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What Is a Full Scottish Breakfast?

Every lodging place in Scotland, from five-star hotels to one-star hovels, offers a Full Scottish Breakfast. By “full” the Scots mean “complete,” but I promise you, full is what you’ll feel when you finish the last bite of that tattie scone.

You may be surprised at what you won’t see on the breakfast tables of most B&Bs in Scotland. Not waffles or French toast or pancakes, not muffins or bagels or Danish pastries, not egg casseroles or omelets, not potatoes or hash browns, and definitely not grits.

What is being served? Let’s head for the dining room and find out…

Breakfast Juices

Our first stop is a sideboard lined with cold starters. An assortment of juices. Plain yogurt with muesli to sprinkle on top. Fresh fruit, whole or chopped. Round, thin oatcakes, waiting for a skim of raspberry jam. And a selection of cereals, including Weetabix, which look like granola bars, but are in fact shredded wheat.

I found this out the hard way in New Zealand, where I sank my teeth into a bar of Weet-Bix, as they call it there, and thought I’d bitten into a hay bale. My Kiwi sisters are still laughing about that one.

Breakfast Tea

We return to the table with our yogurt and fruit, and discover piping hot tea waiting for us. Our teacups are flanked by a second pot of water—for thinning our tea when it gets too strong—a bowl of sugar lumps, and a pitcher of milk.

Someday soon I’ll write an entire post on the tradition of tea drinking in Scotland. For now, we’re sipping away and enjoying our yogurt, waiting for the hot food to appear.

Breakfast Porridge

A steaming bowl of porridge shows up first. Yum. Scottish oatmeal is smoother than your typical Quaker Oats. Start with a pat of butter and a splash of milk, then toss in some golden currants (like raisins, but not) a generous spoonful of light brown Demerara sugar, and you’re ready to begin the day the way Scots have for centuries.

Breakfast Toast in Rack

Toast is next—white or wheat—cut diagonally, then slipped into a little rack to keep it crisp. I purchased such an item on my first trip, pledging never to serve toast any other way. Though it traveled home with me, I fear my toast rack has not surfaced in my kitchen since.

Butter isn’t little pats on paper squares but an enormous slab on a china plate. A pot of thick-cut orange marmalade is on the table along with creamy organic honey, often flavored by heather or wildflowers. Unlike our clear, amber-colored honey in a plastic bear, the Scottish version is more dense and less sticky, which makes it far easier to spread with a knife.

Yogurt, fruit, tea, porridge, and toast…breakfast enough, you might say. Yet here comes our host, bearing two hot plates and a smile.

Full Scottish Breakfast

Impressive, isn’t it? Let’s work our way round, starting at twelve o’clock:

  • Half a tomato, broiled with cheese on top
  • A rasher of bacon, which in the UK is more like thinly sliced ham
  • Potato, or tattie, scone (rhymes with gone)
  • Link sausage, or banger
  • Sautéed mushrooms
  • Baked beans (yes, for breakfast)
  • One egg, fixed any way you like
  • Black pudding (which is anything but a dark chocolate dessert)

I didn’t sample black pudding on my first twelve trips to Scotland because the ingredients sounded revolting: pigs’ blood, fat, oats, barley, and spices, all stuffed in a length of intestine. When a Galloway friend convinced me to try a good, local variety of black pudding, prepared by a skilled butcher, I had to admit it was tasty, even if the texture was mealy, the aroma earthy, and I chased every other bite with a gulp of OJ.

Why such a huge meal? Consider it your fuel for the day. No need to spend money or time on lunch. With a meal like this you’ll be good at least until afternoon tea.

Now that you have experienced a Full Scottish Breakfast, what’s the most memorable morning meal you had while traveling?

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44 Responses to “What Is a Full Scottish Breakfast?”

