The Independent Golfer

Food in Scotland

Eating during your Scottish golf vacation can be an enjoyable adventure for the Independent Golfer. Once you have moved beyond the standard large hotel dining rooms you enter the world of small, independent restaurants, tearooms and pubs that offer a delightful variety of fare at very reasonable prices.

The Full Scottish Breakfast Before a Round of Golf is a wonderful way to begin the day.

Lunch Between Golf Rounds in the pub or the clubhouse.

Dinner for the Independent Golfer can be Scottish or international.

As you might expect, there are a number of issues regarding eating in Scottish restaurants, pubs an hotel dining rooms that a traveling American needs to understand:

  • How much do you tip?
  • When are meals served? (Hint: Most eating establishments are typically open for business only a few hours in the day.)
  • How do you order food in a pub? (Hint: There are no waitresses.)
  • What is a haggas? What do they put in it? Do you want to eat it? (Hint: Yes!)
  • What is the special custom about ordering your meal in most hotel dining rooms? (Hint: You don't sit at your table when you order.)
  • What are the varieties of foods available to you?
  • What are the special, traditional favorites that you need to try at least once?
  • What is so special about Single Malt Whiskey?

Answers to all these questions, and more, can be found in
Chapter #8 – "Gie Her a Haggis".
To see an excerpt from this chapter, CLICK HERE

The Independent golfers Guide to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland

While you are waiting for your book order to arrive in the mail, you might be interested in the brief description of Scottish dining customs listed below.

Caddienotes for Golf Courses in Scotland

The Full Scottish Breakfast

Scots are proud of their Scottish Cooked Full Breakfast that is served in all Bed and Breakfast establishments and most Hotels and Restaurants. Just the hearty start-of-the-day meal for the Independent Golfer, it always contains eggs, at least two kinds of breakfast meat, some form of potato, grilled tomatoes, toast or roll, marmalade, coffee and juice and, if you want, porridge (oat meal) or cold cereal.

Different establishments vary these basics in a number of ways. Eggs can, of course, be fried, boiled, scrambled or poached. The breakfast meat could be bacon which looks like thinly cut and fried strips of ham (regular American-style bacon is cut much thinner and called “streaky bacon” in Scotland.) Other meats that are served include veal, pork or beef sausage, black pudding, haggis or kippers.

Potatoes come as either a triangular patty of hash browns that has been browned in a skillet or as “tattie scones”, thin triangular cakes made from potato flour. Grilled tomatoes, typically two halves warmed face down in a skillet, are always on your plate. The toast will always be served cool, on purpose. It is presented in a little chrome or silver rack that keeps each slice separate and allows air to circulate freely. Why? Scots say it is to keep the toast crisp. (I always grab it quickly and get butter on it as soon as possible so that the butter will melt before everything goes stone cold. Soggy toast with melted butter is fine to my American palate.) Your Scottish breakfast may also contain sautéed sliced mushrooms and perhaps a spoonful of baked beans.

Other Breakfasts

Though Scots are prideful of their Full Breakfast, they are also aware that not everybody would like such fortification first thing in the morning. You can always ask that some parts of the breakfast not be served. (I never find those baked beans very appetizing in the morning.) You can also opt for a continental breakfast of coffee, juice and a roll and you can add yogurt or, at times, fresh fruit.


Lunch Before or after
A around of Scottish golf

The Pub Lunch

For my Independent Golfing friends, the pub lunch is the most popular way to take a noontime meal. This may be because it is served in a fully licensed pub that also offers any number of beverages to wash the food down. But the good food is a great attraction, too. Most pubs will offer a fresh, homemade soup of the day that is hearty, delicious and inevitably served with a bread roll. Typical soups include scotch broth, lentil, cock-a-leekie, cullen skink  and corn chowder.

Pub lunches offer a variety of other foods including “toasties” (grilled cheese or ham and cheese sandwiches) and macaroni and cheese. Often you can order baked potatoes or French rolls stuffed with cheese, prawns, tuna salad, baked beans or coronation chicken. Fish and chips is a staple of the pub lunch. The Ploughman's Lunch is more of a light snack lunch than one might think a ploughman would require. It consists of bread and cheese with pickle and a small salad. The construction will vary greatly from pub to pub.

Typical Scottish Pub

Pub lunches are attractive for a number of reasons. They are typically more inexpensive than comparable fare in larger hotel restaurants. The pubs’ informality is appealing to many American visitors who seek to strike up conversations with locals. Pubs, or Public Houses, have, for hundreds of years, been the places that the residents of a local area gather, share news, and discuss the happenings of the day. They are a refuge from work and a haven for the weary who seek to relax with a pint and a friend.

