Gluten-Free Travel Experience: Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

Edinburgh is a beautiful city to visit. For anyone visiting the UK I highly recommend fitting Edinburgh into your itinerary – you won’t regret it! I’m lucky enough to live close by – so read below for my GF tips based on my last trip to Edinburgh in February.

Restaurants

  • Mammas American Pizza, Grassmarket – the menu is clearly marked with what is and isn’t suitable, they do a special GF dough and most of the toppings (minus the haggis and sausage!) were GF. I’m pretty sure all of the fries are GF too. The pizza here is by far the best GF pizza I’ve eaten! Also the portion sizes are huge so we took our leftovers away and ate them for lunch the following day.
  • Hard Rock Cafe – I definitely recommend eating here, especially as they’re GF accredited by Coeliac UK so there’s extra reassurance about cross contamination. I found staff to be really accommodating, they have a special GF menu and your food comes with a little GF flag. I had pork ribs, and because it’s the HRC – the portion sizes are massive! Happy days.
  • Dishoom – I’ve heard amazing reviews of Dishoom from non-GF friends. When I found out they have a GF menu I was crazy excited about eating there. Unfortunately you can’t book tables for evening meals and when we arrived there was a 45 minute wait to be seated! So we decided to go somewhere else. Watch this space as we will definitely go back next time!!

Activities

  • Arthur’s Seat – a trip to Edinburgh is incomplete if you don’t venture up here. The hike is fairly steep and took us about 35 minutes but the views of Edinburgh once you reach the top are definitely worth it!! Proper footwear and a woolly hat are definitely recommended.
  • Camera Obscura – a multi-storey museum full of optical illusions, with excellent rooftop views of the castle and surrounding city. We found it lots of fun, and it’s definitely not just for kids!
  • Harry Potter Tour – you can pay to go on a guided walking tour or you can just go visit everywhere by yourself; the Elephant House Cafe, Greyfriar’s churchyard and of course Museum Context on Victoria St which sells lots of HP merchandise (it’s location was the inspiration for diagon alley).
  • Surgeon’s Hall Museum – this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but we found the exhibits really interesting and we were here for almost 2 hours! Ticket prices are fairly cheap and even less if you work for the NHS. There is a quiet cafe right beside the museum entrance where I got a jacket potato with cheese – because what coeliac-friendly city trip would be complete without a trusty JP?!
  • Botanical Gardens – you should visit here if you’re fortunate enough to have good weather when you’re in Edinburgh. It’s quite a trek from the city centre (we walked, but I’m sure you can get public transport). The best thing about the gardens is the proximity to a COMPLETELY 100% GLUTEN FREE BAKERY. Yes you heard correctly. SugarDaddys bakes completely GF goods, and some are DF/vegan too. I limited myself to just buying three goodies but I seriously could have purchased everything in the whole bakery, it was coeliac heaven. We went to SugarDaddy’s first and then sat down in the Botanical Gardens to eat our goodies. 😍 Some good news is that they’re planning on opening a second bakery in Edinburgh very soon!

Eating out in the UK is fairly easy if you stick to GF accredited chain restaurants but the fact that Edinburgh has a bunch of different places to eat that are suitable for coeliacs makes it extra special. I really think Edinburgh is a great place to visit and the fact that it’s so coeliac-friendly makes it even better.

 

Have you been to Edinburgh? Do you have any other recommendations? I’d like to hear them!

Hannah

Gluten-Free Travel Experience: Skopje, Macedonia (FYROM)

In June this year I was lucky enough to travel to Macedonia with my boyfriend for some much needed Vitamin D. We were inspired to visit this “off the beaten track” destination after watching Jason Billam’s Youtube travel diaries (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYmFIzp31GE). Temperatures were amazing and often over 35C/95F so we spent much of our stay sunbathing but we managed to fit in some sightseeing too.

Prior to visiting Macedonia, I reached out to a Macedonian Coeliac Group via Facebook. Surprisingly they advised NOT to eat out at all while staying in Skopje, and that the only food I would be able to find would be a limited selection from Schär. Due to the language barrier, and the fact that Macedonia is not part of the EU (so I assume therefore not obliged to follow EU allergen labelling laws) we decided to self-cater for the vast majority of the trip. We stayed in an AirBNB with a kitchen.

