Scotland serves up some of the tastiest food in the world. Our natural larder has the freshest fruit and vegetables, fish and meat and talented chefs across the country create award winning dishes that rival the best in the world. Scottish snacks are often passed through the generations, taught by your grannie when you were wee. Other snacks are modern creations, experimental and loved by the locals. Recipes for snacks such as shortbread and tablet often vary slightly from family to family and competition is fierce when it comes to who’s is best. Regional snacks such as Arran Cheese and the Arbroath Smokie are only produced is the area in which they are named after. Although they are often sold across the country if you happen to be in the area they are made you are in for a real treat if you can watch them being made or take a tour. These Scottish snacks are a mixture of traditional and new and I encourage you to sample some while you are visiting Scotland. You won’t regret it, well perhaps the mars bar...
Soft, fluffy marshmallow encased in a delicate layer of milk chocolate, sitting on a crumbly biscuit base, Tunnocks teacakes are undoubtably one of Scotland's most popular sweet snacks. The Tunnocks family began business way back in 1890 and now have a wonderful factory in Uddingston, 7 miles south-east of Glasgow. You can book a tour of the factory but it's an extremely popular tour and is often booked out years in advance. Their website is fantastic, there is a fun range of merchandise and games you can play too.
Potato scones, or tattie scones as they are often called, are triangular shaped and mostly ate as part of a traditional Scottish fry up. If you are feeling peckish when you are busy exploring you could stop at a local cafe and ask for a tattie scone roll, it goes amazingly well with a fried egg or haggis. They are usually made with a combination of potato, salt, butter and flour and are very simple to cook. Just mash together the cooked potatoes with the other ingredients, roll the mixture out flat, cut into triangles, and fry gently.
This sweet treat may be so sugary it'll rot your teeth but its crumble, gritty texture and melt-in-the-middle centre is addictive. There aren't many ingredients, only caster sugar, milk, butter and condensed milk but it's the cooking process that's the tricky part. If you get it right it is heavenly, if you don't get the temperature right it'll be an unmitigated disaster. When you are in Scotland you'll often find a little square of tablet served after your meal with your tea or coffee, or perhaps in your hotel room when you check in. The best tablet you'll find is in small cafes or shops where the owner hand-makes it themselves.
The scotch pie is a small circular meat pie with with a tasty crust that's usually served and eaten straight from the paper bag the bakery put it in. They are lovely with a splash of 'broon sauce' and popular at football matches, along with a pint. The meat is usually minced lamb and the pie is served hot. It's ideal if you are driving and feel peckish but don't want to stop for a sit down meal. Find a little bakery, pop in for a pie and eat it on your way.
Haggis can be served in many ways but if you are looking for a Scottish snack pop into a local cafe and ask for a haggis roll. It goes well with a tattie scone and some ‘broon’ sauce. It’s a little spicy and very filling but what it contains is not for delicate ears. It contains a lovely mixture of sheep’s heart, lungs and liver, mixed with suet, oats and spices. If that’s enough to put you off there are some amazing vegetarian equivalents. It is also delicious with neeps and tatties (turnip and potatoes) as an evening meal. Haggis is the star of the show at any Burns’ Supper, where it is carried in on a platter, accompanied by a piper and an ‘Address to a haggis’ is read by the host. It can also be found at most Highland Games in the form of one of the games, Haggis hurling.
Also known as square sausage or slice sausage. This one puzzles a lot of people. It's a sausage, but it's square. What I like most is the fact it fits much better on a roll and doesn't roll off like a link sausage. Usually made with minced meat and spices it's another amazing filling for a roll on the go.
This fish is traditionally made in the town of Arbroath, in Angus. Two fish are tied together by the tail and hung upside down on a wooden steak, balanced over a wooden barrel. They are then covered by Hessian sacks until they are lightly smoked and deliciously flaky. The bones are skillfully removed in front of you before the fish is wrapped in white paper and handed over. You can usually buy an Arbroath smokie from farmers markets across the country. You will know they are on offer by the smoky smell wafting from the stall, which can often be smelt all around the town.
'Geez a bru' is a request you may hear in cafes and shops across Scotland. What they want to buy is a can or bottle of Scotland's favourite drink, Irn Bru. Made from a secret recipe, including 32 two mysterious flavours, Irn Bru was first sold in Scotland in 1901. Robin Barr, the chairman, retired in 2009 and handed the precious recipe to his daughter, ensuring the continuation of this famous drink for years to come. The bright orange and blue branding is immediately recognisable.
Mackie's of Scotland crisps
These fantastic crisps can be found in almost all of the big supermarkets. They are produced in Perthshire and include the famous 'Haggis and cracked black pepper' flavour. Grab a bag before you begin your journey for the perfect car snack.
Edinburgh Rock is the stuff of childhood dreams. It evokes happy memories of racing to the sweet shop with my sister, when we were spending the day in Edinburgh. Unlike Blackpool Rock, which is the texture of a hard boiled sweet this rock has a crumbly, chalky texture. The long sticks are pastel coloured and come in box of 6. Flavours include Irn Bru, rhubarb and peppermint. You can buy the rock in Edinburgh and also in tourist shops and sweet shops across the country.
