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Last updated : Nov 2009
Scotland Social Profile
Scotland Culture and Social Profile -
Food & Drink

In the larger cities and towns, a variety of British and continental food is available. A traditional Scottish breakfast is porridge made from oats and either milk or water. Other local dishes include haggis (chopped oatmeal cooked in the stomach of a sheep), cullen skink (fish soup), salmon and smoked haddock, and partan bree (crab with rice and cream). Baked foods such as biscuits and cakes are exceedingly popular and some of the more famous are pancake-type scones, oatcakes and black bun, a fruit cake on a pastry base.

Scotch whisky is the national drink, and is world famous. There are also many locally produced beers as well as lager.

Licensing hours are subject to more variation than in England; some pubs may be open from 10:30-24:00 hrs, others only 11:30-14:30 hrs and 18:30-23:00 hrs.


In large cities, such as Edinburgh and Glasgow, there is a lively nightlife scene with many bars, restaurants, nightclubs and cinemas. These places also offer an array of theatre, opera and music concerts. Some of the venues for drama performances include the Festival Theatre, Playhouse, Assembly Rooms, and Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh, the Citizen’s Theatre and Theatre Royal in Glasgow, and many picturesque regional theatres. The SECC building in Glasgow is a popular concert venue for live bands. Nightlife may be somewhat limited in the smaller villages and islands.

Special Events

The main highlight of the cultural year in Scotland is the Edinburgh Festival, which takes place during the last two weeks of August and the first week of September. Almost every room in the city big enough to hold an audience is in use during this time, and it is possible to see as many as 10 shows a day; these range from a short open-air concert to a full-scale production by the RSC or the LSO. Accommodation in Edinburgh is booked up months in advance during this time. There are also Highland Games during the summer, including caber-tossing and hammer-throwing competitions.

The following is a selection of special events occurring in Scotland in 2005-2006:
Feb-Mar Inverness Music Festival
March STANZA 2004: Scotland’s Poetry Festival
March-April Glasgow International Comedy Festival
April City of Dundee Flower Show
April Scottish Grand National, Ayr Racecourse
May Double K Country Muckie Festival
Jun-Jul Glasgow International Jazz Festival
June The Highland Festival
June The Royal Highland Show, Edinburgh
August Edinburgh Military Tattoo
August Edinburgh Fringe Festival
August Edinburgh International Book Festival
September 9th Borders Festival of Jazz and Blues
Nov 30 St Andrew’s Day, countrywide
December Christmas Craft and Produce Fair
Dec 31 Hogmanay, countrywide
Social Conventions

Handshaking is a custom when introduced to someone for the first time. Normal courtesies should be observed when visiting someone’s home and a small present such as chocolates or flowers is appreciated. It is not customary to begin eating until everyone is served

Clothing: A tie, trousers(as opposed to jeans and trainers) are necessary for entry to some nightclubs and restaurants, otherwise casual wear is acceptable.

Use of public places: Topless sunbathing is permitted on certain beaches and tolerated in some parks. Non-smoking areas will usually be clearly marked.


In hotels, a service charge of 10 to 12 per cent is normal, which may be added to the bill. Ten to 15 per cent is usual for restaurants and it too is often added to the bill, in which case a further tip is not required.
Useful travel links
Happy Cow global guide to vegetarian restaurants
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