Gluten-free in Scotland-part 1

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Scottish Carver Brunch
Scottish Carver Brunch at the Ken Bridge Hotel over the River Ken, Galloway Scotland

Gluten-free in Scotland

I promised to share my gluten-free in Scotland experience while researching genealogy there. First, I found it easier to eat gluten-free in Scotland than many places in the US. Restaurants often had specialized gluten-free and vegan menus. One thing we learned…you’ll need to ask for the bill. Restaurants allow you to enjoy the meal and will not pester you to leave. Our first pub experience was pretty funny because we kept waiting and waiting and didn’t realize the need to politely ask for the ticket.

Take a look at the delicious food I had at the Ken Bridge Hotel, Restaurant, and Bar in the hills of Galloway.

Ken Bridge Hotel Restaurant and Bar in Galloway Scotland
Ken Bridge Hotel Restaurant and Bar in Galloway Scotland

They even made special gluten-free gravy for me so I could have it with my roasted potatoes! Delicious and I felt like I was eating like a queen. A carver brunch is a small buffet where they carve your meat. They had 3 options: turkey, beef, and ham. Ham is not called ham in Scotland. It’s called gammon. Yep, I had to ask what it was! Evident once you see it.

Gluten-free Sticky Toffee Pudding with Caramel Sauce. Eye-rolling good!
Gluten-free Sticky Toffee Pudding with Caramel Sauce. Eye-rolling good!

Desserts were usually quite large and creative. For gluten-free options in Scotland, they ranged from chocolate to ice cream (most everywhere) to a few stunners like warm sticky toffee pudding that tasted like a mellow, caramel ginger bread. Something everyone else had enjoyed on our trip, but I hadn’t been able to try until the lovely carver brunch. I was thrilled! Now I want to try making it at home!

Ken Bridge over the River Ken in Galloway
Ken Bridge over the River Ken in Galloway

The Ken Bridge Restaurant is actually a 17th century carriage inn that still has hotel rooms for travelers, a pub-style bar, and decorated with lovely antiques in a comfortable, yet rustic ambiance. Loved the views of the river as we dined. I do hope to go back and try their rooms sometime.

Then it was off to explore the red deer park inside Galloway Forest Park by driving over the Ken Bridge. The rivers are often referred to as waters. This would be the Water of Ken flowing under the Ken Bridge.

On occasion restaurants used their vegan menu as gluten-free, which wasn’t always as helpful as they thought. In those instances, I found I could revert to steak and potatoes or chicken/ham/fish and potatoes as long as you stay away from the deep fried option. Most restaurants, even in the US, are still unaware that fries (or any deep-fried item) is not gluten-free when cooked in the same oils as foods with flour. Do ask every time.

As a general rule I found the food in Scotland incredible, presented beautifully, and well worth the price.

The most humorous experience I had was also the worst food I’d had in years. 

Eating while watching curling tournaments at the Northwest Castle Hotel is an experience!
Eating while watching curling tournaments at the Northwest Castle Hotel is a fun experience! But I suggest a cider. Skip the food.

But I promise that was an odd duck that happened only once in two weeks (meaning 40+ meals) if you don’t count one piece of dried out chocolate cake on a train. The steak tasted like it had been stored with liver. The fries tasted like the oil was rancid. It was that way for every person at our table, those that ate fish thought it tasted quite old.

We were so hungry that we ate as much as we could handle, not much, as everywhere else was already closed at the late time we’d arrived. We definitely enjoyed their ciders though. Our overnight was at the Northwest Castle Hotel in Stranraer. We don’t plan to visit that particular place again to eat or stay. We’d go back to the town, and choose another pub and hotel. But, we had a fantastic time watching curling tournaments and cheering with the clubs. We enjoyed the unusual elements of the hotel, though the furnishings were tattered and needed care. The breakfast staff were quite kind and attentive. I’d suggest getting a delicious cider in the pub, rather than food, and scheduling ahead with a coach (required) to learn to curl. I think that would be a blast. But, alas, I’d never eat or overnight there again.

Stay tuned for several more culinary explorations in Scotland.

Angela Breidenbach, Scotland Dreams
Angela Breidenbach, author and genealogist

Angela Breidenbach is an author, speaker, and genealogist. Find her at

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The Captive Brides Romance Collection including "Hist Indentured Bride" by Angela Breidenbach
The Captive Brides Romance Collection including “His Indentured Bride” by Angela Breidenbach

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Angela Breidenbach is an author, genealogist, screenwriter, speaker, and radio personality.