Guide to Scotland's Festivals 2015: Scotland's Year of Food and Drink

Guide to Scotland's Festivals 2015: Scotland's Year of Food and Drink

Islay Festival of Music and Malt

From Arbroath smokies to artisan chocolatiers, there's much more to Scotland's food culture than deep fried Mars Bars

Another big year is ahead for Scotland, this time with the focus on top ideas and opportunities for quality eating and drinking. Claire Sawers tucks in to see what the 2015 menu offers

Hopefully, these days it’s only bad Edinburgh Fringe comedians that are making those jokes about all the food in Scotland being deep-fried. Yes, Scotland still does an excellent fish and chips (particularly good when eaten next to the sea, while dodging diving seagulls), but in reality, Scotland’s cooks and food producers get up to a lot more besides deep-frying. Such as smoking haddock in Arbroath, roasting wild venison in Auchtermuchty, distilling whisky in Speyside, handcrafting chocolates in Oban, growing heritage tomatoes in the Clyde Valley, and slow roasting pork in the Borders.

A spotlight will be shone on Scotland’s edible side in 2015, with the Year of Food & Drink described as ‘a year-long celebration of Scotland’s natural larder’. The programme recognises not only the variety of delicious foods available in Scotland, but also the appetite for it: apparently one-fifth of tourist budgets is spent on food here, and VisitScotland reports that ‘eating traditional dishes and local produce’ is the second top activity for holidaymakers.

With that in mind, VisitScotland is bringing together a piled-high selection of cafés, restaurants, distilleries, hotels, producers and B&Bs who will all be showing off Scottish produce. Some are high-end, some are based outdoors, some feature Michelin-starred chefs, and others involve actors in costumes handing out samples of early-19th century food (head to the Georgian Kitchen at Falkirk’s Callendar House if you like the sound of the last one).

Those who are sweet of tooth may want to investigate the Hebridean Toffee company on the tiny island of Barra – they supply homemade tablet to the likes of Balmoral Castle – or perhaps spend a day picking your own summer berries at the family-run Rutherford Farm in Kelso. For those who’d like to learn how to make (then eat) their own desserts, Ruth Hinks, holder of the impressive title of ‘UK World Chocolate Master’, will be leading chocolate classes and pastry courses in Peebles; while the Cream o’ Galloway will be serving up luscious ice cream alongside a woodland adventure playground and Go Boing!, their new aerial netting adventure area.

Liquid options are plentiful too: the Scotch Malt Whisky Society will be hosting single malt tastings down by The Shore in Leith; the Orkney Brewery is hosting tours of their brewhouse and fermentation room, and Cairn O’Mohr winery in Perthshire will be showing off their range of fruit wines, ciders, sparkling wines, fruit punches and apple juices.

Events will be taking place across the country celebrating Scotland’s food and drink, including the Crail Food Festival, a weekend of markets, foraging and dinners around the fishing village in the East Neuk of Fife. The Islay Festival of Music and Malt is an annual chance to drink whisky whilst also exploring the island’s golf courses, ceilidhs and beaches.

As well as drawing attention to regional specialities (see the Arbroath Smokie Trail, Speyside Malt Whisky Trail or West Coast of Scotland’s Seafood Trail), there will be various ways to experiment with the traditional dining experience too. The One Square restaurant in Edinburgh’s Sheraton Grand Hotel will be inviting a group of six to dine at The Kitchen Table, a private room within the restaurant’s kitchen where chefs explain the meal they are eating and share cooking techniques. The Chef’s Table at Turnberry Hotel in Ayrshire offers a similar behind-the-scenes mix of learning and eating for groups of ten.

Although a lot of bakers, chocolatiers, fishmongers, Slow Food members, brewers, café owners and chefs are exceptionally hard at work every year, regardless of the 2015 campaign, the VisitScotland website features event listings from chocolate festivals to food markets, recommendations on good pubs and tips on food trails, local suppliers and seasonal ingredients, handy for anyone visiting Scotland and for those of us already here and looking for something new to eat.

Apart from anything else, there is plenty material to provide a quality heckle next time a comedian makes that joke about Scotland and deep-fried Mars Bars.

See for full event info.

A Hebridean Toffee
Castlebay, Isle of Barra, Western Isles, HS9 5XD
Softer than the traditional chewy stuff which pulls teeth, Hebridean Toffee is a luxury tablet made entirely by hand on the Isle of Barra, by Gerry & Karen Porter - they're the only manufacturing business on the little island. No automation is used…
B Cream o' Galloway Dairy Co Ltd
Rainton, Gatehouse of Fleet, Dumfries and Galloway, DG7 2DR
Established in the early 1990s, Cream O' Galloway has been producing fair trade ice-cream for over a decade. Using only the finest organically grown ingredients, they are serious about their commitment to reduce their impact on the environment and trade…
C The Orkney Brewery
Quoyloo, Stromness, Orkney Islands, KW16 3LT
Housed in a former schoolhouse in Orkney’s west mainland, the Orkney Brewery has settled into its existence as a Sinclair Brewery after being bought from Highlands and Island Breweries in 2006. Originally founded by Roger White in 1988, many of its…
D Cairn O' Mohr
East Inchmichael Farm, Errol, Perth and Kinross, PH2 7SP
Cairn O'Mohr make wine out of locally available fruit, including brambles, strawberries, raspberries, apples, elderflowers and elderberries, and a measure of their success is that they've been doing it since 1987. The winery offers tours from April to…
E One Square
1 Festival Square, Edinburgh, EH3 9SR
Classy venue with views of Edinburgh Castle, great service and a range of bistro favourites done well.
F Cocoa Black Chocolate Boutique
1–2 Cuddybridge, Peebles, Scottish Borders, EH45 8HX
From their Chocolate and Pastry School to a confectionery-focused shop and café serving chocolate afternoon teas, Cocoa Black are living up to their strapline 'everything chocolate'. Founder and UK World Chocolate Master 2013 Ruth Hinks runs classes for…
G The Shore Bar & Restaurant
3 The Shore, Edinburgh, EH6 6QW
Atmospheric old-fashioned bar and bistro offering great food accompanied by live jazz several times a week.
Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the information displayed here is accurate, always check with the venue before attending (especially during the Covid-19 pandemic).

Islay Festival of Music and Malt

The Islay Festival (or 'Fèis Ìle' as it's called in Gaelic) celebrates 36 years in 2020. The fest offers distillery tours, live music, a food fair, golf and bowling competitions and even Gaelic lessons for those who want to embrace the culture.

Various venues: Isle of Islay, Isle Of Islay

Fri 27 May

Times vary

Sat 28 May

Times vary

Sun 29 May

Times vary

…and 6 more dates until 4 Jun

Crail Food Festival

A weekend of food and drink events in the coastal village of Crail, with plenty of sampling as well as food demonstrations and talks from independent producers across Fife. There will also be music events, children's activities and markets both indoor and outdoor.