Ah, yes. Travel is all about the sites you see, the people you meet, and most importantly: the food. When I reached out to Visit Scotland for ideas on where to visit, and specifically where to dine, they came back with an amazing group of experiences. Naturally, I wanted to try all of them. On our first full day in Edinburgh, we started our evening off with a gin distillery tour, and then made our way to Restaurant Mark Greenaway for an elevated dining experience just steps from some of the most popular sites in the city, but far enough removed that it wasn’t overrun with other tourists. If you don’t know Chef Mark Greenaway, it’s worth noting he was the only chef in Scotland to be newly awarded 3 AA Rosettes for Culinary Excellence back in 2012 – and continues to pay homage to Scottish tradition by using locally-sourced ingredients. If you have a bit of a sweet tooth, you’re in for a treat, as he’s known for some of the most inventive desserts in the country.
The following morning, we made our way north. This was my first taste of driving on the highway in Scotland (on the left side of the road – gah), so I was a bit nervous, but once we were out of the city it was smooth sailing. Our first stop on our road trip was in Pitlochry; only a few hours north. Pitlochry is a great spot if you like to go hiking or spend time outdoors. We had great intentions to go hiking, but jet lag unfortunately got the best of us. There’s also a few castles within striking distance that you can explore – most notable being Blair Castle.
A night or two at the Fonab Castle Hotel is also an absolute must – especially if you’re looking for a tasty and traditional Scottish dining experience. The restaurant on-site, Sandeman’s, has a six-course dinner that will knock your socks off. With twists on all the classics, impeccable wine pairings, and a sommelier that will leave you laughing throughout the whole meal – it is truly a dinner to remember. Being with my mom at the table, getting to share this uber-foodie experience, was particularly special to me. She always taught me to spend money on two things: travel and good food, so the entire meal really felt like an homage to my upbringing (love ya mom!). In the end, I’m glad I took her sound advice ;).
The next day, the adventure continued! Heading further north, you can’t miss Inverness. For all you scotch whiskey lovers, there are a gazillion distilleries in the area, making this the perfect spot to post up for a night or two. The town sits on the River Ness ( I bet you can guess who’s been rumored to swim through those waters), and really is the quintessential European town. Restaurants and music venues line the river, providing the perfect backdrop to some family-style inspired fare. We stopped into The Mustard Seed for a relaxed and tasty dinner. Their cuisine features a marriage of Scottish and French fare, boasting large portions, and an amazing view of the river. Head in any direction a block or two and you’ll find live music to take you into your evening. A head’s up – if you are driving into town, parking is a little tricky. Be prepared to circle around a few times before you find a spot.
Did someone say food safari?! Why, yes, yes they did. While hunting vests and binoculars sound fun on a trip riding through the Sahara – a safari of the culinary persuasion in Edinburgh was right up my alley. My mom and I were paired up with a local who works with Edinburgh Food Safari; she toured us around a few neighborhoods to taste everything from vegetarian haggis to locally made gin, handmade marshmallows, and tea with scones and clotted cream (plus a homemade lemon custard that was too good for words). This tour isn’t just about the food though; your guide has amazing knowledge about the city, provides spirited conversation on any topic you can imagine, and ours even helped us crash the beginning of a wedding ceremony! I swear to god the father of the bride invited us into the church for the whole kit and caboodle!! If only I wasn’t wearing jeans that day… If you haven’t guessed yet, this was hands down this was one of my favorite experiences the entire trip, and I highly recommend checking them out if you’re in Edinburgh.
To sum it up – Scotland isn’t just haggis, salmon, and scotch (although there is a lot of that), but rather a burgeoning foodie destination with tastes fit for every palette. If you have any questions on what to eat and where – drop them in the comments, and I’ll be more than happy to answer them!