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Something that many people do not realise is that Scotland has a highly distinct culture compared to the rest of the UK. While it is similar in many ways to England, Northern Ireland and Wales, there are also many differences.
This means that if you are taking a trip to Scotland, you now have an opportunity to get something, either for yourself as a souvenir, something to enjoy while you are visiting, or as a gift for someone else, that you would be hard pushed to find anywhere else in the world!
Many aspects of Scottish culture are highly unique and will provide an experience as well as simply something to eat or to buy. If you are unsure about how to find something, why not ask a local? The Scottish people are super friendly, and will be more than happy to help you out!
Below is a list of 30 things that you can only buy, and that are fairly readily available, in Scotland.
This is one of the most well known cuisines that Scotland has to offer, and while the idea of it may seem a little strange to some, the taste is absolutely delicious!
Haggis is a savoury pudding including parts of a sheep alongside onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock.
It is, unsurprisingly, not suitable for vegetarians, but not to worry! – there are plenty of veggie and vegan alternatives that taste a lot like the real deal!
Haggis is typically not eaten alone, but served with turnips and potatoes – or, as the Scots call them, neeps and tatties! Alternatively, they are sometimes made into the traditional highland dish, stovies.
Tablet is a confection of Scottish origin which closely resembles fudge, but with a harder and more crumbly consistency. It is made from sugar, butter and condensed milk, so if you have a sweet tooth then it is perfect for you!
It is thought that tablet was first produced as early as the 1700s, so it is truly a Scottish tradition now! It is commonly made for special occasions by family members, or as homemade christmas presents. But if you do not have Scottish relatives, do not fear, you can still buy this sweet treat in shops all over Scotland!
I used to buy this all the time when I went to markets in Australia, strangely. It was one of my favourite treats growing up and I guess comes from my Scottish heritage. Also missing this wonderful treat? My Scottish Tablet makes fresh to order batches delivered right to your door!
This traditional Scottish biscuit is a total staple of the culture, and while types of shortbread can be found elsewhere, you’ll never beat the home-baked Scottish version, still warm and dusted with sugar over the top!
Shortbread can be found in most shops and supermarkets in Scotland, but if you can find the fresh-baked variety then definitely try that instead! If you are looking to bring it home to someone else as a gift, you can find shortbread in pretty tartan boxes in many supermarkets and tourist shops – the tin is so lovely that people often keep it afterwards for decoration!
Another childhood memory for me! I remember making Scottish shortbread with my mum. We inherited these shortbread molds which were passed down, they are beautifully carved wood molds and make the perfect looking shortbread. Similar style to these ones made by Texturra Workshop.
Irn Bru is often described as Scotland’s other national drink (besides whisky of course) – it is a soft drink, bright orange and flavoured like bubble gum! It sounds terrible, but oddly it is very refreshing and also comes in a sugar free variety.
To locals it is most commonly used as a hangover cure, so if you hit the pubs too hard one night, then you know exactly what to go for the next morning!
Thomas Tunnock Limited, better known as Tunnock’s, is a family-owned bakery based in Scotland. This brand produces all manner of confectionary, all of which are worth trying! From the gooey marshmallow of the Teacake, to the chewy caramel wafer, to the coconut log – it’s all fantastic! And also a staple of every Scottish household.
To the non-Scot, this may sound like total gibberish, but it’s actually really simple! A clootie dumpling is a spiced pudding with a collection of dried fruit inside. It is wrapped in a cloth (clootie) amd boiled in water for a long period. It is then sliced and served with custard. You’re most likely to find this in the Highlands and Islands, but you may be able to source some around the central belt as well, in a more traditional restaurant.
This pudding is normally associated with Christmas and Hogmanay, so if you visit around this time then you definitely need to give it a try. If you really want to bring a scent of Christmas to your house then Solas Mhor Candles have the perfect Clootie Dumplings inspired candle.
Of course, oats grow in different places around the world, but any Scot will tell you that none of them compare to the Scottish porridge oat.
Porridge came about in Scotland due to lack of preservation methods for the oat crop, so it was made into a thick paste with salt – it was then stored in a wooden drawer and eaten over several days.
Nowadays it is served warm with berries, milk, sugar or syrup and is delicious!
Lorne sausage, sometimes called square sausage, is a flat type of sausage made out of minced meat and a variety of spices. This is a very common food to find with breakfasts – in particular, it is associated with the ‘Full Scotish Breakfast’ and is served alongside bacon, eggs and other tasty things like that. It can also be served in a breakfast roll for a quick bite.
Another sweet treat here – the famous macaroon bar! They sound a little strange, but give them a chance and you won’t regret it. They have a fondant centre, which is mostly made of icing sugar, but also with mashed potato – you can’t taste it, don’t worry! The fondant centre is coated in chocolate and then in toasted coconut.
You can sometimes find these freshly made in a bakery, but shops and supermarkets are definitely your best bet – they come in small, individually packaged bars and are very inexpensive.
