Not a member?
Register and login now.

Issue 9 - Simply irresistible

Scotland Magazine Issue 9
July 2003


This article is 15 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

Copyright Scotland Magazine © 1999-2018. All rights reserved. To use or reproduce part or all of this article please contact us for details of how you can do so legally.

Simply irresistible


A famous novelist of my acquaintance once went to Edinburgh to search for examples of his particular passion in life: antique machine tools. He found exactly what he wanted; but it took several hours of negotiation with the vendor, who couldn’t bear to part with a particularly fine antique plane, even though the novelist was offering good money for it. That’s passion for you. Time was when shopping in Scotland was fine if all you wanted was whisky, tartan rugs or marmalade. But Glasgow is now the largest retail centre in Britain outside London and very compact, with shops a short, latte-fuelled stroll from each other.

Meanwhile the quality of shopping in Edinburgh has improved out of all recognition. Even five years ago, no one would have believed that Louis Vuitton would be setting up a signature shop there in 2003, or that branches of Harvey Nichols, Penhaligon’s and Jo Malone would open.

But it gets better. Scotland is also crammed with destination shops. These are one-offs, often owned and run by people, like the antique-tool man, with a passion for what they’re selling; places which alone make their location worth visiting. In fact, for true shopaholics, the destination is virtually irrelevant; they just have to have what’s in that store, be it in Tokyo or Timbuctu.

Even people who are not shopaholics are highly likely to have called in to a destination store – if only to bring back a branded carrier bag with a small souvenir.

The following listing of destination shops in Scotland is far from exhaustive. Travel the country and you’re bound to come upon craftsmen and women working with silver, wool, cheese, wood, soap, clay, creating something which might just strike that special ‘must-have’ chord with you.

At which point you must either buy enough to last until next time or make sure there’s a good mail order service.


19 Elm Row
Tel. +44 (0)131 556 6066
Founded in 1934, this is Scotland’s oldest delicatessen and Italian wine merchant, and one of Europe’s original specialist food shops.
To this day, the best of Italy can be found here: own-baked focaccia, salamis, cheeses, oils, vinegars, wine. There’s usually a queue – but that’s all part of the charm. Also has a cafe – very popular for lunch.

16 William Street
Tel. +44 (0)131 220 4495
A shoe shop to die for, run by the eponymous Helen who has one of the greatest passions for shoes the world has ever known – and it shows. Summer collections included suede and canvas trainers with daisies, multicoloured, jewel bright sling backs and high-heeled ballroom shoes inspired by the 1950s. Also has a mass of scarves, bags and costume jewellery; and a bespoke service operates from the
basement so you can get an exact match for your wedding outfits.

4 William Street
Tel. +44 (0)131 226 4466
Just a year old, but already this tiny boutique seems a fixture. The two girls behind the venture have brought together an eclectic selection of niche labels, including Hillary Rohde knitwear and pieces by the fabulous French company Antoine Gili. Everything’s witty, charming, colourful. Choose your moment, if you don’t want to be caught by someone you know trying on something a bit too tight.

30a Victoria Street, and branches
Tel. +44 (0)131 226 6215
Now with four Edinburgh shops, one in Glasgow and one in St Andrews, this is more accurately a ‘destination group’. Iain Mellis is a cheesemonger, who has been ripening and retailing cheeses for 14 years, and who appreciates how modern production methods can harm the delicate flavour of many cheeses. So his cheeses get air-conditioned, humidity-controlled accommodation, in which they can ripen properly. Worth a visit if only for the deliciously nutty aromas and a loaf of sourdough bread, also sold.

Princes Street
Tel. +44 (0)131 225 2442
The oldest independently owned department store in the world, Jenners is on every new tourist’s list and a day out for many of its long standing, loyal clientele. Situated bang in the middle of Edinburgh, it occupies an architecturally important period building with a labyrinthine interior. The product mix is recently much improved though: plenty of designer labels, four restaurants, a beauty spa, a tremendous rug collection, home furnishings and loads of branded merchandise for souvenirs.

57 – 59 High Street, Royal Mile
Tel. +44 (0)131 557 0256
A spin-off from the traditional weavers and kiltmakers Geoffrey (Tailor) (, 21st Century Kilts sells off-the-peg and tailor-made funky, contemporary kilts, using all the expertise you find in a traditional kilt but in different fabrics (e.g. leather or black wool). Robbie Williams has one.

