If you’re heading north on your motorhome tour, you’ll find the top places to buy Scottish food and drink for self-catering are farm shops. Many of them have a café and/or restaurant and some have other attractions too – you can spend a whole day at the best ones. Here are some suggestions:
Finzean Farm Shop, at Balnaboth Steading near Banchory in Aberdeenshire, offers art by local artists, books and gifts alongside the local beef, game, vegetables, bread and ready meals. In the tearoom they produce great Scottish cuisine for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea, so it really doesn’t matter what time of day you roll up. In peak season they suggest you book in advance, as they can get very busy. If you’re really organised and order early, they can provide take-away picnics too.
Woodside Animal Farm, the other side of Banchory from Finzean at Drumoak, sells fresh eggs, handmade chutneys, organic juices, old-fashioned sweets and pocket-money toys, as well as grown-up gifts. They also have a cuddling farm, toy tractors, rides on full-sized tractors, animal demonstrations, a mini fun fair, an indoor soft play area – everything to keep small children occupied and amused – and a café-full of Scottish food and drink to refuel them when they’ve run out of steam.
Continuing your foodie tour of Aberdeenshire, Logie Steading, on the Logie Estate at Dunphail near Forres, offers a range of shops including an art gallery, a bookshop, a furniture-restoration workshop and a vintage clothing store. The Farm and Garden Shop sells plants, tools and twine alongside the local venison, beef and biscuits, while Cairngorm Leaf and Bean is a specialist coffee, tea and hot chocolate shop. The garden is open every day, there’s a playground and walks along the river Findhorn, and if you’re lucky you’ll catch an outside theatre performance or pop-up exhibition.
If you’re enjoying your culinary adventure around Scotland during the short asparagus season (from early June for about three weeks), Wester Hardmuir Fruit Farm shop at Auldearn, on the A96 near Nairn, is a great place to buy it. They also grown rhubarb, strawberries, gooseberries, raspberries, currants, logan- and tayberries, apples, plums, cherries and a wide range of vegetables, as well as free-range eggs, meat, ice-cream and home-made jam and honey. You can pick your own fruit in season and there’s a picnic and play area. The shop is open every day from June to December inclusive.
In the same area, at Ardesier between Inverness and Fort George, lies the Connage Highland Cheese Pantry, where you can watch cheese being made as well as buying the end result and the biscuits to eat with it. Connage produce organic vegetarian cheeses and the Pantry also sells artisan British and Continental cheeses and can tell you all about them and supply recipes for their use. There’s also a café where you can enjoy a platter of cheeses or a coffee and cake.
Moving north on your tasting tour of Scotland, The Storehouse at Foulis Ferry, on the Cromarty Firth, sells meat, veg and flowers from the family farm as well as produce including cheeses, chutneys and jams from other local farmers and as far afield as Orkney: a real treasure trove of Scottish food and drink. The shop also stocks gifts and crafts, books and homewares. The restaurant has home-baked cakes and goodies, including gluten-free cakes. It’s open for breakfast, lunch and supper, with a menu that changes daily, and you can eat outside if the weather’s clement, enjoying spectacular views over the Cromarty Firth, or ask for a take-away. If you phone them before 10 am they’ll even cater a full-scale picnic for you.
Robertson’s “The Larder” Tomich farm shop, near Beauly, sells their own free-range pork, home-grown potatoes and veg in season, along with locally-sourced venison and cheeses and seafood from the Beauly Firth and further afield. They also stock Stornoway Black Pudding, smoked meats and fish, the Really Garlicky range of products, home baking and other delights: a real food tour of Scotland. There’s a children’s farm that’s open right through the summer, featuring alpacas, pigs, donkeys, ducks and hens, rabbits and a variety of goats. They also have a large play area with toys, a climbing frame and a sand-pit. There’s no café (yet) but you can always eat the produce you’ve just bought!
Quintessential Scottish cuisine: game and smoked fish!
Rothiemurchus Estate, 2 miles from Aviemore, not only boasts a farm shop that stocks everything from wild venison and Highland beef to honey, cheese, chocolate and wine, it also offers a huge range of activities from pony trekking to river tubing and wildlife watching. There are walking and bike trails as well, so you can just take yourself off for the day from their campsite – they really do have all mod cons! To cap it all, it’s in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty close to the Cairngorms. There’s plenty for kids to do, but dogs aren’t allowed in the camping area.
Heading west on your self-drive food tour, Lochaber Farm Shop, at Torlundy between Fort William and Spean Bridge, offers locally-reared, free-range, fair trade and organic produce; they also have gluten- and dairy-free products and ready meals. Their speciality is local meat, including mutton, free-to-roam chickens, outdoor-reared pork and wild venison. They also stock vegetables from local growers, including garden surpluses, so you may find some unusual vegetables. The café offers home-baking, snacks and Fair Trade tea and coffee from mid-morning to afternoon tea, and also stocks local crafts, gifts and cards.
No tour of Scotland for foodies is complete without fish. Inverawe Smokery and Fisheries, at Taynuilt, has a café and shop where you can taste before you buy (or maybe “gorge before you buy”!). Not only do they stock smoked fish, they have a range of sauces, preserves and other foods. There’s a kids’ playground, a nature trail with rope swings and slides, a bracken maze in summer, and lovely walks along the river and down to Loch Etive. You may be lucky enough to spot a roe deer, red squirrel or seal and there are plenty of seabirds to watch.
There aren’t many farm shops north of Inverness, but the village shops will usually carry local produce. You’ll often find a table at a farm road-end or in a barn, with eggs, potatoes, vegetables and maybe some home-baking, and an honesty box for your payment, so keep a good lookout as you drive
Wherever your motorhome tour carries you, there’s always somewhere to buy great Scottish food and drink and people who can tell you how to prepare it, so don’t be scared to try something you’ve never heard of. Scotland’s farm shops are waiting to serve you!