Looking for the perfect way to end 2021 on a high? Then it’s time to get planning your festive break in Scotland!
Scotland in December is as beautiful a month as any, with its own subtle charms, and year-topping highlights you won’t forget. We have festive atmosphere galore, perfect cosy retreats, and bright winter days where you can appreciate the seasonal character of the land. Think of the crunch of winter frost under your feet while enjoying a beautiful country walk, and feeling your cheeks warm up as you sit by a pub fire while a delicious meal is being prepared for you. Scotland guarantees you a fabulous festive season!
Here’s some inspiration…
Christmas markets, festivals and fayres
We can’t talk about all the things to do in Scotland in December without highlighting our fantastic Christmas markets, which you can find popping up across the country. Think of twinkling lights all around, with the smell of your favourite winter food & drinks wafting round, while you get into the festive spirit with some Christmas shopping.
Here are just a few things to do in December…
- Edinburgh’s Christmas (20 November – 2 January) is spectacular, and the Christmas markets are the star of the show. Located in Princes Street Gardens, enjoy the numerous fairground rides and carnival atmosphere as well as the wide variety of stalls.
- See Edinburgh Castle light up in a festive spectacle of colour with Castle of Light- Hidden Treasures! Enjoy a mesmerising experience in one of Scotland’s most iconic castle with state of the art visuals and lighting installations, with Rex, the red lion, and his friends here to help you find all the hidden treasures in the castle. The event is available on selected evenings from 19 November – 9 January.
- Visit the Glasgow Christmas Market at St Enoch Square (21 November – 23 December).
- Other things to do in Glasgow in December include visiting Elfingrove (2 December – 24 December), a celebration of Christmas at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Skate under the stars on Scotland’s biggest ice rink, with a magical music and light show and festive food and drink to enjoy. Or, see iconic Glasgow buildings, including the City Chambers, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Buchanan Galleries and The Buck’s Head Building (at St Enoch Centre), magically encased in sparkling light for the Christmas season as part of Glasgow Illuminated.
- Aberdeen’s Winter Festival and Christmas Village runs throughout December.
- Another place to visit in December – Perth runs a number of markets and events throughout the month to look out for.
- Glamis Castle Christmas Market (27 – 28 November) in Perthshire, promises family fun with a Santa’s Grotto and tour of the castle.
You can even find outdoor ice-skating at Aberdeen’s Christmas Village! There are many other local Christmas markets running – view all our 2021 Christmas event listings.
Stay in a festive castle for Christmas
Surely one of the best things to do in Scotland in Decemeber must be to stay in a magical castle for a fairy-tale Christmas? There are numerous stunning castles offering two to three day Christmas packages from 24-26 December, for a special Christmas holiday you won’t forget! These include:
- Fonab Castle in Perthshire.
- Dalhousie Castle, a short drive from Edinburgh.
- Glenapp Castle in Ayrshire.
- Inverlochy Castle in the Western Highlands near Fort William.
- Barony Castle near Peebles in the Scottish Borders.
Among many more!
Glasgow’s annual IRN-BRU Carnival (22 – 24 December), is Europe’s largest indoor funfair! It’s a great thing to do in Glasgow in December and the perfect way to get out of the cold on a winter day without sacrificing fun and action. The carnival has it all – from children’s fairground rides, thrill rides, games, stalls where you can win prizes, inflatable play area, giant slides to delicious food. This carnival is set to be fantastic fun for both the little and the big kids among us!
Curl up and watch a Christmas Rom-Com
Sometimes all you want to do is stay in and watch a movie! There are some fantastic new romantic comedies on Netflix set and filmed in Scotland. The perfect way to unwind after going out to explore. Check these out:
- The Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star was filmed at Hopetoun House in West Lothian, and Newbattle Abbey College in Midlothian. You’ll also see Gosford House, Borthwick Castle, Dundas Castle, Dakota Hotel, Barnbougle and Dalmeny Estate as well as the Royal Highland Centre.
- Falling for Figaro, which stars Joanna Lumley as a former opera diva-turned singing teacher, was filmed in Glencoe, Luss on the west bank of Loch Lomond, and Glasgow.
