By Janice Hopper

Scotland is renowned for its larder, and when the nights are long and the weather crisp and sharp, take the opportunity to indulge and seek out some of the most novel and luxurious food and drink experiences in a range of idyllic beauty spots, wild islands and remote country escapes.


Colonsay - Gin Lovers Retreat

Gin-lovers can combine rest and recuperation, with food, log fires and gin, on the small island of Colonsay, off the west coast of Scotland. After sailing from Oban, guests are welcomed into a modern, two-bedroom house with two gin cocktails per person upon arrival, followed by dinner. On the Saturday enjoy afternoon tea, before settling down for a pre-dinner, five-gin tasting experience. This full board break includes transport anywhere you wish to go on the island, from remote beaches to rugged cliffs. Alternatively, cosy up in the living room, with excellent coastal views and peruse the retreat’s collection of more than 200 gins from around the world.

Other Scottish gin experiences include blending, bottling and branding your own craft gin at Eden Mill’s Blendworks in the Macdonald Rusacks Hotel, St Andrews - (see page xx for review). Or head to the new Gin Bothy in Glamis. The experience includes the bothy’s own creations, from Gunshot and Stirrup gin, to strawberry or chilli gin.


Morayshire - Ghillie Basan

If you fancy a picnic next to a waterfall, lunch in a gorge, or a feast by a lochside, renowned food writer and broadcaster Ghillie Basan will prepare and deliver a wide selection of mezze dishes to the diners’ chosen location. Let imaginations run wild: no matter how remote, Ghillie is determined to reach her guests as she runs the catering service from the back of a Landrover. A forage walk and bush cooking can also be included in the experience – think open fires, pit ovens and smoked food. Alternatively, guests can eat at Ghillie's home in Ballindalloch, Morayshire, where she will host an evening of ‘Mezze chez Moi’ with optional whisky pairing.


Banchory - Aberdeenshire Highland Beef

If you wish to get up close and personal with these hairy icons of Scotland, then the Farm Experience at 'Grace’s Farm' fits the brief. Meet Grace's herd of Highland Cattle in the field, engage with the farmer, admire the prize show beasts, learn about the animals sent to slaughter, ask questions, understand the process, then finally taste the beef. From field to fork, this is as authentic as it gets.


St Andrews - Balgove Larder and Farm Shop

With so much ‘stuff’ in the world, buying Christmas presents that people can use or consume is becoming increasingly popular. For inspiration seek out a foodie Christmas Market to create a hamper, or buy treats for your own festive table.

Balgove’s free Christmas night market falls on December 11, 2018 from 4.00-8.00pm. Held in a restored former sawmill, with a wood-fired barbecue at its centre, shoppers can browse a mix of food and drink producers, whilst being serenaded by carol singers. 

If you wish to combine food and crafts then Balgove’s wreath-making classes, held on December, 1, 8 and 15, 2018, bring together festive creativity accompanied by a glass of hot mulled wine or spiced apple with a homemade mince pie. Nibble as you create!

Another tempting Christmas Food Market is running at Bowhouse in Anstruther on December 8-9, 2018. Makers in Bowhouse include Bibi’s Little Bakery, Futtle organic brewery, Langoustine the Box, Mara Seaweed, Minick Butchers and not-for-profit Scotland the Bread.


Glenlivet - Glenlivet Smugglers Peat Reek and Pot Still Tour

Climb aboard an eight-wheel drive Argocat and imagine a bygone age of illicit whisky distilling and smuggling. At the summit of Carn Liath experience your first glass of ‘The Glenlivet’. Manoeuvre along the old drover’s road to understand how the region’s 200 illicit stills smuggled their goods south. Next stop, a 19th century Highland bothy, where guests are served Scottish produce from individual picnic hampers accompanied by Glenlivet drams. Dine whilst listening to recordings from descendants of Glenlivet Smugglers, recounting how their forefathers plied their risky trade. The day is rounded off with a tour of the modern distillery.

Another quality whisky experience to consider is Legends of the Garioch, at Glen Garioch Distillery in Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire.


Skye - Seafood and the Seaflower

The Seaflower sets sail from Portree offering tours to the tiny islands of Rona and Raasay. A boat excursion aboard a comfortable catamaran is an excellent way to appreciate the scenery and the wildlife, but an added bonus is the fact that the skipper’s family are fishermen, providing fresh, locally caught lobster and langoustines for a generous seafood platter. Accompanied by a bowl of Cullen Skink and generous glasses of white wine, this is a wonderful way to dine and sightsee simultaneously.


Fife - With Christopher Trotter

Christopher Trotter is the Food Ambassador for Fife, so a wonderful man to spend a day with if you’re hungry. A typical tour involves visiting a cheese dairy, a farm tour at Ardross Farm Shop, a seafood lunch in Crail, foraging for wild foods along the beach, learning chocolate-making skills, and rounding off the day with a steak barbecue supper. Bon appetite!


Shetland - Sumburgh Head Café

Many restaurants and cafés in Scotland boast excellent views, but for something quite special head to Sumburgh Head on the southern tip of Shetland. As well as offering interactive learning, rich World War II history within its radar room, and a Marine Life Centre, the views from the café are simply staggering. It’s also an ideal spot for birding – look out for gannets, guillemots and puffins.

Another fantastic lighthouse café with sublime views is the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses in Fraserburgh -


Dunfermline – Courses for Cooks

Wishing to deliver something different to the festive table this year? Cookery courses running in the build up to Christmas include ‘Christmas Breads and Baking’ and ‘Gingerbread House’ building (both December 11) and a ‘Half Day Healthy Christmas Cooking’ course on December 18. Impress your guests with quirky creations this festive season.


Aberdeenshire - Royal Deeside Railway

A family friendly option here, also appealing to those who rate a vintage steam engine ride through the countryside. Step back in time and imagine Queen Victoria travelling by train through Royal Deeside to her beloved Balmoral. A one mile section of the railway has been lovingly restored, and all passengers travelling on the Mince Pie Specials (December 30-31) indulge in a wee mince pie with tea or coffee.

Whether you’re looking for thoughtful gifts or seeking out quality edible indulgences for yourself, take time to harvest Scotland’s most innovative foodie experiences.