27 Apr 2017

MY (VEGAN) GUIDE TO SCOTLAND


Note: I am writing this post April 1, 2017.

Ah, Scotland. I miss you already. I was in the country - mainly on a farm just south of Edinburgh - for three weeks in March 2017 and it was everything I needed it to be. It was a peaceful escape from the non-stop noise and energy of city life. It was an opportunity to become friends with an exceptionally warm, kind group of people I hope I will know for a long time (and see again very soon!) It was an ever-illuminating, practical introduction to culture, history, art, food and language - accents as well as vocabulary - in the UK, a part of the world I've always yearned to explore. Thanks to the rural and urban landscapes and folks I had the great fortune of meeting, I learned about myself, mulled over new philosophies and had some epiphanies about The Big Picture. I flew into the country having zero ZZZs for over 24 hours, not yet having met the people who'd invited me into their home. I flew away with a few tears in my eyes, a more familiar person to myself, feeling as though I was leaving a kind of home and family. I was so happy here. 

While I was able to stay for nearly a month, I usually preferred going on walks on the farm and cooking or baking in the farm house, as opposed to doing the whole 'city thing'. So this is a fairly decent guide but as usual it's not 100% comprehensive. Enjoy!


FOOD
// EDINBURGH //
My favourite place was Moon and Hare. It's a casual and cute cafe - perfect for brunch - that serves organic vegan food with many raw options. I went there twice just for the waffles (you can have them covered in bananas, cinnamon apples, chocolate sauce, maple syrup, ice cream and coconut flakes). They also make really good smoothies, sandwiches and wraps and everything else on their menu looked terrific. I regret not trying their cakes. 

Paradise Palms had incredible greasy-ish vegan food like burgers, hot dogs (which you can order with peanut butter on top... sounds weird but it was amazing) and nachos. The interior is super kitschy and charming. Would recommend when you want a heavy, savoury meal with lots of flavour. I really liked this place.

Fortitude Coffee: not a vegan establishment but they serve at least one kind of vegan cake as well as a sandwich daily, and the quality is excellent. I had a mouth-watering coconut cake there when I visited, and I cannot get over how fluffy it was. It's quite a small place with only a few seats, but perfect for studying or reading a book and enjoying a light meal or snack. OH: and their vegan hot chocolate is luscious af.

I had some decent red velvet cake at Holy Cow, but my salad was a little sad. I am still including the place in my guide though because my friend's food was really good, the burgers that a couple other folks ordered looked fantastic, and everyone I talked to said they love this restaurant. Just don't get the salad. And a note to restaurants in general: please stop making shitty salads.

Henderson's! The first place I ate at after I flew in on -24 hours of sleep from Iceland. Apparently they have two locations + a salad bar and small grocery? I went to the original restaurant. It is very centrally located and I enjoyed a warm bowl of risotto and a plate of chocolate cake. The cake was a little crumbly but tasted good. I would definitely go back. 

The cafe at the FruitMarket Gallery was a delightful surprise. They made me a delicious cuppa hot chocolate and dammmnn the chocolate truffle bar I bought was moan-worthy. Craving some more now. The rest of their menu was quite veg-friendly and the gallery itself was lovely (albeit very small). 

Filament Coffee was a place I stopped by on a walk through the city because I noticed they had some vegan goodies in their window. They happen to make fresh juice too, which is something I have had trouble finding in most cities since I left home. All their vegan sweets come from Grams - didn't get the chance to check them out but I wanted to! - and were super tasty. 

Hula is a good spot if you like raw food / healthy fare. They seem to be well known for their smoothie bowls. I came in at the end of a busy (Fri?)day so they had unfortunately run out of their vegan treats, but I got a really good green juice. Very trendy interior. 

Warrior Juice is a raw organic vegan cafe, very small, centrally located right by Waverly Station. I got green juice there a couple times just to keep energized while exploring. Their raw sweets looked great as well.

Almighty Foods is not an eatery, but a company based in Dundee. They make raw vegan chocolate and other sweet goodies like spreads. I tried almost every one of their chocolate bars, and got their caramel spread as a thank you gift for my hosts. All of their products are incredibly good. You can buy them at Real Foods (an organic health food grocery) or Warrior Juice. 

Some of the best pizza I've had was Nova Pizza (though I don't think East Van Pizza is beat yet). We ordered in one night so I never actually got to see the restaurant itself, but their pizza was off the chain. So. Yum. You can get gluten-free crust if you like. I did, and it wasn't gross. 

