Luxury Scotland


by Vivien Devlin

A Gourmand's Food Tour Around Scotland

Scotland is a food lover’s dream destination. Rich, fertile farmland, Highland moors and miles of rugged coastline offer a natural larder for the finest beef, salmon, lamb and lobster.  A new Government initiative 'Eat Fresh, Eat Seasonal' is encouraging us to take notice of where our food comes from to reduce carbon footprint and as reminder that the traditional diet was based on homely, humble produce - porridge, Arbroath smokies, wild game, scones and bramble jam.

Inverlochy Castle near Fort William

The classic taste of Scotland goes hand in hand with a welcoming sense of hospitality around our finest hotels and country houses.  Join me on a tour around Luxury Scotland to meet a line up of the country’s leading chefs to find out where they source the best quality, truly local produce to create their inspirational and distinctive cuisine.  Based in every corner of the country, they are culinary ambassadors with a passionate commitment to promote and celebrate our reputation as a land of great food and drink.

Dining at Inverlochy

Let’s start our journey in the North West Highlands at Inverlochy Castle near Fort William at the foothills of Ben Nevis. In the beautifully furnished dining room, modern British cuisine showcases the finest seafood, beef and game - from canapés to petit fours it’s a superior dining experience.  Philip Carnegie has worked in the kitchen for nine years, taking over as Head Chef in Spring 2009, retaining the well established Michelin star. 

Presenting “dining room theatre,” soup is served from a tureen and lamb carved at the table to offer a personal touch.  After breakfast some days, Philip will ask hotel guests if they would like to visit the kitchen to see the lobster or lamb and discuss any speciality they might prefer for dinner.  He was brought up on a farm in Aberdeenshire and sources all beef and lamb from Scotch Premier, Inverurie, describing their meat as 100% pure quality. Venison and game comes from Muir of Ord, Black Isle while a pig farm near Stranraer supplies pork and sausages. While at Inverlochy when we were strolling around the garden, Andy Race’s van arrived from the fish market at Mallaig; just a few hours later I tasted juicy sweet lobster with herb salad and then a slab of Persil-white, tender Halibut served with caviar and quails eggs. Talk about fresh seafood!  

Inverlochy Castle has its own Smoke House for salmon, beef and pigeon. The kitchen garden has pak choi, rocket, lettuce, herbs and crab apples and all bread and pastries are home made – we sampled delicious Mozzarella and basil bread and fennel bread.  Breakfast is also a delicious Scottish feast – Skye kippers, home baked croissants, home-made marmalade, porridge with Inverlochy whisky, poached eggs with wild chanterelles and local asparagus, scrambled egg with home smoked salmon.  Overall Chef Carnegie’s emphasises simple, seasonal food created with imaginative artistry.

Chez Roux restaurant at Inver Lodge

Driving further north to the Highland wilderness of Sutherland, Inver Lodge at Lochinver is a quiet retreat to unwind and relax with panoramic sea views.  The Restaurant has been created by legendary Chef Albert Roux, presenting "hearty country cooking using all the wonderful products from the sea." Head Chef Lee Pattie is in charge of the hotel’s Chez Roux restaurant serving simply French cuisine with a Scottish accent.

Local hand dived scallops arrive in the kitchen within half an hour from being in the water. “ They are still alive and kicking and the shells are often impossible to open!”  says Chef Lee.  Game comes from local Highland estates such as pheasant and roe deer, Buccleuch beef and lamb from Scottish borders “ because it’s the best”.  Strawberries are grown in Ross-shire and the sweetest raspberries sourced from Blairgowrie.  The garden supplies mint, tarragon and thyme while the chefs go foraging for wild garlic and ceps.  Chef Pattie loves cooking seafood because it arrives in the kitchen so fresh and perfect. He finds Inver Lodge an inspiring place to live and work with a view over the bay where some days the sea is as flat and still like glass. 

