Plan your St Andrew’s Day celebrations

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Dougie MacLean will perform in Edinburgh's Grassmarket on St Andrew's Day

Dougie MacLean will perform in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket on St Andrew’s Day

You probably know that in Scotland our celebrations are all-singing, all-dancing events and if there is one day of the year where you’ll hear a lot of noise from us, it’s St Andrew’s Day. On the 30 November, the country celebrates the patron saint of Scotland with a holiday and a packed programme which showcases the very best of Scottish culture.

And St Andrew’s Day is really just the start of it; this day of festivities officially kicks off Scotland’s Winter Festivals, which includes other seasonal highlights of Hogmanay and Burns Night in late January 2014.

So how do we get the party started, you might ask? Well, here’s a rundown of some of the most exciting celebrations on the calendar.

St Andrews Food and Drink Festival, Fife

Get a real flavour of Scotland at the St Andrews Food and Drink Festival. Held in and around the Fife town, the proud namesake of our patron saint, this festival started in early November with many of the most anticipated events taking place in and around this holiday.

Discover your favourite dram at a whisky tasting; step back in time with tales from an ‘ale wife’ and medieval pilgrims or head to the Food from Fife tasting Theatre where food and drink take centre stage. And make sure you bring your dancing shoes as there will be ceilidhs galore, including a special outdoor ceilidh taking place in St Salvator’s Quadrangle, within the University of St Andrews.

St Andrew’s Day in Edinburgh

Looking across the Grassmarket from the terrace above Victoria Street in Edinburgh's Old Town

The Grassmarket in Edinburgh

Why not start your day at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, where in honour of St Andrew, the Palace and Queens Gallery will be free to visit. Discover 17th century royal fashions, have a whisky as you toast a haggis and even watch former residents of the Palace brought to life by a local artist Chris Rutterford. He’ll be looking to visitors to help him put the finishing touches to artworks of six historical figures – could you be the inspiration for the face of Mary, Queen of Scots or Bonnie Prince Charlie? The kids can also get creative and try royal-inspired art activities.

The Grassmarket in the capital’s Old Town is set to become a hive of activity from the afternoon of 30 November with the celebrations continuing well into the evening. Scottish musical talents will join forces with six-piece folk outfit  Blazin’ Fiddles and Breabach, who won the title of Folk Band of the Year at the Scots Trad Music Awards 2012 , taking to the stage along with Scottish musical legend Dougie MacLean and Louis Abbott, lead singer of pop-folk band Admiral Fallow.

In addition to the onstage performances, the afternoon will be packed with fun family activities, including Scottish dancing workshops. Why not have a go at writing your own ceilidh tune, or listen to some Scottish stories of folklore and magic from the Scottish Storytelling Centre?

Take part in an outdoor ceilidh and keep away the chill with the Cask Strength Ceilidh Band and the Adam Sutherland Band. You can also be part of the record-breaking attempt of a giant Strip the Willow or throw a few shapes, Scottish-style, at the Silent Ceilidh.

The Saltire 2013, East Lothian

East Lothian is said to be the birthplace of the Saltire, Scotland’s national flag, and so it is fitting that the area would host some great celebrations on Scotland’s national day. With four days of events taking place in towns and villages, it’s a great time to visit the region. Have a day at the races and don your best gear (but be sure to include a Scottish twist!) at Musselburgh Race Course on 29 November or visit some of the top restaurants and bars to sample tasty dishes accompanied by live musical entertainment.

On 30 November, head over to Haddington for the Saltire farmer’s market in the morning – the perfect place to pick up ingredients if you’re planning to cook a St Andrew’s Day feast.  Don’t forget to book tickets to see Donnie Munro, the former Runrig frontman, who will perform a special acoustic set at The Brunton Theatre in Musselburgh. The evening will see other talented Scottish acts also take to the stage.

Oban Winter Festival fireworks finale over Oban bay

Oban Winter Festival fireworks finale

Oban Winter Festival, Argyll

On the other side of the country, the bustling port of Oban has packed programme over the St Andrew’s Day weekend. As part of a 10-day festival which kicks off on 22 November, the town is set to hold a whisky-themed market in the cask room of Oban Distillery as well as historical walking tours and a winter film extravaganza at the community-owned Phoenix Cinema. The evening will finish off with a stirring performance from the Oban Pipe band and a ceilidh dance.

Things will really heat up on Sunday night  with a fire art display, lantern parade and a rendition of Auld Lang Syne in the distillery. To bring the winter festival to a close, a spectacular fireworks display will be held over the bay. Just imagine bright flashes and vivid colours filling the sky and shimmering reflections in the sea as you listen to a magical soundscape of music and poetry from local artists; it’s bound to be an unforgettable experience.

Glasgow Loves St Andrew’s Day

Head to the heart of Glasgow and see George Square come to life. Set amongst a Christmas wonderland complete with ice rink and magical marquee, Scotland’s largest city will be holding a family fun day. Try your hand at the fiddle during afternoon workshops, or take in lively performances from pipe bands and Highland dancers. You also might hear the slightly more unusual notes of kazoo bagpipes. In the evening, grab your partner for a spot of ceilidh dancing, suitable for all the family and enjoy the favourite dance tunes performed by Face the West.

Feeling inspired? Discover more events across Scotland, or why not share your St Andrew’s Day plans with us on Twitter @VisitScotland?

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Amy Robertson

Amy is media executive at VisitScotland. Hailing from the west coast of Scotland, she's rather fond of music festivals, coastal walks, whisky and coal fires.

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