Trips

  • Matka Canyon – this is a must-see if visiting Skopje. I recommend taking a long boat trip through the canyon to enjoy amazing views. You also have the option of kayaking or hiking along the side of the canyon. There are a couple of restaurants inside the canyon, and about three restaurants prior to entering the canyon by the car park. None offered GF options.
  • Millennium Cross – situated on Mount Vodno and easily accessible by cable-car (they don’t run everyday of the week though). We visited on a Monday when the cable cars don’t run so we took a difficult 45 minute uphill hike to the cross. The views of Skopje at the top are breathtaking. There is a cafe next to the cross but it wasn’t open when we visited.

Supermarkets

Food in Macedonia is pretty cheap, and this included the GF food too.

  • Small Ramstore (convenience store close to Porta Macedonia in central Skopje) = no specific gluten-free section but they did sell Nestle gluten free cornflakes (plain, honey or chocolate flavour) and Nesquick milkshake (labelled GF). Fruit, vegetables and meat also sold which are obviously naturally GF.
  • Large Ramstore (supermarket in Ramstore Mall, walking distance from central Skopje) = I was pleasantly surprised that this Ramstore was home to a modest gluten-free section! They sold various cereals and mueslis, flour mixes, biscuits, corn/rice flour pastas, soups and rice cakes. Brands were mostly Schär and Vitalia, as well as several Macedonian and imported Italian GF brands I hadn’t heard of.

It is also worth mentioning there is a Vitalia Health Food store within the Skopje Mall which mainly sells pick-n-mix muesli (which is not gluten-free!) but they have a small selection of GF Vitalia foods towards the back of the store.

Eating Out

I took the aforementioned advice from the local Coeliac group and didn’t eat out during my stay in Skopje. I did however get grilled corn from street sellers, who are dotted around Skopje city center. This was a bit risky on my part due to potential cross contamination risks with the grill (corn seemed to be the only item that was being grilled – though I couldn’t confirm this due to the language barrier) but I didn’t get sick. Life is tough when you’re hungry and out on a day trip with only melted snacks.

In summary, I enjoyed visiting Skopje but I spent a lot of my time here being hungry. Bring a suitcase full of snacks if you’re a coeliac and visiting FYROM.
Have you visited Skopje? I’d love to hear your thoughts 🙂

Hannah

 

 

The Lunch-time Learning Curve

In the first few months of being diagnosed with coeliac disease, I can think of a handful of times where I found myself panicking because hadn’t thought about where I’d be able to find anything I could safely eat for lunch, or anxiously analysing the ingredients of pre-packaged salads during the busy lunchtime rush (“is cous-cous the gluten-free one, or am I getting it mixed up with quinoa*?! I give up!!”).

I quickly learned that eating lunch when following a gluten-free diet often comes down to one important thing – planning ahead!
When working, I try to prepare a packed lunch – particularly if I’m working somewhere that isn’t within walking distance of any of my favourite coeliac-friendly lunch spots.

For me, a simple packed lunch usually consists of;

  • a sandwich: I use Genius Triple Seeded Farmhouse bread (which is definitely my favourite of all the available GF breads) filled with either chicken or cheese and GF salad cream
  • a pack of GF crisp: Seabrook crisps don’t break the bank at £1 for a pack of six, Canadian Ham is my current favourite flavour but they offer lots of different flavours and all of them are gluten-free!
  • a stick of cheese
  • a yoghurt
  • perhaps a bar of chocolate

If I’m feeling super prepared at the beginning of the week, I’ll make a pancetta and veg frittata and take two slices for lunch each day.

Try as I might, preparing a packed lunch for work doesn’t always work out as planned – I sometimes oversleep in the morning, I might run out of bread, or maybe I just can’t be bothered to prepare food. In which case, here are my favourite places to grab a quick GF lunch:

#1 Boots
Gluten-free options galore. They sometimes have GF sandwiches, but 99% of the time I will opt for the salmon and prawn sushi or a sushi salad. All of the GF options are included in the meal deal, which means you don’t have to pay more for lunch than your gluten-consuming friends. Bonus!

#2 M&S
The sandwiches in the Made Without Wheat range at M&S are really delicious, my favourite is the chicken and bacon one. However, they are pretty expensive (£3.50 for one sandwich, come on?!) and they are rarely included in the meal deal.