If you are looking for a massive amount of food for just a few bucks, and a thoroughly Scottish experience, go to The Baked Potato Shop. They serve a variety of veg and vegan toppings on huge baked potatoes. Vegan butter available. Very small place, just one table and no bathroom, so it's ideal for a [very] hot meal on the go. 

// GLASGOW //
Stereo is the kind of place I'd go to a lot if I lived in Glasgow: good politics, they host alt-ish music events most nights, and their whole menu is vegan. I got a moist, dense brownie with melty ice cream. Mmm. 

The Flying Duck reminded me of places in Portland: it's all vegan, in a basement, DIY/we-don't-care-too-much aesthetic, live DJs most nights, nostalgic for the 90's. Their menu is mainly greasy vegan pub grub like burgers and dogs, milkshakes and BBQ pulled jackfruit. Good shit. 

Picnic is a charming raw-leaning vegan cafe that serves cakes, bowls and healthy drinks. I got a juice and slice of raw chocolate caramel pie. Good way to start the day. 

Places I wanted to go in Edinburgh but didn't get the chance: Grams, Pumpkin Brown, Hemma, Graze, David Bann, Kalpna, Chocolate Tree, The Auld Hoose. And in Glasgow: Mono. 


ART / MUSEUMS
I just wanna say THANK YOU, SCOTLAND for keeping all your museums and galleries free / by donation. It was not something I'm used to and I deeply appreciated it.

// EDINBURGH //
The FruitMarket was a cute spot exhibiting modern art of various mediums; tiny, but that made it quite manageable. The cafe is a great place to get brunch or a snack. The City Art Centre is directly across the street and while I was only able to visit for a minute, I liked what I saw.

The National Gallery of Scotland made for a fun afternoon, it is comprised of two buildings (Modern One and Modern Two) across the road from each other, and features a rad carved spiral lawn (?) and pond in front of one of the galleries. I loved the exhibition of Bridget Riley's work in Modern One.

Visiting the Rice Talbot Gallery was an unplanned trip, I just happened to be walking by and had time. It's pretty small but packed in a terrific exhibition while I visited, called "Between poles and tides". The art displayed had implications that were political, environmental, poetic, philosophical and personal. My fave artists were Ilana Halperin, Katie Paterson and Jessica Harrison.

// GLASGOW //
I didn't have a whole lot of time in my one day in Glasgow but I managed to check out The Lighthouse which had an exhibit on textiles (that sounds boring but I honestly really liked it) and the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA). The latter had several floors, all of which presented thought-provoking, contemporary exhibitions. Fun fact: the massive stone building of GoMA used to be the private home of one of Glasgow's "Tobacco Lords".


OUTDOORS
// EDINBURGH // 
Obviously I am gonna recommend Arthur's Seat; it's a really popular spot for tourists and locals alike, but with good reason. It's beautiful and provides a 360 degree view of the city. It's a bit of a hike to get to the top, but I really enjoyed spending an hour wandering around on the mossy, heather-covered hills as I kept getting higher up, then taking my time coming down, winding around the hill and back into the city centre. 

Blackford Hill was another short hike I did, where another wonderful view of the cityscape - as well as The Pentland Hills - was the reward for getting to the top. Another reward was a cuddly group of dogs who wouldn't leave us alone (note: they did have a dog-walker with them). 

I wish I had been able to walk around in The Pentlands but I didn't get the chance. I had some amazing walks on my own on the farmland I had the fortune of staying at, so I'd say make a friend who owns some acreage outside the city... or take a drive and find a spot that looks good for a walk, the farmers won't mind as long as you treat their land with respect. :) 

The Botanic Gardens was a gorgeous walk you can make as long or short as you prefer. Lots of plants, as one might expect. Animals are very friendly as they're probably used to being fed by people: a squirrel crawled on my leg, and I had a conversation with some intimidating geese. 

// GLASGOW //
The Glasgow Necropolis was RAD. I love cemeteries and visiting this place motivated me I need to spend more time in them. You could wander for hours among graves that date back a century and a half or more. Getting to the top also provides a great view of Saint Mungo's Cathedral (aka Glasgow Cathedral). The People's Palace and Winter Gardens was a pleasant jaunt in the sun, good spot for a picnic.