  1. sheila charloff October 14, 2012 2:55 am #

    The Scottish breakfast all sounds wonderful except for the black pudding; think I’ll pass on that. Looking forward to my first trip to Scotland in Sept. 2013 and will be staying with my dearest friends who live in the Lowlands an hours drive from Edinbrough. Maggie makes the most wonderful jams and shortbread I have ever tasted so I am sure to be sated with lots of culinary delight. Liz, thank you for the description of the breakfasts and the beautiful pictures you shared. I have read your “Thorn In My Heart” series and “My Heart’s In the Lowlands.” I was sorry when I finished them and am praying you will return to Scotland and pleasure us with my historical novels of Scotland! Looking forward to your Christmas novella as well.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 14, 2012 12:39 pm #

      September is a beautiful month to travel to Scotland. If your friends live an hour south of Edinburgh, that’s the Borders, one of my favorite corners of the country and the setting for Mine Is the Night. No doubt they’ll take you to the abbeys–Melrose, Jedburgh, Dryburgh among them. Simply driving about the countryside and visiting the many villages and gardens will be lovely. If they live more to the east, you’ll have the coastal fishing villages to see, and if that hour’s drive is more to the southwest, you’ll be near my beloved Galloway, where my first series of novels were set. Wherever you land, it will be grand, Sheila. Take a million photos…I always do. :>)

    • Fergie July 14, 2014 1:00 pm #

      Hod Dog is more revolting than Black Pudding

  2. Yvonne October 14, 2012 6:59 am #

    Thanks for the memories, Liz. I too bought a toast rack on one of my trips to Scotland. I love crisp dry toasts, the way the Scott’s serve it. I never did get up the nerve to try black pudding though. One morning we were served duck eggs. I can’t wait for your piece about Scottish tea time.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 14, 2012 12:41 pm #

      Your description is spot on, Yvonne: the toast is generally served dry, not buttered. And Scots are quite happy to eat it cold. Love to hear more about the duck eggs!

  3. Pat Tirabasso October 14, 2012 10:41 am #

    While visiting Scotland, I was served kippers for breakfast. Upon the first mouthful, I’m sure I must have had an odd look on my face when the Scottish woman across the table from me leaned forward and said, ” You can eat the bones sweetie”.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 14, 2012 12:44 pm #

      Ooh aye, Pat! Kippers are also served for breakfast in some places. LOVE the woman’s comment. A perfect example of how helpful the Scots can be.

  4. Janet McCord October 14, 2012 11:45 am #

    My Scottish husband says he’s never seen grilled tomatoes in a “fry up” with a cheese topping. Also porridge is usually a separate breakfast–one or the other, not both. When my husband came to the US to visit me before we were married he asked why Americans had cheese on everything. An exaggeration but I told him it’s because it tastes so good! He says you must have stayed at a very posh B&B!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 14, 2012 1:35 pm #

      Thanks for sharing your husband’s perspective, Janet. As it happens, I’ve been served grilled tomatoes with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese on my breakfast plate dozens of times in Scotland, Other times they were indeed served plain (though I’m like you: bring on the cheese!). And porridge certainly can be a stand-alone dish, though many lodging places offer it in addition to the cooked breakfast. (If I do both, it’s a very small bowl indeed!) I’ve stayed in more than 100 B&Bs and small inns all over Scotland, and believe me, not all of them were posh. ;>) I’ve lodged at working sheep farms, single rooms over a pub in the countryside, and a back bedroom in a house where the teenager who last slept there left for Uni an hour before I arrived! So, I’ve seen a good sampling of Scottish tourist accommodations over the last 16 years. That’s the view I’m trying to bring on MyScottishHeart.com. Thank you for stopping by!

  5. Yvonne October 14, 2012 2:30 pm #

    Liz, we were served duck eggs at a very small B&B on the Isle of Mull. As I remember, they tasted like hen eggs to us. We were the only guests and the lady of the house even gave me a picture she painted of some woods near her home. I framed it and hung it in my dining room and it is one of my prized possessions. We loved B&Bs because most owners are friendly and helpful and we liked seeing their homes. One lady outside Blair Atholl even insisted on making us a supper as there were no eating places open. She picked fresh tomatoes and lettuce from her garden for salad and served delicious soup. For breakfast she made drop scones, which are like silver dollar pancakes served with homemade jam she made the night before. (I got to go into her kitchen and watch!) She sent us on our way with what she called a “play piece,” something kids eat with their hands and take to school for lunch. More drop scones and jam! Her husband taught us the Scottish way to pronounce my husband’s name. It is Lamont, with the accent on the first syllable, not the second, as we say it. More like La-munt. Love your books, love your blog, love how you interact with fans, love your love of Scotland, love YOU, Liz!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 15, 2012 9:06 am #

      THANKS for all these details, Yvonne. I’ve met many gracious B&B owners as well. Could eat some of those drop scones and jam RIGHT NOW. ;>) Fascinating to know how Lamont is properly pronounced. Finally, bless you for the kind words. It’s a joy to connect with you here!