Crinan's Westward Restaurant

Further south on the Argyll coast in the white washed fishing village of Crinan beside the canal, the Crinan Hotel has been owned by Nick Ryan and his wife Frances, an artist, since 1970. This is indeed a painter’s paradise with stunning sea views, distant islands and dazzling sunsets.  In the Westward restaurant seafood is the name of the game: jumbo prawns, crayfish, clams, lobster, mussels, oysters, salmon and scallops, as well as organic beef and lamb and venison from Jura.

Crinan Seafood

The menu will often give the time when the fish was landed on the pier just a few yards from the kitchen door, such as “Whole Loch Crinan Jumbo Prawns Landed at 15.30 Today!”  The dishes are so fresh and appetising - West coast Crab or Roast Saddle of Argyll Venison.  For breakfast, too sample Loch Fyne kippers, farm eggs and home baked bread.  It has been this consistency over forty years serving locally caught fish and Highland game which has given Nick Ryan such a great reputation and awards for hospitality and cuisine.

Dining at Rocpool Reserve

Travelling east over to Inverness, the Rocpool Reserve boutique hotel also boasts a Chez Roux restaurant featuring good honest country cooking using Scottish ingredients.  Head Chef Steven Murray tries to source local seasonal produce with suppliers handpicked for quality and service.

“Highland Venison is next to none with its unique flavour” he comments, “ and along the Moray Firth coastline we get fantastic squid as well as other fish and seafood. 

The menu clearly states the provenance of dishes such as Dornoch Lamb, Castle of Mey beef and Pentland Firth cod.  At the Scottish Hotel Awards 2010, Chez Roux at Rocpool was presented with an award for serving Real and Local Food. 

Restaurant at Boath House

Along the road near Nairn, Boath House is a magnificent Georgian mansion which is renowned for exceptional cuisine based on home grown produce and the Slow Food ethos. Head Chef Charles Lockley has been here for 13 years having started out washing dishes and now deservedly holds 4 AA rosettes and a Michelin Star.

 “All my suppliers are as local as possible” he explains, “Brackla pork, Lakenbuie lamb, Geddes chicken, Really Garlicy Garlic, salmon from Ullapool, seafood from the West Coast and Artisan cheesemongers. When I can get this quality of food on my door step why would you want to buy anything else!”

Lockley sources organically reared rose veal from Peelham farm in the Borders because of the quality and for the care in the rearing of their animals.  In the kitchen garden seasonal vegetables, herbs, salads, flowers, berries and fruit are grown. “ I go out foraging for wild leaves, herbs, mushrooms, berries and flowers. We also make everything from bread, ice creams, jams and biscuits for cheese - I love working this way”. It’s this passion which Charles Lockley demonstrates in his cooking, creates a distinctive foodie experience. 

Marcliffe Cuisine

Heading over to the east coast, The Marcliffe at Pitfodels is a well loved hotel in the leafy suburbs of Aberdeen, a perfect location for exploring Royal Deeside. In the Conservatory Restaurant, Chef Michael Stoddart, presents a traditional Scottish menu celebrating best Aberdeenshire steak from Portlethen, Deeside roe deer, Shetland scallops and Cove Bay crab. It’s good to see classic dishes such as hogget (mutton) with sweetbreads, mackerel, pigeon and wild sea trout. “My philosophy of cooking is simple food, cooked properly” says Stoddart.  A feast is in store at the Marcliffe.

Strathearn Restaurant

In the heart of glorious green Perthshire, the glamorous Gleneagles Hotel has welcomed visitors since 1924 for golf, spa retreats and world class cuisine.  There are four restaurants - the Dormy clubhouse, Deseo for Mediterranean food, the Andrew Fairlie 2 Michelin star restaurant and Strathearn dining room.  Alan Gibb is the Executive chef with responsibility over all dining venues at the Resort.

The Strathearn serves classic cuisine using the best Scottish produce including langoustines, scallops, beef and lamb. Chef Gibb knows all his suppliers well to ensure quality: “Ruby and Vincent Marr at their Marrbury smokehouse produce a wonderful smoked salmon, which is carved to order in the Strathearn Restaurant.  Robert Morris at St Brides Poultry farm gives us corn fed chickens and ducks of very good quality. Summer berries are grown in the area with a resurgence of old stock orchards supplying us with apple juice for breakfast.”

