castle in Scotland

Is Scotland Allergy Friendly? | Traveling to Scotland with Food Allergies

Scotland is a beautiful country to visit, whether you’re pairing it with an adventure to London or Ireland or traveling to Scotland alone. The landscapes are breathtaking, the history is rich, and the culture is vibrant, making this a dreamy destination for many travelers. If you are planning on traveling to Scotland with food allergies, you can fully immerse yourself in the culture and cuisines of this country with the right planning and considerations for your allergies. In this blog post, discover what you need to know when taking on Scotland with food allergies. 

Scotland with Food Allergies

Scotland offers a unique culinary experience for travelers. While in the larger cities, you will have more restaurant options to choose from. If you are planning on exploring the countryside, you may want to consider packing some lunches and snack options depending on your allergies. It’s always better to have a comfortable option than find yourself starving on an afternoon adventure with nothing to eat. 

When visiting Scotland with food allergies, one of the biggest positives is that they are an English-speaking country, so if you are an English speaker, the language barrier will be less of a challenge. 

At the end of the day, much of your comfort level, what you plan to do, where you decide to stay, and where you plan to eat is based on what your allergens are and what you can and want to eat. 


Food Labeling Laws in Scotland

Scotland follows the same food labeling laws as the UK and London, so if you’re planning to venture out to these countries as well, or you’re already familiar with them, you’ll be glad to know they are the same. 


These food labeling laws require food places to clearly disclose and display allergen information on packaged foods. EU Regulation 1169/2011 also requires food businesses to inform you of the use of any of the 14 designated “most potent” allergens as ingredients in any food or drink item they serve or provide. 


These 14 allergens are:

  • Celery. 
  • Cereals containing gluten. 
  • Crustaceans. 
  • Eggs. 
  • Fish. 
  • Lupin. 
  • Milk.
  • Molluscs. 
  • Mustard. 
  • Peanuts. 
  • Sesame. 
  • Soybeans. 
  • Sulphur Dioxide and Sulphites. 
  • Tree Nuts. 

Before traveling in Scotland with food allergies, make sure to read over these laws so you can feel confident navigating restaurants, cafés, grocery stores, and more. 

Although English is the most commonly spoken language in Scotland, it never hurts to pack your food allergy chef card. It might make you feel more comfortable presenting it to chefs so they are clear on your allergies.


Is Scotland Allergy Friendly?

In the larger cities in Scotland, you’ll find more opportunities to eat for food allergies, especially if you have multiple food allergies. My saying is you can always travel the world, but options at restaurants just may be more limited at times.

It is up to you and your comfort level to decide if Scotland has food that falls in your safe food category or not. Keep reading to see what local dishes are commonly found in Scotland.

Many restaurants and establishments offer alternatives for those with gluten and dairy allergies. There are also many places that can cater for people with other allergies, such as nuts, soy, and more. 

Scotland is similar to London when it comes to labeling laws, but it is not always consistent. There is knowledge around food allergies, so it is helpful to talk with staff to go over your allergies and concerns before eating or working with me through my restaurant research.


Importation Guidelines and What You Can Bring Into Scotland Legally 


Scotland has similar importation guidelines as London and the UK. If you are traveling to Scotland with food allergies, it’s important to know what you can and can’t bring with you.


You can bring several food items into Scotland with no restrictions, including:

  • Plain bread. 
  • Cakes without fresh cream.
  • Biscuits.
  • Chocolate and confectionery not made with unprocessed dairy ingredients. 
  • Plain pasta and noodles.
  • Packaged soup, stocks, and flavorings.
  • Processed and packaged plant products, such as packaged salads and frozen plant material. 

There are certain importation restrictions on these food items:

  • Meat. 
  • Dairy. 
  • Fish. 
  • Animal products. 
  • Fruits. 
  • Vegetables. 
  • Nuts. 
  • Seeds.  

Keep in mind, you can always shop for fresh ingredients, like fruits or vegetables, upon arriving in Scotland. This can save you some room in your luggage as well!

If possible, I recommend bringing safe food with you to have in case of emergency. 


What Can You NOT Bring Into Scotland?

