Sadly, from this point onwards being a vegan in Scotland was quite difficult and heaven forbid one says they are also gluten intolerant (like I am) – then it’s a nightmare.
Next, we stayed at the Athol Palace in Pitlochry. I have fond memories hiking up Ben Vrackie and witnessing amazing sunny views over the valley. However, food wise, it’s not the best place to stay. We emailed and phoned the hotel multiple times before confirming our reservation to ensure they knew we were vegan but obviously there was some communication issues between reception and the kitchen. Also, for some bizarre reason, the hotel is an exact copy of the hotel from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining – not a good picture to have in mind when you know you have irritated the staff with your numerousdietary requests.
On the first evening, we arrived at the dining hall to be told, “We didn’t get a note saying that you’re vegan, we can’t help you”. Although we informed the kitchen that we are vegan, at breakfast they couldn’t offer us anything to eat besides ONE roasted mushroom, half roasted tomato and toast each – side pickings from the full English Breakfast. After a wild goose chase in Pitlochry trying to find vegan food, we found a vegan hotel: Saorsa 1875. I didn’t know vegan hotels existed until that trip. I had a vegan ‘pulled pork’ sandwich with a salad and French fries. I’m not sure if the meal was scrumptious or I was starving but I enjoyed the food and wonderful hospitality.
After Pitlochry, we stayed at Culloden House near Inverness. Although the façade of green ivy covering the white brick was picturesque, yet again it was a challenge to be a vegan. For breakfast, they also gave us 1 tomato, 1 mushroom and toast as sides to the ‘normal’ full English Breakfast. Instead of eating in the hotel, we ventured into Inverness to look for a Wholefoods or Health shop where we bought our own supplies: coconut milk, vegan gluten free bread, vegan butter, vegan gluten free cereal, vegan chocolate etc. We also found Velocity Café: a bicycle workshop and vegetarian café which serves vegan meals. They were even willing to try make us Rooibos lattes – what a find!
I will never forget the staff’s faces when we brought our own cereal, toast, butter and milk out at the breakfast table – and how disinterested they were to toast our ‘special bread’.
So far through our journey around Scotland I have learnt that it’s better to stay at an Airbnb or vegan hotels where you are sure to have a decent vegan meal. Thanks to apps like Vegan Friendly and Happy Cow I found there are more vegan restaurants around the UK than I expected. Plus, I was surprised that most restaurants have a vegan option.
On the flip side, I now know that it’s always a good idea to have a carton of plant-based milk or a loaf of vegan gluten free bread with you whilst travelling – especially if you are a strict vegan. I was disappointed to learn that some hotels don’t put effort into accommodating guests. Since veganism has become extremely popular, I thought advertising vegan options or being vegan friendly would attract more guests but apparently, it’s a nuisance rather than an opportunity for growth.
All in all, “I can’t think of anything better in the world to be but a vegan” (Alicia Silverstone). From my experiences, I will be more prepared to travel as a vegan. Regardless that veganism has become a big trend.”
Karen & Pagan Reed.