Do you like food as much as I do? Scottish food is one of my favorite cuisines, and I was absolutely thrilled when I found the Secret Edinburgh Food Tour. If you’re planning to visit the capital of Scotland, I would have to recommend taking this tour as one of your first activities.
Why You Should Consider a Food Tour
I joined my first food tour in Sweden in July 2016. Before that, I had only experienced walking tours in most cities I visited. Nowadays, you can take running tours, bike tours, literary tours, history tours, and, well, just about every type of tour imaginable. Having experienced several myself, I’ve concluded that food tours are my favorite, not to mention the most rewarding. Not only do you get to try the local cuisine, you’ll learn about great places to eat during your stay in the city, and they usually include some local history too.
Secret Food Tours
When I started traveling over three years ago, there weren’t that many food tours around that I heard of. In 2013, Secret Food Tours launched its first tour in London. Since then, they’ve expanded to over 60 cities and are continuing to grow. Their current cities include several capital cities around Europe, some cultural hotspots in the USA, and Hong Kong and Bangkok in SE Asia.
I booked the Secret Food Tour of Edinburgh when my traveling friend Bonny came into town. We arrived at St Giles Cathedral just before noon with empty stomachs. I was excited to see what delicious Scottish food I was missing, and Bonny had absolutely no clue what was in store. I managed to keep the tour a surprise for her right up to the point when the guide arrived with his company umbrella. After all, the food tour is a secret! Not really, but…
Scottish Cuisine on an Edinburgh Food Tour
Didn’t think there was such a thing as Scottish cuisine? You’re not alone. I’ve even had arguments with locals about whether Scotland has its own food. There are actually dozens of dishes unique to or originating in Scotland. In three and a half hours, the tour only covers a few items. Scotch broth, Scotch pie, Scotch egg, Lorne (square) sausage and shortbread are some other items to try after the tour. While the restaurants and dishes are subject to change, here’s what we experienced on our tour.
Cullin Skink – Howies Restaurant
I honestly can’t figure out why I’d never had cullin skink before the tour! It’s smoked haddock, potatoes and leeks in a cream base, and it’s delicious! Fishy, smooth and perfectly spiced. Rosemary bread and Scottish butter were served on the side. I’ve walked past Howies countless times, but never really noticed it. I’ll admit I usually avoid the touristy restaurants near the Royal Mile, but this one surprised me. After just trying one of their dishes, I immediately fell in love with them. Ironically, I’ve had a bunch of other recommendations recently for Howies since going on the tour.
Location: 10-14 Victoria St, Edinburgh EH1 2HG
Haggis, Neeps and Tatties – The Beehive Inn
Our second stop on the tour was a place I’d not only seen often but once lived across the street from! The Grassmarket is where cows used to be sold, and is now lined with pubs, Italian restaurants, and vintage shops. Our tour guide pointed out that pubs in Edinburgh serve some of the best food in town. I couldn’t agree more. The Beehive has particularly good quality food. They order their meats fresh every day and never use frozen foods. They make their own haggis using that fresh meat and a secret recipe. Having tried this quintessential Scottish dish all around the country, I can say that The Beehive makes some of the best I’ve tasted.
The dish that we had at the Beehive was haggis, neeps and tatties, which is how haggis is traditionally served. Neeps are boiled and mashed rutabaga (swede in British), which is a cross between a cabbage and a turnip. Tatties are potatoes, mashed in this case. Haggis is…I’m not going to say. Let’s just call it ground (minced) lamb meat with delicious spices and flavoring. Unfortuantely, most Americans are woefully ignorant about haggis as it’s been banned in the country since 1971. Don’t think that’s because there’s anything wrong with haggis; all UK cow and sheep meat are banned in the US. I’m telling you, America just doesn’t know what good meat tastes like!