It is this latter, pint thing that, for many, is an extra attraction of the pub lunch that seems to go down better with some libation. The local lager, ale, or any of a number of other brewed beverages are very popular and can be ordered in pint of half-pint glasses. But the Scots don’t stop there. Beyond the wide variety of other alcoholic drinks that people around the world are accustomed to, Scots have exercised their imagination in creating additional mixes that are popular locally. You can try a Shandy, which is a half glass of beer filled to the top with lemonade or a Lager Tops which is mostly beer with just a dash of lemonade. If you want to substitute whiskey for that lemonade you should ask for a Half & Half – whiskey and beer. A whiskey and ginger mix is called a Whiskey Mac. Whiskey mixed with hot water, honey and lemon is a Toddy and can be very welcome on a blustery day. An interesting mix that is often carried onto the golf course in a flask is Brandy mixed with Port.

When you go to a pub for food or drink the general custom is find a place to sit and then to walk to the bar, look over a menu and order there. You can order your drinks at this time and then carry them to the table. You may be asked to pay before or after being served; the custom varies from pub to pub.

Other Lunch Opportunities

Lunch can also be found in everything from high-end hotel restaurants with elaborate menus, well-set tables and attentive service to low-end chippies (carry-out fish and chip shops) from which you can walk down the street with a paper box full of your lunch and a bottle of Irn-Bru (a local soft drink so popular it is known as the Scottish national drink.)

Finally, the Independent Golfer will often prefer to eat lunch at the clubhouse on the course after a morning round. The size of the clubhouse is an important factor here. Many of the smaller courses in the Highlands and Islands don’t offer regular lunch service. The larger ones offer variations on the pub lunch, but often their selection is somewhat limited. It is quite common for clubs to ask ahead of time for you to book catering (reserve food service) if you want it. In these cases, catering can be simply a snack of coffee and perhaps a bacon roll or it could be homemade soup and a sandwich. Some clubhouses even offer afternoon High Tea for after your round.

The Time for Lunch

Scots seem to have a relatively fixed idea about when lunch should be eaten and Americans, wandering in to a local pub in a small town at 3:30 in the afternoon will probably be disappointed to find the kitchen closed and nothing available to assuage their hunger but a bag of crisps (potato chips.) It is a good idea to plan to eat lunch some time between noon and 1:30 so that you can get the best selection the place has to offer and enjoy the atmosphere of a pleasantly crowded pub.


Eating Dinner in Scotland

A Wonderful Variety

For dinner in all but the smallest towns you should have a generous selection of places to eat. As with lunch, it is possible to have pub food for dinner. You can also wander into many types of small independent restaurants as well as restaurants associated with hotels. Most food in these establishments has a considerable Euro-continental flavor, specializing in such things as fish and seafood, beef, lamb and pork, pasta, elaborate salads and freshly baked breads. Highland Scotch Beef is specially tender and flavorsome though a bit pricey. In some of the more traditional Scottish places you will be offered game, meat pies, sausage and mash (mashed potatoes) and, of course, fish and chips. Lamb is always available but it tends to be quite expensive. (Why this is so I have never understood since, as you drive through the Highlands and Islands you see miles and miles of pastures full of sheep and lambs. Something else must be at work here besides the law of supply and demand.) Deserts are popular with Scots and you will want to sample the Sticky Toffee Pudding at least once.

Modern Restaurant

Chinese Restaurant in Scotland

The Ubiquitous Chips

If you spend any time in Scotland, you will have to eat chips. What we would call french fries are everyplace and served with everything. Fish and chips, steak pie and chips, sausage and chips, chicken strips and chips are everywhere. Macaroni/cheese and chips and Lasagna and chips are standard menu items. And then there is just chips. Scots will often buy a stand-alone order of chips for an afternoon or late evening snack. You can order them with curry or tomato-based sauces to dip them in or enjoy them in the classic way with salt and malt vinegar. Your fine Highland Scot beefsteak at the classiest restaurant will come with chips as will your order of Hungarian Goulash or your lamb shank with mint jelly. Once, when I ordered Kung Pao Chicken and Sweet and Sour Pork at a Chinese take-out place in Tobermory the young waitress asked with all seriousness, “Do you want chips with that?” I had to ask for rice.


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