Scotland’s larder is full of sumptuous treats in the summer and you will find much more than haggis on the menu – in fact, you probably will not find haggis at all, because Scots eat it in the winter. Summer is the season for soft fruit such as strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries and blackcurrants and many hotels and guest houses grow them in their gardens so they come fresh to the table. Lamb is in season and is a real delicacy – taste the difference between lamb reared on the hills and those from lowland farms. Aberdeen Angus beef is famous the world over and Scotland is the home of the breed, which is why hotels and restaurants can source it so easily – and probably tell you which farm it came from, perhaps just a few miles away. Scotland is also great for vegetables – new potatoes, young carrots, kale, cabbage and broccoli.
Fish is a staple of our Scottish diet; top restaurants and hotels often buy their fish directly from local fishermen. Try lobster and langoustines or, for breakfast, Arbroath smokies or Loch Fyne kippers. A favourite for Scots is fish and chips, especially from small cafes, as a take-a-way, wrapped in a newspaper; this particular treat was introduced by Italian migrants who came to Scotland decades ago and many „chippies“ are run by their descendants. Scotland’s cheeses have an interesting variety and hotels and restaurants may feature a special cheese board. Look out for Inverloch, a goat’s cheese from the island of Gigha, or the Isle of Mull, a traditional farmhouse cheddar from Tobermory, or Kelsae, a cheese made from Jersey milk and Lanark Blue, a delicious ewe’s milk cheese, resembling Roquefort (a favourite of mine). You must, of course, try porridge; made from oats, this dish tastes good at any time of the day but you will find it on a breakfast menu. The purists, like me, take it with a little salt, but most people choose milk, cream, honey or sugar. It is said to be one of the healthiest of foods.
Look out for farmers‘ markets in small towns; these usually take place on a Saturday and there may be between ten and twenty stalls selling produce of all kinds, including bread and cheese and fruit if you want to make sure that your lunch comes straight from the farm. It is where I shop for meat and vegetables. Ask in visitor information centres for where they are taking place. The Scots are also good at baking; try butteries in the North East for breakfast (fattening, but delicious and my favourite) and, for afternoon tea, bannocks (best eaten still warm, with butter and jam) and scones, and, for lunch, Forfar bridies (a kind of meat pie). The good news is that it is not just the expensive restaurants and hotels which feature the best of Scottish food. You will find that many small hotels, guest houses and cafes take a real pride in the food they present to guests. An article on Scottish food is not complete without a reference to whisky; visit a distillery and sample a dram. Find a bar with a good selection and ask the barman for suggestions on what to try.
P.S. Haggis – if it is on the menu, try it! You can even get a vegetarian version.
-Scottish Tourism Expert
Fotocredits: Dr. Birgit Bornemeier