87 George St
Tel. +44 (0)131 225 4898
Scotland’s leading jeweller and silversmith has its flagship store in Edinburgh (branches in Harvey Nichols and on Beauchamp Place in London). Much jewellery, silverware and trophyware is created in the workshops over the stunning shop space – make an appointment to see
the craftsmen at work.

22 Palmerston Place
Tel. +44 (0)131 225 1057
Cashmere queen Belinda Robertson has her main store in London and creates own-label for Michael Kors and other American and Far Eastern stores, but here at Palmerston Place you can get end of line items, sale merchandise and surplus production – generally at reduced prices. Ring beforehand or just call in; it’s fairly informal and you can try on to your heart’s delight. Ask for the definitive, slightly shaped ladies’ cashmere poloneck, style B1031 – order it in any of 250 colours. You’ll never buy a different one again.


5 – 21 Cresswell Lane
Tel. +44 (0)141 334 6673
An offbeat shopping arcade in the city’s cool West End, with an interesting mix of antique and craft shops, designer homeware boutiques and vintage record shops, together with cafés and bistros.

93 West Regent Street
Tel. +44 (0)141 332 0808
A notable collection for the antique hunter – jewellery, antique memorabilia and beautiful retro clothing. Some of the costume jewellery for Star Wars was sourced here, at Saratoga Trunk.

Buchanan Street
Tel. +44 (0)141 226 5176
Quirky and fabulously hip designs for women by this Scottish designer pair.

Ingram Street
Not exactly a destination shop, but you wouldn’t want to miss this. It’s the Glasgow home of Versace, Armani and several other designer outlets including Cruise and The Designer Room, which stocks Dolce & Gabbana, Donna Karan and Calvin Klein.

10 Ruthven Lane
Tel. +44 (0)141 339 2315
An independent West End store, just off Byres Road, whose owner sources from all over. She buys with specific customers in mind, so service is at the top end.

119 Candleriggs
Tel. +44 (0)141 553 2077
No outfit’s complete without the sunglasses these days, and Niche Optical Tailor counts Kevin Spacey, Elle Macpherson and Seal among its customers. This niche eyewear boutique, located in the Merchant City, stocks around 1,000 pieces, from rimless to glam rockstar. Younger shoppers and skateboarders will love the other shops in the area.

Couper St
Tel. +44 (0)141 559 5450
Tiso is in Edinburgh too, but here it’s more than just a shop selling outdoor hiking, biking and skiing gear; it also has a raft of interactive features, including a 15m rock pinnacle and a waterfall, plus cafe. Who needs to face up to the real thing?

Rainton Farm
Gatehouse of Fleet
Dumfries & Galloway
Tel. +44 (0)1557 814 040
Some of the best ice cream and frozen yoghurt you’ll ever taste. They make 30 flavours including Chocolate to Die For and Malt Whisky. With four miles of marked nature trails, a tearoom and a playground, it represents an afternoon’s activity all by itself.

High Street
Tel. +44 (0)141 889 3151
The shop at the Paisley Museum sells authentic Paisley shawls, plus ties, cardigans, children’s and novelty items. The museum itself has a permanent display of historic Paisley shawls, and tells their story.

Main Street
Tobermory, Isle of Mull
Tel. +44 (0)1688 302 336
A bookshop with a huge difference, namely that it also sells vast amounts of specialist fishing tackle. Situated at one end of the rainbow of buildings along Tobermory’s picturesque harbour front, Books & Tackle has a fine selection of books on natural history, Scottish history, clans, tartans, castles, marine life, walking, guidebooks – and also stocks contemporary fiction.

Home Farm
Isle of Arran
Tel. +44 (0)1770 302 595
Arran Aromatics’ delicious bath and beauty products are found in gift shops and garden centres all over the country; but here you can see them being made in a factory, through a huge glass wall. You can pick up some fantastic bargains in the factory shop. Typically Scottish offerings include heather, honey and oatmeal soap.

2 – 4 Golf Place
St Andrews, Fife
Tel. +44 (0)1334 473 253
In the mid 1890s, brothers Willie, David and Tom Auchterlonie, who learned to play golf using champagne corks as balls, founded separate golf club manufacturing companies in St Andrews. Tom’s business is the one that survives, and to this day, golf clubs are hand-made to order, including the famous wooden-topped putter. The shop has a collection of replica putters and clubs, golfing gifts, Old Course branded clothes and other golfing wear by Bobby Jones, Cutter & Buck, Ashworth and Lyle & Scott.

