I love trying famous Scottish foods in the place that they come from. You can get variations of the bridie all over Scotland, but I can tell you that nothing beats a bridie from Forfar. On this route you can try one and see some of Scotland's finest Pictish stone carving.
Highlights of this route
Getting to Forfar
I made this journey as part of a cycling trip to Glen Clova. I took the A926 from Kirriemuir to Forfar. It's only 6 miles.
This road has a steady volume of traffic, but there is a way to avoid this. A pavement runs alongside the road. It has signage, in places, indicating that it is a shared pedestrian and cycle path. I was able to use this and encountered very few pedestrians. It's not the best surface in places, but for the short distance its worth it to avoid sharing the road with fast moving traffic.
You can also do this route by taking a train to Arbroath. Forfar is around 15 miles from Arbroath. Just follow my blog in reverse if you are starting in Arbroath.
Bridie at the priory
Once in Forfar I headed straight to Saddler's bakery for a bridie. Although the traditional tea room with its wood panelling was enticing, the bridie is best enjoyed as a takeaway food. I found the perfect location, about 10 minutes bike ride away, at Restenneth Priory.
The priory was founded in the early 1100s and the most distinctive feature of the ruin is the 14m high tower. In 1325 Robert the Bruce buried the body of his son here.
There's not a great deal to see, but Restenneth is a pleasant spot. I took a seat and tried my first ever Forfar Bridie.
I loved every bite of it. The salty pastry was crispy in places. It was packed with a juicy meat filling made sweet by onions. A restaurant critic, Tam Cowan, was equally impressed:
"My bridie was sensational — the soft buttery pastry was packed with mince and onion — and I marvelled at the simplicity of this very satisfying meal. Oysters? Lobster thermidor? Chateaubriand? Nah. Give me a bridie and beans any day of the week."
There are two versions of how the bridie came about. One is that it started out as a traditional meal served to the bride at weddings, hence 'bridie'. The other is that a Margaret Bridie sold them in the eighteenth century from the market in Forfar.
If you come for a Forfar Bridie then you really should include a trip to the Aberlemno Pictish Stones. From Restenneth Priory it is a 5 mile cycle along the B9134 to reach them.
The four stones are among the best examples of Pictish stone carving in the country. They date between AD 500 and 800. The stone that depicts a battle is particularly exquisite, with helmeted figures on horseback.
It is incredible that these are so well preserved and survive all that the Scottish weather can throw at them. They do get covered with wooden boxes in the winter months, so you need to time your visit to see them.
Another of the stones depicts a hunting scene, with figures on horseback.
Another stone looks onto a field. It has carvings of symbols that are typical of Pictish stones- the serpent and double-disc and z-rod.
The location of the road in relation to the stones is crazy. You have to be careful when viewing the stones.
The stones are adjacent to Aberlemno Parish Church. The building dates from 1772 and it was open during my visit. A spiral staircase takes you to the upper gallery where you can look down on the pulpit.
Balgavies Loch nature reserve
This loch is about 4 miles south of the Aberlemno stones. Its a haven for wildlife, including red squirrel, kingfisher and skylark.
After miles of similar looking farmlands this is a surprising change of scenery.
Another suprise, next to the loch is a disused railway station. Auldbar Road station was on the Arbroath to Forfar Railway. The line closed in the 1960s, but you can still find a station house and signal box here.
It's about 12 miles to Arbroath station, where you can pick up trains heading to Aberdeen, Edinburgh and other locations. That's using the quieter roads, but you can reduce this by around 2 miles if you cycle on the busier A-roads.
I took the quiet roads. My head was down as I had a train to catch, so I didn't take in a lot of detail. It's farming country with good roads that don't get a lot of traffic.