Scottish produce is world class. But for decades, Scotland didn’t quite realize just what it had in its larder - and sent far too much of it overseas. Today though all that is changing and producers and restaurants across Scotland are serving up homegrown delicacies in full view of the sea or the land they came from.
In Shetland’s archipelago this foodie renaissance is currently gathering pace, and any visit to the northernmost islands in the United Kingdom should take in these top treats.
Blue Shell Mussels
Plump juicy mussels cooked up in a large black pot and served steaming may just be Shetland’s best dish. The UK’s best mussels come from the mussel beds here and Blueshell Mussels, the largest supplier, are MSC accredited (Marine Stewardship Council) , which ensures sustainability.
Try it at: Frankie's Fish and Chips, on the shores of Busta Voe. Their mussels are supplied by Blueshell Mussels and you’ll eat them overlooking the very voe they were hauled out of the water. Try them marinere style, or with Shetland honey and chilli.
You can also impress your friends with your esoteric linguistic knowledge. A voe, in case you were wondering, is a word for a narrow l inlet or bay that, in English, is used almost exclusively in Orkney and Shetland. Its origins hark all the way back to the Vikings who originally settled these islands and is related to Norwegian and Old Norse.
Scotland is famous for its smoked fish and in Shetland you’ll find some of the country’s best, including plump pink smoked salmon and peppery hot smoked mackerel and tender smoked haddock like the fish pictured here. The fish is caught and smoked locally so expect fresh fillets that fall apart in your fingers.
There are few things more Scottish than an oatcake, and we reckon there’s no better accompaniment for your smoked haddock. Shetland oaties are handmade from oatmeal for a rough, crumbly texture.
Try it at: Waas Bakery makes the best oatcakes in Shetland, to a long-standing local recipe of course. They’re available in most local stores on the islands, or buy them from the bakery itself in Walls.
Shetland has lamb like nowhere else. Here the sheep are free to feed on not just the grass and heather of the hills but also the seaweed along the shores. This adds a note of almost briny sweetness, and the lamb’s extensive grazing habits make their meat tender and soft, with not a hint of stringiness.
Try it at: Braewick Café near Eshaness serve their own homegrown lamb, with jaw-dropping views of the seastacks offshore from their large glass windows.
Cool waters make for plump shellfish and Shetland’s voes are certainly cool! As a result, the scallops hauled from them are juicy and sweet. Don’t even think about ordering them battered, instead have them served pan fried to let their flavour shine through.
Try it at: Frankie’s again. This friendly chippie wasn’t named the best in the UK in the 2015 National Fish & Chip Awards for nothing. They’ll even tell you which local fishing boat your scallops came from.
60° North Lager
This Shetland lager packs a punch, with well-chosen bitter hops brewed in the island’s crisp cool water. It won’t overpower your dinner though, the smooth golden style complements everything from goat’s cheese to smoked salmon.
Try it at: Lerwick Brewery, just outside the islands’ capital Lerwick. The small craft brewery that makes 60° North (as well as a couple of darker beers) offers tours and tastings by appointment (contact +44 (0)1595 694552).
Shetland Reel Gin
Although Shetland Reel gin is a traditional gin it has a distinctly Shetland taste. This comes from the applemint, a local botanical that has a soft mint flavour with a touch of apple sweetness. Drink it neat over ice to get the full impact.
Try it at: Saxa Vord resort on the UK’s northernmost island Unst. This decommissioned RAF base now houses the distillery, Valhalla brewery and a range of accommodation. The Sergeants’ Lounge Bar here serves Shetland Reel.
See what other travelers think of Saxa Vord and book accommodations on Tripadvisor.
No Scottish foodie list would be complete without lobster, and those pulled from the waters around Shetland are world class. The cool water here makes them exceptionally sweet and juicy, so order a whole one and don’t be afraid to get juice on your chin.
Try it at: The Scalloway Hotel is the archipelago’s leading hotel and it has an appropriately gourmet restaurant too. Nab the table by the window, overlooking the waters, and order your lobster by weight.
See what other travelers think of the Scalloway Hotel on Tripadvisor.