Light, crumbly and buttery the ‘shortie’ is traditionally eaten at Hogmanay (New Year), when it’s brought by the ‘first footer’. It’s so popular now though that it’s eaten all year round and goes amazingly well with a cup of tea. It’s another recipe with very simple ingredients and one that is passed down through grandparents to their children and then to their children and so on. The main ingredients are butter, sugar and oat flour and it’s tradionally cut into a circle with each slice cut into a triangle, like a cake or a pizza. These triangles are called Petticoat Tails which were apparently favoured by Mary Queen of Scots. You can also buy circular biscuits called shortbread rounds or thick fingers of shortbread. If you have the opportunity to sample some homemade shortbread it’ll be love at first sight. If not you can buy boxes of shortbread from most supermarkets and food shops.
Deep fried Mars bar
So the Mars Bar may not be Scottish but covering it in batter and deep frying it in oil certainly is. This fat-laden delicacy was first dreamt up by the Carron Fish Bar in Stonehaven in 1992 and was hailed as a symbol of Scotland's unhealthy diet. It took off though and is still popular now. I would recommend buying one to share, it's a tad sickly, as you can imagine.
The Abernethy biscuit was created by a baker after Doctor John Abernethy suggested it, as an aid to the digestive system. It is a cross between shortbread and an all butter biscuit and has added caraway seeds, which help prevent flatulence! They are still produced today, in on the Orkney Islands, Edinburgh, the Isle of Lewis and the Shetland Islands. You can buy them in supermarkets too.
I first tasted Arran cheese at a lovely B&B on Arran when it was served to us on a tea trolley for supper, with oatcakes, grapes and shortbread. I fell for this cheese in a big way and have bought it any time I could find it ever since. We went to the shop in Brodick the next day and bought quite a few to take home. The small farm on the island began flavouring cheddar 15 years ago and it’s now hugely popular. Flavours include oak smoked, whisky, garlic and black peppercorn. If you find this cheese buy a handmade loaf of bread, tear sections off and have it with a slice of the cheese, delicious.
Stornaway Black Pudding
This black pudding is one of the best in the world and has won award after award. Nothing much pleases me more than staying in a B&B or guest house and discovering Stornaway black pudding on the breakfast menu. It’s crumbly texture is down to the use of Scottish oats and the taste is unlike any other black pudding I’ve tasted. It is only produced in Stornoway, the capital of Lewis and Harris, in the Outer Hebrides, but you’ll find it in supermarkets, farm shops and farmers markets across the country.
Cream o Galloway Ice Cream
This delicious ice cream is created at Rainton Farm in Dumfries and Galloway. The farm is ethical and organic and originally made cheese from their herd of happy cows in the 1920’s. When profits drops they decided to expand into ice cream and it was a fabulous decision because it’s some of the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted. The farm went fully organic in 1993 and the ice cream was launched a year later at the Royal Highland Show. There are now 18 flavours including Real raspberry, salted caramel, real vanilla, rum and raisin and whisky, honey and oatmeal. If you are in the area the farm is a fantastic place to visit with lots for the kids to do and the opportunity to meet the cows and see the process.
Have you tried some Scottish snacks? Which is your favourite? Or do you have a snack you love from your home country? Let me know in the comments below.
Researching a trip is always a fun part of the planning process. Gathering information, learning the history and swatting up of must-visit attractions keeps the excitement alive during the long wait until you finally get to travel. These Scotland travel tips will help you with planning your perfect trip and ensure you get the best out of your visit to this beautiful country.
1. Scotland is a country and is part of the United Kingdom, along with England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
2. There are now almost 5.5 million people living in Scotland (2019), which is a record number
3. The official currency of Scotland is GBP (Great British Pound)
4. Scotland covers over 30,000 square miles.
5. Scotland's national animal is a unicorn. That's right, we are magic.
6. Scotland national dish is the haggis. I won't say what's in it. If you are a vegetarian or vegan there are some pretty delicious alternatives.
7. Scotland's national drink is none other than Whisky. Irn Bru is also pretty famous and I highly recommend trying it.
The first time driving in any new country is daunting. Even the thought, in the lead up to the first drive, can be scary. Driving in Scotland doesn’t need to be intimidating though. In this article, I hope to put your mind at ease with all the information you’ll need. Hiring a car and driving in Scotland means you can get off the beaten track, explore areas which, if you travel by public transport, you wouldn’t be able to reach. It gives you greater flexibility and allows you to stop off for a pretty view, a toilet break or a cuppa whenever you want.
Over the years I’ve been asked so many questions about driving in Scotland and I’ll answer them below, so when you arrive in this gorgeous country you are equipped with all the knowledge you need to really enjoy exploring by car.
Quick (but important) note - There is no point hiring a car while you are in Edinburgh or Glasgow. The streets are busy and parking is expensive, that's if you can find a space. Think about hiring a car when you are leaving the city instead.