Scotland's finest food & drink attractions, by the Woman Who Ate Scotland
It’s not just restaurants, pubs and shops where the country’s produce plays a central role – there are many attractions, visitor centres and other diversions too. Nell Nelson, the Woman Who Ate Scotland, offers this selected traveller’s guide.
More than half of Scotland’s malt whisky distilleries are concentrated in Speyside and most offer tours and tastings. One of the first to open its doors to the public, Glenfiddich Distillery offers a free tour of the main parts of this classic 19th-century building, with a tasting and, of course, an opportunity to shop included. As with many other distilleries, it’s possible to learn more with an in-depth, two-and-half-hour Connoisseur Tour (£20; booking recommended) which includes a film, a longer tour and a tutored nosing and tasting session.
Glenfiddich Distillery, Dufftown, Banffshire, 01340 820373 www.glenfiddich.com
Find out about visiting other distilleries at:
All the wine made at the quirky small Cairn o’Mohr Winery is made from berries, flowers and leaves that grow within a 20-mile radius of the farm on the rolling hills and woodland between Dundee and Perth. The assortment of oak leaves, elderberries, elderflowers, strawberries and raspberries are fermented with sugar, water and grape yeast then pressed by hand, filtered and bottled. There is an attractive shop where you can sample, as well as buy, the whole range which is stocked throughout Scotland.
Cairn o'Mohr Winery, East Inchmichael, Errol, Perthshire
01821 642781 www.cairnomohr.homestead.com
Open: Mon–Fri 9am–6pm, Sat 10am–5pm, Sun 12.30–5pm. Regular tours take place every Thu and Sat in Jul and Aug. You can organise a group booking during the rest of the year
The nature of brining and smoking meat, fish and cheese does not lend itself to lots of visitors donning white coats and slipping on plastic shoe covers, so if a smokery does offer tours it is usually from a viewing gallery. ,a href="http://food.list.co.uk/place/24980-inverawe-smokehouses/">Inverawe Smokehouses, 80 miles north of Glasgow, has a visitor centre where you can find all about the fish-smoking process, including a chance to see the gutting process, the brick smokehouses and the final packing through viewing galleries. There is also a tea room and shop selling the range of smoked goods – trout, salmon, eel, haddock, mackerel, pates and smoked meats, plus free entry to nature trails, picnic areas and a wildlife sanctuary.
Inverawe Smokehouses, Taynuilt, Argyll, 01866 822446, www.smokedsalmon.co.uk
In Blair Atholl there’s a delightful traditional working water mill dating to the 1590s. Visitors can go on short tour and see the wooden wheel on the side of the restored stone building which is turned by the water gushing off the hills. This in turn drives a huge stone wheel that grinds the flour and oats. After your tour, enjoy the finished baked product in the charming wood-beamed tea room which used to be the original kiln drying floor. You can also buy oatmeal and bread flour should you be inspired to bake your own.
Blair Atholl Water Mill, Ford Road, Blair Atholl, 01796 481321 www.blairathollwatermill.co.uk
Apr–Oct Mon–Sun, 10am–5.30pm.
Barony Mill in Birsay, Orkney Islands, is open to the public during summer months, the running of the machinery demonstrated by the miller and meal on sale.
At Cairnie Farm near Cupar there are plenty of strawberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries, tayberries, brambles and cherries for you to pick yourself or buy ready-picked at this 120-acre fruit farm. There’s also a Maize Maze – which can grow to 2.4m tall – for kids, along with go-cart tracks, giant straw bales, trampolines, swings and sand boxes. And when you’re all exhausted head for the tearoom for freshly baked bread and Cairnie’s jam.
Cairnie Farming Co, Cairnie, Cupar, Fife, 01334 655610 www.cairniefruitfarm.co.uk
Farm shop May–Aug Mon–Sun 9.30am–6pm; Sep–Oct closed Mon.
Can’t decide whether to have caramel shortbread or oatmeal, honey and whisky ice cream? Opt for Cream o' Galloway’s Ice-Cream Experience, a twice-daily hour-long event that allows you to sample organic Fairtrade dairy ice cream, frozen yogurts and frozen smoothies at this family run farm. You can also make your own ice cream with milk, cream and sugar, then add your choice from the ingredients in the Ready Steady Freeze sessions that run mainly during the school holidays. There is also an ice cream parlour, tearoom and shop. To work it all off, check out the outdoor adventure playground, nature trails and cycle tracks.
Cream o' Galloway Dairy Co Ltd, Rainton, Gatehouse of Fleet, Castle Douglas, 01557 814040 www.creamogalloway.co.uk
Visitor centre Apr–Oct Mon–Sun 10am–5pm (Jul/Aug 10am–6pm). Booking for all activities recommended.
At Wellsfield Farm three former reservoirs have been turned into a very successful fish farm offering fly and bait fishing for the competent angler to the absolute beginner – and there is no shortage of fish – the fishery is stocked daily with rainbow, brown, blue, steelheads and tiger trout. If you want to bag a trout or salmon, lessons are recommended and start at £25 per person, including instruction, fishing permit, rod or reel hire and a free booklet.
Wellsfield Farm Holiday Lodges, Trout Fishery and Equestrian Centre, Stirling Road, Denny, Stirlingshire, 01324 82280, www.wellsfield.co.uk
Mon–Sun 8am–dusk (floodlit) all year
The problem with many foodie tours is that for health and safety reasons it is not possible to allow visitors to get too close and often a viewing gallery and well displayed information boards are the best you’ll get. For a more direct approach, there are one or two places in Scotland where day-to-day life converges with a food and drink experience. A particularly good example is the small harbour town of Arbroath in Angus, the home of the Arbroath Smokie. Follow the ‘smoke signals’ round this picturesque harbour and you’ll be able to track down several local smokeries where you can see the golden fish gently cooking in pairs over a smoking pit; even better you can buy and eat the succulent smoked fish straight from the source.
There is no end to the picnic potential in Scotland – you are spoilt for choice with so many beaches, views, meandering rivers, woodlands and peaceful hillsides. To create your own – pick a good day, source a good deli or farmer’s shop, then all you need is a setting which could be Arthur’s Seat in the capital, Glasgow Botanic Gardens to see some open-air Shakespeare, beside the ruins of Linlithgow Palace, a sheltered beach on the west coast such as Arisaig or a burn in the Highlands such as Glen Muick.
● Nell Nelson is the presenter of the cycling and eating television programme The Woman Who Ate Scotland and is author of nutritional cookbook Eat Well With Nell (www.nellnelson.com).