  6. gay laurine nuckolls October 14, 2012 3:37 pm #

    The breakfast at the Colonial House Inn and Motel in Weston, Vermont is the best.
    We took a New England trip, on my bucket list, in 2010 and had the pleasure of
    staying here at the last minute after visiting the Vermont Country Store. What a delightful room with a large picture window looking out on the back gardens with bird feeders.
    Breakfast began with Green Mountain coffee, teas, assorted juices, rhubarb compote or home-made applesauce. Next came choice of toast baked with freshly ground grains, accompanied by homemade preserves, hot ten grain cereal (I am not an oatmeal fan but this was delicious) or Blue Ridge pancakes with fresh creamery butter and Vermont maple syrup and omelet with choice of ingredients. Freshly baked banana walnut bread topped off the meal. This family run Inn is a must if you find yourself in New England, and don’t miss the Yankee Candle flagship store in South Deerfield, Massachusetts.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 15, 2012 9:07 am #

      Wouldn’t we all love to be in Vermont this month, with the trees ablaze? I have very fond memories of our trips to New England. And your description of breakfast has me wondering how long until I can enjoy lunch! Thanks for sharing, Gay.

  7. Katie October 14, 2012 7:21 pm #

    So interesting! I’d LOVE to hear more about tea in Scotland. For instance, do they prefer different kinds of teas for different times of the day, or occasions? What sort of cakes, cookies, scones, etc. are served with tea?

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 15, 2012 9:14 am #

      I’ll gladly do a post just on teatime in Scotland. Except in posh hotels, you’ll not find many places serving “high tea” in Scotland, with 3-tiered trays full of cakes and such. A simple pot of strong black tea and a plate of shortbread or biscuits (cookies) is more typical. What I found most interesting is listening to BBC Radio and hearing the announcer say, “The roadway will be not be open until teatime.” Everyone, at every social level, observes that late afternoon pause for refreshment, it seems.

  8. Wendy P October 14, 2012 10:36 pm #

    For my two trips to Scotland, many, many years ago, I didn’t stay in B&
    B’s or hotels, but with friends. (Lucky me!) We had corn flakes for breakfast every day.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 17, 2012 9:44 pm #

      Oh, a friend’s place! The very best lodging of all. You can be sure these “Full Scottish Breakfasts” are strictly tourist fare. In real Scottish homes you might find porridge on the breakfast table, but it’s more likely to be toast and jam and–yes, indeed–cornflakes!

  9. Janet Grunst October 15, 2012 12:44 pm #

    Your full Scottish breakfast sounds wonderful. I am of British heritage and was raised with kippers for breakfast and Irish cut oatmeal, so I was delighted to find them in Scotland when I made two trips there.Tomatoes were also on the menu there and in England. I’ve just completed Mine Is The Night after reading Here Burns My Candle and enjoyed them both.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 17, 2012 9:49 pm #

      I confess I’ve never had kippers for breakfast. I know, I know. Like with black pudding, it’s the description that gives me pause: “a kipper is a whole herring, a small, oily fish, that has been split from tail to head, gutted, salted or pickled, and cold smoked.” But I’m headed across the pond next month, Janet, and I promise to try them. Meanwhile, delighted to hear you’ve enjoyed my two-book saga set in Edinburgh and the Borders. I’ve yet to see Marjory and Bess strolling the High Street, but I always keep an eye out for them.

  10. Heather October 16, 2012 11:34 am #

    This sounds a little like PART of my breakfast this morning. I had Oatmeal with an apple cut up in it, cinnamon, (2 scoops of herbal life healthy meal nutritional shake mix)butter , plain yogurt and brown sugar. Mmm! Then I had two slices of toast (Italian bread,hah! ) with butter. Two cups of Celestial Seasons’ Sleepy time tea. I know, sleepy time in the morning??
    I like a soothing wake up call. Sometimes I’ll add a 1/4 tsp of powdered caffeinated tea.
    Okay, saying it sounded like a scottish breakfast probably stopped at the oatmeal part.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 17, 2012 9:52 pm #

      From a woman named “Heather,” I am prepared to stretch my definition of a Scottish Breakfast. Actually, you were spot on until the Italian mention… I like tea so strong my spoon leaps out of the cup, but if you prefer to tiptoe into the day, that’s lovely too.

