Last updated on May 8th, 2020
Scotland is famous for its top-quality gifts and souvenirs that include single malt whisky, cashmere, crystal homeware, Heathergems jewellery, clan memorabilia and Arran fragrances. Discover the best Scottish gifts in this complete guide.
The best genuine Scottish gifts and souvenirs
So you’re nearing the end of your Scottish holiday and dreading the thought of packing your bags for the miserable trip back to the airport. As you start to decant the contents of your shower caddy into those little clear plastic security bags you suddenly realise you haven’t bought any souvenirs to take back home. Doh!
Nothing for the parents, nothing for your friends and nothing for your weird brother-in-law (well he probably wouldn’t get anything anyway). What to do?
If you’re in a city like Edinburgh or Glasgow you’re in luck because you can take a quick walk down any of the main streets to find umpteen tourist shops where you’ll easily be able to pick up an overpriced trinket or two.
Anywhere else though and you’re going to struggle, unless you can find something in an airport or train station shop.
But what exactly should you be purchasing as a keepsake for yourself and for friends and family?
As beautiful as Scotland is it’s unfortunately plagued by that most serious of British tourism travesties – the tacky gift shop – so finding something you can be proud to hand out can be a bit of a problem.
Want a comedy ‘My parents went to Scotland and all I got was this lousy T-shirt’? You got it. Looking for a hilarious tartan ‘See You Jimmy’ hat. No problem. Loch Ness monster plastic fridge magnets? We’ve got millions of the things!
The trouble is all those cheap gimmicky novelty gifts will inevitably get chucked in the back of the cupboard a few days after they’ve been removed from their packaging, never to be seen again.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could buy some really nice gifts and keep them on display instead?
With that thought in mind I’ve included a few suggestions for Scottish gifts that people will actually be glad to receive, gifts that don’t brashly scream ‘Scotland’ but instead whisper it in muted, classy tones.
And what’s more you’ll be able to find all of these items online so if you don’t have time to go shopping while you’re on holiday you can at least order them while you’re waiting for your next flight and pretend you picked them up in some exclusive Scottish boutique.
Not that I’ve ever done that of course. Nope. Not me. Not ever.
Arran bath, body and home fragrance
The first item in this list of Scottish souvenirs is far and away my favourite. It’s also my girlfriends favourite, my mum’s favourite and just about the favourite of anyone who loves a good long soak in a bath with deliciously smelly, creamy suds.
Arran cosmetics are located in the heart of the Isle of Arran in a converted dairy farm between Brodick castle and Brodick village (if you don’t know anything about this gorgeous wee island check out my Guide to Arran).
I’d place them near the top of the luxury home smelly-things market (that’s an actual business category. I think.) and they seem to expand their range with each new passing season so they now include skincare, diffusers, candles and men’s toiletries in their collection.
What I love about the products these guys make is their commitment to protecting the Scottish ecosystem and the way their products are natural, free from nasty chemicals and not tested on animals – at all.
All of Arran’s products have a Scottish twist so expect to find hints of Scottish heather and gorse along with scents of the coastline and the island’s stunning swathes of wildflowers – scents they’ve managed to perfect in the thirty years they’ve been going.
Arran started off as a family business that made luxury soap – which is still one of their most popular products – but my personal recommendation (if you’re a man) is the Lochranza Eau de Toilette which strikes the perfect balance between having light floral notes and a masculine smell. In fact, I like it so much it’s become my signature scent.
My other half meanwhile swears by the Apothecary Seaweed and Sage handwash. She won’t let me use much of it but when I’ve snuck a squirt out of the bottle while she’s not looking it always left my calloused hands feeling much smoother. Great stuff.
Anyway, if you want an authentic Scottish gift bear Arran’s products in mind, and if you want to see exactly what they have on offer click the advert below to be whisked over to their website.
Cashmere is one of the world’s most valuable textile fabrics due to the fact it’s so difficult to harvest. Unlike the wool from sheep, cashmere is woven from the fine downy undercoats of one particular breed of goat which isn’t native to Scotland.
These goats grow a thick, coarse layer of hair in the winter and only shed the fine hairs in summer so not only is it slow-growing but there isn’t that much of it, meaning large herds of goats are needed to produce enough fibres to make textiles.
The number of herds in Scotland is growing year on year though, and today around 2,500 animals are used in the cashmere wool industry with the quality of the final product renowned the world over for its softness, durability and warmth.
