From steaming bowls of lentil soup to sipping drams by the fire at a cosy hostelry, our select gathering of pundits reveal what makes winter in Scotland so special. Compiled by Paul Trainer, Lorraine Wilson, and Ailsa Sheldon.


Television Presenter  

The National:

Growing up in rural Stirlingshire, winter was always a particularly special time for my family. We were guaranteed at least a foot of snow every year, which was great news for my brother and I as our favourite activity was to sledge down the huge hill next to our great-grandparent’s cottage. Pop would wave us down and declare one of us a race winner, while Nana made tea and biscuits for us to come inside to.

I’m a traditional girl who enjoys a big bowl of thick, homemade lentil soup on a chilly afternoon. My Nana would make a big pot every Saturday with home grown turnips, potatoes, and carrots, which boiled alongside a ham-end which my Pop collected from the butcher earlier that day. She made enough to feed the entire family for a week. I haven’t quite mastered the recipe since they passed, but every time I try it reminds me of spending a winter’s day with them.

You haven’t experienced a proper Scottish winter unless you’ve visited Edinburgh over the festive season. There’s something particularly magical about wandering around Princes Street Gardens with a hot plum cider in hand, gazing up at the castle.

The Black Bull Inn in Polmont is my favourite place to cosy up with my nearest and dearest over winter. The tiny pub has served the community for over 100 years, and you certainly feel that warmth as soon as you walk through its doors. The charming atmosphere and traditional fare makes it one of Falkirk’s most loved institutions, and one of my all-time favourites.

My favourite spot for a winter treat is The Chop and Ale House at the Champany Inn, near Linlithgow. A traditional wood burning fire forms the centrepiece of this snug steakhouse, which is operated by a cohort of dedicated staff bursting with knowledge and recommendations. No trip is complete without a visit to the on-site Champany Cellars to pick up a bottle of their very own house red. Simply delicious! PT


Cafe St.Honore  @cafesthonore

The National:

The best season for me is always the next season. When the first frosts arrive, that’s the start of the parsnips. These ingredients you really relish and wait for – the plum harvest, the apples falling off the trees. Then you’re waiting for the turnips, the chards, the beetroot.

My veg box in the house dictates what I order and cook at the restaurant, really it’s the producers that dictate what we put on the menu. They’re the ones growing it, we just do the finishing part and put it on a plate. At the moment we’re braising chard, my favourite vegetable at this time of year, it’s just stunning. I’m making Connage Gouda laced Dauphinoise, Confit duck, Lyonnaise potatoes and roasted squash soup – it’s just heavenly, so filling and warming. A big bowl of soup on a cold day is something us Scots do particularly well, maybe because we’re used to the colder weather.

After a luscious roast chicken, one of the things I love to do at home on a Sunday is boil the carcass, make a stock, throw some barley in, add some leeks and onions. You have this most wonderful bowl of broth for days, like our forefathers used to eat – it’s bloody lovely. If you’ve not had Scotch broth for years, make it again, it will reinvigorate your soup making. One of my favourite places to go is the Star Inn in Harome, North Yorkshire, they serve fantastic game. It’s a cutesy little 13th century coaching inn with a roaring fire and thatched roof. Monachyle Mhor is delightful, and Ballintaggart is a lovely little place, or The Peat Inn for a cheeky night away in Fife. AS



DJ duo and producers  @lfsystemmusic

The National:

Conor Larkman: We have a residency at Fly Club in Cabaret Voltaire in Edinburgh. This summer we’ve been out at festivals, but the winter is when we return home. We’ve been playing there for five years now, and I used to go every Friday since I was 18 years old. It’s got a special place in my heart. All our pals go there, and it feels comfortable from the moment we arrive. This will be our first winter of playing club nights after the success of our single, Afraid to Feel. There’s so many young people in Scotland trying to do what we are doing, it seems like the dream job, there’s plenty of talent around and that’s going to keep the venues busy over the winter.