  11. WENDY October 16, 2012 7:09 pm #

    I had a few bites of blood pudding in Ireland. Did not realize what it was. Never again! Such pain in my tummy! But the rest of the food and the tea sounds divine. I am already going with you all on the trip to the Bonnie Land in my heart, thoughts and mind!!! God Bless your trip and your conversation and interaction!!!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 17, 2012 9:55 pm #

      We shall take you along with us then, Wendy, in our hearts and in our minds. I depart for Scotland on the Friday after Thanksgiving and would so appreciate your prayers!

  12. Heather Miller October 16, 2012 8:52 pm #

    Well, my most memorable breakfast in Scotland was at a B&B in Stirling in June of this year. There were eggs, sausage (not a fan of the ham-like bacon) and a slice of haggis on my plate. Have to admit this was my second taste of haggis (the first being 4 years ago), but this was the first time I willingly and on purpose ate it. Not bad, but very spicy. Was hard to get the taste out of my mouth. Glad I had some, but probably won’t order it again.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 17, 2012 10:00 pm #

      I just knew haggis would earn a mention! It is quite spicy, so here’s the trick: have it for dinner or supper with tatties (potatoes) and neeps (turnips), both mashed. Take a small forkful of all three and pop the combo in your mouth. Chew and swallow quickly. There! 1/3 haggis to 2/3 veg. Works every time.

  13. Lois Herron October 25, 2012 1:35 pm #

    Would love to travel to Scotland someday. Will be sure to order a full Scottish breakfast.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs November 19, 2012 9:42 am #

      You’ll not be disappointed. Lois. FULL, to be sure, but not unhappy! ;>)

  14. Trisha October 28, 2012 8:13 pm #

    The full scottish breakfast sounds quite filling. Being Vegetarian I’d have to skip the meat portion, however the rest sounds delicious! Are there lots of options for Vegetarians in Scotland?

    • Liz Curtis Higgs November 19, 2012 9:52 am #

      Yes, Scotland offers vegetarians lots of delicious and creative options for any meal of the day. How about these tasty alternatives on a Scottish dinner menu I just perused?

      Wild mushroom and walnut pâté, with petit salad and baguette crustini
      Roasted squash, spinach, and goat cheese pithivier, with tarragon cream sauce
      Globe artichoke, chestnut, and wild mushroom ravioli
      Pumpkin tart tatin, with chestnuts and toasted seeds

      Don’t those selections make your mouth water? Scottish chefs are famously creative, and the food locally sourced, fresh and delicious.

  15. Ro October 29, 2012 11:26 pm #

    A ful Irish breakfast is about the same as the Scottish one. I spent 9 days wandering around Ireland a few years ago, all in B&Bs, and sampled everything put in front of me including both blood sausage and kippers. I like the blood sausage, though it can be quite different from place to place. Everyone has their own favorite recipe, it seems. My sampling of haggis was in Dayton Ohio, at a Bobby Burns party. I was an Air Force colonel at the time, so we dressed in mess dress (black tie, in civilian style), were greeted at the door with a glass of champagne, were piped into dinner, and had a full bottle of single malt scotch on one side and a full bottle of red wine on the other. The Haggis was piped in, with great ceremony and many toasts of that fine single malt, and tasted quite fine. I have no idea what it would be like without the scotch, however. We each had a Bobby Burns quote to memorize and use to raise a toast, which I did, but is now lost the the rather hazy details of that otherwise memorable evening.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs November 19, 2012 9:58 am #

      What a fine description you’ve given us of a Burns’ Night Supper. (Maybe those drams of single malt are the trick to enjoying haggis!)

      You are quite right–Scottish, Irish, English, and Welsh “full breakfasts” or “cooked breakfasts” have much in common, with only a few regional differences. You’ll not find all that food served for breakfast in private homes round the UK, but at the B&Bs, absolutely.

      Thanks for the comment!

  16. Lisa Schureman November 30, 2012 4:01 pm #

    There was haggis and black pudding in my Full Scottish Breakfast. If you weren’t aware that there was blood in the black pudding you wouldn’t be able to tell by the taste. Haggis is the only dish in which I’ll eat liver. It’s disguised well enough so that it’s not obnoxious.

