Strathaven, South Lanarkshire's food town
- David Kirkwood
- 25 September 2018
A round-up of the town's food shops and local produce
About 20 minutes drive south of East Kilbride and Hamilton lies the historic market town of Strathaven which has, in recent years, quietly come out of the shadow of those two powerhouses of South Lanarkshire to assert itself as a foodie destination that puts them both to shame.
'It's a lovely place, and people in Strathaven are so proud of where we live, and what is produced in this area,' says office manager Adie Mann of Alexander Taylor, a 200-year-old institution with a strong claim to being Scotland's oldest bakery. Delights like pumpkin seed bagels and campaillou (leavened wheat and rye bread) swell from the shelves, and Barry Taylor (the sixth generation of Taylor to run the business) makes his own recipe wholemeal sourdough using Northumberland yeast, alongside almost 30 other breadstuffs that are baked fresh every day. Aside from a walk in the park, a trip to Taylor's is often the first recommendation a local resident will make to a visitor.
The town also has not one, but two, outstanding butchers – not bad for a population of 7500. Of course, both enjoy regular custom from all over South Lanarkshire, be it for James Alexander & Son's steak and sausage pie, or the award-winning black pudding from J Preston. Indeed, awards cover the walls of Preston's premises – the scotch pies and the pork and apricot sausages are much lauded. Both places are also hands-on family affairs, with Scott Alexander ('son') and Jim Preston tending the counters and giving recommendations and advice to customers. Such is Strathaven's way. And you'll certainly not want for a good pie.
It's in the production and supply side of things that this picturesque little place and the surrounding farmland impresses even more. Harris Farm Meats, run by Ruth Harris and her four children, was born out of Ruth's desire to run a small-scale, family farm producing 'meat that tastes the way it used to taste'.
'I like meat, but I am also an animal lover,' she explains, 'and I wanted to be able to enjoy eating meat free of conscience. The only way I could truly achieve that was to do it myself.' The farm specialises in rare breeds, like kunekune pig and Herdwick lamb, and alongside butchery services for trade, there's a farm shop at the weekends. Similarly, St Bride's Poultry Farm prides itself on raising slow-growing breeds of chicken, guinea fowl and turkey in a natural environment, and counts restaurants like Cromlix House, The Kitchin and Martin Wishart as customers.
Closer to home, the extent to which all of the local businesses use, support and promote each other is striking. Taylor's 'kype-a-leekie' soup is made with St Bride's chicken, and orders with the farm can be collected from the Taylor's deli shop in town. The recently refurbished restaurant at the Strathaven Hotel features dry-aged steaks from Preston's, and its bar is one of a few to stock the Strathaven Ales range, made at their Craigmill Brewery on the edge of town.
Elsewhere, The Weavers is an old-fashioned pub with a focus on cask ale that's been voted Best Real Ale Pub in Lanarkshire on more than one occasion. And the town even has an artisan coffee shop now, after husband and wife team Theo & Anna Giameos opened Roasted in the summer of 2018. Breads, sandwiches and salads are all made on-site, and everything from their coffee beans through to the eggs and flour they use for homebaking is directly sourced from small producers in the surrounding area. And what an area it is.