All this rugged untouched landscape and coastline offers up a plentiful larder of naturally-grazed meats, game and great seafood. It’s no wonder that Scotland is a fabulous foodie destination.
Ali Ray's Eat Local loves:
Cullen Skink (eaten in Cullen of course), venison steak, Arbroath smokies, Connage's organic Dunlop cheese made in the Highlands, served on Scottish oatcakes and malt whisky – of course.
Heading inland for about seven miles from our Culzean Club Site in Ayreshire to the lovely, small and friendly conservation village of Kirkmichael, you’ll find the fantastic Kirkmichael Community Shop and Jock’s Café.
Located in an old weaver’s cottage, this community shop is a not-for-profit grocers, general store and café and is staffed by volunteers. Locally-sourced products include honey and jams, Dalduff meat (more of which below), Glenlochrie free range eggs, Barwhey's cheese, Woody's ice cream, and seasonal fruit, vegetables and plants from the village gardens.
The cosy cafe serves delicious, inexpensive food using lots of local produce. On the menu, there’s always a soup of the day, Italian bean and chicken rice, and traditional tattie alongside breakfast, light lunches and snacks, homemade breads, a great range of freshly baked scones and cakes.
Favourites include Jock’s tiffin with cranberries and raisins and the house speciality Majorca slice, all made fresh on the premises. You can eat in or take-away. Café manager, Isi Nimmo, is becoming a local legend for her baking. Well worth checking out.
Just around the corner from Kirkmichael in Crosshill you’ll find Dalduff Farm which supplies traditionally-reared beef, lamb and pork across Ayrshire, and providing all the Dobbies Garden Centres and local delis in the area with their fantastic meat.
In the farm shop you’ll find top-graded Scotch beef, lamb from Robert Dalrymple of Ballantrae and pork from Robertson’s of Ardrossan, which has been producing pork in Ayrshire since 1870. Working alongside the butchery, the kitchen takes a selection of cuts and turns them into tasty pies, lasagnes, casseroles and hot pots, homemade soups and gourmet sausage rolls to take away.
Staying with the farm shop theme but heading 15 minutes down the coast, you’ll find Dowhill County Fayre in Girvan. Offering a great range of local produce, this is a large farm shop and café with a lovely terrace and enclosed courtyard and play area. The views over the sea are stunning – perfect to sit and enjoy an Ayrshire ice cream, homemade cake or scones.
They make full use of their vegetables from the farm and alongside the home baking there are tasty soups and hearty main portions with beautiful Girvan beef and succulent local roast pork served with a mountain of fresh vegetables, and delicious homemade chopped apple chutney style sauce.
Dowhill is a good, practical shop that prides itself on being a real alternative to the supermarket. Alongside veggies from the farm, they produce their own frozen ready meals, jams and pâtés.
The loch-side bustling farmers' market at Balloch in West Dunbartonshire has stunning panoramas of Loch Lomond and is a great way to spend a day stocking up on supplies.
The best of the Scottish landscape’s produce is in abundance here. From vegetables and fruit to smoked salmon, wild venison and Arran cheeses. First and third Sundays of every month, 10am to 4pm.
Our Club Site is right next to the West Highland Way walking track, which makes the stroll to the Oak Tree Inn a particularly scenic one. This award-winning pub, constructed with local slate, is a great spot to enjoy a simple and local menu, or just relax with the impressive range of malts and locally-brewed Scottish ales.
Just across the harbour from Nairn Club Site in Morayshire is the Basil Harbour Café. This popular café and ice cream kiosk is a real gem. It’s tiny, relaxed, and serves a fantastic range of food and lots of delicious, fresh local fish. Great breakfasts feature lorne and bacon rolls and omelettes. Great lunches might be black pudding on bread, crab and mayo sandwiches or mackerel fishcakes and Cullen skink. On Friday and Saturday there’s a very popular tapas menu. Inside the Basil Harbour is very small. Tables are packed tight but it’s friendly and easy going and very well done with local artwork on the walls and newspapers for customer use. There are tables outside and it’s a lovely place to sit and look out over the harbour and eat some delicious local, homemade food or indulge in an ice cream. If the café is full, then you can head into the Basil Harbour Deli next door for a takeaway. A fantastic wee place!
