No matter where you go in Scotland, you're sure to come across some of these tasty treats.
Home to Nessie, magestic mountains, some of the best golf in the world, more castles than you can shake a stick at, and the deep fried Mars Bar.
There's a lot that Scotland has to offer to the world, and our food and drink is definitely up there. So if you are planning a trip to Scotland, or just want to learn a bit more about what you might find on our plates, have a read.
There’s nothing quite like it. That beautiful totally natural looking orange drink. Don’t let the colour fool you though, it is definitely not orange flavoured. To be perfectly honest, no one knows what flavour it is – if you ask anyone Irn-Bru is a flavour. Some say bubblegum, some say fruity. What we can all agree on though, is that Scotland’s National Drink is absolutely delicious.
A bottle of Irn-Bru
There is nothing, I repeat, NOTHING, I love more than getting my dinner from a chip shop, or chippy as we call them here (or chipper if you’re from Aberdeen). Obviously fish and chips is the classic option and is absolutely beautiful, but chippys have so much more to offer. Battered sausages, chicken nuggets, pies, even battered pizza! And, if you’re ordering a fish and chips, or sausage, you would ask for a fish supper, or sausage supper. That means its your whole meal including the chips. Want to take it to the next level? Get it coated in salt and vinegar, or salt and sauce if you’re in Edinburgh, but as someone from the west coast, it has to be salt and vinegar for me. Want to level it up even more? Get a tub of curry sauce to slather over it and wash it down with an ice cold Irn-Bru. Heaven.
A Fish Supper
Cullen Skink is a creamy soup made with smoked haddock traditionally. You will often find it on menus here as a starter, but for me, it’s pretty heavy going, so I have been known to have it as a main course. After all, it’s technically a soup, but is full of cream, smoked fish and potatoes, so really it is a main course. Originally from a town called Cullen in the northeast of Scotland (hence the name), you will find this all over the country. Maybe give it a miss if you’re not a fish lover though.
A bowl of Cullen Skink
When I mentioned chippys earlier, it may seem like here in Scotland we will cover anything in batter and deep fry it, and do you know what, that’s true. Yes, a mars bar, dipped in batter, and deep fried. Delicious. Even better with a wee bit of ice cream. Just take care when you eat it because the inside of the mars bar becomes something that can only be described as sugary molten lava. Tasty lava though.
Caught deep in the highlands of Scotland, these interesting looking creatures sure do make a delicious dinner, or lunch, or breakfast. Ok, fine. They might not actually be real animals, but pretending that they are is a whole lot nicer than thinking about what is actually in haggis. But who cares, it tastes fantastic.
Haggis, Neeps and Tatties
The water of life. Whisky is part of the backbone of the Scottish economy and something that you can’t escape while you’re here. Even if you’re not a fan of it, there’s nothing quite like a dram of a good Scotch whisky in an evening before bed. Whether you like the peaty whiskies of Islay, or some more classic options, there are countless options for every possible taste. Try a whisky tasting at the Scotch Whisky Experience or head into a local whisky shop and begin the journey of finding your perfect pour.
Whisky Tasting at Dewar's Aberfeldy
There are many beers made here in Scotland, but Tennents is probably the most well known. The iconic T logo is instantly recognisable and you’ll often see an illuminated version of it hanging outside bars, leading you in where you can get a pint of the amber stuff. First produced in 1885 with Scottish barley and water from Loch Katrine, it’s about as Scottish as you can get and is something of an institution here. The brand even had its own music festival called T in the Park, but now if you want a T in the park, you’ll just have to take a can to one.
With our country being surrounded by sea on all but one side, it’s no wonder we have some of the best seafood in the world. Scottish smoked salmon is known and exported worldwide, and I would like to tell you how delicious it is, but in all honesty, I’m not a fan. Everyone else seems to love it though so take their word for it, not mine. Whether you have it cold as a starter, with some oatcakes (keep reading to learn about those), or cooked, there’s plenty of ways to enjoy it, and it’s not hard to come by when you visit Scotland.
Now, controversially, I don’t like a Tunnock’s Teacake, but I do appreciate how loved they are. A teacake is basically a wee biscuit, covered in a big mound of marshmallow, and then coated in chocolate. They were invented in 1956 by Tunnocks, a family business from just outside of Glasgow, and have been a staple in a Scottish cupboard ever since, with their iconic foil packaging. If you ask me though, a Tunnock’s Caramel Log is the far superior product, but I don’t want to cause trouble.
A Tunnock's Teacake and its iconic foil wrapper
Beautifully beige squares of almost pure sugar, what’s not to love. Growing up, everyone’s granny made tablet, and there’s nothing quite like it. Although it’s probably Scottish dentists number one enemy due to the fact that like I mentioned, it is almost pure sugar. Condensed milk, sugar, butter and milk are all boiled together until it becomes a sticky and sweet magma, then left to harden, cut up, and served. It goes brilliantly with a wee cup of coffee at the end of a meal.
Another food where, despite how delicious it is, it isn’t great to think about what’s actually in it. You will typically find black pudding at breakfast, or in a chippy, and really all it is a type of blood sausage. It’s pork or beef blood, with suet and cereal. This is then sliced up and fried until it is crispy and delicious. It’s also pretty tasty on a burger as well, until you remember what’s in it.
