Photo: Samye Ling Monastery
Scotland has a long history of multiculturalism, from North African pirates being shipwrecked and setting up home on the north coast, to Vikings leaving their mark in our customs and place names. More recently our historical connections to the rest of the British Empire have led us to embrace different cultures and ideas. Scotland is a holiday destination where many people are looking for the traditional, and certainly we have a lot to offer in that department but there are also a whole host of things to see and do that are maybe not what you would describe as typically Scottish that you should still investigate if you have an opportunity.
Belladrum has over the past few years cemented its position as one of the most eclectic and well-loved festivals in the Highlands. It has attracted a host of big names to its site near Beauly and this year is no exception with Primal Scream and Paloma Faith headlining. This summer the theme for the festival is Bollywood. A tribute to the colourful, over the top musical cinema from the Indian sub-continent may seem like an odd choice at first but consider it a bit further and it makes perfect sense. Bollywood is about glamour, a riot of colour and choreography and is almost always a joyous and uplifting experience. Expect attendees to dress up and get in the spirit of things while being entertained by authentic Indian dancers on the special Bhangra stage (including the country’s only Gaelic speaking Bollywood dance troupe). The Burrow on The Black Isle would be a great spot to stay if you are travelling for the festival, convenient for getting to the venue and a top spot to relax in luxury while you recover afterwards.
Samye Ling was the first Tibetan Buddhist centre to be opened in the west and is now renowned globally for the work it does. Day visitors are welcome here and you do not have to be a Buddhist to look around. In addition to offering courses and lectures the centre is a hub for the preservation of Tibetan culture and the gift shop stocks specially imported crafts. Also the vegetarian food is as tasty as you will find anywhere in the country. In a way the Scottish Borders seems to be the perfect place for this centre, the area is friendly and hospitable as well as peaceful and relaxing. Westerkirk Mains is a short drive away and is itself in an amazing tranquil location with massive gardens ideal for picnics, a game of cricket or even a spot of quiet meditation.
A legacy of Scotland’s colonial past is our connection with the West Indies, however the cuisine of this part of the world has never had the same impact as that from India. Curry houses are now ubiquitous on our high streets but there are very few dedicated Jamaican restaurant in the whole of Scotland and you will have to travel to Inverness to sample the most renowned one. Kool Runnings offers an authentic taste of the Caribbean with a menu that includes curried goat, plantains and jerk chicken, all washed down with some Red Stripe and good old fashioned Highland hospitality. Lilac Cottage is just 10 minutes away and has views over the Moray Firth, the perfect place to relax outside with a sundowner or enjoy something a bit more traditional.
It comes as a surprise to many but the best Thai restaurant in the country is not to be found in any of our big cities but in the relatively remote town of Stornoway. The Thai Café has been serving Tom Yum and Kao Phad to hungry Hebrideans for more than 20 years now, long enough for it to qualify as a true Stornoway institution. Although the menu utilises many local ingredients the cooking is unapologetically authentic. This is not fusion cuisine or Thai influenced cooking, this is the real deal and that is the reason for its fame and why people are willing to visit for the weekend via Calmac just for a taste. Peninsula Cottage lies just outside the town and has a well equipped kitchen if you want to prepare meals yourself but it is still handy to nip in to Thai Café for a takeaway. Where better to eat it than the beach outside watching the sun go down.