Taynuilt, Argyll
Tel. +44 (0)1866 822 446
I first discovered this some years ago when someone mailed me some Loch Etive smoked trout for the freezer. It came presented with considerable thought and care and was also utterly delicious. Robert and Rosie Campbell- Preston started Inverawe Smokehouses in 1974, midway between Lochs Awe and Etive, and held to an age-old, traditional way of smoking the fish. The smokery shop stocks smoked and hot-smoked salmon (there’s a difference), roast smoked trout, marinated salmon and prawns, and a whole range of other smoked fish and meats. You can watch the fishwives at work in the tiny smokery, too; and there’s some pond fishing on offer.

2 High St, Cromarty
Tel. +44 (0)1381 600 853
In a town full of tempting little shops, Gardiner & Gardiner stands out with its mix of interior design accessories, including ornamental fossils, French handpainted enamels and cushions made from antique tapestry. Run by a mother and daughter, Gardiner’s real speciality is its bolts of antique French linen, which has been dyed violet, terracotta, sage, lavender etc, and also ticking, both of which can be used for curtains or sheets.

New Mill, Elgin, Morayshire
Tel. +44 (0)1343 554 099
Fantastic wool and cashmere business, still situated on the site where the mill was founded in 1797, on the banks of the River Lossie. It’s the only British mill to transform cashmere from the raw fibre to the finished garment. Johnstons does a lot of own-label knitwear, some traditional, some more fashion-led, manufactures for international designers and produces home furnishings.

Inveraray, Argyll
Tel. +44 (0)1499 302 219
On the main street in this charming, white-painted, west-coast town, Loch Fyne Whiskies has hundreds of bottlings of whisky, and sells whisky related items such as hip flasks, confectionery and whisky books. Privately owned by Richard Joynson, so not allied to any one distiller or drinks conglomerate, Loch Fyne Whiskies attracts visitors from worldwide and produces a twice-yearly must-read newsletter, Scotch Whisky Review. Apparently, if you’re given a bottle you don’t like as a gift, you can return it for a full refund, and the staff will drink it for you. One happy business, I’d have thought.

By Blair Atholl, Perthshire
Tel. +44 (0)1796 483 236/374
A destination all by itself, House of Bruar on the A9 by Blair Atholl castle is the most luxurious stop for comfort breaks you’re ever likely to encounter. As well as top-class toilets and a well organised self-service resto, Bruar has an extensive collection of country clothing and a new cashmere and knitwear hall. The food hall also has some goodies that are worth making a specific stop for: Stockan & Garden’s oatcakes, Rannoch smokery’s venison and duck, Highland Fine Cheeses’ caboc, Strathdon blue and Highland crowdie, and Isabella’s inimitable jams and preserves.

Fearn, Tain
Tel. +44 (0)1862 832 477
Lachlan and Annie Stewart’s business produces stoneware, luggage and home furnishings and accessories in tartan with a distinctly contemporary twist. The woven throws are particularly nice, taking their inspiration from the Scottish landscape, but distinctly at home in a modern sitting room. Here at the factory shop you’ll find the full range plus the odd knock-down price.

52 High Street
Auchterarder, Perthshire
Tel. +44 (0)1764 662 151
Knitwear, knitted outerwear and textiles are all for sale in this family-run business. They buy with specific customers in mind, but all visitors can expect excellent service.

25 Broad Street
Kirkwall, Orkney
Tel. +44 (0)1856 874 225
The best of Orkney-made crafts, food and jewellery are here, including the distinctive hooded, handcrafted Orkney chairs, hampers and Judith Glue’s own range of runic scarves, inspired by the Viking runes (graffiti) that were left all over the pre-historic ruins of Maeshowe. Over 70 per cent of what’s sold here has been locally made, so it’s a true Orkney institution.

Tel. +44 (0)1301 702 089
With an outdoor store, petrol station, snack stop, gift and whisky shop and restaurant, the Green Welly Stop is all things to anyone travelling to Oban or Fort William and in need of supplies. A third-generation family business, the Green Welly Stop is in the unusual position of being roughly equidistant between Stirling, Perth, Glasgow and Fort William, and just a little further from Edinburgh.

Claim your free Scotland Magazine trial issue