Scotland trip report (very long) [Edinburgh], [Glasgow], [Glencoe], [Isle of Skye]

Hello, I mainly post on the Ontario boards and my wife and I just spent 12 days in Scotland. We started in Edinburgh, went to the Glencoe/Fort William area, then on to Isle of Skye, and finished in Glasgow. We looked at what was posted here and also referred to various other websites for suggestions. Our focus was on things Scottish: signature dishes, local ingredients. Here is our report:

EDINBURGH
Arriving in the morning with little sleep, we stumbled our way over to The Scran & Scallie. This gastropub was a fine start, with excellent food and service. We were particularly impressed by:

  • haggis (fried rounds), neeps (pickled and puréed) and tatties (crisps)
  • a special of girolles on toast with garlic, butter, fried egg, pancetta, shallots, mushroom paté, and capers
  • another special of mackerel on heritage tomatoes (fresh and green pickled), avocado purée, basil, tomato vinaigrette , red onion chutney [picture below].
  • Scran and Scallie fish pie - lightly cooked salmon, smoked haddock, hake, coldwater shrimp in a Pernod cream sauce covered with creamy mashed potatoes

We downed this all with the first of several Thistly Cross ciders - fragrant and slightly sweet.

Dinner was at The Gardener’s Cottage, a lovely little house set in a park. You are seated at long tables with other diners and treated to a 7-course set menu that emphasizes seasonal Scottish ingredients. A few highlights included:

  • Dunbar crab (with dill mayo) and garden herb tart, with pickled radish, fennel, mint - lovely, very light on the mayo, very crisp and snappy pastry shell.
  • North Sea cod with lobster sauce, roasted garden vegetables (juicy chunks of zucchini, eggplant, tomato), pickled radish and carrots, lobster bisque sauce with lemongrass (and a touch of coconut), pea shoots, seaweed flakes. [picture below]
  • Venison loin - three slices of soft almost liver-flavoured venison, butternut squash purée, red wine jus, plum sauce, spinach and chicory, slice of plum marinated in red wine.

The wine pairings were also very impressive, particularly the:

  • Rioja Blanco Crianza, Hacienda Grimón, Spain (Viura grapes) - smooth, with definite banana and some vanilla.
  • Saperavi, ORGO, Khaketi, Georgia - cherry, blackcurrant, leather, dark chocolate.
  • Petit Manseng Doux “Le Luy”, Cabidos, Bearn, France - honey, pineapple, and gorgeous.

Feeling the need for a “full Scottish breakfast”, we checked out the version at the New Waverly location of Loudons, which was just near our Airbnb. Despite the somewhat generic chainlike appearance, the food was quite tasty. The Scottish breakfast [picture below] included fried egg, potato scone, grilled tomato, grilled portobello mushroom cap, two slices of salty back bacon, two large but tasty pork sausages, a slice of black pudding, a slice of haggis, and non-sweet tomato sauce baked beans. I’m sure it was a day’s worth of calories and we didn’t eat again until dinner.

For dinner, we tried the Whiski Rooms for more classic takes on Scottish standards. Their cullen skink was a lightly creamy combo of smoked haddock, leeks, and potatoes. The Scotch egg was gigantic and tasty. The steak pie featured tender, moist meat and a huge flakey crust. And the cranachan was a pleasant blend of oats, raspberries, and whipped cream (the whisky was not very detectable). We went with some of the whisky pairings, including the Glendronach 12 year-old (stewed fruit, spices) and the Dalmore 12 year-old, (sherry notes).

GLENCOE/FORT WILLIAM

The recurrent rain made the Kingshouse Hotel a great place to stop for either lunch or a drink. Although service was scattered (we needed to remind our server of drink orders; we were brought a wrong dish), the food was good (venison burger and fries) to very good (ham, pistachio, and pickled carrot terrine with sticky fig relish, oatcakes) and the drink selection was great: local Nc’Nean organic single malt (apricoty), Nc’Nean botanical spirit (lovely herbal notes).

One of our dinners landed us at the Clachaig Inn, a pub where the food exceeded the casual surroundings. Oakey smoked salmon oatcakes was a fine starter, as was the Stornoway black pudding with sweet back bacon, very sweet chutney, and lovely extra-cooked oatcakes. The real hit was the game pie [picture below]: giant square of flaky pastry over a rich blackberry-infused stew of mainly venison, with bits of rabbit, pheasant, duck. This was accompanied by perfect potatoes and a buttery root vegetable mash.

