Scottish London

With a new PM installed at Number 10, what better time to celebrate granite-faced Gordon‘s home country in the capital? Time Out tours Sassenach-free London

  • Scottish London

    Gordon Brown by Martin Rowson

  • Start at the Albannach (66 Trafalgar Square, WC2), a modern Scottish bar and restaurant that keeps the tartan to the minimum and instead offers up a staggering array of single malts and a fantastic menu that includes chicken-liver pâté flambéed with 12-year-old whisky, Highland hare cakes as well as haggis, neeps and tatties. There’s also a downstairs cocktail bar called Doon.

    More traditionalist is Boisdale of Belgravia (15 Eccleston Street, SW1), with wood pannelling, stags heads and tartan carpeting. Founded by Ranald Macdonald, the Boisdale is named after a remote port in the Outer Hebrides, original home of the Macdonalds of Clanranald, an ancient clan, of which Ranald’s father is chief. Again, the whisky selection is excellent and if the spirit’s your thing, Salt Whisky Bar (82 Seymour Street, W2) is in Marble Arch, just round the corner from Brown’s former boss’ new abode on Connaught Square. You’ll also find decent whisky in the most unlikely places, such as the otherwise unassuming Crown (108 Blackfriars Road, SE1) in Elephant and Castle. To buy your own, there is the Covent Garden Whisky Shop (3 Russell Street, WC2; www.coventgardenwhiskyshop.co.uk) or Soho Whisky (42 Old Compton Street, W1; www.sohowhisky.com). But the smart money is on joining the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (19 Greville Street, EC1; www.smws.co.uk), which organises regular tastings at its members’ bar in Farringdon and does special bottlings for members.


    After imbibing, it’s time to reflect at the Crown Court Church of Scotland (Russell Street, WC2), the longest-established Presbyterian Church south of the border, dating from 1711. Perhaps then a brisk stroll to pay homage at the site of William Wallace’s execution at Smithfield Market, where there is a very patriotic plaque claiming that his ‘example, heroism and devotion inspired those who came after him to win victory from defeat’. Ahem.

    When the Scots weren’t fighting they were thinking, and there are plaques to numerous famous Scottish inventors in London – but for something more concrete head to the Science Museum (Exhibition Road, SW7), where you can see inventions by Alexander Graham Bell, James Watt and John Dunlop among others.

    Alternatively, take part in some Scottish dancing. London has a number of groups who do this including the Ceilidh Club (www.ceilidhclub.com), which meets at various venues including Cecil Sharp House in Camden, the London branch of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society (www.rscdslondon.org.uk), which meets throughout the year, and the Gay Gordons (www.thegaygordons.org), London’s lesbian and gay Scottish country dance group, meets weekly on Thursday evenings at Unity Church Hall in Islington.

    If dancing isn’t your bag, you can join the London Scottish Golf Club (www.londonscottishgolfclub.co.uk) in Wimbledon, which was founded in 1864 by members of the London Scottish Rifle Volunteers (incidentally, the London Scottish Regiment of the TA is still extant, complete with tam-o-shanter and ceremonial kilts, and based in Horseferry Road.) Almost as old as the golfers is London Scottish (www.londonscottish.com), the exiles rugby union club, formed in 1878 who play in Richmond Park and have teams of all standards in many age groups.

    Most of the top Scottish football sides have London-based supporters club. Now be careful here: Rangers meet at the Cock in Smithfield (East Poultry Avenue, EC1); Celtic at the Cock in Euston (23 Phoenix Road, NW1). Pick the wrong Cock, and you could be in trouble. For slightly less fraught watching, Hibs drink in one of London’s few remaining Scottish pubs, the Rob Roy (8 Sale Place, W2) – Marylebone’s William Wallace and Bermondsey’s London Scotia having changed their themes in the past few years – while Hearts head to the Famous Three Kings (171 North End Road, W14). The new PM can keep track of his favourite side, Raith Rovers, at www.londonrovers.blogspot.com (‘The online home of those intrepid Raith Rovers fans who have the good sense to support the club without having to actually watch the team “perform” ’).

    Alternatively, you could take a tip from legendary Scottish footballing playboys Frank McAvennie and Charlie Nicholas, who also frequented the top-end venues. In the words of McAvennie: ‘These days when I’m back in London, I only ever go to Stringfellow’s, so I’d certainly recommend you head there. Mention my name.’ (Stringfellow’s, 16 Upper St Martin’s Lane, W1).

    On the food front, most of the major supermarkets now stock haggis (Waitrose sells the superb MacSween brand), and it can even be found on the menu of some non-Scottish restaurants such as Peter Gordon’s fusion The Providores and Tapa Room (109 Marylebone High Street, W1).

    London’s sole busking bagpiper can often be seen at Piccadilly Circus competing with Phil the sinner-winner man – perhaps he gets his kilts from www.trebleclefdesign.co.uk, the London based kilt-makers at Greenwich Market every Saturday and Sunday. If you fancy a puff on the pipes, the Scottish Piping Society of London (www.pipingsocietyoflondon.com) was formed in 1932 and has regular meetings all round London; see the website for details. Finally, for London’s best Scotch eggs, head to the way posh Peyton and Byrne grocery (The Heal’s Building, 196 Tottenham Court Road, W1). They’re laid by wild haggis, you know.

    And if all else fails, you could always visit the Houses of Parliament, where the front, back and opposition benches are rammed with proud Scots.

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