Berry good: the rise of the raspberry in Scotland, and the best places to pick your own


David Pollock goes by Glen Clova and Glen Ample to discover why raspberries are Scotland’s superberry.

The area around Fife, Angus and Perthshire may not be known internationally for its berries. In Scotland, however, the area is celebrated for its richness in red fruits, in particular strawberries, various currants, gooseberries and cherries. Of all of these, it is the raspberry that has forged the strongest reputation for itself.

‘We have good soils here, Grade One and Grade Two, which are nice and fertile,’ says John Laird, partner and farmer at Cairnie Fruit Farm in Fife. ‘But it’s mainly down to temperature and moisture that our raspberries are so good. We have sufficient rainfall without the searing heat you get down in England, but we also get less rain and frost than the west of Scotland; raspberries don’t do well with wet feet, you see. They must be planted in well-drained soil, because they won’t grow well if their roots are waterlogged. As far as temperatures go, somewhere in the 60s or low-70s is best. If they’re up in the 80s or 90s the fruit ripens too quickly, so it doesn’t have the same level of sugar or character of flavour.’

Another factor is the variety of raspberry being used, although the advantage to the producer of using different varietals is in extending the length of time they can harvest through the year. ‘One of the earliest types we have is Glen Clova,’ says Euan Cameron, partner and farmer at Fife’s Pittormie Fruit Farm. ‘It starts to show fruit around the first week in July and then we can go on until November with the likes of autumn bliss. I’m sure some of the tunnel boys have types which are ready even sooner, though.’

As a smaller producer who doesn’t supply to supermarkets, Cameron prefers not to grow his raspberries under polytunnels, although to a larger operation such as Laird’s they’re essential, allowing as steady a stream of supply through as much of the year as possible. ‘Gone are the days when you could call up a supermarket and say you’ve had rain this week, so you can’t supply them,’ he says, ‘That just doesn’t cut it.’

Laird also notes that the canes of longer established varieties such as Glen Clova can last for a decade and more, but that newer breeds such as Glen Ample and Glen Doll last for barely six or seven years, albeit with up to double the yield per cane.

As fruit juices and wines increase in popularity, as healthy breakfasters sprinkle berries on their muesli and as older customers seek out varieties by name to put in their jam, the Scottish raspberry is wrestling back a lot of its market share from the strawberry. Quite simply, says Cameron, raspberries have benefitted from a health-conscious PR boost, although they’re a more labour-intensive product.

They also face the same issues as the rest of the fruit farming industry, namely the increase in fertiliser costs in line with oil and the expectation that a workforce of overseas pickers will stay at home this year due to the declining value of the pound.

But for a supplier such as Laird with the means to extend his season back into spring, Fife is the best place to be when the price of raspberries is high. ‘The rest of the UK isn’t even online yet,’ he says. ‘So the supermarkets are dependent on importing from as far away as South America. Until June, the price of raspberries can be double what it is in late summer.’

Scotland's Pick Your Own Fruit Farms

Allanhill Fruit Farm and shop, St Andrews,
Belhaven Fruit Farm, Dunbar,
Boghall Farm, Thornhall, near Stirling
Blacketyside Farm, near Leven
Border Berries, Kelso,
Broadslap Fruit Farm, Dunning, Perthshire,
Cairnie Fruit Farm, shop and maze, by Cupar,
Charleton Fruit Farm and coffee shop, Montrose
Craigie’s Fruit Farm and farm shop, South Queensferry,
Lowe’s Fruit Farm, Dalkeith
Newmill Farm, Blairgowrie,
Pittormie Fruit Farm and Nursery, Dairsie, Fife,
Stenton Fruit Farm, near Dunbar, East Lothian
Strawberry Grange Fruit Farm, Peterculter
Wardmill Farm, Forfar
Wester Hardmuir Fruit Farm, by Nairn,

For further details on these and other fruit specialists go to:

A Wester Hardmuir Fruit Farm
Auldearn, Morayshire, Highland, IV12 5QG
A family-run fruit farm, Wester Hardmuir has been hosting pick-your-own sessions, selling ready-picked fruit and supplying local businesses with soft fruit since 1989. They open in June for the rhubarb and early strawberries, then as the summer…
B Craigie's Farm Shop and Deli
West Craigie Farm, South Queensferry, City of Edinburgh, EH30 9AR
Farm shop and café with good, fresh cooking and fantastic views
C Cairnie Fruit Farm
Cairnie House, Cairnie, by Cupar, Fife, KY15 4QD
A busy set-up including a fruit farm, activity centre, maze, farm shop selling produce and tearoom serving home-baking.
D Pittormie Fruit Farm & Nursery
Pittormie Fruit Farm, Dairsie, Fife, KY15 4SW
A small, intensive, family-run fruit farm & shop selling berries, currants, rhubarb, vegetables and eggs.
E Border Berries
Rutherford Farm, Kelso, Scottish Borders, TD5 8NP
Border Berries at Rutherford Farm on The Merse near Kelso is a third generation fruit farm owned by Harriet and Alistair Busby, growing fields of strawberries, raspberries, red and blackcurrants, tayberries and gooseberries in season, when families can…
F Belhaven Fruit Farm / The Store
Thistlycross, Dunbar, East Lothian, EH42 1RG
Home of Thistly Cross cider, Belhaven Fruit Farm now has a specialist retail outlet to add to its popular PYO summer berries operation. The Store offers a hand-picked range of relishes, chocolates, oils and jams alongside Belhaven’s own luscious dairy…
G Charleton Fruit Farm
Hillside, Montrose, Angus, DD10 9EW
Farm-based coffee shop, gift and produce shop, children's play zone and seasonal pick-your-own fruit operation.
H Strawberry Grange Fruit Farm
Forest Cottage, Woodend, Culter House Road, Peterculter, Aberdeenshire, AB14 0NS