Fudge – The Fudge Kitchen
There’s something about pulling a blob of fresh fudge off the scraper as soon as it’s been made which makes it so much more delicious. The Fudge Kitchen makes their fudge daily and free samples are always available. There are over a dozen flavors, including dairy-free options for Bonny. Okay, fudge might be generic around the world, but tablet is very definitely Scottish. You could call it a “butter fudge” with its own unique flavor. Our guide gave us each a sample, and I quickly realized I didn’t have enough of this Scottish dessert in my life.
Auchentoshan Whisky – The Whiski Rooms
No trip to Scotland would be complete without trying the Whisky. I’ve taken a few distillery tours myself, but somehow I had never made it to the whisky showrooms in Edinburgh. The Whiski Rooms are perhaps a little less touristy than the Whisky Experience on the Royal Mile. We got to try an Auchentoshan 12-year single malt whisky. For those not familiar with whisky, Scotch whisky legally has to be aged for 3 years to classify, although some are aged much longer. Single malt means it’s a single batch, rather than a blend of flavors; almost like varietal vs generic wines. David described this as we all polished off our dram…except for the teenager who got to try Scotland’s Irn Bru, one of the only soft drinks in the world that currently outsells Coca-cola in its own country.
Location: 4-7 North Bank Street, Edinburgh EH1 2LP
Cheeseboard and Oatcakes – The Canons’ Gait
For a lighter course to follow our whisky, we went to another pub on the Royal Mile. You might be getting the idea now that pubs in Edinburgh really do have good food. At the Canons’ Gait, we had a cheeseboard with samples of Strathdon Blue, Inverloch goat’s cheese, Applewood cheese, and Clabber Brie, served with Scottish oatcakes. I’m not usually the biggest fan of blue cheeses, but this one wasn’t that strong. The goat’s cheese was a harder cheese, but I liked it too. Brie is something I eat on a regular basis, and the applewood is the one that really stood out for me. It’s a smoked cheddar made in the UK, and reminded me of the smoked gouda I grew up loving.
Location: 232 Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DQ
English Tea, Scones, Jam and Clotted Cream – Edinburgh Press Club
We ended the tour with an afternoon tea at a very hip cafe right in the center of town. The Edinburgh Press Club is actually in an old printing house, and the decorations were pretty amazing. It was full of university students on their laptops when we went. It’s the kind of place I’d happily spend my time working at as a digital nomad. As to the tea, well, Edinburgh and Scotland have their own line of teas, and they are delicious. I never truly appreciated tea growing up in the US, but I’ve now settled into drinking my ritual morning English (Scottish) Breakfast tea. One spoonful of sugar and a tad of milk makes it perfect.
Location: 20-30 Cockburn St, Edinburgh EH1 1NY
Booking the Secret Edinburgh Food Tour
The Secret Food Tour in Edinburgh runs daily at noon, leaving from the front entrance of St. Giles Cathedral. The guide will have his iconic orange umbrella with the company logo, so you can’t miss him. If you only have time for one tour in Edinburgh, I’d have to recommend this one. Not only do you get great food, you’ll also have a chance to learn some of Edinburgh’s history and see a good portion of the Old Town. Approximate walking distance is two miles. Restaurants and dishes are subject to change.
- Location: St Giles Cathedral
- Hours: Mon-Sun 12:00 p.m.
- Price: Adults – £69; teens – £65; children – £59
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: Secret Edinburgh Food Tour
- What to bring: Comfortable walking shoes and a big appetite.
- Best time of year to visit: Jan-Dec. As a good portion of this tour is outside, it’s better to book on a sunnier day if possible.
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Additional Activities in Edinburgh
For more information about Edinburgh and Scotland, make sure to check out the rest of my Scotland articles.
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So great to see this article! Thanks so much for sharing your experience! We hope you can join us again and to all your followers, we are giving away 20% discount to our new food tours! Check out our FB page! =) More power to your blog!
Thanks! I hope to be in another city soon that has a Secret Food Tour. Any plans for Amsterdam soon? I can be your guide!
Well, we’re not sure when will we put up a food tour in Amsterdam, but that city is on our list. Hopefully soon.
Looking forward to it! Hopefully while I’m still in the Netherlands.