#3 Costa Coffee
Who doesn’t love a latte at lunchtime?? Costa sell GF chicken caesar wraps, but once it’s gone it’s gone! I also recommend the Rhythm 108 GF (and DF!) chocolate and hazelnut tea biscuits.

I’ve never had any luck in finding GF lunches in my local Tesco, Sainsbury’s or Waitrose. I also don’t visit Starbucks anymore because I’m conscious of cross-contamination issues as they offer the option of oat milk in their drinks.

Where do you find has the best GF lunchtime options? What do you include in your packed lunches? How do you think I could easily make my packed lunch more exciting? I’d love to hear 🙂

Hannah

*Cous-cous definitely isn’t gluten free.

Gluten-Free Travel Experience: Reykjavik, Iceland

Iceland has been on my travel bucket list for some time, and I was lucky enough to travel there recently. My top tips for a gluten-free visit to Iceland:

  1. Pack snacks!! To be honest, I would advise this to anybody travelling to Iceland – not only those who have to follow a restricted diet. Food in Iceland is expensive.
  2. Invest in a translation card explaining your dietary requirements. Particularly if you are going to be travelling away from Reykjavik. In my experience, Icelanders are very knowledgable about veganism but Coeliac disease isn’t super common.
  3. Skyr Skyr Skyr. Skyr is a delicious Icelandic yoghurt which is naturally gluten-free. I ate it for breakfast everyday and it can be bought in most shops throughout Iceland so it’s handy to eat when there are no other GF alternatives.

Trips:

Blue Lagoon – This is a must-visit to anybody travelling to Iceland – a luxorious man-made geothermal spa. The only dining choices are the cafe or the restaurant as there is not much else nearby the Blue Lagoon, and we opted for the cafe. There were no gluten-free lunch choices in the cafe (to be expected), so instead I opted for a tub of fresh fruit and a Skyr banana smoothie. If you are planning to dine in the cafe, I’d definitely advise bringing additional snacks.

Golden Circle – The Golden Circle is a popular sight-seeing route in South Iceland. I was most nervous for not being able to find anything to eat during the 9 hour day trip we took exploring the Golden Circle. For that reason, I came prepared with snacks bought from a 10-11 convenience store, as well as snacks bought from home. However, I was pleasantly surprised. A small rest-stop in Pingvellir National Park offered a gluten-free flapjack (though be suspicious of cross-contamination as it was placed next to vegan cake), the rest-stop at Gulfoss waterfall offered gluten-free Skyr blueberry cheesecake, and the Geyser rest stop offered small selection of gluten-free goodies in a mini supermarket including crisps, rice cakes (plain and chocolate), corn snacks, GF Nature Valley bars and also some dense-looking GF bread. Almost all rest-stops sold Skyr.

Shopping:

10-11 convenience stores – I wasn’t able to find many GF foods here other than Continental Bakeries chocolate rice cakes, packets of Love Corn and of course Skyr.

Bonus supermarket – they had a modest GF section containing mainly products from Semper (a Scandanavian manufacturer of gluten-free foods) including baking mixes, various types of pasta, bread rolls and also some delicious chocolate flavoured wafers. I was also able to find Dolmio cooking sauces which I remembered were GF from home.

Restaurants:

Ostabudin – a tasty fish restaurant where the waiter informed me that most of the mains are GF. I ordered plaice which came served with prawns, new potatoes and vegetables.

Reykjavik Chips – they only sell chips so no need to worry about cross contamination in the fryers. The chips are served with a selection of dips – most of which are GF (I opted for the garlic dip – delicious!). I would especially recommend eating at Reykjavik Chips, it definitely makes for a cheaper evening meal in comparison to the prices elsewhere in Reykjavik.

Kopar – another fish restaurant close to the harbour. They were very happy to accommodate me as a coeliac and offered to alter most of their main dishes so I’d be able to eat them. I ordered the catch of the day (common ling) which came with creamy mashed potatoes and vegetables. They didn’t serve me the fried artichoke due to cross contamination issues. I highly recommend this restaurant, the portion sizes are decent plus they have amazing views over Reykjavik harbour.

To summarise, navigating the gluten-free world in Iceland wasn’t too much of a challenge and it was made a lot easier by friendly waiting staff/chefs who were more than happy to make meal alterations according to my dietary restrictions.

Are you planning on visiting Reykjavik any time soon? Or have you been and had similar or different experiences to me? I’d love to hear in the comments!

Hannah