The Braeval Hotel, also in Nairn, features local ales and decent pub grub. From the Bandstand Bar and Restaurant there are outstanding seaviews looking out across the Moray Firth to the Black Isle. If you’re lucky you might spot the bottlenose dolphins that swim offshore here. The menu has lots of products locally sourced and produced and details a long list of local suppliers. There are local delights with a modern twist: Scottish haggis in filo pastry, red Thai mussels, king scallops with local black pudding, sushi and a great daily specials menu with a good range of local fish. There are also traditional pub favourites such as fish and chips, locally sourced steaks (there’s a dedicated steak night on Fridays), burgers, pasta and pies. The steak and ale contains local prime beef braised in award winning Cairngorm Black Gold Ale. The Bandstand Bar and Restaurant has recently won CAMRA Highland and Western Isles Pub of the Year Award 2014 for the third time, so you’re guaranteed a good pint here. There are nine hand pumps and an ever-changing range of the best of Scottish and English real ales while also regularly featuring barrels from nearby micro-breweries. The Braeval Hotel hosts the largest independent beer festival in the Scottish Highlands, which takes place each April. But as this is the Highlands you’ll want to partake of a wee dram and with more than 100 single malt whiskies on its impressive list, the Bandstand is a haven for whisky lovers.
Away from the coast and a ten minute drive from our Club Site is the lovely conservation village of Cawdor, and the Cawdor Tavern. Cawdor Castle was made famous by Shakespeare’s Macbeth and the tavern is in the old castle workshop. It’s now a delightful, cosy, oak panelled country pub with oak settles, log fires and wrought iron Jacobean chandeliers. The food is modern Scottish made with fresh local ingredients, and there’s a comprehensive list of 100 fine malts, and interesting ales, from, for example, the Cairngorm Brewery. There’s a wonderful selection of seafood – smoked haddock and pea fishcakes, sweet cured herring, Belhaven trout, scallops, home-smoked mussels and Oban sea trout, as well as hearty meat dishes such as steak and Orkney ale pie and handmade beef and venison burgers. Desserts are delicious such as the brandy snap basket filled with Orkney ice cream and Orkney fudge, and Cranachan pavlova with homemade meringue and Scottish heather honey. If you’re just dropping in for a coffee, there’s always delicious daily home bakes. It’s family-friendly with a kid’s menu and dogs are welcome too.
And finally, I have to give a quick shout out for two very good Nairn chippies – The Friar Tuck’s very close to camp and Dolphin on the High Street.
Inverness has a farmers’ market on the first Saturday of each month, 8.30am-3pm at the Eastgate Precinct in the city centre. One of the busiest and best stocked markets in the Highlands, it has more than 20 stalls selling quality seasonal fruit, veggies, meats, dairy products, bread, cakes, plants and locally-made crafts. The Cnoc Cuill Ceilidh Band, whose members collect for the Highland Hospice, plays from 12-2pm.
Wester Hardmuir Fruit Farm is open every day (except bank holidays) from 1 June to 31 December, 9am-5pm. Early in the season there is asparagus, rhubarb, early strawberries and by the end of June, ‘pick your own’ is open. Also available are raspberries and gooseberries, black, red and white currants, logans, tays, brambles, apples and plums. There’s lots of fresh vegetables, jam, honey and eggs and a picnic area too.
Black Isle Berries at Ryefield Farm, Tore, Ross-shire, is further away, about half an hour, but it’s open all year round, Monday to Saturday 9am-5pm. Lots of lovely soft fruit, ‘pick your own’ is available in season, vegetables, eggs, Nairnshire jam, marmalades, chutneys and honeys, as well as West Highland Dairy cheeses and yoghurts, hill venison, Munlochy Fold Highland Cattle beef, Easter Balmungie pork and lamb and Ullapool oatcakes and shortbread.
