Scotland food was a lot like England’s food, but the breakfasts were amazing. Our complimentary breakfasts in our hotel in England were essentially croissants, toast and cold cereal. Our free breakfasts in Scotland were eggs, meat, toast, croissants, fruit, cold cereal and porridge. We did not go hungry.
At Ashtree House Hotel we had eggs and sausage (the best sausage) with toast and coffee (great coffee). At Lambeth Guest House, Margaret offered us several options to order the night before. The smoked salmon scramble was the way to go. I got the smoked salmon scramble, sausage, fried tomatoes, and while we waited for that I munched on toast with jam made from some local berry that tasted like blackberry with cocoa. We also had cold cereal, and John ordered porridge, which he loved (which cracked me up). This was the ridiculously filling breakfast we had before visiting Lagavulin.
In Paisley, we ate dinner at a barbecue restaurant…I am not kidding. They offered all sorts of barbecue inspired by the US, which also cracked me up, as well as burgers and other sandwiches. I was a fool an ordered the burnt ends dinner, a traditionally Kansas City dish, that included coleslaw and fries. If you don’t know, burnt ends typically is made after smoking brisket, chopping off the ends and then smoking them again until they’re really charred and caramelized. It’s delicious. In Scotland, burnt ends was basically chopped up pieces of beef in a South Carolina-style BBQ sauce. It wasn’t bad; it just wasn’t burnt ends. The coleslaw, however, was surprisingly amazing, and the fries were good. We learned on this trip that if you go to an “American” restaurant in Europe, the fries they serve are shoe-string style, whereas chips and frites are thick-cut fries. Both “American” restaurants we visited, I just wanted to get in the kitchen and say “Okay, here’s what we need to do here. What you’re doing is fine, but we can do better.” Don’t worry, I did not follow through on that.
We found two restaurants in Bowmore that were opened for dinner during this time of year: The Harbour Inn and the Bowmore Hotel Restaurant. Forgive me if there are more, but we just couldn’t find them, or they were closed until summer. Both nights we ate at the Bowmore Hotel, just across the street from our B&B, mostly because we found The Harbour Inn’s prices too steep for our budget. The restaurant is small but cozy. We had fish and chips one night. Our first night there, however, I ordered Linda’s Steak Pie and totally met Linda, and damn, can that woman cook a steak pie.
The restaurant’s whisky bar was extensive. It was quite a moment to see so much Islay whisky in one place. You can’t see it in this picture, but the shelving curves around the alcove just to the right of the picture, and all of that is stocked with whisky too.
The whisky menu was thicker than the food menu. John took his whisky decisions very seriously, combing through the menu, trying to find the perfect pour of something he couldn’t drink in the US but for the right price.
For those interested, here’s a list of most of the whiskys we tried and what we thought. Some of them were in the Bowmore Hotel, but others were at the distilleries:
Port Charlotte 11
- Smells like: cereal grain, sea salt, roast nuts.
- Tastes like: smokiness of bacon, honey, hint of floral and medicinal notes
Port Charlotte Scottish Barley
- Smells like: medicinal, floral
- Tastes like: wood and barley
At the distilleries we tried these whiskys:
- Lagavulin 10-year-old cask
- Lagavulin 21-year-old cask
- Lagavulin 32-year-old cask
- Lagavulin 48-year-old cask
- Lagavulin 16
- Bowmore Mashman’s Selection
- Bowmore Mariner: salty, the bartender’s favorite
- Bowmore Springtide: rich, oily, spicy
We grabbed lunch our last day at the Cottage Restaurant. It’s right on Main Street in Bowmore and next door to the grocery co-op. However, it’s only open for lunch, and it was full of school kids lined up during their lunch break getting chips to go. We sat at a table and waited for the clamor of school uniforms to die down. We also got some Cornetto ice cream for dessert. John got a milkshake and was jealous of my ice cream, so he went back and got his own ice cream cone. John ordered two milk shakes in Europe, and both times, they were essentially chocolate milk. He was disappointed.
We ran over to the Celtic House just before we left to grab some last minute souvenirs. It’s a gift shop on the corner, and upstairs is a sweet little coffee shop with full windows looking over the town. I sat and had a cup of tea and biscuits while we killed time before heading to the airport. It’s the only opportunity I had for a cup of tea, and it was great. I would be there all the time if we lived there.