Malt Scotch Whisky
Malt Scotch Whisky is whisky that is distilled from malted barley – referring to the process of soaking the grains in water in order to germinate them. To make Scotch, barley must be the grain that is malted. For it to be a single malt whisky, then it must be made in just one distillery.
Scotch whisky is known throughout the world as one of the best kinds of whisky, so make sure you try the national drink at least once on your travels!
You can also buy some add-ons for your whisky, or a whisky-related souvenir. You will see plenty of little flasks around, even Harris Tweed ones! And you can also choose some special whisky glasses branded with your favourite distillery.
Not sure which ones to try? I visited a few whisky distilleries and had a few drams on my latest visit to Scotland, here are some of my favourites:
- Talisker Skye: If you are planning a road trip to the Isle of Skye then this will be an easy activity to add to your list. Otherwise, you will find this distillery pop up a lot on whisky menus and in shops. The reason I like this whisky is it has a nice mix of sweetness, smoke and spice. Being new to the whisky world it’s a good beginner drink.
- Tobermory 21-Year-Old: Going high-end here with this choice! I love any whisky that has been finished in Sherry or Port cask. The whisky is made sweet from the Manzanilla Sherry casks finish and it’s super smooth with smokey notes coming through.
- Oban 14 Years Old Single Malt Whisky: Another good starter whisky. It has tastes of orange peel, sweetness, honey and hints of sea salt it gains from the nearby sea.
Quick tip: check the allowance for alcohol to bring back to your home country if you are looking to take some back with you!
Harris Tweed is a famous tweet cloth that is handwoven by those who live on the Isle of Harris, an island in the Outer Hebrides. The tweed is also finished in the Outer Hebrides, and only ever made from pure wool which is dyed and spun in…you guessed it! The Outer Hebrides! You can tell if it is truly Harris Tweed by the signature ‘Orb’ mark on the garment. Harris Tweed is a highly luxurious and great quality fabric and a great souvenir to take home with you.
Collared by Mark creates beautiful Harris Tweed items for dogs & their owners. I particullary love the camera strap in his collection.
Deep-Fried Mars Bar
This one is pretty self-explanatory – it is an ordinary Mars bar, but deep fried in the same sorts of batter that fish might be fried in. This is a solely Scottish tradition, and can be found in most fish and chip shops as a ‘dessert’. These are incredibly sweet, and I would recommend sharing one with another person as not many people can stomach one to themselves, but it is certainly worth a try.
Edinburgh rock is a traditional Scottish confection and is very distinct from classic rock. Rather than being hard and glassy, it has a much softer and crumblier texture and is made from sugar, water, cream of tartar along with colourings to make different pretty pastel shades.
I’m sure it is no mystery that the kilt is the traditional dress of the country – the pleated tartan skirts are known around the world as a stereotypical mark of a Scot. The kilt originates in Highland dress with records as early as the 16th century, and is typically made of woolen cloth. The dress is typically worn by men and boys and is a symbol of pride and patriotism for Scottish people.
Although kilts can be bought in other places, traditional kilts made in Scotland are made in accordance with tartans (patterns) that correlate with different ‘clans’. This means that if you have Scottish ancestry, you can get a kilt to represent that, as well as ensuring the quality and authenticity of the piece.
Scottish Heather Honey
Scottish heather honey is a honey made from the nectar of the heather plant found most commonly in the highlands and it is known widely to be one of the tastiest and sweetest honey around.
It is a very floral and woody tasting honey that is opaque and semi-set (not too hard and not too soft), and has often been compared to the recently-famous manuka honey in terms of exceptional flavours. As another bonus, it even has high vitamin levels and contains iron!
England might be the country best known for enjoying a cup of tea, but I can assure you that the Scots can certainly compete when it comes to how much tea they drink – and it isn’t the same tea either.
Scottish tea has its own unique qualities; it is much stronger in taste and darker in colour too, but it is still great with milk and a little sugar, just like English Breakfast.
The most commonly found is Scottish Breakfast tea, which can be found pretty much anywhere! If you are looking for one in particular, keep an eye out for Scottish Blend, which is the most common and the one that all the locals drink.
For a bit of fun, why not try this Whisky Loose Tea by Whittard. The leaf black tea is flavoured with Scotch whisky and they have added some heather petals to give it true Scottish spirit.
A quaich is a shallow and small drinking cup with two handles, coming from the Gaelic work cuach, meaning ‘cup’. Traditionally the quaich was used for whisky or brandy, and symbolises trust as two people can each take a handle and share the cup.
These can be bought in traditional shops around the highlands, or in tourist shops in the cities and make great souvenirs if you are looking for something traditionally Scottish and inexpensive.
They are often bought as gifts for special occasions such as weddings, christenings, birthdays and anniversaries as well as often being used for sporting trophies, most Quaichs are made of wood, but some of them are also made of stone, pewter, brass or silver.
Scotland has an abundance of gin distilleries so you are sure to find the time to try one of the many that are on offer. The number of gin distilleries in the country is not an accident, it is actually due to the fact that the initial processes of distilling gin and whisky are very similar and use all the same equipment, meaning that many whisky distilleries have begun producing gin as well.