When traveling to Scotland with food allergies, there are certain products you can NOT bring into the country. Scotland follows the same guidelines as the UK, therefore, you cannot bring in certain meat, fish, and seafood products from other countries, unpasteurized dairy products, or products containing GMOs. Live animals and animal products are also prohibited. 


These laws and regulations are subject to change at any time, so it’s always best to double-check them before traveling to Scotland with food allergies from another country. The last thing you want is to be turned away at customs!

Exploring the Local Cuisine of Scotland


traveling to scotland with food allergies, bowl of haggis in Scotland


Scotland has a delicious and unique cuisine and a rich culinary heritage. 

Here are some of Scotland’s most iconic dishes and key things to keep in mind when considering your allergens: 

  • Haggis – This is a very traditional Scottish meal that contains turnips, potatoes, meat, oatmeal, onions, salt, and spices.
  • Fish and Chips – This dish consists of fried batter and potatoes. Be sure to check for allergens in the batter, such as dairy or gluten
  • Scottish Porridge – This is made with oats that are ground and typically water, although milk can be used. Add-ins like maple syrup or fruit can also be found in this dish at times. 
  • Full Scottish Breakfast – This hearty meal consists of fried eggs, toast, bacon, baked beans, hash browns, sausage, black pudding, tattie scones, mushrooms, and fried tomatoes.
  • Seafood Dishes – Being a coastal destination, you’ll find lots of seafood dishes ranging from lobster, scallops, crab, and fish.
  • Cranachan – This is a Scottish dessert made with cream, fresh raspberries, Scottish oats, and whiskey.
  • Cullen Skink – This is popular traditional Scottish soup in the town of Cullen and contains smoked haddock, potatoes, and onions.
  • Black Pudding – This is made of pork or beef blood mixed up with oatmeal, and oat or barley groats. You’ll often see it with a traditional Scottish breakfast, but also served with lamb at dinner.
  • Tablet – This dessert is made from sugar, condensed milk, and butter. You will also find vanilla and nuts added. 


Navigating Scotland With Food Allergies

When navigating Scotland with food allergies, it’s important to know that there are many dishes that can accommodate a gluten allergy or Celiac. While Scotland uses oats and barley in a lot of dishes, there is understanding and awareness around gluten-free and Celiac Disease when ordering. 


Dairy allergies, outside of ice cream and gelato, along with desserts like Cranachan  (containing cream and condensed milk) can be accommodated by restaurants that often have dairy-free options or the ability to alter a dish as needed upon request. Shortbread cookies are also popular around the country, and contain butter. 


Nuts in Scotland are not heavily used, but you will find them in desserts and other dishes. Therefore, they can be in the kitchen prep area. Due to this, you will often see signs in restaurants or on menus stating the risk of nuts present. This is a precaution for them and for you, so it is important to talk with staff regarding the dish you are looking at to ensure no nuts or cross-contamination is present. Watch closely on packages and menus as they often say they are “not suitable for nut allergy sufferers.”


Seafood is prevalent due to the many coastal towns in Scotland, so lobster, scallops, fish, crab, and more are found often. 


Soy is less used in Scotland than in other countries. Soybean oil is not commonly used, moreso canola oil, rapeseed oil, sunflower oil, and olive oil. However, soy lecithin is used in chocolate, like that found in London and other parts of the UK. Soy can also be used in some breads, so I always recommend bringing your own bread if possible. 


Eggs are used in many meals, but they can be removed if requested fairly easily. However, make sure cross-contamination is front of mind for the chefs and servers. With food allergy protocols, it can be made possible to eat in restaurants. However, it is all about knowing your safe foods, your comfort level, and going with your gut.


Scotland is an absolutely amazing country, not only with its charming cities, but in exploring the vast countryside and getting the full experience of seeing castles, villages, lochess, and more! 


While managing food allergies isn’t always easy or convenient, that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on travels and beautiful destinations like Scotland. With the right awareness of allergens, safe foods, and the guidelines in Scotland, you can carefully plan and communicate to ensure you have an enjoyable, comfortable experience. 


If you would benefit from travel advice and planning tailored to your unique allergens and needs, visit my contact page to start working together on travel planning and/or restaurant research. 

It would be my honor to help you plan the perfect food allergy getaway!


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