Want to learn where you can find the best hot chocolate in Scotland? Then you’ve come to the right place!
Besides your birthday, there is one more date you should always remember. National Hot Chocolate Day, January 31st.
For many people, like me, it will always be hot chocolate. So what a privilege it is to be able to go across a whole country, trying sample after sample.
After my time in Belize at chocolate farms, I learned that the history of hot chocolate is a dark and rich one. Mayan civilizations “worshiped” xocolatl as early as 1500 B.C., a savory, spicy concoction made from crushed cocoa beans, chili peppers and cornmeal. They’d pour the liquid between two different bowls to combine flavor profiles and provide healing powers.
Spanish explorer Hernan Cortes is credited with presenting cocoa beans to the court of King Charles V in the 1500s. By the 1700s, they spread to the rest of Europe. But it wasn’t until 1828 when a Dutch chemist, Coenraad Johannes van Houten, created cocoa powder and modern-day hot chocolate.
My family visited Scotland for Hogmanay, their New Year’s Eve celebration. My great-grandfather was born in Edinburgh, so it was especially nice to walk the streets he must’ve walked before emigrating to the United States. I wish he could tell me if he had participated in the torch light ceremony. It was moving, touching, profound, maybe even fun, because of the cold. With plenty of places to stop for hot chocolate.
One of my favorite childhood memories remains sipping hot chocolate on a cold winter’s night. So, one of our many tasks on this trip was to find the best hot chocolate in Scotland. It was so nice to have something we could enjoy several times a day.
Are you a marshmallow or whipped cream person? Or both? Or perhaps, a purist who likes neither? In Scotland, you can find all the types.
NB: As with all things during the pandemic, check for periodic closures. Many of these establishments close in January for annual breaks following Hogmanay.
Visiting other destinations in United Kingdom? Check out our other guide:
While in Scotland, don’t miss out on activities that will help immerse yourself with the city (hurry while they’re hot!):
- The Chocolatarium Chocolate Tour Experience in Edinburgh
- Loch Ness, Glencoe and the Highlands Small-Group Day Tour from Edinburgh
- Underground Walking Tour in Edinburgh
The 12 Best Hot Chocolate In Scotland
Located about 25 miles north of Oban, on Scotland’s west coast, Castle Stalker is said to have been built in the mid-1500s and gifted by James IV to Duncan Stewart for use as a hunting lodge. A four-story tower, it sits on a tidal islet on Loch Laich, so the hunter has to walk or row there—depending on the tide.
Our guide knew this was the best place to stop for hot chocolate between Oban and Glen Coe.
We learned during this trip that the most decadent tasting hot chocolate of them all included BOTH marshmallows AND whipped cream. They serve them here, often with multi-colored marshmallows. I don’t think I would’ve ever considered that in the past, but I admit it’s something I do now as a special treat.
Those of you who are Outlander fans will appreciate that this Castle was used as a garrison for troops during the 1745 Jacobite Rising.
Our favorite lodging during our trip, Cameron House, has recently re-opened after an extensive renovation. Located on 24-mile-long freshwater Loch Lomond, it’s known far and wide for great activities, experiences and food.
Their hot chocolate can be enjoyed in the restaurant, Great Scots Bar, Tavern, Lobby Bar, Boat House Bar, spa, or in your luxurious 5-star room or suite. For the best of all worlds, enjoy them in each space. If you’re interested in adding a little alcohol to your hot chocolate, all of the bartenders we met were happy to oblige.
If you’re touring Inverness, Oban, Fort William and Fort Appin, it’s a good idea to stay at this location and then to move each day with the less comfortable lodgings available on our tour in this part of the country. I can hardly wait to go back.
We stopped at the Inverary Inn, est. 1755, for scones, but they were already sold out for the day, so we stayed for lunch. The Lounge Bar provides an elegant library atmosphere while the Conservatory is light and airy with breathtaking views of Loch Fyne. The Dining Room and The Argyll Bar also provide excellent locales for enjoying their hot chocolate.
