I love exploring food in the great cities of the world, and food tours are the way to go! With an excellent guide, you are introduced to some of the must-try and cannot-miss dishes of any particular location. I was excited to learn about the amazing foods of Scotland with Secret Food Tours! My guide David was absolutely perfect for the afternoon, and even better because I was the only one on the tour! So I had a private tour of Edinburgh’s food and historical tidbits.
We dove right in with a dish that I had heard much about and was definitely wanting to try: the Cullen Skink! This is a traditional Scottish fish stew, with smoked haddock being the distinctive ingredient. I loved it. It’s actually quite similar to the fish chowder we find here in New England. The restaurant, The Cellar Door, was quite lovely and they even gave me a coupon to come back for dinner. If I’d had more time in Edinburgh, I definitely would have! They bill themselves as “Traditional Scottish Restaurant” and I was absolutely loving everything in that category.
Next up, after walking a bit of a loop around Old Town and hearing all kinds of interesting stories about the history and culture, we stopped in Howies on Victoria St. for another Scottish favorite: Haggis! Served traditionally with neeps and tatties and a whisky sauce, this is one of my favorite things about Scotland. I loved haggis and I ate it every chance I got, which ended up being nearly every day. Lucky me! Howies is another restaurant serving seasonal local food that I would have loved to return to if I’d had more time. They offer some great deals on 2 and 3 course lunches and early dinners that would have been lovely.
After having enjoyed two of Scotland’s loveliest local dishes, cullen skink and haggis, we ventured on to sample another one of Scotland’s treasures: Whisky! I loved getting to sample the wee dram with a little pipette of water to help open up the flavors and see how it changes with the addition of more water. My guide also paired this with a little piece of tablet candy from The Fudge House which was the perfect sweet to nibble with whisky. The flavor of tablet candy is very comparable to the maple candy of New England, and it was sweet and complementary to the whisky.
Next stop was heading down the Royal Mile into the Canongate (which was a section I had not yet ventured into despite my very close hotel right on the North Bridge) to a cheese tasting at Gait Bar & Kitchen. For this my guide chose 4 lovely cheeses to sample: (to the best of my memory) a brie, an English cheddar, a blue, and a gouda. They were all wonderful! I love blue cheese, so that one may have been my most flavorful favorite but they were honestly so lovely. Admittedly I don’t care for the Scottish oat cakes.
And finally, for our last tasting, we enjoyed an afternoon treat of Tea & Scones just a bit further down the Canongate. Sadly I can’t remember the name of it, but it did have this lovely little outdoor courtyard which we took advantage of even though it was a bit chilly. My guide David ordered tea and a scone for me, and since I am a total noob with hot tea, I immediately poured it from the pot into the cup without waiting for it to steep. David quickly caught my mistake, poured it all back in, and it was all fine for it to set for a bit. I have only ever had iced tea, so I wasn’t quite up to speed with how it all works. But this is the fun of a food tour! You learn all the little bits of local food and how best to enjoy them. I also enjoyed my scone with cream, but I have to admit that this scone wasn’t nearly as light and fluffy as the incredible one I had at the Balmoral afternoon tea. But then again, realistically, what other scone ever could be??
This was such an incredibly dense and informative 3.5 hour tour, not only of food, but about the history, culture, and lifestyle of Edinburgh. I was so impressed with my guide David, who spent his afternoon with me even though I was the only person booked that day. What a treat to have a private tour! I learned so much, and enjoyed so many treats at various restaurants and cafes in the Old Town.
Don’t miss Secret Food Tours Edinburgh when you are in town! You should definitely do a tour like this very early in your trip so that you have time to explore all the wonderful recommendations for food and restaurants!