Yes, sausages are delicious, but here in Scotland we’ve taken them to the next level. We have square sausage, which is meat and spices in a loaf shape, that is cut into square slices. You will also see it called Lorne sausage and is thought to have been named after Lorne in Argyll. When you fry it, it becomes beautifully crisp and still soft on the inside, and, thanks to its shape, it is perfect to put in between two slices of bread or a roll, so every single bite has some filling without fiddling about trying to cut a normal sausage. Have it with a splash or ketchup or brown sauce and you have the perfect breakfast.
Square Sausage (before it's been cooked)
Let me tell you, on a cold winter evening, when the night is dark and the wind is blowing, there is nothing like a bowl of stovies. There are a few different ways to make them depending on where in the country you are. Traditionally, it was a way to use up leftover meat like beef, but now you will often see them made with mince or corned beef. Thrown in a pot with potatoes, onions and gravy, and left to simmer until its just a nicely combined bowl of deliciousness.
Oats grow very well in Scotland, so we know how to make the most of them. There’s really not much to oatcakes, just oats and sometimes flour. These are milled and then cooked on a griddle or baked. Some will be a bit rougher, with larger bits of oat, and some will be finely milled, giving a smoother taste. They are absolutely beautiful on their own, but you can always put them on a cheeseboard with some butter, or even have them sweet with some jam on them. There's even different flavours of them, peppery ones, cheesy ones, all sorts! The world is your oyster with an oatcake. That should be their slogan.
Another breakfast staple. Can you tell we take breakfast very seriously here in Scotland? Tattie is another word for potato, if you’re familiar with haggis, neeps and tatties, you’ll know that. Potato, flour and butter and made into a dough and then fried. Salty, savoury and delicious. Absolutely perfect on a roll, maybe with some square sausage or black pudding, or even just on a plate with some butter.
Can you tell we like our sweet things here in Scotland? Another super delicious but super simple treat, it often only has three ingredients – sugar, butter and flour, brought together as a dough and baked, then sprinkled with extra sugar. Absolutely perfect with a cup of tea or coffee. Now, while the standard shortbread is beautiful, you can get all sorts here now, caramel shortbread, raspberry, lemon, but if you ask me, you can’t beat the original.
A classic Scottish treat from the sweetie shop. Edinburgh Rock is a crumbly candy often found in jars of multiple pastel colours, so it’s very sweet on the eye too. Originally made in the 19th century, these pretty little sweets often come in different flavours like vanilla, lime, ginger and raspberry and are fairly easy to come by in Scottish souvenir shops or sweetie shops.
Despite what you might think, Buckfast isn’t actually Scottish at all, but was originally brewed by monks in Buckfast Abbey in Devon, England. That being said, it definitely has a place as a Scottish drink because of how much of it we drink. It’s a caffeinated tonic wine, and definitely not for the faint hearted.
A dessert that is ideal if you are a whisky lover, but still delicious if you’re not overly keen on it. It’s almost like an Eton Mess, with oatmeal instead of meringue, plenty of raspberries, cream and some whisky added for good measure. It’s a lovely light dessert, ideal if you are coming to the end of your meal and you’ve maybe overdone it a little bit. It was probably Cullen Skink you had for your starter.
Like I’ve mentioned, we’re surrounded by water on 3 sides of the country, so there is plenty of seafood to go about. Whether you like langoustines, lobster, crab, oysters or mussels – there is an abundance of it here. Thanks to the fact that often these are caught locally, you can experience some of the freshest seafood here, especially in the coastal regions and on the islands. In some of these places, you can even purchase them directly off the fishermen and women who have caught them.
This is a personal choice, I don’t even know if many people from Scotland have actually had these but I was eating a packet the other day and it turns out they are made in Greenock, a town on the River Clyde outside of Glasgow, so definitely count as a Scottish food you need to try. I’ve been eating these since I was just a wee boy and only just realised. These chewy wee sweets are called Milk Chews, but are like vanilla, condensed milk, little squares of beautiful sweetness. They’re not the easiest things to find, but if you come across a packet do yourself a favour and grab them.
Whisky is Scotland’s big contributor to the drinks industry, but lately, gin has had a huge boom. With distilleries like Edinburgh Gin opening in the city centre, and many other distilleries across the country branching out into gin like Bruichladdich on the Isle of Islay with the Botanist Gin, there is a whole variety available. From fruity lighter gins to full strength gins full of local botanicals and flavours. So, if whisky isn’t your tipple of choice, you can definitely still enjoy a Scottish nightcap while you are here.
The Botanist Gin
Butteries, also known as rowies, are a favourite from the Aberdeenshire and northeast area of Scotland. They are a type of savoury bread roll that were originally made for fisherman sailing out of Aberdeen harbour as they needed a type of bread that wouldn’t go stale during their long voyages. As they are so full of fat, they would also provide them with plenty of energy. These are often toasted with butter, or simply served by themselves. They have an interesting texture, almost like a flattened kind of stale croissant.
Scotland produces some brilliant cheese, from creameries all over the country like the Isle of Mull, Isle of Arran, Orkney and Campbeltown. Absolutely perfect with a wee oatcake on a cheeseboard at the end of the night, after your cranachan of course. Cheddar is a popular one, and often you can find ones with all different flavours throughout it, like chilli, mustard, pickle and even whisky!
A Scottish Cheeseboard
Aberdeen Angus is a type of cattle native to the Aberdeen, north and Dundee areas of Scotland and is prized for being some of the most delicious beef around. So much so, that the cattle has been exported to many countries across the world, but the original was here. Whether you want it as a steak, or even in a burger, you are guaranteed a super tasty plate of meat when you pick some Aberdeen Angus.
No matter where you go in Scotland, you're sure to come across some of these tasty treats.