Sean Finnigan: I feel like in Scotland people want to go to clubs more in the winter, escape the cold. Edinburgh has a nice atmosphere and people come to see Princes Gardens and the castle lit up with all the lights. When it gets dark so early in the evening, you feel more in party mode. There will be some of our biggest gigs so far leading up to Christmas and then we have something really special we’re going to announce for Hogmanay. Everyone is ready to enjoy life a bit more, go out and have a good time. PT

LF System perform at SWG3 on Saturday 19 November.



Actor and writer  @govindajeggy

The National:

I look forward to winter – especially the chance to layer up. I love my clothes a bit too much, so on a crisp November morning I enjoy wearing as many of them as possible at once. It’s also the season of mulled wine at the St Enoch Xmas market, and I always look forward to that.

I remember one winter, it was 1981, when it was so cold that there was ice, and even amazing icicles, on the inside of our semi in Bishopbriggs. It was freezing but it felt magical. You always knew when the Xmas season had arrived because mum would drag me to see the first night of the Christmas lights at George Square in Glasgow.

Another benefit of the cold is good comforting food. When it’s cold there’s nothing better than a bowl of ham hough and lentil soup, accompanied by buttered Morton’s rolls. Well-fired if possible. That’s winter on a plate for me. Scotland can be absolutely beautiful in winter and people should visit at this time of year. I would thoroughly recommend The Clachaig Inn in Glencoe. I was lucky enough to film Lost at Christmas there three years ago. Not only did they serve lovely homely fare, but the gorgeous family who ran it also took us out into the spectacular winter landscapes all around it, and we could even feed some stags. LW

Sanjeev appears in People Huv Tae Know, along with Gavin Mitchell, Paul Riley, Jane McCarry and Mark Cox. The Still Game stars share memories of the sitcom, which is celebrating its twentieth anniversary. Whitehall Theatre, Dundee on Friday, November 4 (sold out) and 5. Webster Theatre in Arbroath, Sunday 13, and Tivoli Theatre in Aberdeen, Thursday, November 17.



Artist best known as Whimsical Lush  whimsicallush

The National:

Winter for me is about wearing big cosy jumpers and pulling scarves up around my ears. I love the moment when it snows heavily overnight, and you wake up to everything having turned white. Everything is transformed, the air is cold and fresh, and everything is so quiet and still.

I was so lucky in that when I was growing up, we lived in the middle of nowhere, so we would often get snowed in for a week at a time. The snow was deeper in places than I was tall, and my little brother and I would spend days having the best time creating mazes of snow tunnels and igloos. The sound of fresh snow crunching underfoot takes me straight back to playing in the snow as a child. Food in winter is just the tastiest too. Stovies with oatcakes – it’s tasty and they use up all the leftovers! I also love my mum’s ‘hedgehog tatties’ (hasselback roast potatoes).

If anyone is thinking of visiting Scotland during the winter months, I would recommend that they think about Glenshee. It’s an amazing place, tucked away in the Cairngorms. I love skiing there. The views are breathtaking.

If you enjoy walking The Hermitage at Dunkeld on a winter day is gorgeous too. It’s like being in another magical world. The old gnarled trees are like pieces of art and the waterfall is incredible! Picturesque Dunkeld village itself is also lovely in the winter. LW



Killiecrankie House

The National:

This area we live in, Killiecrankie in Perthshire, is so beautiful in autumn when all the trees turn that gorgeous orangey red colour. We take a wonderful long winter break, and it tends to be quite quiet around here, so all the local walks are quite magical, you don’t really bump into anyone. If you can get it on one of those days, when there’s snow lying on the ground but with clear blue skies, it’s pretty gorgeous.

As the temperature drops, our house cocktails tend to get darker and stronger. One of our signatures is the Killiecrankie Cure-All, a twist on a Penicillin. Drinks that have a ginger kick to them appeal to me at wintertime, they feel like they’re doing you good!

Our drinks pairing will also evolve depending on changes to the tasting menu, but there are certain things that we know are likely to turn up – for example we have great Scottish shellfish at this time of year, so we’ve just taken on a premium, traditional method cider from the Naughton Cider Company in Fife, which pairs so well with shellfish.

