January is a month of roaring fires, wintry landscapes, dark nights and woolly hats. So if you’re here for that sunbathing holiday you were promised, you must have got the wrong memo!
Have you heard of the traditional Scottish word ‘coorie’? Like the Danish word ‘hygge’, it means a sense of snugness and winter cosiness. Embrace the idea of coorie by visiting Scotland in January and begin the new year with crisp walks, amazing events and a warming whisky or two.
In January, you’ll find less visitors at significant attractions and landmarks, snowfall is possible, especially in mountainous areas, and average temperatures hover around 4°C. It’s essential to bring warm clothes, a waterproof jacket, good shoes and thick socks, a cosy hat, scarf and gloves. We’ll provide the pubs, outdoor adventures and winter magic!
If this all sounds like your idea of heaven, then read on for more reasons why you should travel to Scotland in January.
Travel is cheaper
One of the benefits of travelling in the quieter months is that you will tend to find there are better deals on flights and accommodation, making January the perfect time for a cheap city break or romantic country escape. Not only will you save money on travel, you’ll find that there are less visitors at this time of year, making for a more private, quiet, intimate experience at some of Scotland’s most iconic attractions.
Check out these fantastic winter break ideas.
Snowsports in the Cairngorms
Did you know that you can ski and snowboard in Scotland? We have plenty of handy information on conditions on our skiing and snowboarding page. The Cairngorms National Park, in the north east, is home to three ski resorts. Cairngorm Mountain is one of the best, with over 30 runs and enough variety for every level of experience. If this sounds right up your street, you could base yourself in Aviemore and ski during the day, before coming back to a roaring log fire in the evening, or even a sauna or hot tub.
Always check conditions before arrival, as snow is not guaranteed, and mountains can be shut due to high winds. Too windy? Oh well, more time in the hot tub.
Instagrammable winter landscapes
Scotland’s cities and wild landscapes are beautiful at the beginning of the year. January brings dramatic light and crystal-clear views. There is something about winter that adds a little extra magic to photographs. Why not make January your moment to discover Scotland and look for the perfect shot? Your Instagram followers will love your dedication.
Take a look at these breathtaking photos of Scotland in winter.
Comforting Scottish fare
Despite what you may have heard, January is no time for dieting – especially if you’re going on holiday. Scotland produces some of the most sought-after natural produce in the world, and you’re bound to be hungry after an exciting day of touring. Scottish specialities include haggis (accompanied by mashed potatoes, turnips and a whisky sauce), Aberdeen Angus beef and Scottish wild salmon. Vegetarian haggis is also on the menu! If all that doesn’t warm you up, try a nip of whisky; touring a distillery is a great way to discover Scotland’s national drink.
Find out more about Scotland’s larder with Taste Our Best.
Winter wildlife spotting
It will be cold in January but, in the grand scheme of things, Scotland has a relatively temperate climate. This means you’ll have a great chance of spotting wildlife. Many small mammals will hibernate during the winter, but bigger animals are still in action, and they are often easier to spot because there is less foliage. You are more likely to see red deer in winter than in summer as they move down from the high ground to eat. The Highlands is the place to see these majestic creatures, but they’re also found on the islands of Arran, Jura and Rum.
If you are visiting the mountains, keep your eyes on the sky as you might catch a glimpse of golden eagles hunting hare and other small prey. Nearer the coast you may also see white-tailed sea eagles. Remember to dress in warm, waterproof layers if you are out looking for wildlife.
Don’t forget the humble Highland Coo!
Hunt for the Northern Lights
One of the best things to do when the nights are long and dark is to look for the Northern Lights. This incredible natural spectacle tends to be spotted in the north of the country, but if conditions are right you may see it further south too. Also known as the Aurora Borealis, the phenomenon is caused by charged particles bouncing off the earth’s upper atmosphere. What results is a kaleidoscopic show of colourful light streaking across the sky. A real privilege to behold.
Find out more about the Northern Lights and where you can see them.
Celebrate Burns Night
Looking for the perfect antidote to a cold January night? If you are around on the 25 January then book a seat at a Burns supper. A celebration of all things Robert Burns, these lively evenings are a great Scottish tradition celebrated all over the world. But there’s nothing quite like celebrating the life of Scotland’s national poet right here in Scotland! Be prepared for good company, delicious Scottish food and a bit of poetry, not to mention bagpipes, tartan and whisky – all part and parcel of a good Burns night.
Turner in January
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The Scottish National Gallery and the Playfair Steps at night with clear Edinburgh Skies, this is one from the archives as this particular area is under a refurb for the renovation of the gallery and the widening of the northern staircase, is it finished, not sure scheduled for April 2020 not been up for a while might venture there soon ….. #edinburgh #scotland #themound #playfairsteps #scottishnationalgallery. Foto and more images to view at @dynamic.edinburgh
If you’re of an artistic persuasion then you won’t want to miss the annual display of watercolours by JMW Turner at the Scottish National Gallery. These works, bequeathed to the Galleries by the distinguished collector Henry Vaughan, span Turner’s career. The only chance you’ll get to see them is in January, as Vaughan stipulated in his bequest that they must be exhibited during the month, for free. What a guy!
Celtic Connections and Up Helly Aa
Burns night isn’t the only event you can go to in January, we’ve picked another two Scottish favourites that might spark your interest. Celtic Connections is a folk, roots and world music festival that takes place every January in Glasgow. You can look forward to concerts, ceilidhs, talks, art exhibitions, workshops, and free events featuring lesser-known as well as more established acts. Cure those January blues with music!
And finally, on the last Tuesday in January, if you find yourself in the Shetland Isles then get ready for Up Helly Aa – a spectacular salute to Shetland’s Viking heritage. This celebration, run entirely by volunteers, is the social highlight of the year for many of the islanders. The evening culminates with the burning of a replica Viking galley before everybody goes off for a party.
A winter break in Scotland is your chance to unwind in cosy accommodation, see stunning sights and experience warm Scottish hospitality. Shake off the winter blues with the holiday of a lifetime.
Read our Winter FAQs page to see what you are in for!