- A Castle for Christmas , which stars Brooke Shields as a novelist and Cary Elwes as a Scottish duke, was filmed at Dalmeny House near Edinburgh, Tantallon Castle in East Lothian, Dakota Hotel in South Queensferry and Edinburgh Airport.
Christmas at The Botanics
Now in its fifth year, Christmas at the Botanics (25 November – 2 January) is a must-see! One of the top things to do in Edinburgh in December, wander round the capital’s 70 acres of majestic gardens in the dark, magically lit up with light features such as the Tunnel of Light, Laser Garden, Festive Flotilla of glowing boats, and Scented Fire Garden. There’s music, mulled wine, hot chocolate, festive foods and fire-pits to gather round. You’re guaranteed to get some insta-worthy shots on your way round. We highly recommend it!
Husky sledge rides in the Highlands
What better and more memorable way to enjoy Scotland’s beautiful outdoors in the winter than a husky sledge ride! Scotland has a number of husky centres where you can meet the dogs and go for a sledge ride, or even have a full-day experience with professional racers where you help to train the dogs. Snow is also not essential for a ride! Try Bowland Trails in Perthshire, or Huskyhaven in Aberdeenshire.
Visit Santa and his Reindeer
Head to the Cairngorms National Park to meet Santa and his reindeer. The Cairngorm Reindeer Centre is home to around 150 free-ranging reindeer, and is the best spot to meet these friendly characters in their natural habitat. Surrounded by tinsel and decorations, Santa will be there keeping an eye on his reindeer, and there are crafting activities you can try too! You could also head to the nearby Highland Wildlife Park, where you’ll see polar bears, reindeer, arctic foxes, snow leopards and many more!
Enjoy world-class Snowsports in Scotland in December
Get out to the hills for some snowsports action! Did you know Scotland offers the best outdoor skiing and snowboarding in the UK? Surrounded by beautiful scenery, the country’s ski centres are accessible from all of Scotland’s cities, and offer great runs for beginners and seasoned skiers or boarders alike. There are five resorts in Scotland to choose from – all of which offer skiing or snowboarding equipment hire, slopes suitable for beginners and lessons. The season in Scotland runs from December to April, although do check the conditions before you travel. You can sign up for snow alerts here, and check out our snowsports FAQs here.
Unforgettable Hogmanay celebrations
Hogmanay street celebrations in Scotland are legendary!
- Soak in the atmosphere at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, starting with the atmospheric Torchlight Procession (30 December), featuring 17,000 flaming torches in a procession from Edinburgh Castle to the foot of the Royal Mile. It’s followed by Edinburgh’s Hogmanay street party on New Year’s Eve, featuring live music from well-known stars, outdoor bars and spectacular fireworks at midnight. Please note, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay has been cancelled for 2021.
- In Inverness, dance the night away at the family-friendly Red Hot Highland Fling. Find more things to do in Inverness in December.
- See the renowned Stonehaven Fireballs in Aberdeenshire.
- Bring in the New Year in Glasgow! Events this year include Ashton Lane’s Hogmanay Street Party, Hogmanay at Merchant Square or a Black Tie & Tartan Hogmanay Ball at the Polo Lounge, as well as many more exciting events and experiences.
- Dundee’s Hogmanay Bash will feature an exciting line up of live performances, ceilidh dancing, an evening buffet, contemporary music and more – one not to miss!
Or why not bring in the new year with a traditional ceilidh in a beautiful setting, with fun-filled events including:
- The Edinburgh Hogmanay Snow Ball, held in the magnificent ballrooms of the Assembly Rooms on George Street.
- The Hogmanay Hoolie at Edinburgh’s iconic Ghillie Dhu – famous for its ceilidhs in this stunning converted church.
- In Aberdeen you can dance the night away at the brilliant Beach Ballroom ceilidh.
- December events in Glasgow are great! The city plays host to a range of ceilidhs and parties to choose from! Don’t miss out!
If an out-of-town getaway is your preference, you could:
- Enjoy the celebrations and dancing at Crieff Hydro Hotel in Perthshire.
- Try Oban’s annual celebration where you can enjoy a lively night of ceilidh music.
- Join the party at the beautiful Peebles Hydro in the Scottish Borders.
And the list goes on! View current Hogmanay event listings.
We hope we’ve filled your imagination with some of the possibilities!