We also have a Cypriot sweet wine called Commandaria as the last wine on our Discovery pairing, which has fantastic dried fruit and Christmas spice notes, so that will be getting guests into the festive spirit too.

Being rather rural, in the long evenings, Tom and I love a good board game. We’re a bit geeky and well past the Monopoly stage, so that’s a good one if the weather’s a bit dreary. A decent board game, a roaring fire and some vinyl playing in the background. That’s an ideal evening in for me. AS



The Hebridean Baker  @hebrideanbaker

The National:

Stepping out to a wintry night after an evening of cèilidh dancing at the local hall is a favourite memory. Even when the nights are long and the weather is wild, seeing folk in the community is important. Nothing takes the chill out of your bones like a Strip the Willow!

I always look forward to soup season! I make sure there is ham hough and frozen peas in the freezer for comforting Saturday lunch. And you know someone at the kitchen table will say ‘Pea and Ham – from a chicken?’! Also, lots of root vegetables and potatoes to go along with warming slow-cooked beef casseroles or my cock-a-leekie pie. A slice of clootie dumpling smothered in vanilla custard – served in front of a roaring fire is Scotland in winter on a plate.

There’s no January blues if you visit Glasgow for Celtic Connections. This is my favourite music festival in the world. Seeing wonderful musicians such as Julie Fowlis, Duncan Chisholm, Kris Drever, Nickel Creek and Beth Nielsen Chapman will definitely brighten up those dark winter nights.

For cosy nights, just a canoe paddle away from our hut near Oban is Tigh An Truish on the Isle of Seil. Lovely hearty pub meals and a great selection of drams. As our island restaurants go into a well-deserved hibernation during the winter months, we’ll often visit The Old Inn in Appin when we visit Peter’s family down in Oban. PT



Writer, actor and director  @hunterJbarrie

The National:

I’m a keen birder, so one of my favourite Scottish winter things is the arrival of the winter migrant birds – Redwing, Fieldfare, and the best of them all, the mighty skeins of Pink Footed Geese. Although they arrive in Autumn, they keep their evocative, honking soundtrack going through winter – just glorious. I’m also a sucker for a hat, scarf and big jumper combo!

I grew up on the southside of Glasgow, and my main memories of childhood winters were of the incredible patterns made by the ice on the inside of my bedroom window! There was no central heating in the house, and the old sash windows had seen better days. Oh, the deprivation!

The best winter meal would have to start with a big bowl of my mum’s homemade soup (crusty bread on the side, obviously), followed by a generous helping of mince and tatties. The pudding would be a hunk of steam pudding in a bowl, with custard liberally poured over it. This would all be washed down with a glass or three of a dark, rich Malbec... and I’d be in bed within the hour! I’d tell any winter visitor to this country of ours to go west, jump a Calmac Ferry to the Isle of Coll, and get ensconced by the fire in the bar of the Coll Hotel with a dram. What I wouldn’t tell them is that I’d be coming with them too! I’ve only been once myself, in the summer months (touring with Mull Theatre), but I remember thinking, “This would be amazing in winter!” It’s beautiful, and it could be the start of a wondrous, winter island-hopping adventure. LW



18 at Rusacks St Andrews

The National:

It’s brilliant being a chef in the UK because of the seasonal changes. Everybody loves going into the autumn because we get the game, the partridge, the grouse, the pheasants, then the squashes and root vegetables – completely different ingredients from eight, nine weeks ago. We’re actually very fortunate that we get a bit of rain, wind and cold weather, these ingredients flourish in our weather.

We’re cooking venison at the moment; red leg partridge with celeriac puree, bitter leaves and some foraged elderberries, and quince tart tatin. We’re using hyper-seasonal ingredients and trying to get a real Scottish identity in our menus.

I’m always in the restaurant, but I do cook at home on a Sunday. It’s always the same thing, a really good roast chicken. Some nice gravy and some lovely vegetables and that’s it, super simple. It’s a treat. My wife comes in from work and there’s roast chicken on the table and she loves it.

