Selling stuff to tourists is big business in Scotland, and almost every visitor attraction seems to have been designed to funnel you through the gift shop. But beyond the tourist kitsch there are plenty of good-value, high-quality items to shop for, from locally made arts and crafts to traditional tweed and tartan textiles.
Woollens & Knitwear
Woollen textiles and knitwear are one of Scotland's classic exports. Scottish cashmere – a fine, soft wool from young goats and lambs – provides the most luxurious and expensive knitwear and has been seen gracing the torsos of pop star Robbie Williams and former England footballer David Beckham.
Shetland is closely associated with high-quality woollens, and at knitwear factory shops you can buy genuine Shetland sweaters – the most sought-after bear the intricate Fair Isle pattern.
There are woollen-mill shops in many parts of Scotland, but the best-known textile-manufacturing areas are the Borders (the famous Pringle brand was established in Hawick in 1815) and in the central Lowlands, particularly around Stirling and Perth.
Tweeds & Tartans
Tartan items make popular souvenirs, and tartan travelling rugs or scarves are often worth buying. There are said to be over 2000 tartan patterns, some officially recognised as clan tartans. Many shops have a list and can tell you if your family belongs to a clan, but in general you can choose whichever pattern you fancy.
For about £400 to £500 you can have a kilt made in your choice of tartan, but it shouldn't be worn without a sporran (purse), which can cost another £50 for a plain version or up to £1000 for a more ornate silver-dress sporran. Full kilts are traditionally worn only by men, while women wear kilted or tartan skirts.
Scotland is also renowned for a rough woollen cloth known as tweed, traditionally woven by hand and dyed using natural materials such as plants and lichens. Harris tweed is world famous, and is still made by hand – there are various places on this Hebridean island where you can watch the cloth being woven.
Arts & Crafts
Many remote parts of Scotland have been rejuvenated by artists and craftspeople taking over abandoned crofts and farmsteads and converting them into workshops, studios and galleries. These rural studios house everything from paintings to pottery, silver jewellery and bronze sculpture, and stumbling across them is one of the delights of exploring the backroads of the Highlands and islands. In places such as Skye and the Outer Hebrides they have become so ubiquitous that the local tourist offices provide maps and booklets detailing arts-and-crafts trails.
Food & Drink
Many visitors are keen to take home a taste of Scotland, whether it's sweet, buttery shortbread or dark, fruity Dundee cake, aromatic heather honey or rich smoked salmon. Or, of course, a bottle or two of single-malt whisky.
There are plenty of specialist food and drink shops across the country, including an increasing number of farm shops that specialise in local produce. Keep an eye out for local farmers markets, which are a great place to sample and buy the best of Scottish produce. Rural markets are generally held once a month from April to October, but in big cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh they are weekly and year-round.