Rachel Rau, Visit Sweden, travelled to Scotland in March 2019 with a small group of industry professionals, including a forager, chef, restaurateur and hotelier, to discover the flourishing Scottish food tourism scene. Here, she tells Fiona Richmond, Scotland Food & Drink, about the experience.


Why did you choose Scotland for your learning journey earlier this year?

We chose Scotland for several reasons. Scotland and Sweden actually have a lot in common as food travel destinations, like the focus on the ‘national larder’ and finding food in nature, integrating different types of sustainability into the food travel experience, and long-held stereotypes about food traditions (haggis or Swedish meatballs, anyone?) that are being expanded upon in exciting ways – a combination of tradition and modernity. We were also inspired by Scotland’s ambitious strategic work with food travel and wanted to learn about the impact of national initiatives.


Tell us about some of the people and produce you experienced during the trip

The incredible people we met every day made our trip unforgettable. Every single person we met – restaurateurs, producers, chefs, guides, hoteliers, farmers and more – exuded enthusiasm and a true passion for their work, as well as incredible hospitality and curiosity about our group. It’s hard to single any one person out. Our lunch at Newton Walled Garden with Fred Berkmiller, prepared by his young apprentice Killian, was a meal we’ll all remember for a long time to come – the exquisite flavours were elevated exponentially by the stunning surroundings and hearing Fred’s story. Our guide (the word guide doesn’t do her role justice) Brenda Anderson, Tasting Scotland,  was also absolutely key to the success of our trip in every way: her expert knowledge about everything to do with food in Scotland and ability to actually get everyone into the van and  to where we needed to go were impressive and vital in equal measures. Just two small examples of how the people behind the food and the experience are what make the trip! On the food front, we ate our way through an ungodly amount of langoustines, Hebridean lamb, local mushrooms and greens and, of course, whisky – to name a few!


Was there anything that surprised you?

Something that surprised the group was another thing we have in common: Swedes and Scots are not great self-promoters! There’s a lot of modesty and humility ingrained in our cultures that leads to all (well, most) of us having a hard time boasting about the quality of our food scene. “We need to shout about it!” was a refrain that came up repeatedly through the week, and something we constantly discuss here in Sweden.


What do you think about Scotland’s ambition to become a global food tourism destination?

In my eyes, it’s not just an ambition – Scotland IS a global food tourism destination! Of course, it’s both fantastic and important to prioritise destination development at the national level. But we were also truly blown away by what’s already on offer; not only the various businesses doing an incredible job, but also how easy it was to find information and plan the trip. We were also impressed by the number of destinations working together to create regional food tourism products. Overall, I think Scotland has so many assets and the focus on local producers and sustainability is in line with what today’s travellers are looking for – it’s just a matter of continuing to develop and spread the word.



What one thing will you change back home in Sweden as a result of the trip?

The aim of our trip was to create a small film series that we’ll share with Swedish businesses in the food travel sector; the four business owners who joined us on the trip will act as the eyes and ears of those who weren’t along for the ride. As such, we hope that anyone and everyone who has the chance to see one or all of the films will be inspired in some way, be it to adapt an existing offering or develop something completely new.



What can we in Scotland learn from Sweden about developing food tourism?

Something we’ve realised is the importance of, and what we’ve priorirised in Sweden over the past decade, is taking a holistic approach to developing food travel – we can’t isolate tourism from broader societal and commercial questions in the food sector. Rather, there’s much to be gained from incorporating as many perspectives and actors as possible to the national discussion. On a more micro-level, we warmly welcome Scots to come visit Sweden and see for themselves what inspiration, ideas and collaborations develop!


Visit Sweden visited a wide range of businesses including: