What would be the point of traveling if we didn’t enjoy the local food? Scottish food can come in any manner. The dramatic countryside provides a wide range of beautiful farm products and with a fertile sea, Scotland may be a culinary destination.
Scottish food at its core is all about the ingredient, nothing in the highlands is mass produced. The attention to detail is apparent in the end product. We enjoyed beautiful hand-dived scallops, smoked salmon, aged whisky, stilton, croquettes, cheddar, dry aged beef, duck, wild mushrooms, venison, grouse, lamb, aubergines, hand-picked herbs, and craft distilled gin. Natasha and I are big-time fans of smoked salmon and having beautiful salmon every morning with our eggs will never get old. In full disclosure, we are pescatarian 95% of the time, but when a beautiful farm to table locally and humanely sourced product comes along we do occasionally indulge.
Despite preconceived notions of food on the British Isle, Scotland will blow you away with its culinary offerings. That is of course if the weather doesn’t blow you away first! Here is the best of what we ate in Scotland and what you should consider eating in Scotland too!
The Best Places to Eat in Scotland
The Three Chimneys – Isle of Skye
The Three Chimneys is one of the finest restaurants in Scotland. It first opened its doors in 1985 and has long been an institution on the Isle of Skye. It’s a worthy food destination and set on a stunning island inside an old crofters cottage. We were lucky enough to enjoy their massive tasting menu “Skye, Land, & Sea” that relies on local ingredients from the island and Scotland. Items like fresh oysters, langoustine, lamb, and grouse are sure to leave you satisfied.
Many 0f the seafood ingredients came from the loch across the street that provides fresh high-quality seafood. However, it was the playful elements throughout the dishes that we found extraordinary, like a seafood dashi paired with beautiful scallops. The tasting menu is for the more adventurous with items like raw oysters and sweetbreads being plated, just be sure to let your waiter know if you’d like something else in advance.
You don’t need to take our word for the restaurant as they were just named the 2018 Good Food Guide Editor’s Choice UK Restaurant of the Year.
Crannag Bistro – Bonar Bridge
This is simply good cooking. No need for a massive tasting, they keep it simple with a few solid choices on the menu every night. The restaurant is run by a Scottish couple who love great food. They aim to use great Scottish ingredients like fresh fish, beef, cheese, and pork.
It’s the perfect spot for dinner when driving the North Coast 500. I had an amazing salmon pastrami as a starter and Tasha went with a cheese soufflé as her main that was amazing. To top it all off we had a massive piece of meringue pie and cheesecake. Yum!
Stravaigin – Glasgow
The restaurant is tucked away in the basement of a pub/cafe in the West End neighborhood of Glasgow. They aim to serve up some of the finest Scottish food in the city in a casual setting. Any great restaurant these days is sure to use local produce and at Stravaigin they not only excel at using beautiful Scottish products they produce some of them in their own garden. We sampled black crab donuts, salmon & quail eggs for starters and both were excellent. You eat a lot of Salmon in Scotland, as one should, and the pairing with quail eggs is one of our favorites. When it came to our entrees we went with a beautiful ratatouille and baked cod.
They’ve also won a Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand recommendation for five years straight!
North Kessock – Black Isle
This pub/hotel serves up some delicious food while offering views over Beauly Firth to Inverness. The interior of the pub is modern and relaxed which makes for the perfect environment for those needing a rest after exploring the wilds of the highlands.
We had some beautiful heritage tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella and a monkfish tagliatelle dish. It was the perfect escape from Inverness that can feel a bit overwhelming geared towards tourism at times.
Sutor Creek Cafe – Cromarty
This little cafe in Cromarty on the Black Isle is the perfect lunch spot, especially for those on exploring to the Northwest of Inverness. The cafe is famed for its tasty wood-fired pizzas and fresh local seafood. Guest regularly indulge in steaming plates of gorgeous mussels paired with wine. It’s unassuming and it fits perfectly into the small coastal town of Cromarty.
We got lucky and hit Cromarty on a sunny day. The town is the most quaint town we explored in Scotland, but still, it has lots to offer visitors. The romantic town is set on the Northern tip of the Black Isle with plenty of marine life at its doorstep. The old stone homes have managed to withstand centuries of hard sea winds and will likely withstand centuries more. The restaurant’s exceptional food and the town make it well worth the drive to the North of the island.
You don’t need to take our word for the restaurant as it is recommended by the Michelin Food Guide.
Dine – Edinburgh
The newly opened Dine Edinburgh is attached to the Traverse Theatre and across the street from the Royal Lyceum. Making it the perfect spot for those looking to enjoy the arts in Edinburgh and have a nearby dinner before or after. Their swanky hotel bar with seasonal cocktails is sure to entice any theatergoer. We settled into the wood and leather heavy bar with two craft cocktails a variation of a gin martini and a whisky cocktail blending lemon, salt, honey, and an aromatic of charred rosemary.
After our cocktails, we headed for the main dining room. It was large and airy with the focal point of the circular room a young tree which our table sat underneath. We had a three-course menu that is well priced around £22. I had some wonderfully fresh heritage tomatoes with creme fraiche and Tasha enjoyed local sea bass.
Kincraig Castle Hotel – Invergordon
The beautiful setting of this hotel was once the home of the famed Mackenzie clan. The hotel is situated far away from a city and serves as the perfect place to relax and enjoy a fine dining meal. The hotel has been well maintained and features a wonderfully cozy main lounge and Highland Bar. We had wonderful scallops, sumptuous risotto, and perfectly cooked halibut on their five-course tasting menu that left us stuffed. After indulging in the beautiful Scottish food we sat down for a wee dram of whisky by the fire at the owner’s instance, while we sampled the local whisky Dalmore.
You don’t need to take our word for the restaurant as it is an AA Rosette restaurant.
Le Escargot Blanc – Edinburgh
Okay, this isn’t Scottish food! However, if you’re looking for fabulous French food in Edinburgh then L’Escargot Blanc is the way to go. This restaurant is intimate and picks up a lively atmosphere on the weekend. We enjoyed a fabulous meal of steamed mussels, fresh sea bass with caviar, roasted duck leg, and finished creme Brule. The owner is a French man with a passion for his cuisine. He moved to Edinburgh to bring his favorites to the Scottish people. All the ingredients here either come from France or are locally produced in the restaurant’s gardens just outside of the city.
Kyloe – Edinburgh
We came here for Kyloe’s signature afternoon tea experience on a rainy afternoon in Edinburgh. It’s an experience to try for those visiting the United Kingdom. It’s a great way to while away and afternoon. Just relax drink a nice blend of tea and watch the busy streets of the Edinburgh.
Kyloe’s afternoon tea offers different fares than you’ll find at other restaurants, such as gin cured salmon sandwiches, pickle toasties, and gin and grapefruit drizzle cake! (Good thing we like gin!).
21212 – Edinburgh
21212 may just be one of the fanciest restaurants in Edinburgh. It has won numerous awards including the Best New restaurant in the UK, four AA rosettes, and even a Michelin star. It was our first time dining at a Michelin star restaurant and we didn’t know what to expect as we were seated for lunch here. Service, as expected, is top notch in such a highly esteemed eatery.
Bright open windows, complete visibility of the kitchen, white linen tablecloths, and exquisite food awaited us. Neither of us was disappointed with our grand four-course lunch here complete with Pink Trout, Cheesy Risotto, Chocolate & Soft Fruit Trifle.
You don’t need to take our word for the restaurant as it is one Scotland’s Michelin starred restaurants.
The Printing Press – Edinburgh
We dined here when we were staying next door at the Principal Hotel. It was a Friday and we didn’t want to walk far and we are so happy that we made that decision for it turned out to be one of our best meals in Scotland. The Printing Press prides itself on using in-season Scottish produce which is tasted in the fantastic flavors.
The setting to enjoy this fabulous meal at is a modern building with a Gregorian era twist as all the servers, menus, and decor is intimately decorated. We ordered Poached sea trout with Shetland mussels, but the highlight of the meal was definitely the fresh scallops! We stopped by their bar afterward to enjoy a nightcap before walking a few feet back to our bedroom reflecting on the intimate night.
Cucina – Edinburgh
“Cucina” means “Kitchen” in Italian, which was very fitting with this Italian inspired restaurant right off the Royal Mile. Connected to the G & V Hotel, we knew we had to give it a try as we walked past it almost every day in Edinburgh.
The modern restaurant has an innovative menu and uses fresh ingredients in their dishes. Each plate that was brought out to us was tastefully decorated and rich in flavor. On one note we were a little disappointed with their duck breast. Regardless, it is a great place to come for a special night out on Edinburgh famous Royale Mile.
Element – Edinburgh
Element is a great place if you are looking for a brunch atmosphere. They have an indoor and outdoor seating area, and inside there is a nice bar scene, as well as a sit-in room more suited for quieter atmospheres and afternoon tea.
We stopped here while we were exploring Rose Street for our daily cappuccino grind. We ended up staying a bit longer for brunch as the vibe of Element was so great. Go on Sunday for their brunch specials!
Contini George Street – Edinburgh
Set in a Georgian building on the trendy George Street this restaurant serves up the finest Italian in Edinburgh. After going through a reinvention at the start of 2017 it has a new look and menu. The contemporary restaurant feels right at home in the former banking hall modeled after a palazzo. They use a lovely mix of Scottish ingredients such as scallops and fine imported Italian products like burrata and truffles. Their homemade pasta, in particular, their ravioli are beautiful and serve the owners Italian ancestry well.
The atmosphere seems to buzz as the waiters serve up small plates of modern Italian food. This isn’t your old-school Italian joint serving up pizza, gelato, and sauces covered in marinara, instead, patrons can enjoy dishes like herb roasted aubergine topped with a poached egg or baked lemon sole. Of course, at our meals end, we couldn’t resist the Italian classic of tiramisu.
Ackergill Tower – Wick
Ackergill Tower is a windswept castle along the Sinclair bay. It’s another wonderful stop for those on the North Coast 500. It’s hard to beat fine dining in the Scottish Highlands in a freaking castle. The service we had at Ackergill was top notch. Combine that with a bottle of wine, delicious Scottish cuisine, award-winning service and spectacular Scottish cuisine. It has a beautiful setting made for a king. In our opinion, an evening at Ackergill Tower should be on the top of everyone’s dining list when on the North Coast 500. They also are a hotel with reasonable rates, so if you want to stay the night in a castle this place is for you.
Products To Look For On Scottish Menus
It’s likely you won’t try all of what Scotland has to offer. These are some regional specialties and ingredients we recommend you try while on exploring Scottish food.
- Smoked Salmon
- Cheddar Cheese
- Tubers – Carrots, Turnips, and Parsnips
- Sea Bream
Plan & Pack for Scotland
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It should go without saying that the weather in Scotland can be a bit rainy, this is the most important item in your suitcase. You have two options for styles of rain jackets. The first one we recommend is a classic packable rain jacket made for hiking that is a solid choice for outdoor adventurers. The second option being a trench coat jacket for travel for those looking to maintain style while dodging puddles.
The fleece sweater is a perfect layer when combined with an outer shell to keep you warm. We purchased wool sweaters from independent retailers in Scotland, and good ones were fairly easy to find for a decent price. For those with less time, a little bit of online shopping for wool sweaters will suffice. We picked up sweaters from Smartwool and love our stuff from Marine Layer.
Technical pants are water-resistant and dry quickly, not to mention they’re comfortable on long walks. They also make for an awesome pair of travel pants as many have become stylish these days with cuts like normal pants.
It’s wet in Scotland and you can expect a lot of boggy weather year-round so packing a pair of good waterproof boots for hikes is crucial for protecting your feet. Good boots or hiking shoes for Scotland are essential. We’d suggest a high ankle boot, but you can go even further with “wellies” or muck boots.
Travel Water Bottle
Plastic pollution is a problem everywhere so it’s best not to contribute to the problem by buying plastic water bottles everywhere – plus the water from the taps in Scotland is perfectly safe to drink.
We’ve shifted to using an insulated aluminum water bottle as it handles the hot sun well. However, we also love filtered water bottles in areas we’re uncertain of the water supply. Read more about favorite water bottles for travel in our post.
Travel in Scotland
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- Driving in Scotland? Here are 13 Helpful Tips
- How Much Does a Trip to Scotland Cost?
- The 15 Best Hikes in Scotland (2020)
- North Coast 500 Accommodation • Where to stay on the NC500
- 34 Facts About Scotland That Will Blow Your Mind
- 15 North Coast 500 Tips to Know Before You Go
- The 30 Most Beautiful Cities in the World
- 10 Things to Know Before You Travel to Scotland
- Rental Cars in Scotland • Here are 13 MUST READ Tips!
- The Ultimate Scotland Packing List • What to Pack for Scotland (2020)
- Edinburgh’s Hogmanay • Celebrating New Year’s Eve in Scotland
- Scotland’s North Coast 500 in Video
- 20 Fun Things to do in Edinburgh on Your First Trip