The second haggis came as a surprise. On my first night in Scotland, ordering chef Mark Greenaway’s elegant version of the country’s most famous (and often derided) dish seemed like a leap into the gastronomic deep end, something to try to get the full experience of the place. On the next night it was just because I liked it.
That kind of reconsideration of classics is what’s most exciting about Scotland right now. Sure, castles, lochs, and misty mountains abound. But Glasgow and Edinburgh are sophisticated cities with extraordinary dining and cutting-edge culture around every corner. Last summer Edinburgh’s Festival Fringe celebrated its 75th anniversary with 3,300 performances by artists from 63 countries; at the Edinburgh International Festival, Gabriel Byrne premiered his one-man show, Walking with Ghosts, which recently moved to Broadway. On leafy St Andrew Square, Gleneagles has opened its first urban property, Gleneagles Townhouse, with a member’s club and rooftop bar Dean Banks, the MasterChef veteran who runs fine-dining destinations including the Pompadour at the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh, is quick to call out other new favourites, such as the Finnieston in Glasgow, which specialises in sustainable seafood, and Monachyle Mhor, the boutique Highlands hotel known for its “whisky safari”. “In Scotland,” Banks says, “we are kings of touching back to our traditions.” Luckily, the rest of us are able to as well.
This piece originally appeared in the print edition of Harper's Bazaar US