6 ways to celebrate St Andrews Day

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Crowd at Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh

Having a tough time deciding the best way to celebrate the upcoming St Andrews weekend? With just a few days to go, we thought it would be fitting to share the best of what’s on in Scotland to celebrate the official feast day of Scotland’s national patron saint, Saint Andrew.

Since it was declared an official bank holiday in 2007, Scots worldwide have used their national day to celebrate everything about their heritage, from Scottish music, food & drink, customs and much more. It’s quickly becoming popular worldwide, with Google featuring a St Andrews Day Google Doodle tribute on their home page in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Last year they opted to feature a doodle to commemorate the birth date of Mark Twain, but we can forgive them for that slight oversight – hopefully on November 30 we will see another tribute to celebrate all that is great about Scotland!

So enough with the delay, here are 6 fantastic ways to celebrate everything Scottish over the St Andrew’s weekend:

1. Uncover the secrets of Scotland’s past with free entry into 40+ attractions (Nov 30th – 2nd Dec)

From Arbroath Abbey in Angus to Caerlaverock Castle in Dumfries, more than 40 historic attractions throughout Scotland will open their doors to the public for free over St Andrews weekend – all you have to do is go to Historic Scotland’s ticket giveaway website to register and you can spend the weekend uncovering Scotland’s oldest secrets and fascinating history at numerous historic abbeys, castles, houses, palaces and more. Sounds like a great idea for a day out with the whole family – but be quick though, tickets are limited.

Caerlaverock Castle, Dumfries

2. Join the revelers at Glasgow loves St. Andrews Day (Nov 30th – 2nd Dec)

Scotland’s largest city will play host to ‘Glasgow loves St. Andrews Day’ which promises to be unrivaled fun for both young and old. Join the celebrations in George Square for their St Andrew’s Day shindig, where they’ll be ample céilidh music, dancing and Scottish food and drink – why not try a glorious Aberdeen Angus burger, hot toddy or choose from a wide selection of Scottish ales. For more information, read more at the Glasgow Loves Christmas site.

George Square, Glasgow

3. Warm up your vocal chords at the Scotland Sings Festival 

All throughout Scotland, choirs will come together around over the St Andrews weekend as part of the Scotland Sings Festival, a creative way to bring participants and audiences together through singing. Want a preview? Singer Michelle McManus and Musichoir gave a preview of what to expect for the festival by performing the sing-a-long classic ‘Lean on me’ in Glasgow’s Buchanan Street:

 

       

4. Join in the fun at the St. Andrews Festival (23rd Nov – 2nd Dec)

Set in the stunning coastal town of St. Andrews in Fife, the St. Andrews Festival runs for ten days and features an action packed program full of  exiciting events – think céilidhs, food festivals, poetry readings, pipe bands, torchlight processions, fireworks and a must see production of the hit musical, MacPherson’s Rant. Check out the St. Andrews Festival website for more information.

St. Andrews Cathedral

5. Take advantage of the many events in Scotland’s capital city (30th Nov – 2nd Dec)

If you’re in Edinburgh for St Andrews weekend you’re in for a treat – the festival city has a wide range of events to keep you well entertained. On the morning of St Andrews day , head to the Edinburgh Castle esplanade to participate in lantern making event (11am – 4pm) where you can make your own lantern to bring along to the evening’s festivities. For the evening celebrations, enjoy a spectacular evening of contemporary dance, light shows, fireworks with the backing music of pipes and drums at Edinburgh Castle. For more details, see the Edinburgh’s Christmas website.

Staying for the whole weekend? Why not make the most of Historic Scotland’s offer of free entry into Edinburgh Castle and watch the famous one o’clock gun blast? Edinburgh’s Christmas Markets & Fair will also be open, so afterwards, why not stroll down and pay a visit to the many German themed stalls, taste some Gluhwein (a special brew of mulled wine and herbs), take a ride on the big wheel and perfect your ice-skating skills in the ice rink, mighty ducks style. Maybe not necessarily in that order though!

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh's Christmas marketsImage / Image credits – Top: Edinburgh Castle, Scotland / Mari Smith. Above: German Market / Fiona Shields

6. Visit the birthplace of the Saltire in East Lothian (24th Nov – 2nd Dec)

East Lothian is playing host to the Saltire 2012 Festival to commemorate Scotland’s national day. Pay a visit to the village of Athelstaneford, which lays claim to being the original home of the Scottish flag, the Saltire. The celebrations for St. Andrews Day run for just over a week, which includes céilidh dinners, music, farmers markets, arts and crafts markets and much more. Find out more about the event at the official Saltire 2012 website.

The Saltire flies at sunset at Athelstaneford Church (The Churc of Plaque) as it was here that the St. Andrew's cross (The Saltire) was first adopted as a Scottish symbol, north east of Haddington, East Lothian.

So that’s our list, but we’re sure you have many more suggestions – let us know in the comments what you’re getting up to this weekend. Alternatively, head over to the Scottish government website, who have provided a wealth of resources for events taking place at both home and abroad and tips on how you can celebrate.

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James Boyle

James is the Assistant Search & Social Media Manager at VisitScotland. Originally from Australia, he now lives in Edinburgh and enjoys travel, rugby and perfecting the art of making pancakes.

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