Our days off we’re always out walking with our dogs. We absolutely love going to the beach in North Berwick and getting some ice cream even when it’s cold. I like popping into our sister restaurant Marine North Berwick for some fish and chips. If we’ve got more time I like going into Portobello and getting something to eat in one of the little restaurants by the coast, and we can bring the dogs. It’s nice to get your scarf and cosy jacket on and go out for a walk and discover different places. AS



The Little Chartroom

The National:

I love every season. I’m always ready for the next one to begin because it brings with it so much different produce. The changing weather influences how we write the menu. We’ll incorporate more warm starters like broths and soups which I love doing, some more warm desserts, there’s something really comforting about them.

Game is very prominent on our menu in the restaurant going through autumn and winter. In the Little Chartroom we only have one meat option for the main course, and I love to try and move through all the different game options that are available. Right now, we’ve got partridge on. Next, I’m going to mallard and then we’ll have hare. With our forever changing menu we can capture really short seasons. Recently we’ve had greengages, they only have a season of about two weeks. It’s about really showcasing produce at the height of its season.

I think we’re quite blessed in Scotland with lots of restaurants that cook seasonally. The Palmerston is a good example, they change their menu regularly, get in great quality produce and keep it quite simple. We really enjoy going to eat there. The Kitchin does amazing game at this time of year as well.

I love the sunny crisp autumn and winter days. You can get wrapped up for a lovely walk, then make some soup. It’s one of my favourite times of the year. AS



Head Chef, the Garden Café at Hospitalfield, Arbroath

The National:

I’ve returned to live in Scotland quite recently, after a long time living in London so I’m looking forward to a winter on the east coast of Scotland. We’re so lucky here to have so many beautiful beaches up the Angus coastline and places like Tenstsmuir in Fife so I’m really looking forward to winter walks along the beach or in the forest, and then going back to sit in front of a fire with hot chocolate.

My childhood memories are all about snow and ice! Whether it was sledging in the park, skating on ponds, or making snowmen.

Winter brings its own particular dishes of course, but for me the ideal meal would be starting with a bowl of Cullen skink, then moving on to a dish of slow braised beef cheeks, confit garlic mash, winter greens. Then for pudding, after a little rest a good portion of traditional clootie dumpling.

When I visited over the years, I’ve seen so many beautiful places, especially with my brother who also moved back to Scotland after a long time in London.

One of my favourites, and somewhere I would recommend is Glenelg. It’s perhaps not the first place that someone might think of but it’s a lovely place in Lochalsh and could even be a place to stop off on the way to Skye. LW




The National: Singer/songwriter Kathryn Joseph pictured in the cloisters of Paisley Abbey for the launch of the Scottish Album of the Year award that will be held in Paisley in 2016 and 2017. Kathryn won Scottish Album of the Year 2015.

   Photograph by Colin

My daughter is in Glasgow and my partner is in Aberdeen so I’m between the two places. I appreciate how close to the sea I am in Aberdeen; I think that influences the creative process. I’m quite slow and methodical when I’m writing. I’ve walked beside the sea for hours and days, it makes everything feel better. Then Glasgow is a place that always makes sense to me.

I like being in the woods in Scotland at this time of year, it’s when they are at their most beautiful. My mum lives up in Golspie in the Highlands and that’s always been one of the places I’ve liked to go during winter.

I used to live in Collieston which is up the coast from Aberdeen, it has this really secluded beach with hardly anyone else around. This record, the emotion is quite raw and I’m probably at my most raging but there’s something there in the music that’s comforting. I think we all look for comfort in the winter. Inver at Loch Fyne is my ultimate destination, the best dinner I’ve ever had and the most beautiful views. Mhor 84 at Balquhidder is a gorgeous little hotel, food and wine with a lovely bed and a bath, I love it. When I’m in Aberdeen in winter, we will go to Codona’s Amusement Park by the beach to go on the dodgems, that’s always a treat. PT

Kathryn Joseph was nominated for a Scottish Album of the Year Award for her third album ‘For You Who Are The Wronged’.