A Foodie Guide to the Scottish Highlands & Islands

Foodies queue for their Arbroath smokies at the Portsoy Festival in Aberdeenshire
Foodies queue for their Arbroath smokies at the Portsoy Festival in Aberdeenshire | © John Bracegirdle / Alamy
Photo of Benjamin Kempton
Travel Writer31 March 2021

Join us on our whistle-stop tour to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, the Shetland Islands and more, exploring all the best culinary delights Scotland has to offer, as well as some of the best places to stay along the way, bookable with Culture Trip.

Your first thought might turn to the good ol’ deep fried Mars bar, a legendary heart attack-inducing snack that has come to define a trip to Glasgow. But the national cuisine is so much more than that. Freshly caught Scottish seafood is some of the best in the world, then there’s sumptuous black pudding, a succulent slab of Angus beef and, of course, haggis served with neeps and tatties. After reading this guide, you’ll be wanting a taste of more.

We’ve also hand-picked a selection of places to stay to make a proper trip out of it, from hotels to spa and wellness retreats. Book on our website now and make the most of the Culture Trip Feel Good Booking Guarantee.

Aberdeen Angus beef

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  • The Aberdeen Angus, or just Angus, breed of cow is used all over the world, most commonly in the US, Canada, Argentina, New Zealand and Australia. Not only would it be rude not to try the meat from its birthplace, but you’re also getting one of the finest cuts of beef anywhere in the globe. We’d recommend Vovem, a contemporary steakhouse in Aberdeen city centre, where you’ll find some of the finest Aberdeenshire Highland beef.

    Aberdeen Angus beef is among the best in the world | © Simon Dack / Alamy

    The Chester Hotel

    Boutique Hotel
    The Chester Hotel
    Courtesy of the Chester Hotel / Expedia
    Options for places to stay in Aberdeen are endless. Whether you fancy something boutique, or maybe a base that you’ve got to yourself, it’s there, but our favourite hotel has got to be the Chester Hotel, a food lover’s paradise. You’ll certainly find Aberdeen Angus on the menu there.
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    Stornoway Black Pudding

    No fry-up is complete without a juicy ring of black pudding. The Scots also like to serve this pork and oatmeal treat alongside scallops, a dish you’re likely to find across Scotland. You could pop into any restaurant or cafe to try this Scottish delicacy, but we’d recommend the Charles Macleod butcher in the town of Stornoway to pick yourself up a roll of black pudding. This 70-year-old, award-winning recipe (including six Great Taste Awards from the Guild of Fine Foods) is used by restaurants across the UK.

    Stop at Charles Macleod butchers for their Stornoway Black Pudding | © Andrew Milligan / PA / Alamy

    The Royal Hotel

    4.3/5 (96 Reviews)
    Royal Hotel
    Courtesy of Royal Hotel / Expedia
    From $173 Per night per room
    The Royal Hotel is the most historic hotel in Stornoway. Relax and enjoy Hebridean hospitality, and try the Stornoway black pudding at the on-site Boatshed Restaurant. You can soak up the views from your room across the marina towards Lews Castle, with the town centre on your doorstep and the local beaches and visitor attractions just a short drive away.
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    Arbroath Smokies

    Smokies are whole wood-smoked haddock, cooked with the backbone still intact. Scots enjoy them as a breakfast kipper or in chowders. They can be enjoyed cold in a pate, or poached, grilled, or maybe even in pasta dishes or omelets. If you want a true flavour of traditional Scottish cuisine, try them in Cullen skink – a hearty, thick Scottish soup. The best place to go to try smokies is their birthplace, the fishing town of Arbroath, where you can book a table at the Old Brewhouse, or for something a bit more upmarket, the Old Boatyard Seafood Restaurant.

    Haddock is hung on racks before the smoking process begins | © John Bracegirdle / Alamy

    Old Brewhouse

    Bed and Breakfast, Hotel
    4.9/5 (7 Reviews)
    Old Brewhouse
    Courtesy of Old Brewhouse / Expedia
    From $121 Per night per room
    You won’t have to travel far after you’ve enjoyed your Arbroath smokies. The restaurant at the Old Brewhouse provides fresh, locally caught seafood, and you can stay afterwards at the 1600s B&B for a cosy, quiet night.
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    Shetland salmon

    You won’t taste better salmon anywhere than in the Shetland islands. The strong tidal flow of the Scottish Archipelago’s waters provide the perfect conditions for muscular fish to stay in peak condition. And the currents maintain the cleanliness of the seabed, allowing the salmon to grow naturally without any antibiotics, chemicals or growth promoters. As well as salmon, you’ll also find some of the freshest and most delicious whitefish, mussels and shellfish here, t0o, best enjoyed at Frankie’s Fish and Chips or at the Dowry.

    Workers on an organic Shetland salmon farm show off their catch | © Image Scotland / Alamy

    Shetland Hotel

    4/5 (91 Reviews)
    Shetland Hotel
    Courtesy of Shetland Hotel / Expedia
    From $132 Per night per room
    Spacious rooms and stunning scenery make the Shetland Hotel a perfect place to stay when on the island. You can also taste delicious Shetland salmon at the hotel’s Waterfront Bar & Grill restaurant.
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    Edinburgh haggis with neeps & tatties

    You can’t talk about Scottish food without mentioning haggis. It’s as much of a national symbol as the bagpipes are. The savoury pudding contains sheep’s or calf’s offal with suet, oatmeal and seasoning, and is best enjoyed alongside another Scottish trademark, neeps and tatties – mashed swede or turnip and potatoes. Edinburgh is full of places that serve the dish, but we’d recommend Brasserie Prince At The Balmoral for the Prince haggis dish with neeps and tatties, served with a boulangère gratin and whisky sauce.

    Neeps and tatties is a traditional accompaniment to haggis | © Jen Lombardo / Alamy

    Go vegan in Perth

    Admittedly, the options on this list haven’t been the most vegetarian or vegan-friendly. Meat is ingrained in Scottish foodie heritage, but that’s not to say the country hasn’t modernised. In fact, cities across Scotland are becoming hotspots for vegan cuisine. Bonobo Café in Aberdeen and Beetroot Sauvage in Edinburgh are just two of the places you can try out, but our favourite is 269 Vegan in Perth, a dog-friendly vegan cafe that serves cakes, bagels and smoothie bowls, as well as waffles, Asian curries, soup and bread.

    Vegan? Stop at the West Brewery in Glasgow to try their pretzel bun vegetarian burger | © Nathaniel Noir / Alamy

    Murrayshall Country House Hotel & Golf Club

    Guesthouse, Hotel, Golf Hotel
    4.4/5 (183 Reviews)
    Murrayshall Country House Hotel & Golf Club
    Courtesy of Murrayshall Country House Hotel & Golf Clubs / Expedia | Courtesy of Murrayshall Country House Hotel & Golf Clubs / Expedia
    From $179 Per night per room
    Treat yourself to a stay at the Murrayshall Country House, a luxurious retreat set in 365 gorgeous acres of Perthshire countryside. It was once the home of Lord Lynedoch and dates back more than 400 years and is only 4.8km (3mi) from the city of Perth. There’s also a 27-hole golf course and delicious local cuisine at the Lynedoch Brasserie.
    More info
    These recommendations were updated on March 31, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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