There’s a saying – ‘Great change is preceded by chaos’.
For Scotland’s hospitality industry these weeks since March 2020 have offered little but chaos and confusion, unknowns and unpredictables; in short, everything a business doesn’t need. No-one forecast the extent of the impact, the width and breadth of the shut-down, and the cost to our established ‘normal’ ways of life. The next few weeks will starkly reveal the survivors, as well as many heart-breaking tales of hard work coming to nothing but broken dreams.
But, if the saying is true, perhaps we should put our energies not into finding who was to blame, what could have been done better, or any of the factors we cannot change, but look instead to improve the ‘normal’, so that ‘one day’, does indeed become ‘day one’.
Tentatively looking for August holiday accommodation on Scotland’s West Coast (I yearn for those turquoise seas and glorious sunsets), I was tempted to check out the nearest supermarket, possibly even a book a delivery slot, but something stopped me. I realised, that when I encourage visitors to come to my home area of Speyside, I enthuse about the local craft butcher, the amazing deli with their vast array of cheese, the baker’s tempting fare, the distilleries, both whisky and gin, the fresh fish delivery service, even the local Chinese takeaway. Yet here was I planning to ignore all of that, in favour of convenience. And I also realised with a chuckle, that the result would simply be me producing the same food as we’ve been eating right through lockdown, because I would be selecting it all from the same supermarket menu, ie not much of a holiday at all, for me or my family. So instead I looked for local food producers, and I found them, boy did I find them!
I now have a ‘must-do’ list, indeed a route around the region (which I thought I knew) determined not by the conventional visitor attractions, but by local food and drink destinations. I now long for eating mussels straight from the mussel beds, estate venison within a few miles from where it last ‘monarched’, lamb from those salty shores, and cheese made from milk enriched with all of that spring sunshine even lock down couldn’t stifle. Not to mention shellfish and sea fish caught by the boats I can watch bobbing in the harbour. Imagine the excitement of planning your menu around what’s freshest, what’s available, and what you fancy, rather than with the laptop, several weeks prior, via a supermarket’s virtual basket?
Now I’m not saying the odd tin of beans and packet of pasta might not creep into the packing as back up, but if you too are considering a self-catering holiday, or even just a day out in Scotland this year, PLEASE consider supporting not just the accommodation, the hotels, bars and coffee shops (goodness knows they need you as much as you need them right now), but get stuck right into the local food too.
Once shopping locally becomes a habit for most of us, those creative, resourceful and determined businesses may be able to rise again, to greater success than ever they were, and we’ll all reap the rewards of better quality food, lower food miles, fairer prices for producers, and the gorgeous variety driven by regionality and the seasons. Plus, it gives us a great excuse to explore more of this wonderful country, and all of its riches!
To get you started, here’s a few to consider:
Support Local spotlights food and drink producers across Scotland. Not so much a trail, but a great way of finding wonderful food with authentic provenance, many of which also offer online sales to keep that holiday feeling going all year round!
The Mull and Iona Food Trail ‘Eat your way around the islands’! Love this!
Taste of Arran Everything from chocolate to chutney, all from Arran’s beautiful shores.
The Outer Hebrides Crofting land and bounteous seas, smoked shellfish, plus whisky gin and beer. Yet another great reason to visit this magical region.
Food from Fife Guides Fife-bound foodies around this region of great golf, beautiful beaches and picturesque fishing villages, and some very fine gins too!
Scotland Starts Here The Border region’s food and drink trail, and very lovely it is. Don’t miss the local gins if you’re down that way, and if you’re heading further north, why not make time for a pitstop while shopping for some local delicacies.
Skye also has an annual food festival. (And gin). Something to look forward to in 2021!
Aberdeenshire and the North East is home to some of Scotland’s finest food producers. Learn more here.
Do check to see who’s open when you’re visiting, as things are changing daily. And of course, do use the Gincyclopedia to find accommodation and the local gin producers along the way!
Bon appetit, or as they say in Gaelic Ith do shàth! (EEch doh HAH) or
Eat your fill!