Scotland's Hidden Shopping Gems

Sheila Szatkowski looks at some of Scotland’s hidden retail gems

The last scene of the classic movie, Local Hero, shows Mac (Peter Reigert) returning home from his great Scottish adventure to an empty apartment in Houston. He pulls out a few pebbles and shells from his pocket and a quick sniff of a grainy razor shell takes him back instantly  to the sands of Morar and the wild beauty of the west of Scotland.

The souvenir is small but the memory evoked by it will remain with Mac for a very long time.

As well as the traditional souvenirs such as cashmere, tartan and tweed, Scotland offers the visitor a wealth of authentic, high quality arts and crafts to suit everyone from the culture vulture and fashionista to the newly arrived eco-warrior and recessionista. You just need to know where to go!

Here’s a taste of some of Scotland’s hidden retail gems in the cities of Edinburgh, Glasgow. Perth and Aberdeen.


Edinburgh may be the capital city but it is really a collection of villages sitting like a necklace around the Old and New Towns. Harvey Nichols, Jenners and the chic designer stores of George Street and Multrees Walk offer decadence and sophistication downtown. They are within easy walking distance of top hotels such as the Sheraton, Scotsman but there are lots of little retail treasures to discover just a short stroll away in the Edinburgh villages.


From George Street take yourself down Howe Street through the Georgian streets into Stockbridge by the Water of Leith. Check out the lovely Scottish wares at Anta (32 West Circus Place), savour a real Scottish ale at The Bailey across the street, before taking in the wonderful aromas at I.J. Mellis, a local mecca for capital cheese lovers.

Cross the bridge into Raeburn Place where you’ll find Bliss, full of delightful gift treats for young and old, then seek out 46A Raeburn Place to find Galerie Mirages (Tel: 44 315 2603) hidden down an alley in an old 19th century bakehouse. Here you’ll find some of the best designer silver jewellery in the city as well as accessories, gifts and world interiors. They will also take individual commissions.


Return to town via picturesque St. Stephen Street to 31 Dundas Street where you’ll find Bohemia. Housed in an elegant and spacious Georgian building here you’ll find elusive womenswear labels such as Dept, Totem Praia, Odd Molly and Crumpet Cashmere as well as wonderful jewellery and handmade artisan bags specially sourced in Morocco. It’s the closest you’ll come to shopping ‘at home’ in a Georgian setting.

For the culture vultures continue uphill a short distance to the Open Eye Gallery, one of the best commercial galleries in Scotland. Owners Tom and Pam Wilson support new and emerging talent as well as established artists and there is always a wide variety of pottery and jewellery in the rear gallery known as i2.

On your way back to the town centre don’t miss Aubin & Wills on Hanover Street. “Exclusively for the discerning” this bijou store (branches only in Notting Hill, Wimbledon, Brighton and Bath) offers high quality ladies and gents outerwear, knitwear, shirts, henleys and loungewear as well as accessories and homewares. Must-have items include the exclusive tartan cashmere scarves and the divine Oxlea soaps. Everything comes wrapped in beautiful distinctive red and black packaging and make sure you get on their mailing list to receive the wonderful seasonal almanac, a perfect adornment and souvenir for the coffee table back home.

Too few visitors venture south of the Royal Mile but some very special retail is just a few minutes walk away in Victoria Street and the Grassmarket. Noteworthy on Victoria Street is The Old Town Bookshop (8 Victoria Street) for an eclectic selection of books and antique prints and  Demijohn, the world’s first liquid deli where you taste your booze and oils before you buy. Go gently on the sloe gin!



Further down at Crocket’s Land (91-93 West Bow) is the latest venture from Anta a family-run Scottish design and architecture firm offering high-quality fashion and homewares. Everything is made in Scotland from the finest natural materials, with colours inspired by the Scottish landscape. At Crocket’s Land you’ll also find Anna, a trained corsetiere and dressmaker, who will create a customised tartan silk corset for your next grand outing or for the more retiring lady there is a wide range of very covetable tartan silk shawls.

At the foot of Victoria Street you arrive in the delightful medieval Grassmarket. Lots of eateries and taverns for lunch and a cashmere gem in the famous Hawick Cashmere Company (71 Grassmarket). This is one of the very few stores that can rightly claim to have only Scottish-produced cashmere. If you can afford the very best then this is the place to get that coveted designer piece.

Leaving the Grassmarket on the south-east side you will pass the famous statue of Greyfriars Bobby but linger awhile across the street at the wonderful Museum of Scotland. Until Spring 2009 there is a special exhibition of Jean Muir designs, a taster exhibition for the blockbuster show that will be coming to the museum in a couple of years time.

