Iconic Scottish food and drink

It’s fair to say that British cuisine doesn’t have a great reputation around the world, but Scottish food is something quite distinct; it’s steeped in tradition and has developed over the centuries from an abundance of natural resources. Visitors should not miss out on sampling it for themselves.


Although bacon and eggs still have their place, traditional Scottish breakfasts include many distinctive elements. There’s porridge, of course—traditionally served salted—or brose, which is a similar dish made with water rather than milk.

There’s clootie dumpling, fruity yet with a savory edge, which is sliced and fried. Alongside black pudding comes white pudding, made with pork, suet and oats and flavored with cumin. Sausages are square and fried potato scones help to mop up the juices. Such meals were a good staple for people going out to work long hours in the hills.

Main meals


Haggis on a platter

There is no more famously Scottish dish than haggis, which is not, despite the legend, an animal with legs that are shorter on one side due to its habit of running round hills, but is a dish made with offcuts, offal and the ubiquitous oats, like a plump sausage.

It’s spicy and delicious, often served with neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes) in a whisky sauce, while in Glasgow it is sometimes deep-fried.

As a maritime nation, Scotland serves a lot of fresh fish. Fish and chips are a favorite in Edinburgh, and Cullen skink—a soup made with haddock, potatoes and onions—is served nationwide. Salmon, fresh or smoked, is available at low prices and goes especially well with local soft cheese.

Game on

Scotland’s hills and forests abound with game and the chefs take full advantage of the supply.

Venison, pheasant, grouse and quail are widely available, both roasted and in paté form. Farm animals have rich pasturelands and the Aberdeen Angus cattle that graze the northern hills make for delicious steaks.

Sweets and treats

Although many countries claim shortbread as a national dish, Scotland does it particularly well. It’s also well worth hunting down Scottish tablet (a sort of dry, brittle fudge) and salted taffy (toffee).

A wee (small) drink

Every visitor to Scotland knows about the whisky, or water of life (uisge beatha), which dates back at least 500 years. A Scottish whisky glass traditionally holds no water or ice, as complex flavors should be enjoyed directly, whether the drinker opts for a smoky, peaty island dram or something softer from the lowlands, with caramel tones. Once made in hidden stills and smuggled cross-country, whisky is now a £4.3bn industry.

Scotland’s other national drink (the two are sometimes united in a ‘double national’) is Irn Bru, first developed in 1901 and still made to a secret recipe, said (tongue in cheek) to contain girders! Bright orange in color, it has been described by outsiders as tasting like bubblegum, and it’s a famous hangover cure.

Scotland also has some impressive real ale, including Fraoch, with a heather flavor, and Grozet, with gooseberries.

Where to find it

Edinburgh restaurants like The Ship on the Shore, Howie’s and Dubh Prais are excellent choices for those wanting to savor traditional Scottish food. With so much to choose from, those visitors can look forward to a treat.

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