The inventiveness of the nation’s clothes designers has taken cashmere wool to heart and there’s a fantastic range of Scottish hats, gloves, scarves and coats that you can purchase in the more exclusive stores – which is the only place you’ll find genuine garments as it’s quite expensive.
Expect a genuine Scottish cashmere wool jumper to cost in the region of £150 and scarves to cost around £40, so if you see a ‘cashmere’ item labelled in a gift shop for £10 or less you can pretty much guarantee it’s fake.
The material is well worth the money though and if you look after it it’ll last for years. I’ve actually got a cashmere scarf that I’ve had for over five years and it’s still going strong, and it’s got an added bonus that it seems to get softer and fluffier the more I wear it.
If you want an elegant, long-lasting quality Scottish gift, an item of clothing made from genuine Scottish cashmere wool is a great choice.
The Scottish are a proud nation and they’re just as proud of their ancestral heritage as they are the country they live in, which is perhaps the reason why an entire industry has spawned around the clans.
Historically, clans were formed by 12th and 13th-century Scottish warlords who imposed their dominance over the local populace by giving them protection in exchange for their loyalty and taxes, but they weren’t officially sanctioned till the 14th-century when Robert the Bruce granted them land in exchange for going to war against the English.
The clan structure died away after the failed Jacobite rebellion of 1745 but the names live on and today the ancestors of the original clans enjoy a shared sense of history and belonging thanks to the distinct tartan colours and crests that each clan lays claim to.
The majority of clan souvenirs can be found online but you’ll also find gift shops dedicated to specific groups when you visit certain historic tourist attractions like Duart Castle (Clan MacLean) on the Isle of Mull and Castle Campbell (Clan Campbell) near Stirling.
If you’re looking for a clan souvenir you’re basically spoilt for choice as there are over 3,500 different tartans to choose from and over 500 separate clans with their own crests.
The biggest – Mackenzie, MacDougall, MacLeod etc – have lots of memorabilia in most of Scotland’s tourist shops and you’ll be able to get pretty much anything you can imagine labelled or engraved with your clan name and crest.
Most people like to buy their clan’s tartan and you’ll be amazed what you can purchase once you start looking. Everything from napkins to tie pins bear the symbols of most clans but if you really want to get an authentic memento that’ll last for years you could always get a kilt.
Kilts are still worn at all Scottish formal gatherings so if you’ve got a few upcoming weddings in Scotland it might be something worth investing in – but be warned a good quality one can cost well in excess of £500.
Unlike the other gift ideas in this article Edinburgh Crystal is a product that’s no longer made, but it’s still perfectly possible to find decent examples if you like browsing second-hand shops, especially in Edinburgh.
The Edinburgh Crystal company sadly closed its doors in 2006 after a 139-year run and the legend of the quality cut glass they manufactured lives on to this day, as can be seen in the number of glasses, decanters and bowls that are regularly sold on eBay.
The majority of the pieces you’ll find sold in antique shops are wine glasses, whisky decanters, fruit bowls and candlesticks which aren’t that much more expensive than the items produced by ongoing British glass manufacturers like Waterford, but Edinburgh Crystal is often considered to be more luxurious.
It’s also very heavy so bear that in mind if you’ve got airline weight restrictions on your return journey and you’ll need to make sure it’s well packaged for when the baggage handlers inevitably decide to play football with your cases.
There are loads of designs in the Edinburgh Crystal portfolio but four are considered to be collector pieces (Star of Edinburgh, Thistle, King James and Lochnagar) so if you’re lucky enough to find boxed examples with those names be quick and snap them up.
Unless you look on eBay it’s unlikely you’ll find genuine Edinburgh Crystal glassware online but Royal Scot Crystal sell similar designs on Amazon.
I have to admit my mouth is watering as I write this because I absolutely love haggis. If you’re from overseas and never heard of haggis it’s basically a savoury pudding that’s been part of the Scottish diet since the 1400s.
Traditionally served with neeps and tatties (mashed swede/turnip and potatoes), haggis comes in various shapes and sizes but is usually bought in 500g ball-shaped portions which is enough to serve to 2-3 people.
It’s got a rough and crumbly texture and has a peppery taste that works remarkably well with a good helping of whisky sauce but it’s also versatile enough to serve fried with chips or even served on pizzas. You can even get vegetarian haggis if that’s your thing.
