We do the drink well, the food’s okay too!

When I was a small boy, Scotland wasn’t really a place for eating. The heavy Industrial heartland of Scotland had sort of forgotten about its amazing natural larder. As a mountainous country, surrounded with thousands of miles of coast, great food is all around us and we’re now starting to get really good at serving it up. There are lots of places in the cities where you can spend a lot of money. However, there are also lots of hidden gems, scattered away in some of Scotland’s most beautiful places, where you can enjoy some of the World’s best food, in stunning scenery. Here’s my top Ten. Not necessarily the most expensive, but certainly the ones that have left a mark on me. So, if you want to enjoy some pre-whisky dinner, here are some of our favourite places. We’ve made a few choices for drams but don’t take them too seriously.


The Island of Skye is a magical place and this amazing place is difficult to get to, but really worth the journey. It was at the forefront of Scotland’s food revolution and it’s still great. Jazz Singer Tony Bennett ate here and he thought it was some of the nicest food he’s ever had, anywhere. He probably eats quite well! It’s a Scottish exemplar. Fine food, amazing location and if you add a glass of the local Talisker 18 year old unchilfiltered whisky, possibly food heaven on earth. There’s also a rather nice aged Drambuie out now, you could give that a go, bearing in mind it’s Skye’s liqueur.


Situated in the hippest part of Scotland’s biggest city. This is the coolest restaurant in Glasgow at the moment. There’s a lot of ‘cool’ going on! It’s small and cramped but it has an amazing atmosphere and seafood, delivered directly from Scotland’s Islands. It’s just opened a bar called Crabshakk table 11, along the road, so, you can now have a drink as well as eat with the coolest people in the West of Scotland. Lots of shellfish, which as you might know, Scotland is world class at and we always enjoy a smoky Coal Ila with lobster. But how about a glass of iced Auchentoshan, from just up the road in Dumbarton? Triple distilled, smooth and a great way to finish off one of the World’s best Fruits De Mer.


Another amazing scenic seafood stop. It’s well named as food only gets served in the summer in this Achiltibuie bar/restaurant. I once enjoyed their biggest seafood platter, some local Scottish ale and an unforgettable outdoor dining experience. The sun shone on the hottest day of the year, a traditional ‘ceilidh’ band played. I was there with a great bunch of pals, we all looked out over The Summer Isles….all was well with the world. A magical part of Scotland. Up here, you literally eat on the beach, so a wee dram of Oban, from the same West Coast might help to capture the essence of here.


Situated around the corner from Glencoe, one of Scotland’s most scenic and atmospheric places, this cool little café has no airs and graces, just splendid food. It’s another seafood highlight (Scotland’s getting really good at serving it up) but one which is really affordable. Sea and mountains all around, in the middle of nowhere. This isn’t really a whisky bar so why not try a Glenlivet or a Glenfiddich, you usually always find these old-school favourites on offer.


If you’re not a seafood lover but enjoy steaks, look no further than Champany. It’s not in a big city, it’s not even in a village but it’s ‘City Centre’ for meat lovers. There’s a lot of debate as to which place serves up Scotland’s best steak. I still think its Champany. Not cheap, not easy to find but anything really good is worth seeking out. A Scottish carnivore’s place of legend and a short drive from Edinburgh. We reckon it’s a full on experience steak here, so you need a full-on sweet whisky. Go for a Glenfarclas 15 or a Glendronach. Get the sherry monsters out!


There’s even more debate in Scotland about who serves the best Fish and Chips. Anstruther was undefeated champion for many years and in spite of a number of ‘enfant terrible ‘chippies’ (the Scots slang for Fish and Chip shops) springing up. I still find myself returning here. The East Neuk of Fife on the East Coast still has a feel of the great fishing fleets and I think, if you are going to eat fish and chips, you need to look out over a beautiful fishing harbour. Or, get your ‘chippy’ in newspaper and retire to your holiday home, caravan or tent.  Crack open a bottle of Singleton from the local supermarket, to share with friends. Have it with ice, or even soda, in tall glasses. Outrageously affordable but don’t let the snobs put you off, it’s a fine dram. A light, approachable Speysider, magic with haddock and chips.


At the end of Scotland’s craziest road, in a far off, West coast peninsula is another of my favourites. Maybe I just like driving? The Applecross Inn is owned by the aptly named Judith Fish and in spite of being many hours drive from Scotland’s two biggest cities of Glasgow or Edinburgh, it’s always busy. Sumptuous seafood, great Scottish real ales and a charming Scottish pub atmosphere, it has the beer garden with possibly the world’s best view. You’ve travelled a LONG way to get here, so have a whisky that’s ‘out there’. It’s not local but have a Scapa or a Highland Park from the very far north. Geographically miles away but worth seeking out, the whiskies and the pub!


Okay, it’s INCREDIBLY up-market but I turned up here after a weekend of camping with my family, looking rather scruffy and received the warmest of Scottish welcomes. After Scotland’s finest afternoon tea, in incredible garden surroundings, with a view of Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest mountain, we thought it was a bit special. You walk in the door and realise EVERYTHING in this hotel is simply the best. If I got the chance to stay ANYWHERE in Scotland, The Inverlochy Castle Hotel would be the place. Scenery, staff and a Rolls Royce Phantom to take you shopping in Fort William. World Class. If you’re staying, it’s GOT to be the BEST Ben Nevis that they do, as the distillery is only a short walk away. The only problem is, knowing the quality of this place, it’s liable to be a VERY good one indeed. Don’t look when you sign the bill, put it down to a unique experience,  in one of the World’s great places.


Lots of people arrive in Scotland’s main cities and head North. Here’s somewhere for those who want to head South. Scotland’s ‘Border’ region is more gentle and pastoral and a bit more genteel. There’s an air of class about a lot of the towns and if you like your ‘country’ chic clobber, you can give it an outing here. This fabulous small hotel in the middle of Melrose isn’t the most expensive hotel in the Borders, but to my mind, it’s the best. Old-style Scottish lunches in a cosy Scottish bar at Burts can go on for hours. It’s a difficult place to leave. Being here would give you a chance to try a Glenkinchie, from the distillery that’s situated between here and Edinburgh. A really good session dram.


The Island of Islay is basically ‘Whisky Heaven’ and home to LOTS of distilleries. Arbeg, Bruichladdich, Laphroaig, Lagavulin…the list goes on. If you’re a lover of Scotland’s National drink and you want to visit Scotland’s Whisky Island, you really would want to eat or stay here. This is one of my favourite Scottish Island hotels. It’s not a very big or particularly grand hotel but it’s got a ‘spirit’ in both senses that few places can match. Do not stay here if you don’t want to fall in love with Scotland. It’s a perfect place.

Erm, what to drink here, it’s a bit of a ‘no-brainer’ . Our only suggestion would be, no butts it’s got to be Islay. And if your solitary dram bill came to more than that for the food, who cares? You only live once. Drink Less. Drink Better.

So, there you have it, ten places that capture the essence of modern Scotland, some, cheap and cheerful, others erm, even more cheerful.

We’re already very good at whisky. We’re also getting very, very good at food.


  • Shirley Spear

    Hi! Only been alerted to this recently. thank you for the special mention. I also had no idea that Tony Bennet had eaten with us!! when was that?? Do you know something that I do not? Thanks again! Best wishes. Great blog.

  • Daniel MacIntyre

    V glad so many of your suggestions are in the wonderful Highlands & Islands

  • Victor

    Hey Shirley, one of our friends was acting as tour manager/driver for Tony in Scotland and took him to ‘Three Lums’ a few years back. He’s definitely eaten at your place!

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