A perfect afternoon on the capital’s Southside might include a jaunt through The Meadows, where Lord Cockburn tells us, “Under these trees walked, and talked, and meditated, all our literary and scientific, and many of our legal worthies.” The hidden retail treasure in these parts is the original Bohemia at 17 Roseneath Terrace set up by the dynamic duo of Jenny Lockton and Debbie Ogg where you will find an irresistible selection of unusual and quirky babywear, childrenswear accessories and gift items. Check it out online and browse before you go at www.bohemiadesign.co.uk


Close by you will find the Victor Hugo Deli at 26/27 Melville Terrace is a real south side institution – try their union hand roasted coffees. Check the website at www.victorhugodeli.com for details of their Friday barbecues where you can taste the delights of their Aberdeen Angus burgers.


Glasgow is Scotland’s largest city and home to many of Scotland’s great cultural institutions, the world-famous Burrell Collection, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Scottish Opera and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. “Scotland with Style” is the city’s slogan.

If you only have time for one retail experience then it must be “Princes Square”. www.princessquare.co.uk Tucked away off Buchanan Street, the best way to arrive is to take the middle escalator which whisks you to the top floor, passing paintings of some great Scottish heroes like Lord Kelvin and Charles Rennie Mackintosh on the way. Any becalmed credit card will instantly quiver with excitement at the vast arrange of speciality retail  on offer. Don’t miss Fifi and Ally, set up by cousins Fiona Hamilton and Alison Fielding in 2005 to offer uber-style shopping and dining in classy surroundings or  if you fancy tartan with a twist  head to Vivienne Westwood’s new store i (Tel: 0141 222 2643) where you’ll find all her latest and crazy designs.

Kelvingrove is one of the best civic museums in Europe and well worth a visit if only to see Dali’s famous St John of the Cross. Close by is the Hunterian Art Gallery with the largest collection of Whistler paintings outside of the USA and adjoining it is the Mackintosh House, once the home of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.  For shopping in Glasgow’s West End, the best streets are close the the city’s University where the chique and students alike spend their time hunting for trophies along Great Western Road, around Kelvin Bridge, Hyndland Road and Byres Road just a few minutes from Hotel du Vin at One Devonshire Gardens.



There are so many ‘must haves’ at Galletly & Tubbs ( 431 Great Western Road Tel: 44 141 357 1001) for it is filled with exceptional pieces from around the world, selected for their individuality and affordability. At 384 Great Western Road is Timorous Beasties (Tel: 44 141 337 2622) with its surreal and provocative textiles and wallpapers. This award-winning Scottish design studio was founded in Glasgow in 1990 by Alistair McAuley and Paul Simmons, who met while studying textile design at Glasgow School of Art. Most covetable items include the decadent velvet cushions with emblazoned thistle and the inspiring thistle wallpaper.


For more classic, quirky, contemporary and chic gifts head to Hilly and Boo (165B Hyndland Road Tel: 44 141 334 5057). Great service and great Christmas treats.

For those seeking art nouveau and Mackintosh designs, combine a look at some authentic Mackintosh architecture with shopping by visiting Henderson’s the Jewellers on Sauchiehall Street. Here you can buy stationery, food items and take tea in the original Mackintosh tearooms. Lose the teacake calories by climbing the hill to the Glasgow Art School at 167 Renfrew Street. As well as admiring Mackintosh’s greatest architectural achievement you can pick up some bargain Mackintosh souvenirs at the College store.

Perth. Just 20 minutes drive from Gleneagles Hotel s the county town of Perth situated on Scotland’s longest river, the silvery Tay. As with our other locations the retail gems in Perth are beyond the High Street. There is no fishing for pearls any longer so if you want to own your very own piece of Scottish jewellery, complete with Scottish pearls, now is the time to invest in one of the fine pieces at Cairncross’s discreet shop at 18 St. John Street. If you are not tempted to buy take time to check out ‘Little Willie’ in his case inside the shop. This Abernethy pearl has superb lustre and shape and was found in the River Tay nearby by the famous pearl fisherman, William Abernethy in 1967.

Close by you will find Boutique, an enticing collection of four stores under one roof, which includes the aptly-named Guilty which offers individual, indulgent and up to the minute designer fashions for women as well as Helen Bateman’s glamorous shoes, Frontiers well-priced designs and Diane Forrester’s homewares.  A perfect find for ladies but not for anyone in a hurry so maybe the owners should consider a man-creche with chesterfield sofa and a few appropriate magazines to ease the wait.



Boo Vake (5 Watergate Tel: 44 1738 442263) lives up to its reputation for quirky contemporary gifts by artists, makers & designers from Scotland. Lots of items to make you pull out your purse with an original selection of ceramics, textiles, jewellery and accessories from new and established artists and craftsmen. Look for the wonderful Granny Bags from Closeknit and corsages made from recycled felted tweed.

