Good food is part and parcel of any holiday experience. Some people enjoy local produce such as herbs and ingredients which give a dish this distinctive taste different from the cuisine in one’s own home country. Others are intrigued by novel ways of food preparation and might try something new like unfamiliar side dishes or they simply treat themselves to the luxury experience of a high-quality dinner. But the utmost culinary delight can be found in a completely new dining experience with new tastes and aromas presented in pleasingly creative ways. Try a tasting menu in Scotland and you will know what I mean!
Scotland and Scottish chefs have worked hard over the past decade in order to disperse some visitors’ preconception that a menu on the British Isles lists only fish and chips as a main course. Steak lovers should try an Aberdeen Angus steak! If you like Stornoway Black Pudding, you do not have to travel to the Outer Hebrides to try it. If you enjoy different kinds of cheeses, go to the Isle of Mull and visit a cheese-maker. If you are into fish, check out the Arbroath Smokies on the east coast. All the hotels mentioned have a range of choices for vegetarians and vegans and can, of course, cater for particular diets usually with two or three options on the menu. But before you start travelling, let me share with you my top five culinary delights and superb dining experiences in Scotland.
Isle of Eriska Restaurant (1 Michelin star)
The Isle of Eriska Restaurant is part of the top-class Isle of Eriska Hotel & Spa which sits on its own private island off the west coast of Scotland. There is a wide variety of accommodation available, from luxury bedrooms in the main house and garden cottages for families to Spa Suites and Hilltop Reserves overlooking Loch Linnhe, with hot tubs. The restaurant at the Isle of Eriska welcomes non-residents for dinner.
The fine-dining restaurant has four different rooms, including the butler’s pantry and the conservatory, where guests can enjoy a gourmet experience with a choice of 3-course à la carte dinners. The chefs use natural flavours and seasonal ingredients for their dishes on the Isle of Eriska’s menu which is inspired by the surrounding environment. A comprehensive wine list and an outstanding cheese board completes each delicious dinner. If guests prefer more informal dining, they can opt for the brasserie-style Deck Bar in the evening or indulge in a cream or champagne tea in the afternoon.
Crossbasket Castle (Albert & Michel Roux Jr Restaurant)
Crossbasket Castle is not only a hidden treasure nestling in beautiful grounds just outside the city of Glasgow, but is also a must-visit destination for foodies looking for a tranquil getaway. The Castle, which dates back to the 17th century, has been sensitively renovated to become one of Scotland’s most luxurious hotels, with a total of just nine breath-taking bedrooms, each decorated in classic, but individually crafted style.
Guests dine in the Castle’s opulent surroundings. The restaurant itself was originally overseen by legendary French chef Albert Roux, and it has now been passed on within the culinary dynasty to his son Michel Roux Jr. who adds a touch of creative flair to each dish which showcases fare from Scotland’s renowned natural larder. Surrounded by gold leaf and opulent antiques, the restaurant offers a culinary experience of a bygone era which does not need to be confined to the Baillie dining room. There are lots of luxurious spots within the hotel that can provide an intimate corner, with very private dining.
The Airds Hotel & Restaurant (3 AA rosettes)
The Airds Hotel is a family-owned boutique hotel on the west coast with breath-taking views of the Morvern mountains towering over Loch Linnhe. Apart from various hotel awards (“Good Hotel Guide” and “Hotel Awards Scotland”) it has also been named the Best Fine-Dining Restaurant 2020 by Luxury Life Awards. For guests looking for some extra privacy there are also two luxurious holiday cottages to rent right next to the hotel so that enjoyable dining experiences will not be missed.
The menus of the 3 AA Rosette loch-view restaurant in the Airds Hotel feature the best of Scottish seafood from the sea almost on its doorstep and a wealth of local ingredients from the countryside of Argyll. Guests can choose between a 5-course à la carte or a 7-course tasting menu complemented by a notable wine list. There are also special gourmet breaks available where guests will find on their plate the best seafood delivered daily by local fishermen and passionately prepared by the Head Chef as part of a unique seafood tasting menu in a candlelit atmosphere.