There you can find a lot of folk having lunch, tea or beer. Many of them are travelers, as well. The Inverary Inn had the best fish and chips I had the whole trip. Fresh peas, crisp fries with actual Heinz ketchup and a really light whitefish accompanied the protein. Their prawn dish is served with plain rather than toasted bread and they mix it in Mayo with crawfish.
The dense ambrosia hot chocolate was so good but, to quote the barkeeper, “have water standing by to clean the chute” when it’s done.
When in Oban, one must try Norie’s fish and chips, considered by many to be the best in the country.
But for hot chocolate, I’d return to the Oban Chocolate Company. Run by a couple native to Oban who traveled to Perth, Australia, before they were inspired to open this multi-award-winning café and chocolate shoppe, their venue is perfect for viewing the Oban Bay.
The instant you step in the door, the relaxing aroma of chocolate infuses your body. The bustle of the chocolatiers in the factory heightens your joy and you may be able to resist getting your hot chocolate in favor of shopping first, but I recommend getting your drink and then indulging in your chocolate search.
I think their café offers the most options of any place we visited. Your hot chocolate can be flavored with cinnamon, caramel or chili, if you like the extra spicy kick. Served with whipped cream, they offer dark, milk, and white hot chocolates. I stuck with the milk chocolate with cream, and the silky smoothness was perfect for a cold afternoon.
And for you foodies, their menu contains something for everyone: dairy free, gluten free and vegan options.
Afterwards, of course, don’t miss your chocolate shopping. You’ll want some for the time you’re touring Scotland and some to take home—for yourself and as gifts (if you’re feeling generous and have self-control).
Whether you’re in town for the whole week or just for the weekend, you should plan to stop at Hotel Chocolat at least once. Don’t be surprised if you stop in over and over again. Their option varieties allow for repeat visits. But, one of the most unique things about their hot chocolate are the chocolate shavings in each drink.
You can go around the world within this one shop. I started in Spain, and my daughter in France. The easiest way to describe the “Spanish” hot chocolate is like an espresso compared to a cappuccino. Their hot chocolate, served in a half cup, has a deep cocoa flavor with a silky texture. They tell me the thickness is due to cornstarch. Be sure to keep a glass of water, or something to dunk, nearby.
The “French” hot chocolate tasted like a rich chocolate caramel. They share a trait, and that’s the addition of brown sugar and vanilla. It makes perfect sense, especially when you learn they use grated flakes of chocolate to maintain the intense flavor.
One of the things I love most about experiencing all these great locations is the variety. Master Chocolatier Iain Burnett purposely chose this spot in Scotland for access to the best and finest ingredients. All of his chocolates are suitable for vegetarians and are made only with natural, fresh ingredients. He selected the island of São Tomé in the South Atlantic Ocean from which to source his cocoa.
To create his award-winning truffles and other products, he mixes this rare cocoa with exotic spices, fresh Scottish cream and, sometimes, crushed fruits.
The shop is filled with hot chocolate and hot chocolate accessories, like dark, dark with orange, dark with mint, milk, milk with sea salted caramel, and white chocolate hot chocolate stirrers. If you love their hot chocolate as much as we do, don’t be surprised if a few tins of their dark hot chocolate flakes make their way into your luggage. Not to worry, you can also order them and have them shipped directly to your home, or those of your friends and family. That way, you can allow their chocolate fantasies to come true, as well.
The imposing Stirling Castle, near the Firth of Forth, remains an important stop on any trip to Scotland. History and movie buffs find it especially meaningful. With easy access to both the bus and train station, keep in mind that you must book any necessary car parking in advance, when you book your entry tickets.
