Scots Sweets at Lickety Splits

I love visiting a shop that takes something humdrum and — because the shopkeeper is so passionate and knowledgeable — elevates it to fascinating new heights. Edinburgh has some fine kiltmakers and great whiskey shops, but my favorite store in town sold candy — or “sweets,” as they say here.

Sweets ShelvesNaomi runs Lickety Splits — just a few doors off the Royal Mile — as a nostalgic throwback to Scottish childhood. Stepping inside, you’re greeted by a wall of glass jars filled with brightly colored treats. But if you take a few minutes to chat with Naomi, you’ll learn that each one has its own unique — and often fascinating — backstory. While England may be the land of Cadbury and Willy Wonka, the Scots seems to have a special knack for sweets.

Take Chelsea Whoppers. These little strips of chewy fudge dusted with cocoa powder were originally manufactured in Helensburgh, Scotland. Naomi loves to explain how, through a scandalous and still-grating series of events, it morphed into the Tootsie Roll in the US. Today, Scots who grew up on Chelsea Whoppers come to specialty stores like this one to track down the originals.

Another fascinating sweet is the Lucky Tattie, a flat, super-sweet disc dusted in cinnamon (resembling a potato — hence the name). Naomi explained that these are so packed with calories that long-distance runners eat one to get an extra boost. When you eat one, it’s like chugging an energy drink.

Sweets JarThe list goes on and on. I love unusual flavors, and Naomi introduced me to several: Hard candies (called “rock”) that taste like clove, ginger, or rhubarb. (She has to keep the rhubarb jar closed, because otherwise it makes her whole shop smell like marijuana.) Little orange-and-blue-streaked candies that taste like Irn-Bru, the soft drink that’s unaccountably beloved throughout Scotland (and nowhere else). Saltire rock, a blue hard candy with a white Scottish flag. And “Edinburgh rock,” a more crumbly candy (like after-dinner mints) with its own wildly creative array of flavors.

And speaking of Willy Wonka, Scottish sweets makers really know how to name their treats: Parma Violets. Acid Drops. Humbugs. Soor Plooms. Fizzy Fangs. It makes “Milky Way” and “Twizzlers” seem dull in comparison.

Naomi is also a fascinating person — she clearly has her finger on the pulse of the neighborhood, and filled me in on the inside scoop behind touristy Edinburgh. For example, it’s well-documented that J.K. Rowling worked on her earliest Harry Potter books at The Elephant House, a café a few blocks south of the Royal Mile.  But knowing the neighborhood, Naomi can see where she drew lots of inspiration from that little corner of Edinburgh. In the Greyfriars Cemetery a block away (made famous by the “Greyfriars Bobby” tale of a loyal dog) are headstones with the names McGonagall and Tom Riddell. The posh George Heriot’s School, a Gothic-turreted showcase just over the cemetery’s fence, was clearly an inspiration for Hogwarts. And a couple of blocks away is a street called…Potterrow. (Cue Harry Potter theme music.)

Sweets NaomiLickety Splits also has a small art gallery. In the back room, Naomi makes broaches, pendants, and other jewelry from maps. Through her work with maps, she’s gotten to know places very well. When I told her I grew up in Central Ohio, she could visualize the state.

Leaving Naomi’s sweets shop with a bag of Scottish goodies, I realize I’ve done my favorite type of shopping: Affordable. Culturally broadening. And delicious. For the rest of my trip, each time I pop a clove hard candy or a sour ball into my mouth, I’ll remember Lickety Splits — and know I’m in Scotland.

5 Replies to “Scots Sweets at Lickety Splits”

  1. You have been spot on so far! My husband and I seem to be following you as we’ve just arrived in Scotland but staying in between Glasgow and Edinburgh in Biggar. We’ve taken the bus into Edinburgh a couple of times and just were there today, again walking the Royal Mile to delve deeper into some of the more interesting sights. Thanks for the tip on this sweet stop; Lickety Splits is on our list!

  2. Dang! We were JUST in Edinburgh! Ah well, always a reason togo back! ?… And you are from Central Ohio? This SW Ohioan didn’t expect to see that … OH-

    1. -IO! I grew up in Delaware, Ohio…a fine little town just north of Columbus. Sorry you missed Lickety Splits, but I spotted several other good (if less characteristic) candy shops all over Scotland. Just keep an eye out for sweets stores, and ask them about some of the candies I mentioned. The rhubarb rock is tasty!

  3. We were in Edinburgh last week and had a very interesting conversation with Naomi while enjoying her shop. Did you know that she was a juggler in the circus? Such a fascinating lady!

  4. Back in 1977 we lived in Tain Scotland and we bought some little sweet candies called wee totie (so) drops. They were little tiny round candies. I haven’t been able to find anything like that since.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *