Succulent Aberdeen Angus beef, freshly caught oysters, moreish Stornoway black pudding and spicy haggis … this blog is all about Scotland’s food. From world-class produce to a weird and wonderful national dish – your taste buds are in for a culinary adventure in Scotland.
The Scottish social calendar kicks off each year with Burns Night on the 25th January, and what better way to honour our national Bard than an evening of whisky and haggis? Rabbie himself was partial to a serving of haggis – in fact he liked it so much that he wrote a poem about it. Our national dish is often the cause of raised eyebrows among visitors due to its ingredients (yes, it does contain offal) and preparation method (traditionally it is cooked in a sheep’s stomach although synthetic casings are more common nowadays). I know this might not sound too promising, but I dare you to try it and you will be in for a pleasant surprise!
With that in mind, the number one food you must try while visiting Scotland could be no other than …
I like haggis best served the traditional way – with a pile of mashed neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes), but for culinary adventurers, haggis can be enjoyed in many shapes and forms: as a stuffing inside ‘Balmoral’ chicken, in a burrito, or in its battered and deep-fried form. Although you maybe have to be Scottish to appreciate the last one!
Many restaurants in Scotland will serve you up a decent portion of haggis, neeps and tatties, but our favourite place to try haggis with a twist is La Favorita in Edinburgh, where you can experience the Italian-Scottish fusion of haggis-topped pizza straight out of a wood-fired oven.
Another hearty dish for those cold winter days is brought to us all the way from the Outer Hebrides. Using a blend of oats, suet, pig’s blood, barley and a special mixture of spices, believe it or not – black pudding was classified as a ‘superfood‘ in 2015, so you can indulge in it with absolutely no guilt!
Stornoway’s black pudding has protected status, putting it alongside the likes of Champagne and the Cornish pasty, which means if you see ‘Stornoway black pudding’ on a menu you know it has been produced in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis.
Arbroath, a pretty fishing town on Scotland’s east coast, has been well and truly put on the map by the humble Smokie. Only haddock can be used to produce an authentic Arbroath Smokie, and a process of salting and smoking over a ‘smokie pit’ in the ground dates back to Viking immigrants. The result of the smoking process is a golden brown fish which falls off the bone. A truly mouth-watering experience which has to be tasted to be believed! Celebrity chef Rick Stein even described it as “a world-class delicacy”.
The best place to try a Smokie is one of the tiny, family-run smokehouses dotted around Arbroath’s harbour – all of which still use the traditional methods.
If haggis, black pudding, and smokies don’t tickle your fancy, how about some juicy Aberdeen Angus steak? Scotland produces top-quality beef, and some even say it’s the best in the world. While Aberdeen Angus might be the best known of Scottish cattle breeds, you will also find excellent breeds here such as Highland, Galloway and Shorthorn Cattle.
For steak using the best of Scottish produce we can recommend Kyloe Restaurant & Grill in Edinburgh’s vibrant West End, where all meat served comes from Scottish cattle and has been dry-aged for at least 28 days.
The Rivers Tweed, Tay, Spey and Dee are home to one of Scotland’s most prominent exports – salmon. If you visit Scotland in autumn you can watch one of the most curious spectacles in the animal kingdom as Atlantic salmon leap upriver to their breeding grounds.
Salmon is particularly popular in its smoked form, which was traditionally used as a technique to preserve fish in an age without refrigeration, but today is used to give the fish a unique flavour and succulent texture.
Our favourite places to eat salmon are the Hebridean Smokehouse on North Uist, where the salmon is smoked entirely by hand over locally-cut peat, and Summer Isles Food in rugged northwest Scotland, where the salmon is marinated in a blend of rum, brown sugar, juniper berries and black peppercorns.
There is no better place to find fresh shellfish than Scotland’s west coast. Here you will find a bounty of seafood ranging from oysters and scallops to langoustines, lobsters and crab. These freshly caught delicacies are served up at many of the local eateries, so why not enjoy a seafood platter while overlooking Scotland’s spectacular coastal scenery?
The Rothiemurchus Estate in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park is where you’ll find some of the best wild venison in Scotland. You can sample their delicious produce at on-site eatery The Druie Café Restaurant, or buy everything you need at the farm shop and head to nearby Loch an Eilean for a picnic – the perfect spot to admire the gorgeous scenery.
For mouth-watering venison closer to the central-belt try Cafe Gandolfi in Glasgow, where they source their deer from the wilds of Rannoch Moor.
No matter if you are looking for a satisfying snack or a Michelin-starred gourmet dining experience – Scotland’s rich natural larder offers something for all tastes. With so much on offer, the only dilemma is what to eat first …
P.S. If this has whetted your appetite then why not feast your way around Scotland’s gorgeous west coast on our Seafood Trail self-drive holiday?