When you enter the Castle, you enter the world of Scotland’s Renaissance Queens (Mary, Queen of Scots) and Kings (James I through James VI/I) and glorious architecture with treacherous history. Plan to spend several hours taking each of the tours and exploring all of the exhibits, taking a break in the middle to catch your breath.
Their Unicorn Café is valuable not only as a place to eat, but also to observe the view from its roof, as it offers spectacular views of the countryside and the Wallace monument. Inside, order hot chocolate.
You can ask for your china to be “pre-treated” with hot water so that your hot chocolate retains its heat longer.
The rich, fragrant hot chocolate, better than homemade, is surprisingly inexpensive for a living museum café. For an extra boost, order the indulgent hot chocolate with a flavored syrup shot.
Just a five-minute walk from Edinburgh Castle, you can enjoy the most unusual hot chocolate, one with your choice of gelato flavor. While the pandemic is ongoing,, they only offer take away service, but it’s worth the wait. They have packaging for your gelato in ½ liter and liter portions that allow you to be out and about for two hours before melting.
But, if you’re taking your hot chocolate or hot chocolate float to accommodate the gelato, we recommend having it right away. It’s quite remarkable how the flavor profile adapts to the gelato you choose.
Mary was already a chocolatier when she decided to further her education at the Carpigiani Gelato University in Bologna, Italy. They make the ice cream fresh each morning, so get there early before your new favorite flavor sells out.
Everything is vegetarian and there are a few vegan options. Let them know if you have any dietary restrictions, including gluten-free, and they’ll change it to your liking.
Thanks to my daughter’s persistence, we made it to Glasgow and the Kelvingrove Museum, which opened in 1901, where we were able to see Salvador Dali’s Christ of Saint John of the Cross (1951). Their 22 galleries include both permanent and temporary exhibits, ranging from ancient civilization to modern day with jewelry, to household belongings.
If you go during the winter months, visit Elfingrove, the biggest ice rink in Scotland, on Kelvingrove’s grounds.
Choose to have your hot chocolate indoor at the museum café or out at the Mallow Café. It’s a perfect way to cozy up and relax with family or friends and review what you’ve seen, and what you have left to accomplish.
On the west side of Scotland’s most populated city, Kaf’s 8 ounce hot chocolate is made with a double heart, just like your favorite barista would do. If your sweet tooth can tolerate it, try the baked star of the day. Their vanillekipferl was an incredible combination, even good while dunked. It’s a biscuit with almond and tonka bean, something I hadn’t tried before but would definitely want to again.
The Food Story motto is to share simple good food, based on veggie and plant-based items that fit right into our preferences. Their menu makes it easy to avoid any allergens you may have. Your choice of hot chocolate includes vegan options (coconut or oat milk) and traditional milk. It’s yummy.
If you’re truly sensitive to milk type, and they’re busy, be sure to mention that they should use the right milk. Sometimes they’re overwhelmed by customers and they automatically use traditional cow milk.
An easy walk from many parts of the city, Edinburgh Castle is a must-stop on any visit to Edinburgh, especially your first one. The Castle will spark your imagination, especially the dungeons, while the scenery will simply take your breath away.
If you have hours to spend, take the audio guide and explore each exhibit in depth. If you have limited time, take the live tour.
After the trudge up the hill to where the tours begin, you may be tempted to stop for hot chocolate at the Red Coat Café. Keep in mind that you’ve just climbed Castle Hill, the same of kings, queens, soldiers and pirates, as well as every curious person ready to learn something new about something historic. You may find it best to go multiple times.
Explore the Royal Palace, the dungeons, Saint Margaret’s Chapel, and the Castle grounds. Then return to the Café for the piping hot hot chocolate, a perfect way to finish an afternoon at the Castle.
Gail Clifford, MD, a physician for more than 25 years, has traveled to five continents and all 50 United States. An avid traveler, she happily goes on new adventures, especially on birthdays. Multi-generational travel remains a treasured pastime. She divides her time between Ireland and the U.S. You can find her on Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook.