When it comes to food on holiday, most people see it as being one of the main contributing factors to how much they enjoy their trip. For many, a day revolves around food and the planning for the next meal – if it does not, then this post might not interest you as it’s all about Scottish food!
There are many traditional foods to celebrate, and we are proud of the Scottish cuisine we have thought up over time – from the curious haggis and the soupy goodness of Cullen skink, to the gluttonous deep fried Mars bar and chip butty! The Scottish food scene is massive and a week here will give you plenty of time to sample all the weird and wonderful options.
Here is a mixture of traditional Scottish food, some of which you might have heard of, and some weird Scottish food which may take you by surprise…
We had to start with the haggis – it is the biggest mystery within the Scottish food scene, especially to those who have never been to Scotland. Those who have grown up in Scotland will tell you of their early years when they were told that haggis was made out of sheep's guts and brains, putting them off ever trying it! However, it’s not totally untrue…
Historically, a haggis was made from the off-cuts of a hunt – the heart, liver and lungs were minced up and mixed with oatmeal, onions, sage and spices before being cooked in the lining of the stomach. The premise of the haggis today is pretty much the same; commonly, it's made with sheep offal, but there are all sorts of variations around today including vegetarian, gluten free and even vegan options! Traditionally served with neeps and tatties, the haggis is a delicious dish sought out by many visitors. It is most commonly eaten on Burn’s Night (25th January) to celebrate Scotland’s most loved poet, Robert Burns, who is the talented author of ‘Ode to a Haggis’. It is a versatile food which finds its way into fried breakfasts, pub food and fine dining.
If you are interested in learning more about Scottish tradition, check out our guide to unique Scottish customs where we cover everything from whisky to the kilt.
This is Scotland’s favourite answer to fish soup. It is a hearty soup that has been loved since the 1890s when the Scots in the small Moray town of Cullen replaced beef in soups with smoked haddock - whilst beef was hard to come by, there was plenty of fish being caught in the harbour! It then became Cullen skink; skink is the name given to this type of meaty soup.
You will find this popular Scottish dish throughout the country and served at all types of pubs and restaurants due to its amazing ability to be dressed up or dressed down – it’s a dish for every occasion! The ingredients include butter, onions, potatoes, whole milk, parsley and the crucial ingredient – haddock. In many of the coastal areas in Scotland that pride themselves on their fresh seafood, you are likely to experience the best soup as they mix in the catch of the day.
If you want to visit the home of Cullen skink, check out our Cullen cottages which offer the perfect base from which to get out and explore.
A grouse is a small but stocky hill bird which is commonly found in upland heather moors and native woodland. They are extremely private birds and it can be an exciting experience to spot one. Quite often you can hear them before you see them, as when they are taken by surprise, they will fly low to the ground making a high-pitched gobbling noise. They quite often roam alone, but you can find them in large groups too.
Grouse isn’t a common home-cooked dish, but you will find it on the menus of higher-end places, and it is said to taste the best when roasted or in a casserole. The meat has a rich, gamey flavour and is red in colour. As the birds are quite small, you will find one bird feeds one person!
This is a traditional Scottish biscuit made from butter, sugar and flour which dates back as far as the 12th century. However, sugar was added as an ingredient when it was introduced in the 17th century. The most famous producer of Scotland’s shortbread is Walkers – established in 1898. A young lad opened his own business with a loan of £50 and the ambition to create ‘the world’s finest shortbread,’ and now it is the biggest and most successful world-famous producer of the Scottish biscuit. The main factory is based in the Moray town of Aberlour.
Shortbread is often given as a gift and is seen as a treat, particularly enjoyed with a cold glass of milk or a cup of tea. It is a simple recipe to follow if you want to make it at home and you can have some baking in the oven within 15 minutes!
You can stay in an Aberlour cottage and experience the home of Scottish shortbread.
View all of our Moray cottages and plan a break today.
Porridge is a traditional Scottish dish where oats are cooked in milk or water to create a thick, creamy and comforting cereal-type dish. Traditionally, porridge in Scotland was made and kept in a porridge drawer where it was left to solidify. Once ready, it was then cut out into bars and eaten as an energy-rich meal which would keep one full for a while, so it was a popular choice for farm labourers who would be outside working all day.
Nowadays, porridge is commonly served soft and hot, usually heated up with milk and eaten for breakfast or lunch. You will also find it served from food vans at events and festivals – a sensible choice for those looking to fill their tummies and not think about food for a while! You can top your porridge with fruits like banana, apple, pear and blueberries and it also tastes great dressed with some honey or syrup.
Tattie scones are up there with black pudding when it comes to the Scots and a fried breakfast. For those who don’t know what they are, they are simply a popular side dish made from potatoes which are mashed with butter (no milk) and then mixed with flour to create a dough, which is then sectioned out and put on a griddle to cook. They are traditionally served hot and are a popular addition to the full Scottish breakfast, as well as a light snack with butter. Some also like to wedge them into a breakfast roll – we don’t care how they're served, as long as they are there!
Historically, the tattie scone was a way to use up leftover potatoes and would have been enjoyed with some butter and a warm cup of tea – a real treat for those lucky enough to enjoy them. You can buy shop-bought tattie scones that can just be fried to heat up, but if you want the true tattie scone it’s worth boiling your own potatoes from scratch.
Black pudding originated in Scotland by Stornoway crofters who made it their mission to ensure every part of an animal was utilised when culled for food. Due to their small number of livestock, this was essential. For those who don’t know where Stornoway is, it's found on the northern coast of the Isle of Harris, in the Western Isles. The world-famous black pudding has been granted Protected Geographical Indicator of Origin status, however, they are not the only producers and there are many great brands which sell delicious black pudding all over the UK.
You are probably still wondering what it is! Black pudding is along the same lines as a haggis. It is a black sausage filled with a mealy like mixture consisting of oatmeal, fat and sheep or pig’s blood. Whilst it sounds a little unusual, it is actually delicious! The sausage is often cut into rounds and served grilled or fried. You will often find it as an option on a fried breakfast or breakfast roll, but you will also find it in fine dining; it tastes great with scallops.
A Scotch pie is a double-crust meat pie where the meat inside is traditionally beef, minced mutton or haggis. The minced meat is usually spiced with pepper and makes for a delicious snack if you are on the move. Small in size, they are simple and delicious and are perfectly manageable for one person, though it wouldn’t be unusual to eat two in one go!
Whilst the exact origins of the pie are still unknown, due to the pie being around for centuries, the Scotch pie has been made in Scotland for the last four to five hundred years. You will be able to get your hands on a Scotch pie in most takeaway restaurants, bakeries and outdoor events across the UK. The fact you don’t need any cutlery and it’s easily eaten in your hands makes it even better.
Most children who grew up in Scotland will have a love for stovies, especially as it was a common staple meal when it came to school canteen lunches. Who doesn’t love mince and tatties? Stovies originated around the 19th century when masters gave their servants the leftovers from a Sunday roast – little did they know, this would inspire one of Scotland’s most loved dishes!
It could not be simpler and is one of the easier Scottish food recipes– mince is browned with onions and then mixed in with creamy mashed potatoes to create a heart warming meal. This is a great dish for a large party, and nowadays you will even find trays of steaming stovies at wedding parties, served late at night for the guests to enjoy after one too many beers! Stovies tastes great on the plate by itself, but a side of neaps (turnips) can really finish it off.
We have featured a lot of savoury dishes, so it is only fair that the sweet ones get some attention too. Scottish tablet is often confused with fudge, and this comes as no surprise as it is similar, but taste them one after the other and you will be able to tell the difference. Whilst fudge is soft and creamy, tablet has a coarser and more crumbly texture, and it melts in the mouth straight away.
Made by mixing condensed milk, butter and sugar (Scots know how to keep things simple don’t they?) this sugary treat has been around since the 18th century. Those who have grown up in Scotland will be familiar with tablet: a sweet treat that is taken out on occasion, perhaps when visitors come round or to cheer up a friend. You don't need much, however; after two cubes you will probably find you have had enough! You will be able to pick up tablet along with lots of other Scottish food products from most local bakeries, delicatessens and supermarkets across Scotland.
Originally a breakfast meal, this brilliant concoction of whipped cream, whisky, honey, raspberries and oatmeal has become one of Scotland’s most favoured desserts. Whilst sounding rather unusual, it is a traditional Scottish dessert loved by all! The secret to its rich and creamy texture is to soak the oats in the whisky overnight to make them soft and absorb the flavour.
Cranachan in Scots Gaelic means “churn” which, when you see the dish, makes sense – all the ingredients are churned together and served in a chilled glass – often with a raspberry or two on top. This is a popular dessert for dinner parties and wedding menus and you will commonly find it served throughout restaurants and pubs too. You may have had a starter and a main, but there is always space for cranachan!
We hope you have enjoyed finding out a bit about some of Scotland’s most traditional and famous foods. This is only a handful; there are plenty more weird and wonderful things for you to discover on your adventures to this amazing country.
Here are a few more things to look out for...
The man known as ‘Sweetie Sandy’ was the man who introduced Scotland to Edinburgh rock. Borne in Doune, Perthshire, in the 18th century, he grew up to learn the confectionery trade in Glasgow before moving to Edinburgh to start up his own business.
Edinburgh rock is unique in taste and is made up of sugar, water, cream of tartar, colouring and flavourings. It comes in all sorts of pastel colours and has a distinctive chalky texture unlike other conventional rocks. Recognisable as chunky colourful sweetie sticks, this rock has become one of the finest souvenirs to pick up on a visit to Scotland. People may even ask you to bring some back for them when you come and visit. If you want to visit the home city of Edinburgh rock, browse our Edinburgh cottages and plan a stay in Scotland’s capital city.
Scotland is also renowned for its seafood, especially in the coastal areas where it is caught fresh from the sea and served on the plate almost straight away. There are many places to try seafood in Scotland - as well as many restaurants and pubs serving delicious fresh seafood, there are more and more people setting up independent seafood shacks. Great examples include the Seafood Shack in Ullapool, and Kishorn seafood bar in Kishorn. Seafood to go – the dream! The west coast is known for its outstanding seafood; read all about it in our helpful guide to the west coast.
Scotch whisky (whisky distilled in Scotland)
This is also a big player when it comes to Scottish food and drink and is a speciality tipple which thousands come to experience for themselves. Whilst whisky is available to buy throughout the world, there is nothing quite like coming to taste it in Scotland where it has been distilled for hundreds of years. Most distilleries are open to the public to come and find out about the process of distilling and enjoy guided tasting sessions. To find out a bit more about some of the best distilleries to visit, check out our guide on the best Isle of Skye distilleries.
Stay in a Scottish holiday cottage and sample Scottish food
We have a great selection ofholiday holiday cottages throughout Scotland perfectly placed to enjoy the Scottish food scene, whether that be in a remote location by the sea where the seafood is second to none, or in a local village where bakeries, pubs and restaurants can serve all the traditional dishes for every night of the week.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.