Whispers of the Past (15 George Street Tel: 44 1738 635472) is a local family business offering a welcome mix of old and new gifts items that change with the seasons. Modern and antique jewellery sits alongside Boyds Bears, linen, china and candles.

For gourmet foods for your picnic there is nowhere better than Provender Brown at 23 George Street with lots of specialist wines, cheeses and treats such as Cinnamon Basil herb jelly, gooseberry chutney and Womersley fruit vinegars.

For art lovers an out of the way treasure is Artisanat  (19 Princes Street Tel: 44-1738 440899) which runs a continuing exhibition of contemporary paintings, ceramics, glass, wood, metalwork, jewellery and textiles. Noteworthy are the lovely wood items by Tim Stead.

Aberdeen is capital of the north-east and the gateway to the famous Castle and Whisky Trails that take in Speyside and the area around Balmoral. It is also Scotland’s oil capital and the departure point for ferries to Orkney and Shetland.

If you can drag yourself away from The Marcliffe Hotel and Spa, that ‘world of luxury in a country setting’ on the outskirts of Aberdeen, then head for the elegant independent boutiques around Thistle Street in the west end.

Art and antique lovers should head for Elizabeth Watt’s quaint little shop (69 Thistle Street) which has fine jewellery and china on offer. For map and print lovers the choice should be Colin Wood Antiques on nearby Rose Street.



Gallery Heinzel (24 Thistle Street Tel: 44 1224-625629) offers a wide selection of contemporary art from emerging and established artists in Scotland. Hamish Munro will satisfy any shoe addict with its unrivalled selection of designer names such as Hispantas and Menbur. For tired feet there are  wonderful Redfoot foldaway ballet pumps, much loved by celebrities after a night on the town, in a wide range of gorgeous colours.

Posh frocks abound at Frox (28 Thistle Street) and if the northeast winds are chilling you to the bone then pick up some Ugg ear muffs from Bellino’s trendy shoe store nearby. Esslemonts (20 Thistle Street Tel: 44 1224-630606) offers designer labels such as Camel Active, Remus and Florentino while the ladies are well catered for at Esslemonts 2 (30 Thistle Street Tel: 01224-645564) with designs from Turnover and Stills and Marella.

Save The Queen takes on a new meaning at Verdict (13 Thistle Street Tel: 01224-644558) being one of the boutique’s unusual labels offering art to wear for the creative and iconic woman. Others include Isabel De Pedro, Versace, St Martins and Nicowa. Parking is easy in this part of Aberdeen. For £3.30 you can  park for two hours, enough time for treasure hunting in this west end oasis.

A true retail treasure trove for art and craft lovers is the Aberdeen Art Gallery shop at Schoolhill. As well as souvenirs relating to the collections, this is probably the best source in the granite capital for art books, local crafts, stationery and children’s gifts.  If there is no time to take the ferry to Orkney you can still get wonderful Orcadian crafts and jewellery from Ortak in the nearby but busy Bon Accord Centre.

While many retail treasures lie waiting to be discovered in Scotland’s cities, the countryside has much to offer the shopaholic and retail bounty hunters. In one of our next newsletters we will explore the hidden gems lying in wait on the Highlands, Lowlands and the Islands of Scotland. To whet your appetite here’s just one.

Just off the A9, ten miles north of Pitlochry, is the House of Bruar an independent store with special emphasis on country clothing and quality Scottish foods.

From coats and hats to silks and suits, from jewellery and and scarfs to pottery and kitchenware this is a unique retail palace in the heart of the highlands. For real foodies check out the new range of exclusive House of Bruar hampers, all made up in traditional wicker baskets in the Food Hall and Delicatessen.


If you’ve enjoyed wining and dining in fine Scottish restaurants why not send home a Highland Luxury hamper or for a special occasion there is the Celebration Hamper with champagne, smoked Scottish salmon, clotted cream shortbread, smoked Highland cheeses and possibly the best strawberry jam in the world from Carse of Gowrie. Nicola or Ollie at House of Bruar can give you more details  (Tel: 44 1796 483236) or send an email: nicola@houseofbruar.com or oliver@houseofbruar.com

Travellers rarely return home without a souvenir.  A memento, however small, is something that creates and maintains a lasting link to another time and another place. It might just be the razor shell that Mac pulled from his pocket in his Houston apartment or Mhairi Hedderwick’s beautifully illustrated Scottish diary or that chunk cable-knit cashmere sweater from House of Bruar. It doesn’t matter. It brings out the ‘local hero’ in us all.


Luxury Scotland
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