Yes, the most famous Scottish dish is haggis with tatties and neepes, or potatoes and turnips to us, and you should certainly savor the flavorful meat pudding (aka stew) while there. But there’s far more to this small-but-mighty country’s culinary scene. Spend a week or more here, indulging in some of the freshest seafood you can imagine, feasts featuring seasonal and local ingredients, and farmhouse fare (did someone say home-baked crumpets?), and discover Glasgow’s award-winning foodie favorites. All paired with—what else—Scotch Whisky, which you can also drink straight from the source at distilleries found practically everywhere, the cuisine of this multifaceted country celebrates the senses in grand style.
Seasonal, foraged, and farm-to-table meals throughout the land
There are countless restaurants throughout Scotland that follow seasonal and farm-to-table principles. Being surrounded by water, there’s also no shortage of excellent seafood from coast to coast. Standouts to try include the Michelin-starred Castlehill Restaurant, set along Dundee’s thriving waterfront, which delivers sophisticated Scottish fare made with locally sourced ingredients. The seasonal menu offers modern dishes like Scrabster hake with roasted garlic purée, served up in an elegant dining room.
At the glass-walled Seafood Ristorante in St. Andrews, diners can look out at the very sea from which a great number of the kitchen’s ingredients come. Savor Cumbrae Oysters and Shetland mussels or more Italian-leaning dishes as you take in panoramic views of St. Andrews Bay. Seasonal Scottish produce and locally foraged ingredients take center stage at the Michelin-starred The Cellar, in the coastal town of Anstruther; a single, memorable tasting menu means you can relax amid the exposed beams and stone walls, and simply enjoy each course.
Urban foodies, welcome to your new favorite destination
The vibrant food scene in Glasgow ranges from award-winning eateries to vegan brunch joints and awesome street food. With cuisine this good and diverse, you can easily plan a Glasgow getaway simply around the food culture here. Head to Alchemilla in Finnieston for a shareable feast of fresh Mediterranean food paired with sustainably sourced wines.
Feeling fancy? The chef employs local Scottish produce to innovative and delicious heights for Bilson Eleven’s tasting menu in Dennistoun. You’ll find mouthwatering dishes like the coal-seared scallop with an aromatic curry bisque or Highland venison with preserved cherry and cacao. The 1850s townhouse setting gets high marks as well.
Vegans and plant-forward eaters have reason to rejoice. Glasgow is Great Britain’s most vegan-friendly city—with more than 100 places from which to choose. Housed in an 1851 heritage building overlooking the canal at No. 8 Speirs Wharf in North Glasgow, Café Ocho crafts delicious meals out of fresh, colorful Scottish produce delivered daily; or come in the evening when it turns into a vegan restaurant and to-go joint Tomillo by night. You can also try Café Strange Brew, a vegan brunch spot, in Strathbungo. For a more traditional outing, try Mharsanta, a restaurant in the heart of Glasgow’s Merchant City that takes local and artisanal principles to heart, working alongside Rodgers the Butchers, Graham’s Dairy, MacSweens Haggis, The Fish People, and craft beer providers like Innis & Gunn to offer a truly local Scottish feat.
Don’t leave without checking out the city’s street food scene. Under Glasgow Central Station at Argyle Street Arches in the City Center, you’ll find a hotbed of delicious eats at Platform, where ten of the city’s most popular street food vendors converge every Saturday and Sunday, from noon til 11 p.m. There’s something fresh and tasty that should please any palate, from vegan pan-Asian specialties to Scottish seafood and Indian-Scottish fare.
The royal treatment: sumptuous castle dining
Medieval castles and baronial homes set on sweeping bluffs are not just the stuff of history books and film sets in Scotland. Not only can you visit multitudes as a tourist, but you can also lay your head at many, and of course, dine like royalty while there. Queen Victoria raved about the lovely and “romantic” Inverlochy Castle Hotel in the Scottish Highlands when she stayed there in 1873, and that was long before the arrival of the Michael Roux Jr. Restaurant, whose furnishings were a gift of the King of Norway. With seasonal Scottish ingredients cooked to perfection with French culinary techniques, your tastebuds will be just as pleased.
You’ll also feast like a king or queen at the five-star Glenapp Castle, whose restaurant uses produce grown on the premises of the 1870 grand baronial home, along with fish and meat sourced from local fisherman and farmers in Ayrshire, for its six-course dinner menu. If you’d like a little time in a dungeon—hey, no judgment!—consider a stay at Dalhousie Castle near Edinburgh, where you can take supper in the 2 AA Rosette fine dining restaurant housed in the dungeon. (For something less formal, Dalhousie’s Orangery Brasserie overlooks the River Elk.) Soak up the castle’s impressive history as you savor your meal; everyone from Mary Queen of Scots to Queen Victoria has visited this iconic property.
Taste old-time Scotland with farm feasts
Book a visit or stay at a working farm to experience traditional Scotland life the way it’s been lived for centuries—and savor local flavors while you’re at it. You’ll get an up-close-and-personal view of working farms and be doing your part to preserve the environment by cutting down on your food miles (the distance it takes for produce to get to its destination) when you eat onsite at family farms. At High Airyolland farm, west of Galloway Forest Park, owners Janet and Neale give buggy tours of their farm, introducing guests to their Highland coos (that’s Scottish dialect for cows) and ewes, grazing along the hills of south Scotland, before inviting guests to sit down for traditional farmhouse baking, with scones, crumpets and lively chats around the table.
The ultimate Field-to-Fork farm tour experience awaits at Wilson’s Farm and Kitchen. After a walking tour of the property to see the fresh crops growing and a meet-and-greet with the farm animals, you’ll enjoy an afternoon field feast in The Stables, using the freshest ingredients from the premises and nearby artisan producers. (Early risers might opt for an 8 a.m. “Breakfast Safari” that concludes with a delicious hot breakfast.) At Lennox of Lomond in Argyll, near the hills of Loch Lomond’s western shores, a three-course farm-fresh lunch breaks up a full day of sheep shearing, animal feeding, and sheepdog demonstrations—after lunch a trailer pulled by quad bike will take you to see cows and sheep right in the pasture.
Definitive whisky pairings
What visit to Scotland would be complete without a distillery tour or two in the birthplace of Scotch whisky? One-up that with trips to distilleries that feature excellent cuisine. Scotland’s oldest distillery is also the first to feature fine dining. At the Glenturret Lalique restaurant, enjoy the high-style setting with Lalique chandeliers overhead as you dig into locally sourced menu items like a tattie scone with Highland Wagyu and caviar.
Head to the Old Kiln Café at the Ardbeg Distillery on the coast of southeast Islay and enjoy a traditional haggis, neeps, and tatties, paired with a dram of Ardbeg Uigeadail, which also features in the entrée’s pepper sauce. Savor a plate of Carpaccio of Speyside—smoked venison with hazelnuts and local cheeses—at Eat@TheMacallan at the Macallan Distillery in Speyside. And a trip to Edinburgh for whisky aficionados must include a visit to the 1820 Rooftop bar at the new Johnnie Walker Princes Street for spectacular views of Edinburgh Castle along with a palate-pleasing, vegetable-forward menu highlighting locally sourced Scottish produce and proteins. Try a Lowlands baby beet salad with confit duck leg and wash it down with a craft cocktail made with premium Johnnie Walker scotch. The Pineapple and Cardamom, for instance, mixes Johnnie Walker Black Label and a botanical spirit. Sláinte!