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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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.