Details of where food is sourced -  Kyle of Tongue oysters and Ainster cheese – is listed on the regularly changing menu. You can be assured that when dining at Gleneagles you can sample fresh Scottish seasonal food including rhubarb, shellfish and asparagus.

Old Course Golf Resort and Spa

Another Tee Time perhaps in St. Andrews, the home of Golf and where better to stay and eat but the Old Course Golf Resort and Spa.  As well as the Jigger Inn and Dukes clubhouse for pub meals, there are two hotel restaurants. Sands Grill serves seafood and steak and the Road Hole has a traditional British cuisine with a modern twist, focusing on the finest Scottish larder.

Simon Whitley is Executive Chef and Food and Beverage director; “ Our seafood comes mainly from East Neuk Harbour - this fish market is the best. Pork and other meat are from Peelham Farm in the Borders, game from Pittenweem and local shoots in Perthshire. Alan Hill farm is our best supplier for seasonal fresh berries - Fife is renowned for its choice and quality of fruit. There’s so much excellent local produce - Aberdeen Angus beef, crab, scallops, asparagus and home forced rhubarb. Signature dishes include Lobster Thermidor and East Neuk crab macaroni. We have just started the process of growing vegetables and herbs up at our Dukes Clubhouse and in regards to homemade items, 95% of our kitchen dishes are home-made.

Greywalls Restaurant

A short drive along the east coast to Gullane is the magnificent country house, Greywalls, designed by Edwin Lutyens in 1901 with its unique Jekyll-design garden. Recently re-opened as a hotel, guests and non-residents are welcome to dine at Chez Roux restaurant with stunning views over the 10th hole at Muirfield and seaviews beyond.  

Head Chef Robert Bates is a protégé of Albert Roux, previously working at his restaurant at the Ellington Hotel, Leeds.  Greywalls features a walled garden for broad beans, lettuce, parsley, leek and spinach with a chicken coop for free range eggs.  Arriving in the afternoon we are treated to freshly baked scones served with Albert Roux blackberry jam (made in Scotland).  The menu features Scottish ingredients for its classic French Country cuisine. Chef Bates has enjoyed finding local suppliers around East Lothian at North Berwick and Eyemouth, where from D R Colin’s fish merchant he orders boxes of mixed small fish to create something original. Potatoes and asparagus are from Aberlady, eggs from their own chickens and an East Lothian farm, smoked salmon from Port Seton and foraged wild mushrooms. For dinner I sampled Eyemouth crab with avocado and then Seabass with artichokes and new potatoes –  simple, delicious dishes. As the menu says, “We endeavour to use local produce whenever possible” and that freshness, quality and taste just shines through. 

One Devonshire

Next we are off to Glasgow and Hotel du Vin, Devonshire Gardens where the Bistro, serves traditional French cuisine.  Executive Chef Paul Tamburrini is keen to support Scottish producers. “Our seafood is sourced from 'Flying Fish' in Tarbert, Argyll, beef and lamb from Aberdeenshire, game from Ayrshire and poultry from St Bride's Farm in Lanarkshire. There are times when we have to source ingredients from slightly further afield. I am a big fan of French artisan cheeses, truffles, squab pigeon and foie gras. Our potatoes come from Tiptoe Farm in Northumberland which in my opinion is the best potato farm in the UK. On the menu we highlight our oysters from Cumbrae, Dornoch Lamb, Aberdeen Angus, Scottish asparagus and all our game and seafood.” 

Sample dishes include Cappuccino of lobster and pernod, truffle infused oil  and roasted breast of mallard, goat’s cheese emulsion, toasted barley.  This is sophisticated, artistic eating with typical Glasgow style.


