When my partner and I decided to rent a car and drive around Scotland on our honeymoon, we didn’t necessarily pick the place for its food. But, after being travel buddies for eight years, we also knew that having a few good meals was something that was important to us on vacation. The good news is, there’s plenty of good food in Scotland, even if you’re not interested in eating black pudding, haggis and venison. The bad news is, it’s expensive. This is in part due to the exchange rate (which was especially bad when we visited), but it’s made all the more evident because we are spoiled in Toronto for good, affordable food in pretty much every neighbourhood. That being said, we found our good Scottish meals—and here’s what we would recommend if you’re planning a trip yourself.
Keep reading for 7 of the best places to eat in Scotland!
Three Chimneys (Isle of Skye)
Our best meal was also our biggest splurge—this was the most amount of money we’ve ever spent on food. But Three Chimneys in Isle of Skye is luxe and delicious, so we have no regrets. Our evening started by arriving a bit too early to the restaurant, so we headed across the street to sit by the water until our reservation. And then the seals showed up and decided to be super cute and frolick in the water. So we were already feeling pretty good by the time we got our cocktails (mine, possibly the best gin and tonic I’ve ever had; I even ended up tracking down the gin and bringing a bottle home) and him, a local cider. You have your choice of two chef’s menus, one being slightly more elaborate and the other a three-course meal. We opted for the three-course meal (the couple next to us got the elaborate menu with wine pairings which looked amazing), and it was incredible. My bite of my husband’s lamb dish was perfection and my locally-sourced cod was melt-in-your-mouth good. Highly recommend—and arrive early to see if you can spot the seals.
Three Birds (Edinburgh)
Our last leg of the trip was in Edinburgh and by this point we’d had a lot of meat, and were sort of craving veggies. Three Birds was the perfect place to go. It has a menu that is very conscious of dietary restrictions—vegetarians, vegans and gluten-free folks would all be very happy here (though there is meat and fish on the menu if you’re a carnivore). The restaurant is great for sharing and the dishes are interesting and eclectic, there’s obviously a very creative chef at the helm. Our recommendation? Go in with a big appetite and try as much of the menu as you can.
Ox and Finch (Glasgow)
Our first location in Scotland was Glasgow, and I’m sorry to say we slept-walked through most of it because we were so jet-lagged. But, we did manage to have a great first night at Ox and Finch, which is also a great spot for sharing plates. The space and the menu is contemporary and our biggest dilemma was narrowing down our choices. In the end we opted for a few dishes that we knew we’d love and a few that were way more interesting, and we loved everything.
The Boatshed (Stornoway)
(Photo by @kirstendianne91)
In Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, everyone recommended we go to Digby Chick—but we didn’t make a reservation and so we lost out. The maître-de at the spot recommended a place down the street called The Boatshed and we had a great meal there instead. It was hearty (we both opted for pull-apart-tender roast and mashed potatoes) which was perfect after walking around in the wind by the water after a few hours. This is food that felt home-cooked and comforting.
Another two-course meal (there are plenty of deals like this in Scotland, especially if you opt for earlier seating times), this restaurant, Rocpool, covered a lot of ground. My appetizer was Italian-inspired and my main was a veggie and Mediterranean. It was a nicer spot (we were definitely underdressed after a casual day of sightseeing), but everything was delicious, fresh and (thanks to that early-bird two-course special) affordable.
The Witchery by the Castle (Edinburgh)
Although we didn’t get to eat here, we did wander down the sort-of-hidden laneway to check the space out—and it’s a bit of a secret garden in the bustling Edinburgh tourist area. If your vibe is more gothic and Harry Potter than modern and Scandi, this is the restaurant you want to check out. It’s luxurious for sure, but The Witchery is well-known and well-recommended as an Edinburgh staple. There’s set menus at work here, allowing you to taste local Scotland produce and protein for dinner—or you can opt for the popular afternoon tea. Either way, you’ll be doing it in one of the hotel’s two dining areas: aptly titled The Witchery (a baroque and opulent atmosphere) and The Secret Garden (a historic secluded terrace).
Bodega Taqueria (Edinburgh)
I could eat tacos every day, so it’s no surprise that as we were wandering around Edinburgh one afternoon I made us stop at a super cure taco place called Bodega. The menu changes often, and the bites are very delicious—don’t sleep on the veggie taco options either or the sides. This was the first time I’ve had scallion fries (scallions, deep fried) and they were delicious. This is definitely a casual spot with a great vibe. We went during the day, but at dinner this place fills up and becomes a go-to spot for food. As for the drinks menu, it’s BYOB—which is a major plus when you just want to spend all your money on tacos anyways.
(Story by Contributing Editor, Alexandra Donaldson)