Now for the unpleasant bit – the ingredients. I’m afraid the things that go into haggis are enough to give most people nightmares and to be honest when you see one in the flesh they look pretty gross.
The origins of Scotland’s national dish evolved from hunters who needed a way to store the offal of the animals they killed as the internal organs tend to go off before the rest of the meat. What those ingenious Scots did was remove the heart, liver and lungs, mash it all up and mix it with onion, oatmeal and spices, and encase the lot in the animal’s stomach lining.
I told you it was gross.
The taste however is amazing and it won’t take you long to get over the thought of what you’re actually eating. It’s really easy to cook as well because all you need to do is either boil it or slap it in the microwave for a few minutes and you can even buy it canned and in plastic sachets.
As far as brands go Macsween is one of the best but Grants aren’t far behind and you’ll find gift-packaged versions from both manufacturers throughout Scotland.
By the way, if you’re looking for a unique Scottish gift you won’t find on the high street take a look at the Out About Scotland Etsy shop.
Harris Tweed is one of the oldest commercial products made in Scotland with a heritage that goes back nearly 200 years. This cloth is sold around the world and is easily recognised by the Harris Tweed logo which features an orb and cross – officially Britain’s oldest certification mark.
There are a huge number of products made from this material but it’s actually transformed into clothes and accessories by different manufacturers, although there’s only one company that’s allowed to make the fabric which is the Harris Tweed company located on the Isle of Harris in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides.
To get the certification 100% pure wool must be sourced from Scotland and washed, dyed and spun on human-powered looms just as it was in the 1800s, with the final cloths undergoing a rigorous inspection. It’s for these reasons that Harris Tweed has gained a reputation worldwide for its strength, durability and longevity.
By law, the certification tag has to be stitched onto every item that uses the fabric which is why you’ll see smaller gifts like whisky flasks and phone cases displaying it proudly front and centre, and in fact these labels have gained as much of a cult following as the material itself has.
You’ll find products made from Harris Tweed in pretty much every major tourist attraction in Scotland and there’s an incredibly wide range to choose from. Everything from coats to handbags to shoes and hats is made from the cloth which makes it a great gift to give or keep for yourself as a souvenir.
If you’re looking for something made from Harris Tweed and you’re in Edinburgh or Glasgow you’ll find a multitude of items in any of the main shopping malls or you can shop online and browse Amazon where you’ll find a selection of the most popular items.
If you’ve visited the Highlands you’ll know that great swathes of the countryside are covered with the earthy colours of heather, the low-lying plant that gives Scottish mountains their brown colour in winter and their verdant green and purple hues in summer.
Scottish heather is hardy and fast-growing and it absolutely loves wet conditions, so as you can imagine it thrives all over this country. In fact, it grows across more than five million acres of Scotland’s moorlands, glens and hills so I guess it’s no surprise it has a number of uses including medicine, beer and jewellery.
The manufacturing process of Heathergems jewellery has been perfected over the last fifty years and it’s become one of the most popular tourist souvenirs in Scotland, helped no end by the fact that each item is completely unique.
The heather is cut on the Perthshire hills, cleaned and bleached then dyed with a variety of shades that reflect the changing colours of the Scottish landscape.
They then soak the heather stems in resin, compress them and fashion the resulting multi-coloured blocks into different shapes before polishing each piece and placing them in mounts to create necklaces, bangles, brooches, earrings and more.
There’s a visitor centre in Pitlochry where you can learn the process used to create these wee pieces of art as well as a shop where you can find some real bargains, but as it’s sold in most Scottish jewellers you shouldn’t have any problems finding the perfect Heathergems gift.
A quaich is a traditional Scottish cup with a low bowl and two handles that was historically used as a way for quarrelling gentlemen to put aside their differences, before evolving into its modern-day use as a symbol of friendship.
The idea when using a quaich is to pour whisky into it, take a drink holding the two handles and then pass it over to the other person, which is perhaps the reason why it’s nowadays often used in Scottish marriage ceremonies where the bride and groom each take a sip before tying the knot.
While the earliest versions of the quaich were made from wood, todays modern interpretations use a variety of materials including pewter, silver, horn, stone and brass. They’re also usually engraved with Celtic-style markings so they look quite ornate which means they make an excellent souvenir choice for someone who’s been to Scotland.
You’ll find quaichs in most jewellers as they’re frequently engraved and handed out on special occasions like birthdays and they come in a range of sizes from plain 6-inch pewter ones costing £30-£40 to hallmarked solid silver examples coming in at nearly a grand.
