As I have mentioned a few times, my parents are in the midst of a trip to Scotland. During the trip, my parents have been acting as “roving reporters”. Today’s post is a review of 9 famous, authentic and traditional Scottish foods. For previous posts in the series, see
- I’m going to Europe (for 250,000 miles)
- Getting ready for a week in Scotland
- Turkish Airlines Lounge review Washington Dulles / IAD
- “Today was the worst day of my life“
- Riding the Hogwarts Express – the Jacobite Steam train over the Glenfinnan Viaduct
- Aer Lingus Business Class review IAD-DUB
- Scotland’s amazing Falkirk Wheel
- What to do with two days in Edinburgh Scotland
Today’s post comes from my Dad who reports on some of the authentic Scottish foods he tried while in Edinburgh and the surrounding areas of Scotland.
So you may be wondering, “What do people eat in Scotland?” or the real question, “Did you eat any Haggis?” I’ll answer that further down. First, some other traditional Scottish fare to try if you’re wanting a taste of Scotland:
1. Fish and Chips
As in the states, this is battered and fried fish with French fried potatoes. Our first night in Scotland, we were exhausted by the time we found our Marriott hotel in Glasgow, so we ate at the hotel restaurant. (READ MORE: “Today was the worst day of my life“) Fish and Chips were a menu choice, and I tried that, thinking it might be a bit different in its country of origin. Not so. Christy had a burger. We knew it would be expensive eating at the hotel, but $45? Ouch.
2. Tatties and Neeps
Tatties are potatoes, and Neeps are Turnips. We grew turnips in our garden this year, and I found a recipe in a Scottish Recipes book a friend had given me, so I tried this at home before we went. The potatoes and turnips are cooked and mashed together, and flavored with onions and butter. The turnips add a distinctive flavor, but I think I could acquire the taste. I never did see this on a menu of the restaurants we visited.
3. Sweet Potato soup/chili
I had this at 2 different lunch stops. The best was at “the Real Food Café”, where they served it with 2 thick slices of multi-grain bread. This was in the small town of Tyndrum, a bit north of Loch Lomond. It had been a gray, misty, rainy morning, spent driving on narrow curvy roads with a 60 mph speed limit, so I was glad to get out of the car, and get some warm food.
4. Linnhe Salmon
being a large island with many firths (bays and inlets), Scotland has lots of coastline, and lots of fishing villages. Monday night (8/14) we were in Fort William, a port city in Western Scotland, at the head of Loch Linnhe. Usually lochs are freshwater lakes, but this one is a sea loch, with tides. We went to dinner at “the Geographer”, and tried the local salmon (named after the loch), blackened on a bed of bean salad with sautéed veggies. I love salmon, and was not disappointed. A sign on the wall said, “please enjoy your food, but don’t take pictures of it”.
5. Oatmeal porridge
This was long a staple food in Scotland, as oats grew well in the highlands. It has also been a standard breakfast in my diet since my college days. So when I finally got some good Scottish oatmeal for breakfast in Fort William, I felt right at home.
6. Cullen Skink
this is a potato and onion chowder made with smoked Haddock. On Tuesday afternoon (8/15) we took the steam train from Fort William out to the west coast and the little fishing village of Mallaig. I think everyone from the train crowded into the few restaurants there for dinner before making the return trip. We did the same. On their menu I saw “Cullen Skink” and gave it a try. Pretty similar to clam chowder, which I like.
7. Macaroni and Cheese
I know, this sounds American, but apparently it has become popular in Scotland. We saw it on the menus at several restaurants. Christy tried it at the Culloden Moor Inn (near Inverness), and was well pleased. I had chile con carne with minced steak, over rice. Our B&B host had warned us ahead of time that the servings tend to be large, so we both went for half servings, and it was plenty.
On our last night in Scotland, we finished our tour of Edinburgh castle just before dinner time, and had several hours to kill before attending the Military Tattoo, which is held on the esplanade right in front of the castle. Just outside the gates we found the “Cannonball Restaurant & Bar”, so named for a cannonball lodged in the outside wall that faces the castle. There were several versions of how it got there. The owner was an Italian born Scotsman, and the real name of the restaurant was “Victor & Carina Contini Café” on the Royal Mile. This is where I got to try venison and potatoes. I’m not sure I could tell it apart from beef if I were blindfolded. After dinner, our host let us hang out in the restaurant for perhaps an hour, which saved us a lot of walking. He also made arrangements with security for the Tattoo show to bring a wheelchair for Christy, pushed by 2 young volunteers. They took us up the cobblestone road, past the lines and entry gate, right up to our section of the grandstand. We thanked Victor profusely.
9. Scottish shortbread biscuits
Finally, shortbread biscuits are a great example of authentic Scottish food. Very popular around Christmas and New Year’s
And of course, no list of Scottish foods would be complete without haggis – probably Scotland’s most famous, or notorious, food item. According to my recipe book, it is minced organ meat from a sheep, cooked in the stomach bag of a sheep. It is famously lauded in Robert Burn’s poem “Ode to the Haggis”, and is served at every Robert Burns dinner (held on the poet’s birthday, January 25th). I found some Haggis and minced beef pies at the local grocery store in Edinburgh.
Two pies for 1.00 pound – that’s about $1.30 US. And yes, I ate them both. Not much different than sausage. It all depends on the spices. Oh, and I have photo evidence and a witness to prove it.
Featured image CC-by-2.0 from Wikimedia Commons
Which are your favorite authentic and traditional Scottish foods? Leave a note in the comments!
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The best breakfast I have ever eaten, hands down, was at the Grand Central Hotel in Glasgow. I’m sure there are better buffets to be found, but that day, it hit the spot perfectly. I ate nearly every item they had, but the creamy yet hearty oatmeal (with butter, cream, and golden syrup), and the tasty haggis, yes haggis, stand out in my memory. We found the downtown restaurants to be excellent and reasonably priced to boot.
Loch Fynne Kippers ….mmmmmm
LoL American fish and chips don’t hold a light to brit fish and chips. Americans don’t know how to make a crunchy batter unless it’s a brit here making them.
He answered some of the questions I had about Scottish foods.
Great write up. You need to hire this guy !
Hi Dan – good to read about your culinary exploits in Scotland. Some grand foods on your list. If I was asked to add another favourite is would be Arbroath Smokies from Ian Spink. Hot Smoked Haddock straight eaten straight off the smokery. I’ve seen foodies cry with pleasure with their first mouthful.
Check our Ian’s place next time you’re in Fife: http://www.arbroathsmokies.net
I absolutely love cranachan-a layered dessert of whisky soaked raspberries and whipped cream, usually topped off with toasted oats and heather honey and if you’re really lucky, a shortbread cookie/biscuit. I toured the Highlands a couple years ago and everywhere we went, the soups were amazing: both hearty and delicious. I had an excellent pork belly at the Ballachulish Hotel in Glencoe.