TARTAN WEEK – Gluten-Free Travel to Scotland

In one of the more fantastic turns of fate, last year I won a free trip to Scotland. I entered a contest online through Time Out NY magazine and was informed the following week that I had won airfare, lodging for four nights, a rental car and free entrance to every museum throughout Scotland. Can you imagine being able to go into a museum, see the few things you are interested in and then be able to leave without feeling pressure to ‘get your money’s worth’? It was fantastic. Every time my mom (yes I took my mom) and I arrived at the next destination to find x,y or z already paid for we giggled with delight as if we had won all over again.This was my first extended trip with Celiac that I wouldn’t have access to a kitchen. I had heard that the UK is much more familiar with Celiac Disease and would be more accommodating to my needs. We decided to extend the trip and travel a few extra days throughout Scotland. The scenery and beauty of Scotland is truly something to behold. Though I probably enjoyed my visits to the grocery store as much as anything else we did. It was like a dream world for someone who is unable to eat gluten — whole sections of regular grocery stores dedicated to an array of gluten free goodies. Plus in the rest of the store I was able to shop without as much effort. Stricter labeling laws mean gluten is not hidden the way it can be in American goods.

I brought protein bars, canned chicken and beef jerky in my suitcase along with a bag of food for the plane. I always come prepared and hope that my back-up supplies can be just that. When we had the chance to stop at a grocery store I would buy a couple days worth of fresh produce and items that could survive without refrigeration. We usually ate lunch on the go so I kept supplies in the car: a can opener, plastic cutlery, canned veggies and Indian food, spiced garbanzo beans, gluten free crackers and pappadums.

Throughout most of the trip we stayed in Bed and Breakfasts. I informed each B&B that I would need gluten free dinners and breakfasts. To my amazement, no further explanation was necessary. I arrived at each location armed with my gluten free dining cards and ready to explain every detail to the chef. Each time I was greeted with a delightful Scottish accent telling me that they were aware of my needs and understood cross-contamination. While eating out is always risky, I found a level of comfort that had eluded me since diagnosis. I was almost brought to tears when we arrived at The Culdearn House at Grantown on Spey and were greated with canapés on little gluten free crackers and bread. As the cheery host brought out our dinner, he served us a moist and light gluten free bread. We were the only guests booked that night; I felt like a queen. We stopped at the store Tesco the next day in search of the bread and found numerous other gluten free delights. (Unfortunately most of those items are not yet available in the U.S.)

As our trip was coming to an end, we stayed in Edinburgh. We ate ate at a delicious vegetarian restaurant with a pre-printed gluten free menu. That never gets old! We took a day trip to Glasgow and found the Willow Tea Rooms. My gluten tolerant mother ordered a pastry. As I sat down I knew that I would be limited to a beverage and asked the waitress if all of their teas were gluten free. She went to check and came back to inform me that the teas were safe and that they also had an egg-white meringue that was gluten free. I could hardly contain my joy. It’s amazing how the things I took for granted before Celiac are now the cause for such glee.

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» Ms. GF Guide’s Top 10 Tips for Traveling in Tuscany | A Gluten Free Guide said,

August 24, 2008 @ 9:13 pm

[...] gave everyone else, I just didn’t feel comfortable eating the rest of the dish. During a trip to Scotland on Continental last year, they gave me the vegetarian meal instead of the gluten-free meal, which [...]

» Gluten-Free Valentines and Giveaways | A Gluten Free Guide said,

February 6, 2009 @ 7:14 pm

[...] Farrah started winning more things than I could count.  I followed her example and actually won a trip to Scotland 3 years ago (which is a gluten-free wonderland).  Granted I’ve had a bit of a dry spell since then, but still – it does [...]

» Gluten-Free Guide to London Restaurants | A Gluten Free Guide said,

May 1, 2010 @ 9:16 pm

[...] UK in general is a gluten-free dream. During a trip to Scotland and now two trips to London since going gluten-free, I found everyone to be so well-educated about [...]

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