Last updated: July 2018
It’s always nice to bring a gift to friends and family back home, and in Scotland there are seemingly countless things that would make great gifts. From tartan wallets to whisky to a Spurtle (don’t worry: you’ll find out what that is), here’s our guide to the best gifts to bring home from Scotland.
Pop into any of the souvenir shops in Edinburgh or Glasgow and you’ll see just how many things are made in tartan. Ties, scarves, dresses, trousers, caps, cuff-links, cushions, throws, dog collars, pyjamas, and lampshades – you name it, you can get it made in tartan.
Then there’s the kilt itself, which is obviously a great gift to bring back from Scotland. The only problem with this option is the measurements. Kilts don’t just come in small, medium, or large: they require quite a few measurements that you’re unlikely to know.
Obviously if you have a tartan, then that’s probably what you will get your products made in. If you don’t have a tartan, don’t worry. It’s perfectly acceptable to just pick a tartan because you like the look of it.
You shouldn’t have any trouble finding your tartan though. Go into any souvenir shop in Scotland and, regardless of your surname, they’ll be able to find your clan tartan. The Scottish tat industry knows how important it is for tourists to find their tartan, that they even made up and registered a bunch of Irish tartans a few years ago so the Irish-Americans would have something to buy.
If you’re looking for something fun and tartan, then consider either a kilt towel or a See you Jimmy, hat. Both of these are good fun, and easy to pick up anywhere.
There are no shortage of whisky shops in Scotland, and you’ll find a great selection of whiskies in each. Whisky in Scotland is generally divided up into different regions: The Highlands, The Lowlands, The Isle of Islay, Speyside, Campbeltown. Each has its own unique taste, and it’s worth trying samples of each to see which you like.
Note: If you’re only travelling with hand luggage, you’ll need to buy the whisky at the airport due to the new liquid rules. Both Edinburgh Airport and Glasgow Airport have a World of Whiskies, and you can even reserve and pick it up when you get to the airport using the World Duty Free website.
If whisky seems a little too precarious to carry, then consider getting a whisky hip-flask instead.
Scottish Food & Sweeties
Scotland has a wide range of sweets and other things that are bad for you, which always go down well with kids and adults alike. Tablet, which is a little like fudge, make a great gift as does Edinburgh Rock. A tin of shortbread is also an option, and you’ll find that in every supermarket and souvenir shop. There’s also Tunnocks caramel wafers and Tunnocks Teacakes, although many Scots boycott Tunnocks as they didn’t support Scottish independence.
A can of Irn Bru, Scotland’s favourite soft drink, is another option. Again, you’ll need to pick it up at the airport if you’re travelling with just hand luggage.
Scotland’s national dish, haggis, always manages to provoke a reaction. Most people when they try it, however, love it.
You can pick up haggis at Edinburgh Airport, or at any butcher or supermarket in Scotland, but obviously travelling with haggis is difficult. One option would be to take a tin of haggis, but that doesn’t really taste the same as proper haggis. HaggisUK deliver haggis by mail throughout Europe, which suggests it can travel for a few days. It’s up to you whether you want to risk it or not, however.
Haggis chocolate, or some other haggis-related product, could be another option.
Scotland isn’t just a world leader in whisky, but gin as well. Scotland has always produced gin but, as gin has come back into fashion, there is now a much bigger gin industry.
Popular Scottish gins include Edinburgh Gin, The Botanist, and Pickerings. If you’re not sure which one you’d like to try consider visiting the distilleries for a tour while you’re in Scotland. Edinburgh Gin, for example, has two locations in Edinburgh where you can do a tour. The Botanist on the island of Islay also does tours.
Another option would be to visit one of Scotland’s many bars, some of which now specialise in gin. The Edinburgh.org blog has some great recommendations for gin bars in Edinburgh, while GlasgowLive has some recommendations for Glasgow.
Gin as the same problems as whisky does: it’s difficult to transport. Don’t worry, you can easily pick Scottish gin up at any Scottish or UK airport.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh Jewellery
Charles Rennie Mackintosh was a Scottish architect, designer, artist, and water colourist, and his design style is known all over the world. You’ll find Rennie Mackintosh Jewellery for sale throughout Scotland, both in souvenir shops and in more upmarket places. It’s something that’s easy to carry, and doesn’t take up much space.
An Orkney Chair
This one you definitely won’t fit into your suitcase, but don’t worry because most Orkney Chair makers deliver worldwide. This would make a very unique gift, although maybe the hassle of getting it outweighs the benefits.
A spurtle – and I had to look this one up – is used for stirring porridge, broths, soups, and stews. You might think that you can stir porridge with a wooden spoon or even a normal spoon but, according to Wikipedia, that would create a dragging effect that would cause the porridge to stick to the bottom of the saucepan. A spurtle reduces that likelihood.
I’ve never actually seen anyone in Scotland use one of these but, if it does genuinely reduce porridge sticking to the saucepan, then it’s definitely a useful kitchen gadget to have.
As well as tartan, Scotland is also home to a vibrant cashmere industry. Although many other countries like India and China produce cashmere, Scotland is renowned for having some of the best.
Like tartan, you will find an a wide range of products made from cashmere including cashmere scarves, sweaters, hats, socks, throws, stoles, and wraps.
You’ll find cashmere for sale in Edinburgh, Inverness, the Highlands – just about anywhere in Scotland. Quality varies and, if you’re serious about quality, your best bet is to visit a specialist shop like Johnstons of Elgin (in Elgin) and Brora (Edinburgh & Glasgow).
As with tartan and cashmere, you won’t struggle to find products made from Harris Tweed in Scotland. A Harris Tweed jacket is the classic Harris Tweed product but, if the recipient of the gift isn’t available for a fitting, it’s a difficult gift to give. Don’t worry though: like tartan, you can get just about anything made in Harris Tweed. There are Harris Tweed hip flasks, purses, waistcoats, dog collars, and lampshades. You can even get a Harris Tweed sofa.
With the exception of the sofa and maybe the lampshade, most of these presents are small and easy to bring back home.
Have we missed a great Scottish gift? Let us know in the comments below.