Knockinaam Lodge

Located just a few yards from a sandy beach and rocky coastline of Dumfries and Galloway,  Knockinaam Lodge is the place for a peaceful getaway.   Head Chef  Tony Pierce has been here for 16 years having taken a temporary job “to help out for Christmas” but decided to stay.  His classical Scottish cuisine soon gave him a Michelin star. The local area supplies much of his fine food - Galloway estates for Roe deer, lobster and turbot from Drummore,  plump and juicy scallops from Kyle of Lochalsh. Smoked salmon and kippers come from Allan Watson at Galloway Smokehouse, Newton Stewart, regarded as the best smokehouse in Britain in the “Food Lovers Guide to Britain”. 

Pierce runs what he describes as an “ old fashioned kitchen, everything made in house including hand made potato crisps. In the kitchen garden we grow onions, garlic, potatoes, aubergine, lettuce, peaches, strawberries, tomatoes, cabbage, courgette flowers, peas, broad beans. It’s a joy to pick vegetables, such good flavour. It saves on the bills when you grow your own!.”  Specialities on the daily changing menu include Roe deer with spiced lentils, sweet and sour beetroot, haggis beignets, juniper jus and Herb crusted lamb with baby asparagus and  Raspberry ripple soufflé. As they say at Knockinaam, “If the landscape doesn't take your breath away, the food will.”

Vintage Dining carriage on the Royal Scotsman

The best way to experience a country is travel by train and watch the landscape roll past the window.  In Scotland, take a luxury railway journey around the lochs and mountains on the nostalgically romantic Orient-Express Royal Scotsman train. Dining in the vintage mahogany-panelled carriages has been described as “one of the best restaurants in Britain, moving or stationary”.  Chef Mark Tamburrini has recently stepped on board for the 2010 season: “ The most exciting aspect of joining The Royal Scotsman is to be working on one of the world’s most famous trains and I welcome the challenge of cooking in a small environment while producing the highest standard of food and service.  My priority is to use as much of Scotland’s fine fresh produce like hand dived scallops from the west coast to wild mushrooms which are picked by hand and brought directly to the train. Our selection of beef and lamb is sourced from the Shetland Islands where they use the traditional method of grass rearing their cattle which ensures the best.  We source the best pork in Perthshire. Scotland has such a great selection of produce why would we go anywhere else?.”  

Working in a tiny galley, the Chefs prepare an exceptional feast of Scottish classic dishes - Cullin Skink (fishy chowder), Inverawe salmon, Highland venison. Where possible, they will purchase local produce on the journey such as a crate of prawns, oysters and langoustines when stationed at Kyle of Lochalsh. All bread, dinner rolls and croissants are freshly baked each day. And in the morning as the train travels through a Highland glen, enjoy a fine breakfast of porridge, bacon and eggs or Arbroath smokie.

Hebridean Princess

Another truly regal way to explore Scotland’s landscape is on board Hebridean Princess, a small luxury “country house hotel” at sea for yacht-style cruising.

From gourmet breakfast, buffet lunches to dinner banquets, the cuisine is first class, emphasising Scottish salmon, scallops,  beef, pheasant, lamb followed perhaps by cranachan for dessert. Sea air and island walks give guests a hearty appetite to consume on a week’s cruise (amongst a great deal more) 2,000 eggs, eight sides of smoked salmon and 16 lobsters, accompanied by several bottles of wine. 

At certain ports of call around the Hebrides, Head Chef Paul Sim will purchase local seafood, such as oysters from Colonsay or perhaps barter for crab at Ullapool where no cash exchanges hands, just bacon butties from the galley!.

Onboard Dining

During a shore excursion, a wicker hamper will often appear with a uniformed waiter offering coffee or a warming dram of Hebridean-brand whisky. Back on board, the daily routine is all very sociable: pre-lunch drinks served on the sun deck, afternoon tea of cucumber sandwiches and cake, a glass of champagne before dinner. 

The farewell Gala dinner is a grand black-tie occasion, with the Captain reciting Robert Burns’ poem “Address to the Haggis” to welcome in the classic dish. In a nutshell, a cruise on Hebridean Princess offers stunning seascapes, house party atmosphere, exquisite hospitality and a traditional taste of Scotland.  


Luxury Scotland
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