  17. Peggy December 4, 2012 7:30 pm #

    Liz, awaiting all the details, descriptions and impressions of the December Scotland trips.
    Couldn’t go in person, but will be there in spirit. Just finished “A Wreath of Snow.” What a delightful, enjoyable and inspiring novella. Just what I would expect from Liz Curtis Higgs.

    Have read everything except the children’s books you have written. Now, when will the next novel set in Scotland come about? WAITING!!!
    Merry Christmas

    • Desi December 23, 2012 7:53 am #

      I’ve heard Scottish people joke about how they don’t like the English, but it’s never like we don’t like them besucae bla bla bla. It’s really all in good fun, and in honesty Scottish people are just as indifferent to an English person as they would be to a Scottish one.

  18. marpa August 25, 2013 3:16 am #

    One wee disagreement is that a link sausage is traditionally either replaced or an addition to a square/lorne sausage. As a Scot I find link sausages ‘foreign’ especially as a square sausage fits nicely onto a bread roll!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 7, 2013 8:01 am #

      I’m with you on the square sausage, Marpa! Yum. The more I travel round Scotland, the more variety I find on the breakfast table. Certainly in Scottish homes it’s markedly different than tourist fare. Thanks for stopping by!

  19. Scott October 5, 2013 6:47 am #

    Hi,

    I’m from Glasgow, Scotland and have just cooked some tottie scones (or tattie) and a fried egg. Being Scottish and having lived in Scotland my whole life, I must say that I have never seen the tomato with cheese on top. I usually half mine and into the frying pan it goes.

    The mushrooms are more of an English Breakfast item but have been creeping their way onto some Scottish plates. I don’t use mushrooms myself but if you love them then I guess they can be a good addition.

    The bacon can be thick. If you ask your butcher for some thick slices then it won’t be a problem, but in the supermarkets you’ll find they do thin and thick slices – my preference is smoked bacon with the fry up! It adds something extra.

    Now for the special part! All you people out there stop being afraid of the black pudding!! Haha. It’s probably the most delicious part of the meal. The black pudding is creeping its way into English breakfasts I have noticed and I even found it in Spain only back in September!! But it didn’t quite taste the same. There are many different varieties depending on location but one of the most famous (and probably expensive) is the Stornoway Black Pudding. It’s really nice.

    If you want to be really Scottish then take those link sausages away (although I do eat them myself) and get it replaced with some square slice Lorne sausage (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sliced_sausage). The square sausage frozen variety is not very good so you need a good butcher to make this.

    Oh I almost forgot……if you want to add in an extra blocked artery then fried bread is the way to do it. Rather than toast you simply fry a piece of bread in same pan as you’ve just cooked everything else in.

    Scott.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs October 7, 2013 8:21 am #

      LOVE all these details on a fry up from a true Scot name Scott!

      I’ve had that fabulous Stornoway Black Pudding, and it’s definitely a taste worth acquiring. And while I have indeed had cheese on my breakfast tomato, you are right: many times it’s served cheese-free.

      Thanks SO much for chiming in, Scott.

  20. Scott October 5, 2013 6:53 am #

    Oh and like Liz said, you won’t find all that food served in private homes. This is true on a more daily basis, probably as you don’t have the time to make it all, but on a Sunday It’s certainly something served at home around the country : )

    We Scots like a good drink and if you scour the internet enough, you’ll notice a lot of people referring to the fry up as their hangover cure from a Saturday night of drinking.

  21. Bruce Stott January 4, 2014 2:39 am #

    Hi Liz
    I am looking forward to my first trip to Scotland to look up my roots in Aberdeen and catch up with the last surviving relative of our line in Spey Bay.The full Scottish breakfast sounds wonderful and should keep this geriatric Ausie content until dinner time.
    It has been a lifetime dream of mine to visit Scotland the home of my ancestors and it is finally going to happen.
    The black pudding doesn’t sound too good though. Maybe I’ll pinch my nose as I try to swallow it :-)

  22. Emily Roesly April 17, 2014 1:39 pm #

    Thank you so much for that enjoyable description. I’m taking my first trip to Scotland in July 2014 and this gives me one more detail to prepare me for the experience. Cheers!

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  24. Fergie July 14, 2014 1:02 pm #

    Hot Dogs have much worse stuff in them than Black Pudding.

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