There was a time it seemed that Scottish sweet-shop favourites might disappear, as corner shops with sets of scales and shelves groaning with jars of traditional treats dwindled, threatening to leave us in a world without soor plooms, Berwick cockles and cherry lips. But thanks to the wider trend for all things retro, there has been a resurgence of vintage-style sweetie emporiums and a renewed determination to keep those that never went away open. Want to know where you can buy happiness by the quarter-pound? Make a beeline for one of these old-school sweet shops.
Bain's on Edinburgh's Grassmarket is a family affair, selling a tantalising mix of old-fashioned favourites, kitsch 1980s sugar fixes in familiar fluoro packaging, exotic American imports and the whole spectrum of tourist-friendly treats (fudge, tablet, Edinburgh Rock, the boxes of toffee with the little silver hammer). You'll find puff candy, sherbet pips and pear drops, rhubarb and custard, rose and violet creams, even Irn Bru humbugs – all served up with the kind of friendly service that shared nostalgia can't help but engender.
Glickman's is the oldest sweet shop in Glasgow – a beloved city stalwart since 1903, where today the same recipes and copper pots are used to hand-make specialities such as frying pan lollies, macaroon cake, tablet, mint and raspberry cream fondant bars, candy balls and the aniseed-flavoured Famous Cough Tablet that kept Glickman's going during the Second World War, when sugar for “medicinal products” was off-ration. Also on offer are lucky tatties, rosy apples, toasted tea cakes, coconut mushrooms, kola kubes, bulls eyes, clove rock, acid drops, ginger creams and childhood memories aplenty.
A more recent addition, self-proclaimed “Merchants of marvellous confectionery” Lickety Splits on Edinburgh's Jeffrey Street is the gleaming retro sweet shop of your childhood imagination, stuffed with treats as picturesque as they are nostalgic and with a rainbow of traditional favourites in jars filling shelves draped in fairy lights. Beyond its cheering red shopfront and entrancing window display you'll find baskets of licorice pipes and sugar mice, flying saucers and sugared almonds, Caramacs and Dip-dabs, Scottish treats like Chelsea Whoppers and macaroon bars... even the elusive Creamola Foam.
Opening in 2012 on Leith Walk in Edinburgh, Canderson's is tiny but mighty – crammed floor to ceiling with enough candy and confectionery to satisfy the sweetest of tooth and the most nostalgic of mind. From liquorice comfits to chocolate limes, floral gums to gobstoppers, coconut ice to candy necklaces, popping candy to Pontefract cakes, fried eggs to foam mushrooms, Moffat toffee to white mice, sweet tobacco to toffee doddles, many elusive favourites can be tracked down at this tiniest of time capsules.
Just saying the name of Mrs Mitchell's Sweetie Shop triggers a nostalgia that a trip there sends into overdrive. This magical family-run shop on Trongate in Glasgow's Merchant City – with its welcoming giant lollipop at the door and Wonka Bars in the window, wall of toffee bricks, gleaming jars of old-school boiled sweets of every variety, homemade fudge, explosion of lollies on display and unfeasibly giant candy sticks (once upon a time called candy cigarettes) – is the closest you'll ever feel to Charlie entering the chocolate factory (or Harry heading to Honeydukes for the millennial readership).