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Scottish Highlands’ best food & drink

  • Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

Last updated: 07 April, 2024

Contrary to cliched opinion, Scots don’t live on haggis (offal, onion and oatmeal encased sausage-like in a sheep’s stomach), neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes) – or deep-fried Mars Bars.

More and more chefs are celebrating the local produce with inventive modern Scottish cuisine alongside a growing field-to-fork movement. It’s all about provenance and food miles these days and the Scottish Highlands’ rich natural larder fits perfectly with this ethos.

The hills are home to red deer (for wild venison), Highland ‘coos’ (cows, for superb quality beef, notably Aberdeen Angus) and heather-grazed lamb; its rushing rivers and deep lochs are brimming with brown trout and salmon. Shellfish is another highlight from Loch Fyne oysters to hand-dived scallops off the west coast, rope-grown mussels, crab and crayfish.

The landscape is peppered with artisan smokehouses and charcuterie-makers, coffee roasters – and distilleries.

Once you’ve sampled the inventive tasting menus inspired by the fresh local produce what better way to end the evening than with a dram? The Highlands is whisky country and home to some of the most famous distilleries in the world such as Glenfiddich and the Glenlivet.

What to try

Smoked salmon, smoked venison and smoked trout are melt-in-the-mouth local specialities. You can still find tiny traditional smokehouses dotted around the Highlands.

A whisky distillery or two should be on your list – if not a bucolic meander along Speyside’s Malt Whisky Trail. But there are also plenty of gin distilleries to dip into as well – Scotland even has its own Gin Trail. The Highlands is home to the first climate-positive gin and vodka produced by Arbikie Distillery made from peas on the north-east coast and the first Scottish absinthe producer, Lost Loch Distillery, on the eastern edge of the Cairngorms.

Also see Lucy’s round-up of traditional Scottish foods you must try in Scotland.

Who to go with: tour operators

8
  • Scone, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

This annual three-day bash held in the rolling green grounds of Scone Palace gives you a real flavour of Scotland and unique Scottish traditions.

A great day out for traditional sports enthusiasts and families, pack a picnic and join the crowds watching the gundog and sheepdog displays, falconry, fishing, pipe bands, tug-of-war, sheep racing, terrier racing and stunt-riders. There are also cookery demos in the marquees and stalls to browse stocked with hunting, shooting and fishing paraphernalia.

Good for age: 8+

Duration: 3 days

When: End of June

Freq: annually

  • Speyside, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

Two drams of whisky with ice on a wooden barrel - ready for tatings

Bucket List Experience

Malt Whisky Trail

The lush countryside of Speyside is home to more than half of Scotland’s malt whisky distilleries, and the only malt whisky trail in the world.

The eight on the trail include bijoux Benromach, Glenfiddich (home to the most popular whisky in the world), Cardhu (a distillery pioneered by a woman) and The Glenlivet (the first licensed distillery in Scotland). The Glen Grant distillery, founded in 1840, has a beautiful Victorian garden threaded with paths and woodland walks and a small waterfall – a lovely place to meander. One of the eight – the Dallas Dhu distillery – is a historic distillery and is not operational.

There are tastings and insights into each distillery’s unique blend, plus the Speyside Cooperage where you can watch the ancient art of barrel-making.

Min age 18

Good for age: 18+

The Oyster Shed

  • Isle of Skye, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

The Oyster Shed

Experience

This little shack up a bumpy track near Talisker Distillery is the place to go for freshly shucked oysters straight from the oyster farm in tidal Loch Harport. It’s rough and ready with a lean-to and picnic tables and a sea-loch-view to die for.

Good for age: 18+

Loch Bay Restaurant

  • Isle of Skye , Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

Loch Bay Restaurant

Experience

Skye punches above its weight in terms of foodie enclaves and chef Michael Smith’s Scottish seafood restaurant in the village of Stein on the Waternish peninsula – is one of the Michelin-starred highlights.

Good for age: 18+

The Barn

  • Aviemore, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

The Barn

Experience

On the edge of Aviemore in the Cairngorms the rustic-chic Rothiemurchus Estate farm shop, cafe and deli sells beef and venison from their farm along with a range of local artisan produce – such as Inshriach gin.

Good for age: 18+

Cooking classes at Ballintaggart Farm

  • Pitlochry, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

Cooking classes at Ballintaggart Farm

Experience

This foodie bolt-hole offers field-to-fork cookery classes in Highland Perthshire themed around ‘seasonal suppers’, ‘pickling, preserving and fermenting’ and ‘fire and foraging’. You can stay over in one of 12 luxury bedrooms, or book into the Grandtully Hotel, their sleek sister property nearby.

Adult price: £25

Good for age: 13+

Duration: 5 hours

When: Selected dates

Freq: Selected dates

Kinloch Lodge

  • Isle of Skye, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

Exterior of front of Kinloch Lodge

Experience

This family-run, manor house hotel offers a combination of stylish comfort and warm hospitality from owner Isabel. If you don’t stay, then go for the outstanding gourmet food – using fresh local ingredients and traditional Highland recipes. There’s a whisky bar with over 120 different bottles.

Good for age: 18+

Three Chimneys

  • Isle of Skye, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

Three Chimneys

Experience

Foodies have been making a pilgrimage to this legendary restaurant, founded by Scottish food heroes, Shirley and Eddie Spear, for over three decades for its famous eight-course tasting menu. There are comfy bedrooms if you want to stay.

Adult price: £50

Good for age: 18+

Logistics

Price: Free
Minimum age: 0
Age suitable: 18+
When: All year around
Duration: -