Although most Scottish menus feature the broad spectrum of international cuisine, why not try some of our native dishes which make the most of our climate and produce.
Starting with breakfast. Where else does the day begin so sumptiously than with a Scottish breakfast? Porridge to warm and prepare the very foundations of the stomach and then kippers or smoked haddock before moving on to Ayrshire Roll and eggs – perhaps with Lorne Sausage and Black Pudding. Ayrshire Roll is the apothesis of bacon, uniquely cured and crisply grilled for that unmatchable, delicate flavour. And to go with it? Morning rolls, fresh from the baker’s oven, and toast with marmalade (which was reputedly "invented" by a chef of Mary Queen of Scots). As Dr Johnson famously declared, "If an epicure could remove by a wish in quest of sensual satisfaction, wherever he had supped he would breakfast in Scotland."
A mid-morning break is accompanied by a steaming mug of coffee or bullshot, perhaps with a filled roll for those who have worn off their breakfast. And then to lunch. Possibly a bowl of Scotch broth crowned with chopped wild parsley and thick with barley and vegetables, followed by a platter of smoked fish – salmon, trout, mackerel and mussels or thick slabs of heather-grazed mutton and finished with a board of Scottish cheeses and oatcakes. But then, you may be saving your strength for a Highland Tea, believing that the Scots have done for baking what the English did for beer: bannocks, baps, scones and pancakes; shortbreads, fruit breads and gingerbreads; fancy cakes, sponges and biscuits. All with such delights as local strawberry, blackcurrant, rhubarb and ginger jams . . .
The evening meal could introduce a number of Scottish regional speialities – Cullen Skink (a smoked haddock chowder), Partan Bree (cream of crab soup) or Cock-a-Leekie (a chicken soup simmered with leeks); Tweed Kettle (fresh salmon poached with Scottish herbs), Herrings fried in oatmeal, leg of roast hill lamb, the best of Aberdeen Angus beef, Haggis (freshly caught, of course) and Stovies (thinly sliced potatoes cooked slowly in beef dripping); Cranachan (rich in cream and toasted oatmeal), Clootie Dumpling (a boiled timebomb of dried fruits, treacle, ginger, cinnamon and brown sugar) or, in the summer, raspberries from the acclaimed hillsides of Angus and Perthshire.
Fine wines from all over the world are readily available. Indeed, Leith (Edinburgh’s seaport) was once the largest wine importing port in the world and many wines – claret, for instance – were originally developed for the Scottish wine market. Draught Scottish ale, dark and refreshing, is a must – if only to fully appreciate the "Craic" in a Highland pub! – but there is always a wide choice of lagers and imported beers.
Saving the best to last – Malt Whisky! The magical bringing together of spring water, golden barley, peat, fire and time. The national drink of the Highlands is still made in the same way as it has for centuries. Visitors are often surprised first by the number of single malts (a "single" malt is the product of an individual distillery and there are over a hundred of them!) and second, on sampling them, by the differences in flavour – from the light and delicate to the full-bodied, smoky and peaty or from the fruitier and aromatic to the drier and slightly bland.