Places were packed and we couldn’t get a table at Lochleven Seafood Cafe and Ben Nevis Inn. So we ended up at the Ben Nevis (bar) in Fort William. This was fine, but perhaps our least engaging meal: creamy cullen skink, tasty steak pie, and overcooked and underseasoned salmon filet.

ISLE OF SKYE

The Oyster Shed is tough to park at and isn’t open for dinner, but serves up delicious fresh seafood to eat at picnic benches and barrel tops. Local oysters were large and pleasantly seaweedy. Lobster soup was smooth and tasty. Grilled langoustines [photo below] were sweet and came in a garlic butter sauce. Smoked kipper fillets were quite salty and nicely smoked. In Broadford, the Shellfish Shack served great sandwiches, including hot smoked salmon and squat lobster (sweet little tails, like crayfish).

Claymore Restaurant is a pleasant, family friendly restaurant that specializes in local seafood (they also run Shellfish Shack). Mussels were in a salty and delicious white wine broth, served with lovely soda bread. Sweet scallops came with celeriac puree, samphire, black pudding, and salad. The seafood platter for one [photo below] featured a giant sweet oyster, more mussels, 2 langoustines, squat lobsters, 2 scallops, and a large crab claw - all very fresh. Sticky toffee pudding was more like cake than pudding, but was still pleasant enough.

Breakfasts were mainly fresh fruit from the Co-op. We did enjoy the flakey sausage roll and chili chicken roll from MacKenzie’s Bakery in Portree. The Skeabost Hotel also had a decent breakfast.

One of our best dinners was at the Stein Inn. The atmosphere is a warm pub, with lots of modern art adorning the walls. Water is served in fish-shaped jugs that “glug” loudly and amusingly. And the food was excellent, surprising us with the quality and extra touches:

  • Peat local smoked fish: supple Skye peat-smoked salmon, sweet pickled Orkney herring, moist smoked mackerel, delicious smoked Orkney mussels, accompanied by a delightful salad.
  • Wild local pheasant [photo below], pan fried with a chimichurri jus, fried tarragon, chestnuts, wild foraged mushrooms, radicchio, and juniper berries - really flavourful.
  • Whole Mallaig sea bass marinated with fresh rosemary, grilled with butter, parsley and lemon, served with Cornish buttered new potatoes, summer mint vegetables (broccolini, sunchoke, slice of fennel head), saffron, tarragon lemon butter, capers, crispy tarragon - delicate moist fish and great variety of vegetables.
  • Wild local venison haunch steak served with fries, Skye green salad with local mint and peaches, red wine-whisky-prune jus, raw kimchi, herb butter, crispy tarragon - rich and tender meat with almost too many accompaniments.
  • Sticky toffee pudding - very traditional and delicious version with treacle, prunes, dates.

Our fanciest dinner was at the Edinbane Inn. This was a 10-course tasting menu affair, hyper-focused on local ingredients (down to who fished/foraged for them). Flavours and presentations were at the level of a Michelin one-star at least and the wine pairing was also superb. A few highlights:

  • A first course of raw scallop with kalamansi vinegar and kampot pepper in brick pastry; beef tartare with chanterelles and a cornflower in a light pastry; wild mushroom, green seaweed and scallop roe crackers; and an oyster emulsion for dipping.
  • Hand-dived Loch Greshornish scallop with smoked seaweed butter sauce and chopped cucumber
  • Carbost-landed monkfish [photo below] with fishbone and white wine sauce, fennel and green dollops of wild garlic emulsion on top, sliced green beans and some hazelnuts - firm and delicious.
  • Edinbane meadowsweet ice cream with almond sponge cake and local strawberries, with Isle of Mull cheddar and Orkney cream.

Drinks of note included:

  • Egy Kis, Furmint grape, Barta winery, Tokaji region, Hungary 2021 - very lovely, sweet and fruity and a little hint of bitterness.
  • Vitovska (probably Slovenian/Friuli grape), Edi Kante, Friuli Venezia Giulia, 2020 - kind of creamy lime, with a bit of grassiness.
  • ‘Elda’ Rosso, Schiava, Nusserhof, Alto Adige, 2013 - low to medium body, low tannins, high acid, smoky, mushrooms.
  • Dark Matter spiced rum from Aberdeenshire - cinnamon ginger cardamom, finishing of pear.