Cameron House on Loch Lomond (wide range of dining opportunities)
Set within 400 acres of beautiful Scottish countryside, Cameron House is a 17th century Baronial mansion on the world-famous bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. Apart from breathtaking views over the loch, the hotel is also a gateway to the Scottish Highlands and the west coast. Guests can choose from suites with loch-view balconies, an award-winning spa with a rooftop infinity pool, an 18-hole championship golf course, a state-of-the-art leisure club and a range of impressive restaurants and bars.
Guests can embark on a journey of culinary delight when visiting or staying at Cameron House. Tamburrini & Wishart is their brand-new fine dining restaurant with innovative cooking and seasonal produce at its best. Cameron Grill has always been at the heart of this hotel and still is. There is the Boat House for more casual loch-side dining. And there is the Clubhouse at Cameron where golfers on the Carrick Course or guests of the Cameron Spa can enjoy perfect dining with family and friends in a relaxed atmosphere. Finally, the Great Scots Bar, the Tavern, the Lobby Bar, the Café Spa and the Boat House Bar await their guests for pre- and post-dinner drinks.
House of Bruar (wide selection of Scottish delicatessen from artisan producers)
Scotland is home to some of the finest food in the world and the House of Bruar Food Hall and Delicatessen is a heaven for UK and international foodies. With a firm focus on locally sourced goods from small, artisan producers, in The Butchery there is everything from gourmet smoked salmon to the finest quality local beef and game in season. If visitors are looking for more traditional Scottish delicacies, they will find a large range of cheeses, patés and award-winning pies along with a tempting selection of sweet and savoury treats in The Delicatessen.
Some of these hotels can be nicely combined in a Scottish ultra-luxurious and culinary holiday. For example, 5-star accommodation in the Greater Glasgow area – either at Crossbasket Castle south of Glasgow or at Cameron House on the banks of Loch Lomond, north of the city – fits in perfectly with a few nights in the Western Highlands where customers can choose between the Isle of Eriska Hotel on its own private island or the Airds Hotel in a similarly remote location almost at the end of a little winding road north of Oban.
The House of Bruar is more of a destination on its own, because it does not offer accommodation. It is easily reached, just off the A9 north of Pitlochry on the road from Edinburgh and Glasgow to Inverness, capital of the Highlands. By touring Scotland between Glasgow, the west coast and the Heart of Scotland in Highland Perthshire in a chauffeur-driven limousine, travellers can enjoy the following attractions and additional activities:
– Oban/West coast (Isle of Eriska Hotel): Oban Distillery Secrets Tour (classic malt), scenic flights along the Scottish west coast from Oban Airport at North Connel, day cruise to Mull, Iona and Staffa
– Glasgow (Crossbasket Castle): culinary city tour of Glasgow, visit to Bothwell Castle (Edward I of England), Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, Pollok House (a treasure house of Scottish and international art) or the Riverside Museum, a cornucopia of all kinds of vintage vehicles
– Glencoe/Fort William (Airds Hotel): Jacobite Steam Train and Glenfinnan Viaduct (Harry Potter), boat trip to Castle Stalker, Glencoe (Skyfall/Bond), Ben Nevis (highest mountain in the UK)
– Loch Lomond (Cameron House): Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, champagne cruises on Loch Lomond, seaplane trips along Scotland’s west coast, segway safaris
– Pitlochry/Heart of Scotland (House of Bruar): visit to Blair Castle & Gardens, 4×4 off-road experience, salmon fishing on the River Tay, The Queen’s View (Queen Victoria), Pitlochry Festival Theatre
Dorothy Welsh is the CEO of Luxury Scotland. Luxury Scotland offers true Scottish hospitality, culinary delights and unique experiences.