If you search Visit Scotland’s website for places to eat and drink, you’ll find 81 pages of answers; TripAdvisor has 40 pages of suggestions; the Michelin Guide lists 35 restaurants in Edinburgh alone and dozens in the rest of the country. Scotland is a great place for foodies.
From haggis, neeps and tatties to deep-fried Mars bars, Aberdeen Angus steak to char-grilled aubergine, fresh cream cranachan to fish suppers, Scottish cuisine has something to offer all tastes and pockets. Where do you start?
Every tourist guide to Scotland covers eateries in the cities and if you’re driving a big motorhome on your food tour you’ll probably be avoiding large towns anyway, so this blog will concentrate on restaurants in more rural areas, starting near Edinburgh in the Scottish Borders.
Damascus Drum in Hawick is an unusual venue, to say the least: as well as being a café, it also sells second-hand books and Anatolian rugs. They do a wide range of food, including vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free offerings. If you don’t spend all your holiday money on books and rugs, Hawick is also a centre for the Scottish cashmere industry, so you can stock up on knitwear and throws while you’re there.
In nearby Peebles, which has a wide range of local campsites, the Lychee Chinese Restaurant offers an Endless Feast on Sunday evenings. With over 100 dishes available at once on an eat-as-much-as-like basis, everyone should find something to suit them.
Go west, young man
If you’re visiting Mary Queen of Scots’ birthplace at Linlithgow on your culinary tour, a good place to eat is Livingston’s, a family-owned restaurant in the middle of town. The restaurant overlooks the garden, where you can often see wildlife. They serve traditional Scottish food with a modern twist, and is good enough to merit a listing in the Michelin Guide.
At the Lade Inn, at Kilmahog near Callander in the Trossachs National Park, not only will you find good Scottish food but also great Scottish beer. They brew three beers (Waylade, Ladeback and Ladeout) to their own recipes and also have a shop where you can buy them and all the other Scottish bottled ales. They hold a beer festival in August, not just over a weekend but for 16 full days. There are also two Michelin-listed restaurants in Callander, as well as Gart Caravan Park so it’s a good place for a break on your self-drive food tour.
Moving on towards the west coast, Oban is a charming town worth a visit in its own right; it’s also the ferry port for several of the Inner Hebrides. The Oyster Inn at Connel, just before you reach Oban, is a favourite for seafood lovers, serving west coast oysters, mussels and scallops as well as steaks and lamb from the local hills. There are both a full Camping and Caravanning Club site and a Listed site nearby, so parking up is no problem.
Sitting almost as far south-west as you can get in Scotland, near the Solway Firth, Castle Douglas is the self-styled “Food Town” of Dumfries and Galloway. Here you’ll find the award-winning Moore’s Fish and Chip shop, which also serves pizzas, kebabs and burgers if you don’t like fish. If you’re concerned about the sustainability of your food Moore’s is a good place to go, because they are too; their fish has MCS accreditation wherever possible and it’s all traceable and documented. Their waste oil is converted into bio diesel and they recycle everything they can.
In the middle of Fife, not far from St Andrews, is the Peat Inn. A whitewashed former pub, it’s now a Michelin-starred restaurant serving classical cooking created by award-winning chef and food writer Geoffrey Smeddle. The elegant restaurant has a huge and excellent wine list, a log fireplace to warm you and remarkably reasonable pricing. There’s a range of campsites nearby; it would be worth getting a taxi to and fro if you want to enjoy your foodie experience to the full!
Heading north again, on the opposite side of the Firth of Tay from Dundee sits Newport, where you’ll find a fine restaurant with the truthful title The View. Looking across the water to the hilly city, with the famous Tay Bridge to one side, the outlook is spectacular at any time of day or season. The food is pretty spectacular too, specialising in fresh Scottish food and drink from local artisan suppliers, with a seasonally-changing menu of modern Scottish cuisine. They also serve morning coffee and afternoon tea, both with homemade pastries, and a relaxed breakfast from 10 a.m.
Grantown on Spey lies in the centre of both the Speyside whisky region and the Cairngorm National Park, and is home to the High Street Merchants. This licensed café sells home-made, organic local food, including vegan and vegetarian cuisine, and also houses a craft brewery. But it’s not just somewhere to eat and drink. It’s also a gallery selling arts and crafts hand-made in the local community, so it’s a great place to while away an hour or three. There’s an excellent campsite at Grantown, too.
Inverness can offer you a Kitchen with a view: The Kitchen on the River, with views of the Castle and the River Ness, not only has three floors of restaurant, it has a heated roof terrace. Alternatively, foodies on a tasting tour might prefer to book a table near the kitchen so they can watch the chefs at work.
On the Black Isle, across the Cromarty Firth from Inverness, the Eilan Dubh Restaurant at Fortrose is a winner in the Scotland Food and Drink Awards for best locally-sourced restaurant, as well as in the Highlands and Islands Best Eatery Awards. They use produce from their own croft and other local suppliers – beef, pork, venison, lamb, chicken, seasonal vegetables and fruits, as well as seafood – to create the best Scottish recipes. They’re only open from Easter onwards, and it’s worth booking at busy periods: the locals rate the restaurant highly.
An article as short as this can only tickle the surface of what Scotland can offer in the way of cafés, restaurant, pubs and bistros. Even a couple of decades ago, “Scotland for foodies” would have been an alien concept. Now you can enjoy local Scottish food, well cooked and served with a smile, almost everywhere (just avoid those deep-fried Mars bars!).