Well, we have now returned from our fabulous Scottish vacation. Before we left, we heard many warnings about how horrible Scottish food was. People seem very keen on laughing at haggis and detailing horrible meals they’ve had or heard about in the Northern part of the UK. Well, I’m here to tell you that Scotland has some truly wonderful food. But, like anywhere else, it’s usually found in restaurants and inns that are run by discerning folk who like to purchase quality ingredients, often locally.
We were lucky enough to stay at two such places, B&Bs that we had booked for our first two nights in Scotland. So, if you’re heading to Scotland any time soon, I highly recommend the Barley Bree Restaurant with Rooms in Mutthill (near Crieff and the Trossachs) and Heatherfield House in Oban (a lovely seaside village on the western coast). Here’s more on each:
Mutthill is an easy 40 minutes from the Edinburgh airport and is set on the eastern edge of the lovely Trossachs, one of Scotland’s most beautiful national parks. Crieff, a hilly centuries old village with lots of beautiful shops and views, is a mere 5 minutes drive away.
The Barley Bree Inn is owned by Fabrice, his wife and their two children. What I didn’t know when I booked this inn, but was excited to find out while there, is that Fabrice is a classically trained French chef, and every meal we had there represented his skills. In addition to the delectable locally caught sea bass and risotto he served for dinner, he also presented us with one of the loveliest butternut squash soups I have ever had. It was velvety and creamy without being overtly so. He also added slivers of some homemade pickled ginger, which added a bit of spiciness. It was truly great.
For breakfast, we were presented with a sort of Scottish Breakfast/French petit dejeuner. The meal started with yogurts, homemade stewed prunes, grapefruit slices, and nuts. We then were given a steaming bowl of porridge, which I topped with some of the stewed prunes and nuts. I can’t tell you how good this was. I would never have purchased stewed prunes on my own, but am here to say I need to find a nice jar of them because once you have the delicate sweetness of stewed prunes with porridge, there’s no going back.
Although this would have been a full breakfast at my house, at the Barley Bree Inn, we were just getting started. After the yogurt, fruits and porridge, we found ourselves sitting in front of heaping plates of poached eggs (you can get the eggs fixed however you want), back bacon, homemade sausage, roasted tomatoes and mushrooms, homemade bread and butter, and, of course, haggis. Under the gentle care of Fabrice, we couldn’t have been introduced to this much maligned sausage any better. Ordered from a local butcher and made to Fabrice’s specifications, the haggis was equivalent to a rich calf liver pate. It had a nice tetxture and was served as a small sliver, so it accented the meal instead of taking it over. The bacon was nicely salted and the sausage perfectly seasoned. Overall, this was the best breakfast we had in Scotland, and I was very thankful we started our trip at the Barley Bree Inn.
Oh — the beds were also very comfortable and the rooms clean, although a wee bit small.
The next night we stayed in Oban, a beautiful historic village on the coast near the Isl of Mull. Heatherfield House is run by Gary and his lovely wife (whose name escapes me right now). They are actually English, and their inn is a gorgeous house set on a hill with views of the Atlantic and nearby isles. It’s also just a short walk to town (about 2 minutes downhill) where there are many restaurants and a whisky distillery.
One of the reasons I chose Heatherfield is because they have their own chickens and use their eggs for their breakfasts. So, after a fantastic night’s sleep in the extremely comfortable beds and a shower in the nicest bathroom we saw in Scotland, we sat down to a full Scottish breakfast.
After the initial yogurts, muesli, and English and Scottish cheeses, alongside some more stewed prunes and berries, we started in on the main portion of the meal. I cannot stress enough how perfect the eggs are at Heatherfield. They were laid either that morning or the morning before and the freshness of flavor and texture were incredible. The homemade sausage (made at the inn) and back bacon were also fantastic. The dish was also served with blood pudding, and from what I can tell, it was a great version of this dish. I, for one, found that I am not a blood pudding fan, however. No matter how nicely it was made and seasoned, in the end, I can barely suck on a cut finger, let alone eat something that was essentially blood and suet.
After breakfast my daughters frolicked in the garden where the chickens were. Gary and his wife were very gracious hosts. It was really a perfect place to stay.
So if you find yourself in Scotland, I highly recommend these two B&Bs. You won’t regret it.