How to survive travelling as a vegan in Scotland
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A Google search of “Scottish food” brings up pages on haggis (the national dish made from the minced entrails and internal organs of sheep, pigs or cows) with “neeps and tattie” (turnips and potatoes), fresh seafood, Angus beef, cheddar cheeses and battered Mars bars — none of which are very vegan-friendly. But despite this, veganism in Scotland is becoming a booming business.
If you are travelling right into the Scottish Highlands or any of the small islands that surround its coast, then yes, it will still be difficult to find places to eat that offer good vegan options. So travelling to those areas will require some thoughtful packing, as well as possibly calling up places in advance for a quick chat about getting in supplies for your stay. However, in all of the main Scottish cities, you will find lots of vegan-friendly options. One of the best ways to find places with vegan food close to where you are is by downloading the “Happy Cow” app. But below is a selection of great places with vegan options if you find yourself in bonny Scotland.
Henderson’s Bistro, Edinburgh
Edinburgh is thought to have the largest number of vegan eateries in the whole of Scotland, and even places that are not labelled as “vegan” are likely to have at least one vegan option on their menu. Henderson’s Bistro is the U.K.’s longest-running vegetarian restaurant, and it opened a 100% vegan branch in Edinburgh in July 2015. This is a small, quaint spot that won a Certificate of Excellence from 2016 to 2019, and has a 4.5-star rating on TripAdvisor. It describes its food as “cutting edge contemporary cuisine”, with options ranging from vegan haggis to pumpkin pie smoothies to vegan doughnuts.
Another recommendation for Edinburgh is Checkpoint, which was named by The Times as one of the “25 coolest restaurants in Britain.” Checkpoint is inside an old church that has been refurbished with an upcycled Scandi interior. It’s open every day of the week for both food and drinks, from 10 a.m. until late. This place is not exclusively vegan, but has many vegan options, including a vegan burger with a chickpea and sweetcorn patty, smashed avocado on sourdough toast with chilli and chia seeds, a full vegan breakfast, rocket pesto linguine and a kiwi and passionfruit mess.
Following close behind on the vegan scene is Glasgow, with multiple 100% plant-based restaurants across the city. Picnic is a bright, relaxing café in Glasgow’s Merchant City that has a focus on fresh, whole, organic and cruelty-free ingredients. It is the perfect place for people with an interest in sustainability, too, as it only uses recycled or fully biodegradable packaging for its food. It has a whole range of smoothies, soups, curries, baked potatoes with various toppings, burgers, porridge, waffles, sandwiches, salad bowls and cakes.
If you are looking for a quirkier spot, then Mono is a bar in Glasgow that hosts many gigs and other events, and also has a menu full of fresh food, free from animal produce. This is the place to go if you need to satisfy those junk food cravings with options such as macaroni cheese, fish and chips, a seitan burger and a range of vegan pizzas.
Flying Duck, Glasgow
A place with a similar vibe is The Flying Duck, which is described as, “A basement bar, venue and vegan diner tucked away in Glasgow’s city centre”. Not only does it offer incredible food such as New England-style jackfruit crab cakes, five bean chilli with creamy polenta and a vegan big MC burger, but this is also somewhere you can let your hair down with gigs, quizzes, drag karaoke and so much more.
Little Potting Shed, Oban
As you move out of these two big cities, it does get a little bit harder to find exclusively vegan eateries, but all of the big supermarkets are very much vegan-friendly and there are hidden gems in the most unexpected places. For example, The Little Potting Shed Café in Oban, which is a quaint little vegetarian/vegan gem hidden amidst the backstreets in the town of Oban along the west coast.
The Chocolate Place, Inverness
This fabulous vegan chocolate shop is located up in the Highlands in Inverness. Even when places appear to be totally unsuitable, many places are willing to adapt to suit your dietary needs if you speak to them. There are many Indian restaurants across Scotland, and these are always a good place to try because a lot of the dishes are vegetarian anyway and can be made vegan if ghee/paneer is not added to them.
Saorsa 1875, Pitlochry
One way to make it really easy for yourself and not even have to venture outside for dinner is to stay somewhere that labels itself as being a “veggie hotel”. These are most commonly vegetarian but can cater for vegan guests, too. In June this year, the U.K.’s first completely vegan hotel opened in Pitlochry, Highland Perthshire, described as, “A hotel dedicated to showcasing ethical luxury”. This hotel is surrounded by two acres of natural woodlands and has 11 bedrooms, each individually styled to combine luxury with antique furnishings. It is completely free of animal products in everything from bedding to cleaning products. In the restaurant, its mission is “to prove that delicious food doesn’t have to come at the expense of animals or the planet”, with options including asparagus and truffle with hollandaise mayo, black salt caviar and wild garlic and pea and pint risotto with ginger ricotta.
Other options for accommodation include The Cosy Vegan B&B in Dunfermline, Ferghan Mhor Vegan B&B on the Isle of Arran, The Old Croft Vegetarian B&B on the Isle of Skye or Arle Lodge on the Isle of Mull.
Although at first glance Scotland can seem like a vegan nightmare, with a little bit of research and forward-planning, you’ll actually find yourself with plenty of options, with the added bonus of being in one of the most beautiful natural places in the entire world.
Featured photo by Joe Daniel Price/Getty Images.