Further drinking occurred at a tasting at Talisker, including their lovely 10-year-old (peppery, orange) and their new Wilder Seas (spices, a little smoke, chocolate). And we had to drop into Spinnakers Bar at the Broadford Hotel to have Drambuie from the source.

GLASGOW

We had time for only a few meals in the Glasgow area. Catch Fish and Chips (West End location) made for a classic lunch that we hadn’t yet fit in on the trip. Both the haddock and monkfish were moist, perfectly cooked, and accompanied by tasty twice-cooked fries.

We had a lovely dinner at Ardnamurchan, a gastropub that featured crispy soy-marinated Barra squid with horseradish mayonnaise, pickled samphire and red chili salad; a very good version of haggis, neeps, and tatties; a delightful pan-seared cod with black pudding mash, samphire, scallop roe cream, and a lobster bisque sauce; and fabulous lamb shank on a Scotch broth pearl barley risotto, rosemary jus, kale and carrot crisps. They also had an excellent cheese board and some great whisky tastings, including of their own single malt (tropical fruit, honey, cinnamon).

Our fanciest meal was at Tamburrini and Wishart, a Michelin one-star, in the Cameron House resort on Loch Lomond. Although impressive overall, the menu and ingredients were actually less locally-driven compared with Edinbane Lodge above. There were also a few minor missteps, like the oversalting of the risotto and a somewhat tasteless gougère. Service was impeccable and the wine pairing was excellent. A few highlights:

  • Cured North Sea halibut (crispy skin, delicate, flavourful) with celeriac purée, oyster foam.
  • Burnside Estate roe deer [photo below], beetroot purée, slice of nashi pear with vanilla, strip of salsify with sourdough crumb and jus gras - melt-in-your-mouth meat with a chicken consommé jus.
  • Mille-feuille of Angus strawberry (both fresh in its own juice and as sorbet), milk sorbet, white chocolate chantilly - a fresh and light finish.

Wines of note included:

  • Domaine de la Madone, Fleurie, Beaujolais 2021 - definitely cherry and forest floor, maybe a hint of strawberry and violets.
  • Aligoté, Francois Carillon 1611, 2021 - a little oak, vanilla, coconut, lots of smooth lemon, then lemonade.
  • Shiraz from Barossa Valley, Australia, 2020, the Black Craft - black cherry, blackberry, anise, chocolate, quite young but the tannins are not harsh.
  • Pineau de Charentes, Le Colibri Charmant, Fanny Fouugerat - walnuts, honey, and floral
  • Alasia, Brachetto d’Acqui, 2022, Piedmont - smells of flowers, tastes of strawberries and cream.

We also had some fine coffee from The Good Coffee Cartel - Kainamui AA from Kenya. And The Pot Still was a great place to sample and get tutored in more whiskies, including Cu Bòcan Highland Single Malt, Creation #5 and Glen Scotia Campbeltown Malts Festival 2021 limited edition.

And that’s about it! Hope this provides useful info.

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Sending your report to my friends who are visiting Scotland this week! They are currently visiting the Isle of Skye.

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Talisker.

Good report. Thanks.

I’ve not been to the Scran & Scallie which is owned by Tom Kitchin but I’ve been to his flagship restaurant The Kitchin. A great champion of local produce.

I’ve went to the Wishart place before the major fire at the hotel closed it. I reckoned it would be due a star but hadnt realised that it had been awarded one. Also been to Wishart’s starred place in Edinburgh a few years back.

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Interesting. I have only had haggis twice and both times it consisted of part of a cow (sheep?) stomach lining wrapper that looked like a stuffed cabbage leaf around the inside filling of offal that was all chopped up and almost looked like bulgur wheat and it was around 5" long.
But I saw a “Haggis procession” on line where a piper precedes a guy carrying two enormous haggis that seem to have been made from the entire stomach, probably close to a foot long.
I did not see what the inside looked like.
I kind of liked the haggis and the black pudding but the leek dish made my sweat smell so foul for a couple days that my GF had me sleep on a couch. At least I think it was the leeks…

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