatha', which means 'the water of life'. It’s Scotland’s National drink, and there are three different types - Malt Whisky; Grain Whisky and Blended Whisky, which is a delicate blend of malts from various distilleries with grain whisky. Popular examples of blended whiskies include Famous Grouse, Bells and Johnnie Walker.
Scotland has over 100 active distilleries with the key production areas being Speyside; Scottish Islands (including Islay and Jura); Highlands and Lowlands. Malt whisky is made using only three ingredients – malted barley, water and yeast. Some experts say there is a fourth, time, as whisky matures for a minimum of 3 years (most whiskies age for much longer).
Many tours include the opportunity to visit a distillery to discover the five stages of the production process then enjoy a tutored tasting of the end product. For connoisseurs, specialist tours are available that will let you immerse yourself in the history and traditions of whisky-making.
It is said that there are over 180 different gins produced in Scotland. Although Whisky is considered our national drink, we can trace our love of gin back to the 1700s. Some of the best-known brands are produced in Scotland including Hendricks, Gordon’s and Tanqueray. There is an increasing number of small-batch producers who create gins flavoured with fruit, wild plants and herbs. As well as being produced in the popular whisky making areas of Speyside and Islay gin is also distilled on the islands of Harris, Tiree and Orkney, amongst others. For something a bit different seek out The House of Elrick whose gin uses freshwater sourced from Loch Ness!
Scotland has had a long tradition of brewing beer with Edinburgh, Glasgow and Alloa being traditional centres of production. The interest in locally produced craft beer has meant an explosion in the number of breweries operating in Scotland. With more than 100 you are never too far away from quenching your thirst with a local brew. Many breweries operate tours so you can see the production process, speak to the brewers and then sample the end product!
The orange-coloured soft drink, Irn Bru, is often advertised as 'Scotland's other national drink.' It has since become popular in other parts of the UK and is definitely worth trying.
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