Yout might like to get your own quaich engraved while you’re in Scotland with a clan or family name but if not you’ll find a wide selection on Amazon.
A Sgian Dubh (pronounced ski-an-doo) is a small single-edged knife that’s worn as part of a traditional kilt. Featuring an ornate hilt and a plain scabbard, the Sgian Dubh is normally kept in the band of the sock on the right leg where it’s held in place by a small garter.
Although the origins of this now-ornamental knife stretch back hundreds of years it’s still used in traditional Highland dress and you’ll see them at all sorts of modern-day occasions including weddings, balls and gatherings like Burns Night.
The reason why these knives are part of the traditional Highland dress is that they used to be kept under the armpit and were only drawn if the person came under attack, but as so many people had one back in those days it was considered polite to keep it in plain sight when entering someone’s house, hence its move to the sock band.
You’ll almost always find them in Scotland’s jewellers which is one of the best places to make a purchase as the handles will often be made from antler bone or metal which looks a whole lot better than the cheaper ones you occasionally see in tourist shops.
Although the blade of these knives is usually only around 6 inches long the handle is often longer so you’ll likely need to check it in if you’re travelling through the airport as it could very well exceed what is allowed onboard.
Note that although their use as part of a kilt is allowed in Scotland the tip is pointed and there’s a serrated edge on one side so a Sgian Dubh could quite easily be classed as an offensive weapon in many countries.
You might get away with a replica though and nowadays many Sgian Dubhs have plastic blades that are designed to be kept in their scabbard, and some purely ornamental Sgian Dubh’s don’t even have a blade at all.
Take note that these knives are really just for decoration so if you’re hoping to get one and take it into the great outdoors you’ll be miles better off getting any bog-standard multi-purpose knife instead.
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
The last gift idea in this list is probably the one that first comes to mind when thinking of a souvenir that sums up Scotland – Scotch whisky.
Scotch is one of the biggest exports in the country and it’s drunk all over the world. While there have been many imitators over the years none have come close to the genuine article and I think that’s what makes a good single-malt such an iconic thing to buy on a holiday in Scotland.
There are five main whisky-distilling regions each of which has its own distinct flavour but the two most popular are Speyside and Islay. Speyside is the region of the Highlands towards the east of the country around the River Spey while Islay whisky comes from… the Isle of Islay. No surprises there then.
Speyside tends to produce sweet, floral flavours that are quite delicate and in total contrast to the spirit produced on Islay which is generally very peaty, smoky and in some cases, medicinal.
There are more books, video tutorials and accompanying drinkware than you’ll be able to fit in your holiday bag so what I suggest you do is either get a few 5cl miniatures from each region of Scotland you visit or get one (make that two) big 70cl bottles of your favourite tipple.
If you’re not sure what to buy pop into any dedicated whisky shop and ask the staff for help but don’t go expecting free samples as that’s generally left to the distilleries to dish out. Shops meanwhile frequently have whisky experts on hand and they’ll be able to suggest a few options you might like.
Just make sure you know the airport restrictions if you’re flying back home.
If you’d like to read a comprehensive guide to Scotch whisky take a look at my Guide to the Single Malt Whisky Regions of Scotland.
Frequently Asked Questions
Clothes made from Scottish cashmere wool. Clan memorabilia featuring clan mottos and crests. Edinburgh Crystal and Royal Scot Crystal glassware. Haggis. Clothes and products made from Harris Tweed. Heathergems jewellery. Quaich (a traditional Scottish drinking bowl). Sgian Dubh (a traditional ceremonial knife). Single-malt Scotch whisky.
Tourist shops in towns and cities. Tourist information centres. Airport shops in Scotland. Tourist attraction shops e.g. Edinburgh Castle. Manufacturer retail outlets e.g. the Harris Tweed Company on the Isle of Harris. Online retailers e.g. Amazon.
Harris Tweed is a cloth made from 100% wool that is sourced from Scotland and washed, dyed and spun on human-powered looms. Only the Harris Tweed Company is allowed to certify the material with the 200-year old Harris Tweed logo.
There are six main whisky-distilling regions in Scotland, each of which has its own distinct flavour – but the two most popular are Speyside and Islay. Other types of single-malt whisky can be sourced from Campbeltown, the Highlands, the Lowlands and the Scottish islands.