The reason for this is that whisky must age for at least three years and one day before being ready to drink, but gin is ready right away, so many distilleries produce gin while waiting for their whisky to age.
Edinburgh gin is an award-winning gin made in a small-batch Scottish distillery, always impressing their customers with amazing new flavours to try since their opening in 2010. All of the gin is distilled in their local distilleries and with their stunning bottles and pretty colours, they make the perfect gift to take home. If you aren’t into the fruity flavours, do not worry – they do a standard London Dry too!
Tobermory Hebridean Gin
Normally they make whisky but have decided to try out the gin game as well. Tobermory gin has done well in the first 6 months of production and won the Best Scottish Classic Gin at the World Gin in 2020. The botanicals include juniper, tea, heather, elderflower and sweet orange peel.
Cairn O’Mohr Wine
Cairn O’Mohr is a brand of amazing Scottish fruit wines that make a great gift for any wine lovers you may know!
These wines are made from berries, flowers and leaves that grow in Scotland – only the freshest of ingredients for a wonderful flavour. Ingredients include strawberries, oak leaves, brambles and gooseberries – all of which can be found locally, and they are then fermented in the usual way.
You will usually find this wine at the farm or tourist souvenir shops.
A tattie (or potato) scone is a savoury type of bread made from potatoes, butter and salt in large quantities. They are normally made into circular shapes and cut into quarters from there.
They are also a key component of the Scottish breakfast, often served in place of toast with the meal, or inside a breakfast roll (try one in a roll with egg, you won’t regret it!). Pair this all with a strong cup of Scottish Breakfast tea and you’ll feel like a true Scot for sure.
Cranachan is a famous Scottish dessert which traditionally would signify the harvest time – made from fresh raspberries after they were harvested in June. The dessert is a simple one, made mostly of raspberries and cream, but made all the more Scottish by the garnishes of oats and whisky which are added to the mix. There are plenty Scottish restaurants that serve this delicious dessert, so look out for it on the menu if you go out to eat!
Bread and Butter Pudding
Another dessert! Bread and butter pudding is a household favourite, traditionally home-made, and definitely something that everyone should try.
This dessert is an interesting one, because it was actually originally a way to use bread that was going stale as a means of not wasting it. The bread is layered with butter, currents, eggs, cream and sugar and dried fruit added to make a rich and moist dessert. This honestly feels like a hug in food form, and you should seek it out if possible!
Soor ploom is Scots for ‘sour plum’ and refers to a small, round and green boiled candy characterised by its sharp sour flavour. In traditional Scottish sweet shops they were to be served loose in brown paper bags, and if you can find one of these shops then you’ll be transported back in time and get the very same service!
Be careful when eating these – one too many can make your mouth sore due to how sour they are!
A buttery, also called a rowie, rollie or Aberdeen roll, is a savoury bread roll originating from Aberdeen. The reason why butteries taste so much better than regular bread rolls is because of the copious amount of butter and salt, making them extremely tasty but also perhaps not the healthiest option!
In texture, the buttery is fairly similar to the croissant, but salty rather than sweet – although they can be made sweet by eating them with jam!
Butteries originate in the highlands, and so are more often found in bakeries there (where they are best), but they can also be found in supermarkets and shops all over the country.
A Scotch egg is yet another somewhat strange invention of Scottish cuisine. It consists of a whole hard boiled egg, wrapped in sausage meat and then coated in breadcrumbs before being either baked or deep-fried. These tasty bites can be found cold in supermarkets and butchers, or a fancier version can be found served in restaurants.
Tennents Caledonian is Scotland’s leading brewer, with their brewery situated in Glasgow. They produce a lager that is an absolute staple of Scottish culture, served in every bar and pub you could come across! If you want to come across like a local, then ordering a pint of this at the bar will certainly do that.
The beer itself is very light and easy to drink, so even if you aren’t a big beer lover you can certainly still give this a try.
McCowan’s highland toffee is a staple of every Scottish person’s childhood, and is sold for as little as twenty five pence at local shops. Highland toffee is one of the oldest sweets available as well as one of the best loved ones. They also have adorable Scottish-themed packaging which make them adorable lightweight gifts to take home with you.
Authentic Scottish tartan can be found in many different forms, including the kilt of course, and many of those forms are highly portable, making for awesome souvenirs.
A great thing to get as a gift or for yourself is a tartan scarf – they come in all different colour schemes and varieties and can be purchased in any Scottish shop that you see around! They represent Scottish pride and are great accessories for men and women. They are typically made of wool or cashmere, and sometimes even baby shawls!
Scotland has a long history of slate quarrying. During the peak of the slate quarrying, there were over 80 slate quarries in Scotland. You will find slate on Scottish buildings like the cute wee cottages with slate roofs or as a serving plate at a restaurant.
I personally think they make a great cheese board or coasters for your glasses. The Scottish Slate has a few options you can choose from.