So true, so many theme based tours are happening these days. But my all time favourite is walking tour and food tour. Though now I plan to switch walking tour with bike tours. I love to tag along locals and then go for a secret food tours. I did this in Bangkok and then in Yangon recently. But being a vegetarian, I end up having less option but I go to feel the wibes of a place. You food tour to Edinburgh looks fascinating and some day I would love to explore Beehive at Grassmarket and The Canons’ Gait.
Well, there’s a Secret Food Tour in Bangkok too! If you tell the food guide you’re vegetarian, they will modify the tour appropriately. But I hope you can make it to Edinburgh soon too.
Oh the Cheeseboard and oatcakes look to yummy. I must take my vist of Edinburg from completely another perspective, so many great thinks to taste there, wow.
Thanks! It gave me a new perspective of the town too. Never would have thought of the food tour, and now it’s my favorite activity in town.
I’ve lived in Edinburgh for almost nine months and my food experience is sorely lacking. I’ll have to give this a go!
Please do! I’ve been in and out for three years, and I still hadn’t tried some of the meals on this tour. So worth it!
I’ve actually never thought about Scottish food, so reading this article was a complete joy. I’m quite impressed and surprised by the dishes and would love to taste the haggis. The fudge looks delightful…what a fun experience all around!
Thanks. I’m willing to bet you’re going to love the Haggis. When do you think you’ll be able to make it to Edinburgh?
I really want to do this tour. What an amazing idea ????
Thank you! I hope you do someday.
OMG, so wish I had read this blog post before I visit Edinburgh two years ago. I guess I’m going to have to pay another visit. I love a good food tour and the idea of a secret food tour sounds tempting. The food looks great, especially the fudge house!
Well, technically I think you were here just before the food tour started. But definitely a reason to return, aside from the fact that Scotland is the best country in the world. So much to do here.
I must admit that I never really knew what Scottish cuisine was until I read this. A food tour would be a great way for me to get a taste test of a bunch of different options. I was surprised to hear that the goat cheese was hard as I think of goat cheese as being creamy soft. I would definitely finish with fresh fudge or maybe Afternoon Tea! But I am still not sure I want to try haggis!
You actually made me double-check my notes and Google to ensure that was the goat cheese, but yeah, it can be hard too. Please at least try a single bite of haggis…for me. Yeah, I almost want to cry thinking it had been nearly three years of living in Scotland before taking the food tour and finding even more incredible dishes.
Food tours are such a great way to get to know a city. I love that fudge and whiskey are included in this tour! Not so sure about the haggis…
Hahaha. But you don’t know what you’re missing out on. Seriously, haggis is honestly delicious. At least try a bite. If you must, there’s a vegetarian version, but the real stuff is simply the best.
I actually never expected Scotland to have such a good food scene! I’ve wanted to visit Scotland for the outdoors but now I want to go for the food too 🙂
The food here is surprisingly good quality, and also wonderfully diverse. There must be a few dozen sushi restaurants alone to choose from, let alone all the Scottish food. Just another part of why Scotland is my favorite country in the world.
Always captivated by the concept of a food tour. Unfortunately as vegetarians there aren’t too many that cater to our taste 🙁
Oh, you’d be surprised with Edinburgh. This is the most vegetarian and vegan friendly city I know of, with almost every restaurant and cafe offering alternatives. Just let the guide know. You can even try the vegetarian haggis!
Well – secret food tour is no longer a secret I guess with taking us on it virtually. It looks like you get to taste the traditional flavors of Scotland on this tour. I would have loved that high tea while talking to fellow travelers.
Yeah, it was really nice having a big crowd of fellow travelers on the tour. I actually had an Indian family from London on my tour. Hope you can make it someday.
This sounds like a great excursion! I think my fave Scottish foods to try would be shortbread cookies (yum) and Scotch, obviously! haha.
You certainly can’t go wrong with those!
That’s really reasonable. I’d love to do that, especially if it involves visiting a fudge house. 🙂
I hope you can soon. Are you in Edinburgh now?