Speyside Distillery is perfectly positioned to experience the true spirit of Scotland. It is home to almost half the distilleries in Scotland – there are about 50 here including some of the biggest names such as Glenlivet and Glenfiddich. Head off on a whisky trail and be rewarded with astonishing scenery and a fascinating insight into this focal part of Scottish life.
Many of the distilleries offer organised tours and tastings to revive the spirit. If you don’t want to drive, there are plenty of local tour guides willing to do it for you. Try Roy Mathers tours or Mike Duncan.
This Camping in the Forest Site in Stirlingshire is a walkers’ haven as it's right next to Loch Ard Forest and its 21 miles of picturesque forest trails. Before heading off, pack a picnic the lazy way – head to The Byre Inn, in Brig O' Turk, 15 minutes from the site, where they will pack your bag with a lunch of fresh local produce and provide a picnic rug and cutlery should you need it.
Or stay a while in this snug and welcoming gem and enjoy Cullen skink crumble, Trossach trout fishcakes or venison steaks. You can even bring in your own catch and chef will cook it for free in return for the rest of your morning's haul!
There are a few regional specialities that simply have to be sampled when travelling in Scotland. Whisky is one, the other is traditionally-smoked Scottish salmon. Springwells Smokehouse is about 20 minutes from our Scone Site in the cathedral town of Dunkeld in Tayside.
The salmon, from sustainable sources, is smoked using whisky barrel and oak chips, which gives it a wonderful buttery flavour. Anglers can even bring in their own catch to be smoked too. The smokehouse has won numerous awards, including a great taste award in 2012. Perfect served simply on brown bread with a squeeze of lemon.
How about a veniburger as a Scottish-themed camping classic? Head to the small farm shop at Fletchers of Auchtermuchty, just outside Fife to pick up these or other cuts of venison. It is a meat we associate with Scotland with much of it being sourced from the wild.
John and Nicola Fletcher are effectively pioneers of deer farming in this country. He is a vet by profession so the animals are cared for humanely and with incredibly high standards. The meat is drug-free and butchered and packed on the farm. Well worth a visit.
Belhaven Smoke House and Farm Shop, about four miles away from Dunbar campsite, specialises in smoked trout, salmon, Ballencrieff smoked bacon and premium sausages. It’s an independent company and only a ten minute drive from camp.
Their signature Dunbar smoked salmon is smoked over oak chips from whisky barrels then preserved using a traditional rum cure. It gives it a unique texture and succulent flavour and it’s lovely! Its shop is open seven days a week and as well as the smoked fish and meat, you can also pick up some delicious Lammermuir smoked cheese.
Two minutes further down the A1 is the wonderful, vegetable haven Knowes Farm Shop. These guys grow more than 80 types of vegetables and herbs on the farm, and produce free-range eggs from their flock of 500 hens. The chicks live by the car park and you can get spare bread from the shop to feed them.
There’s a great range of live shellfish in their tanks including North Berwick lobster and crab from local Jack’s fishing boats (if you can’t face cooking them yourself, then they’ll do the job for you), huge hand-dived Orkney scallops and shellfish from Shetland.
There’s a comprehensive list of seasonal game including pheasant, grouse and partridge. Local beef, lamb, pork and even buffalo from Fife are all available. There’s a lovely list of goodies available to take away from the kitchen – delicious soups, pates, jams and chutneys and a great range of fresh bread and home baking.
Fancy a cuppa and cake? Two minutes up the road there's no better place than the Tyninghame Smithy. This atmospheric red stone building houses a delightful, cosy tearoom. Tables are jumbled together under the exposed brick walls and wooden beams and it still has the original forge from its time as a Smithy.
Outside there’s a sunny courtyard. This place has been a popular stopping off point for walkers and cyclists for many years so it’s no wonder it was named the most recommended coffee shop by Herald Magazine readers. Reviving tea arrived in a sturdy pot and coffee in a cafetiere (there are no frothy coffees here).
