Any food-lover coming to Scotland for a holiday is in for a big treat. With coast, mountains, lowland farms and a rich history of food and drink production, Scotland really is a food tour paradise. The choice can be overwhelming, so here is our first set of tips for top places for Scottish food and drink on your motorhome holiday, concentrating on buying food to cook yourself in the southern half of the country.
Farm shops are a good place to start. You’ll find them all over the place, from a roadside table with some eggs or strawberries and an honesty box to well-established large businesses that sell the produce of other local farmers as well as their own and often have a coffee-shop attached.
The East Coast, Lothians, Fife and Angus
Beginning our self-drive food tour heading north from Edinburgh, a good early stop-off is at Lochend Farm, Scotlandwell, at the eastern end of Loch Leven. It’s a working farm and, as well as selling their own vegetables, the shop stocks meats and deli items from all over Scotland. You can buy food to cook yourself or take advantage of the excellent food in their café.
The oddly-named Pillars of Hercules, at Falkland, is another good place for a quick bite and shopping spree. Their produce is all certified organic and they do a great range of vegetarian dishes as well as selling their own produce and local crafts (and Falkland Palace is a little gem of a National Trust property to spend a couple of hours in).
If Fife is a bit early in your journey to stop, Milton Haugh Farm Shop and Corn Kist Coffee House, at Carmyllie, about 10 miles north of Dundee, is another popular stopping place on the way north, with a similar offering to Lochend Farm.
At the Fit o’ the Toon in Arbroath (the area around the harbour) you can smell the wood reek from the smokeries. Arbroath Smokies (smoked haddock) have Protected Geographical Indication status, putting Arbroath definitively on any list of top places for Scottish food and drink.
Smokies are excellent lightly grilled with a knob of butter, made into paté, used in kedgeree… You can buy them in the fishmongers dotted around the small streets by the harbour, along with a wide range of other seafood from dab to lobster. You’re best to park in one of the town centre car parks and walk the short distance to the harbour – those narrow streets are not designed for large vehicles.
Perthshire and Angus are well-known for their potatoes and berries (soft fruit), and a great place to pick your own berries is Charleton Fruit Farm on the northern outskirts of Montrose, just north of Arbroath. It’s open right through the summer, producing red, yellow and purple raspberries, strawberries, tayberries, gooseberries, and cherries, as well as asparagus. You can buy everything ready picked but it’s much more fun to DIY, especially with children. Charleton also has an excellent coffee shop/restaurant and a terrific kids’ play area.
Sticking with fruit farms, The Strawberry Shop on the Blairgowrie Road out of Perth do all the work for you, including producing interesting home-made jams, ice-cream and home baking. They also sell produce from other local farms, including vegetables and deli items. You’ll know you’re there when you see the strawberry-painted doors!
Heading inland towards Loch Lomond, McKechnie’s Farm Shop at Mains of Boquhan near Kippen is a good place to stock up with summer fruits, potatoes and other vegetables, including salads and herbs, and free range eggs. They also stock local honeys and jams and delicacies such as Stornoway black pudding, meats and local dairy products.
McKechnie’s are only open Wednesdays and Thursdays 8 am – 2 pm, so you have to be in the right place at the right time to catch them. They have another outlet, France Farm Shop at Gartocharn, near Loch Lomond, which is open on Fridays (all day and all year round) and sells the same sort of range of products.
The Ayrshire Coast and The Scottish Borders
Continuing our Scotland for Foodies culinary adventure: just south of the small ferry port of Largs, on the Firth of Clyde, is Fairlie, where Fencefoot Farm has a rather unusual farm shop. It specialises in fish and shellfish, though it also sells meat, chutneys, home-made bread and dairy produce. They smoke their own fish and meat and also have a seafood restaurant called The Catch@Fins, which is open Thursday-Sunday for lunch and dinner.
Further down the coast, south of Ayr, Turnberry is on every golfer’s bucket-list. It’s also one of the top places for Scottish food and drink: Dowhill Farm Shop and Restaurant stocks not only food (their tatties are a speciality) but wine and whisky. It’s open 10-5 every day except Wednesday and has a children’s play area and a garden with seating and views across the water to Ailsa Craig and the Mull of Kintyre. Better still, there’s easy parking for even the largest motorhome (they cater for coach parties).
Roughly south east of Turnberry, near Dumfries, is the delightfully-named village of Beeswing on Loch Arthur. Here you’ll find the Loch Arthur Camphill Community, which gives a home and meaningful employment to people with learning difficulties. They have a beautiful wood-framed farm shop where you can buy the produce from their award-winning Demeter-certified organic farm, creamery, bakery and butchery and various craft workshops, as well as a café/tearoom serving light meals and scrummy cakes. They’re open every day except Sunday.
Whitmuir Farm at Lamancha in the Scottish Borders, 16 miles from Edinburgh, packs a lot in: a farm shop on a family-run organic farm, modern art gallery, plant nursery and a café that’s been voted Best Organic Café in the UK. They rear, butcher and sell organic beef, lamb, pork and turkey, keep hens for eggs and grow vegetables; they also sell a range of other organic products, and make steak pies, patés, jams, cakes and chutney for their Larder Café. They’re open 362 days a year.
There are farmer’s markets in practically every town in Scotland, as well as in the big cities, but they usually only happen once or twice a month so it’s a question of getting lucky if you’re on a motorhome tour. Farm shops may lack the fun of the fair but they’re more reliable and can save you having to cook in the middle of the day, too.
The range of seasonal and preserved produce is usually excellent, the food is tasty and you know you’re doing your bit to help the local economy. Above all, you get to try local specialities: a tasting tour to please any foodie’s heart and stomach.
We’ll be returning to the subject of top places for Scottish food & drink in future blogs – there are so many to choose from, in so many categories and so many parts of the country! We’re very proud of what Scotland produces from sea, mountain and farm, and hope we’ve whetted your appetite for your next motorhome tour.