Think of food and drink in Scotland and inevitably haggis and a dram of whisky spring to mind, and rightly so.
However, with so much choice of high quality local produce on offer and prestigious award winning restaurants in each corner of the country, Scotland is a food lover's dream destination. Scotland's fertile land and coast make the country's natural larder bountiful and varied. Some of the country's finest producers have perfected a mix of traditional and contemporary skills to ensure that the country's produce is world class. So join us on a tour and tuck in!
The North East of Scotland is also known as whisky country on account of the numerous distilleries successfully producing. Tours of the area take in the famous distilleries where visitors are encouraged to sample the varied malts - The Macallan and Glenfiddich to name two. The Speyside whisky of the area is lighter in colour with a gentle and delicate flavour. Microbreweries are also gaining in popularity in the area. The popular Black Isle Brewery produces ales and beers using locally sourced and organically grown barley and hops.
Seafood is abundant in the area. Langoustines, along with crabs and scallops plucked from sandy sea lochs, are a prized regional delicacy and are caught locally and exported the world over.
Meat in the area is also highly prized and recently Orkney beef and Shetland lamb were awarded PGI Promise (Protected Geographical Indication) status. Under the European Commissions Protected Food Name Scheme, foods awarded this coveted accolade can only be produced within an 8km radius of the named area.
The beautiful West Coast and Islands are a sea food haven. Oysters are now an endangered species in the wild but with sustainable methods of farming Scottish cultivated oysters can be enjoyed all year around. Mussels are also worth savouring in one of the many local seafood cafes and restaurants.
No trip to the Isle of Mull would be complete without sampling the Les Routier awarded food from the fish and chip van parked at the Fishermans Pier, overlooking the multi-coloured port of Tobermory. And you'll be in good company too; Prince Charles ate fresh scallops from the famous van on a recent trip to Scotland. He declared the food delicious.
Another important whisky producing area, the Isle of Islay is home to 8 distilleries producing one of the areas most important exports. The land mass of the island mainly consists of peat which gives the local whisky a distinctive peaty smell and taste. Most distilleries offer tours and tasting sessions to visitors.
The fertile pasture land and rolling countryside make Dumfries and Galloway the ideal region for dairy farming. Subsequently some of the country's finest dairy produce is made here. Cream O'Galloway is a well established family run farm set in picture postcard countryside. The fair-trade ice cream produced on this organic farm is famous the country over, though the farms yogurts and frozen smoothies are notable too. Visitors can tour the award winning farm, enjoy the nature trails and cycle tracks or have a go at producing their own ice cream. The farms tearoom is also a perfect place to sample other fabulous local produce from artisan bread and preserves to beer from the nearby Sulwath Brewery in Castle Douglas (Food Town).
Artisan cheese makers can be found the country over but many are situated in this area. For a taste of Scotland's extensive range of home produced cheeses visit a farmers market which will be sure to stock a local supply.
Over half of the soft fruit grown in Scotland is grown in Perthshire. Cairn O'Mohr produces award winning fruit wines using only local fruits, leaves and flowers that grow on or around the farm. Visitors can enjoy wine tasting and a tour of the farm and once a year can compete in the annual International Bottle Smashing Competition!
Aberdeen Angus beef is synonymous with high quality meat and iconic to Scotland. However, the name is the breed of cattle rather than the area in which it was bred. Aberdeen Angus cattle are as much at home in Argentina as in Scotland, though it makes for one of Scotland's most successful exports in history.
Think of Scottish cuisine and salmon has to be mentioned. Some of Europe's most densely populated rivers run through this area of the country. However, Scottish farmed salmon is flourishing and was the first non-French product and first fish to be awarded the coveted Label Rouge title from the French government.
Another food awarded a PGI Promise status is the Arbroath Smokie. Arbroath in Angus has produced smokies (smoked locally caught haddock) since the 1800s. The fish, salted overnight, dried and then smoked in a barrel is traditionally eaten for breakfast. You will only need to follow your nose if you're in the vicinity of Arbroath to seek out a smoke house and watch the process for yourself!
The east coast produces the majority of Scotland's home-grown vegetables, as a result the local Farmers' Markets are unsurpassed. For a real experience of the local flavour the Scottish Borders hosts its annual 10 day Borders Banquet in November. The event is a celebration of the high quality local produce, talented local chefs and exciting restaurants serving food without food miles.
Cuisine in Edinburgh is of course world class and every taste is catered for. From the impossibly romantic setting of The Witchery in the imposing shadow of Edinburgh Castle to the retro sausage and mashed potato dishes at Monster Mash Caf and everything in between.
The city is also home to the multi-award winning brewery Innis and Gunn. The unique beer is brewed in imported American white oak barrels previously used to mature bourbon in Kentucky and boasts toffee, vanilla and orange in its pallet. Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay is a fan and recently enlisted the help of the brewery to produce a beer to serve with his fine food. If your taste is for the more exotic try Bramble Bar whose cocktails have earned the underground bar a coveted place in Australian Bartender Magazines Top 20 Bars in the World list and has the accolade of being voted Best Bar in Britain in The Observer Food Awards 2009.
And of course, how could we not mention the great chieftain o the puddin race? Haggis producers Macsween have been producing award winning haggis in Edinburgh for over 50 years. To ensure that nobody is left out on tasting this iconic Scottish dish they created the first vegetarian haggis 25 years ago.