The menu is simple and well done with good quality soup and sandwiches but I was here for the fabulous homemade cakes. And I wasn’t disappointed. Owner Lindsay Twist bakes all cakes fresh on the premises that beckon customers from under an array of glass cake stands – oven fresh scones, brownies, date and walnut loaf, sticky gingerbread, lemon meringue cake, apple sponge with maple icing, chocolate-topped mini banana cakes, sour cream and blueberry cake… heaven!
While waiting for the ferry to Tobermory I suggest you spend your time in here as I did. The Kitchen Garden Delicatessan and Coffee Shop is opposite the ferry quay. A word of warning though, keep an eye on the time as you are likely to be so hypnotised by this Aladdin's cave of tempting food that the ferry will be the last thing on your mind as you choose between the 100 cheeses, most of them Scottish, the 200 whiskys or the chocolate and ginger cookies made in Tobermorey's island bakery.
You might even find yourself drawn further in and enjoying a deluxe smoked salmon sandwich and a warming cup of tea, happily watching the ferry head off across the waters. At least you can get a stunning view of the islands from here.
For further indulgence in Oban I can recommend The Oban Chocolate Company. Also situated on the seafront, you can watch the world go by from a comfy sofa, with a coffee and a tasty plate of four of the 40 types of chocolates made here.
These are certainly no ordinary chocs. So crazy are some of them that you have to wonder a little about how the owners Helen and Stewart MacKechnie came up with such fantastical creations. Strawberry and balsamic cream, Irn Bru truffle, Marmite and Horlicky ganache are just a few of the slightly more bizarre. The apple crumble chocolate was my favourite.
This special campsite, with spectacular sunsets, is probably enough to satisfy your search for contentment. But an evening in The Old Inn, Gairloch will complete it even more. Serving up memorable meals of west coast seafood (the harbour is just across the road) and Highland game of wild red deer sourced from the grounds of all the local estates, the chef has deservedly won many accolades for his skills.
But it's not all about the food. This real ale pub has started its own micro-brewery, with ales named after local places. There is often live music, so sit back and soak up a pint, along with the pleasures of this very authentic old inn.
Twenty minutes south from our Lauder Site in the Borders, you can spend a day at the Colstoun Cookery School learning how to cook up a storm with a selection of Scottish ingredients. It prides itself on being one of Scotland’s first sustainably focused cookery schools, using its own vegetables and locally-sourced ingredients.
Keen cooks and novices can try a day of game cookery or making traditional Scottish fayre. Although it only takes place on the last Saturday of every month, it's still worth mentioning Haddingtons farmers' market, if for nothing else than the vibrant atmosphere. It’s a lively affair with more going on than your average farmers' market – live music, cookery demonstrations and tastings.
The food comes from small artisan farms that pride themselves on the impeccable quality of their farming practices and the great taste of their food. Regular stallholders include Monarch Deer Farm, Jock’s Tatties and Belhaven Smokehouse. Well worth a visit.
Loch Lomond Shores, a ten minute drive from the Luss Club Site, is billed as ‘Scotland's most spectacular visitor destination’, which is a fancy way of saying that that it’s a shopping centre. But this is not your average shopping centre. For starters, it’s on the banks of Loch Lomond, and you are surrounded by the breathtaking scenery of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. Yes there are shops but there are also café and restaurants, all of which all use fresh locally sourced, Scottish products whenever possible. There’s a Sea Life Centre, The Loch Lomond Birds of Prey Centre, an outdoor play area and access to a huge range of outdoor activities: canoeing, kayaking, rowing, pedal boats and motor boats and there’s all year round mountain bike hire. And it’s home to the DUG Café. A café where your pooch is welcome! Fresh food (for humans) includes soups, sandwiches, toasties and cakes and for our four legged friends, there’s a complimentary snack on arrival, organic treats and DUG Dinners. It’s friendly, sociable and even with all the dogs, spotlessly clean.
