A real Highland fling must involve food and drink, with local produce never failing to fill your boots on our Scottish walking and cycling holidays. Scottish salmon and seafood, including the famous Arbroath haddock smokies, Aberdeen Angus Beef, game in season and, for dessert, the unique creamy cranachan, made with Scottish oats, whisky, cream and seasonal raspberries, are just a few delights on offer. On our holidays, we will always recommend some eateries that specialise in local food when possible, or shops where you can buy picnic ingredients. The Scots are committed to sustaining their local food chain, and so do seek out the local produce section in shops even in big chain stores. And in restaurants, pubs and cafes, here are some of the local specialities and best food in Scotland to indulge in.
It’s a carnivore’s carnival in Scotland with Aberdeen Angus beef and wild venison just a couple of the treats on offer. The wild venison season is between July and December, depending on the species, and so non-vegetarians will revel in seeking out this sustainable food source while walking or cycling in Scotland. Once considered a feast for the elite, it’s found everywhere now, especially as the managed killing of wild deer in Scotland is a vital part of its rewilding and reforestation projects.
Scotland’s soft waters are home to a feast of seafood, and it’s smoked salmon and langoustines have been two of its finest exports for years. However, just as Guinness always tastes better in Ireland, the likes of Scottish lobster, scallops and crab will always perk up the palate after a walk on their wild glens and hills. Another seafood feast to look out for is Cullen skink, a traditional Scottish soup that originates from the town of Cullen, made with smoked haddock, potatoes, onions and milk or cream. There are fine seafood hubs everywhere, such as on our Coast to Coast walking holiday on the Isle of Skye, with two contrasting foodie greats like the Oyster Shed beach shack and the Michelin Star Loch Bay restaurant. Another iconic fish dish in Scotland is the Arbroath haddock smokie, using a smoking tradition that dates back centuries, using local hardwoods such as oak or beech.
The Scotch Pie
The Scotch Pie is perfect picnic fodder. It’s a traditional Scottish dish that consists of a small, round pastry shell filled with minced meat, typically beef or mutton, mixed with onions and various seasonings. The pie’s history dates back to the early 19th century, and it has been a popular snack or meal in Scotland ever since. Scotch pies are often served hot and can be found in bakeries, cafes and food stalls across Scotland. Rose & Grant’s deli in Glasgow, the starting point for many people taking on the West Highland Way, hit headlines when it launched its vegan Scotch Pie, and many have followed suit.
In recent times, variations of Scotch pies have been created, including vegetarian versions and alternative fillings, but the traditional meat-filled Scotch pie remains a beloved and iconic part of Scottish cuisine.
Some of Scotland’s most famous cheeses are Morangie Brie, Dunlop Dairy, Isle of Mull Cheddar and Dunsyre Blue. However, go to any Scottish farmers’ market, and you are almost guaranteed to meet some artisan cheesemakers, as it has been taking off countrywide. Some of our favourites include the Skinny Crowdie from award-winning Highland Farm Cheeses, the curd cheese that started their dairy, being made in the family bathtub at the time. Another is the Strathearn, from the cheese company of the same name, a rennet set cheese that is infused with Glenturret single malt whisky.
Love it or hate it, haggis is at the heart of Scottish culture, and some might say literally, given that it’s made from sheep’s offal, particularly liver and heart, minced up with seasoning and oatmeal, and cooked in a casing made of the sheep’s stomach. It’s traditionally served with neeps and tatties, Scottish slang for mashed turnips and potatoes, washed down with a dram of whiskey.
The whisky way
If you like the idea of a toddy after your trek to toast a good day on the hills, you won’t have to travel too far to do so. Scotland is home to over 140 malt and grain distilleries, and you can sample at least a few of these in the small hotels and inns we choose on our walking holidays, as well as their local pubs. However, if you want a walking trail that includes visits to distilleries, our Speyside Way walking holiday includes the Glenfiddich and Glenlivet Distillery en route, and the Rob Roy Way introduces you to Dewars Distillery.
On our Isle of Skye holidays, you can pick one of three distilleries to visit: Torabhaig, Talisker and Isle of Raasay. Isle of Rassay is a 25mins ferry journey from Sconser on Skye, so you might want to add a day into your itinerary to do this trip, but it’s worth it for the views across the Sound of Raasay and Cuillin Mountains. If beer is more your thing, we loved The Eagle Ale by Cuillin Brewery, also on Skye and available at most good bars.
We have a full menu of Scotland travel tips for you in our series of blogs. Such as the in depth guide to the Best hikes in Scotland, as well as a deep dive into the Great Glen Way. If you like to pack a swimsuit into your backpack, then check out our top wild swimming spots in Scotland. For any other questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.