Also at Loch Lomond Shores on the first and third Sunday of every month is the Loch Lomond Farmers’ Market. Everything is locally produced: fresh cheese, including slow matured creamy cheddar from Arran, home-baked breads and cakes, seasonal vegetables, chutneys, chilli sauces and oils, freshly baked pies, fresh meats, and fabulous smoked fish are all on offer. The market opens at 10am and runs till around 4pm but go early as stock is limited to keep everything as fresh as possible. It’s only a short drive from Luss to Balloch but from March to November there’s a regular water bus service between the two points, a great way to take in the scenery and enjoy Loch Lomond.
Closer to the site and just a couple of minutes into Luss, is The Village Rest. With a seasonal, changing menu they aim to serve delicious homemade dishes from locally sourced produce. The atmosphere is casual and relaxed, and the setting light and airy. Portions were a great size and there was a comprehensive menu of sandwiches, snacks and tasty mains, (the Steak and Sausage and Ale Pie was great), lots of options on the kid’s menu and delicious home baking. And if you’re in need of a wee dram, it’s licensed.
Moffat is a a true ‘walkers are welcome’ town. There are lots of signed walks from the centre out into the beautiful Annandale Valley. You’ll be well set for filling fare here too – there’s a great range of thriving local shops, cafes and restaurants offering great scope for eating and shopping locally.
After a meander around the town’s square and ‘double’ high street, a great place for a hearty breakfast is Café Ariete. This small, bustling no-nonsense café with an Italian heritage is welcoming and child-friendly. Behind the beautiful, old fashioned gold leaf painted windows, traditional home cooking using local produce (meat, eggs and milk all sourced from nearby) is devoured by locals and visitors. There’s a vast selection of mouthwatering cakes: Borders speciality the Ecclefechan tart (think pecan pie spiced with lemon, cinnamon and studded with raisins), fresh scones and tray bakes, shortbread and cheesecakes. Vanilla ice cream is made on the premises and gets a huge-thumbs up from the children in all its incarnations, in knickerbocker glories, ice cream floats and thick and creamy milkshakes. Before lacing up your walking boots, try the full Scottish breakfasts or the house speciality, The Ariete special sausage baguette. Takeaway rolls, toasties, sandwiches and hot drinks are available, so you’ll be more than ready to take on the challenge of walking the Annandale Way or cycling one of Britain’s toughest climbs, The Devil’s Beef Tub.
Another way to appreciate the beautiful rolling countryside around Moffat and taste the local food is through a day’s trout fishing in the Moffat Hills. From Moffat campsite, head 4.5 miles north-east to Moffat Water Foods. The Routledge family has been rearing rainbow trout in the Moffat Water Valley for more than 30 years. Olly and Shara have recently returned home to carry on this tradition and to start a new venture producing their own fresh and smoked rainbow trout. Give Shara a call on 01683 225008 and for a day ticket (9am-5pm, cost £20 per rod) you can catch your own delicious trout. If transporting your slippery catch back to camp doesn’t appeal, then if you let Shara know in advance, she’ll be ready to smoke or fillet your fresh catch. She has an inspiring range of fantastic recipes to share that will turn your day’s catch into a memorable meal.
At Moffat farmers' market, on the second Sunday of the month, you can sample lots more of Moffat’s tasty local produce including smoked fish and game from Barony Country Foods, Annanwater’s organic lamb and hogget from the hills near Moffat plus Alison’s Jams and Chutneys – a range of traditional and unusual preserves, chutneys and curds. There's also the award-winning Uncle Roy’s Comestible Concoctions (winner of 26 Great Taste Awards). Create your own food trail here and discover more foodie delights of Dumfries and Galloway, including Castle Douglas, the food town of the area.
Certificated Sites with food
Garlieston Lodge is a special Certificated Site. Its location is idyllic. It sits in five acres of woodland with a lovely river running through the middle of it. The river feeds into the fishing lake populated with brook, rainbow and brown trout. Rusty and Christine, who run this multi-award winning site, also raise a herd of rare breed large black pigs – Britain’s only all-black pig. Campers can buy pork, bacon and sausages produced from the slow-growing, naturally grazed animals. The meat is as natural and local as can be. Perfect barbecue fare on this adult-only site.