Looking for the perfect way to end 2019 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…
1. Christmas markets, festivals and fayres
We can’t talk about what 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…
- Edinburgh’s Christmas (16 November – 4 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! Enjoy a mesmerising experience of Scotland’s most iconic castle with state of the art visuals and lighting installations. The event is available on selected evenings until 22 December.
- Glasgow Christmas Markets have two traditional markets, at St Enoch Square (9 November – 23 December) and George Square (25 November – 31 December).
- Also in Glasgow, visit Elfingrove (5 December – 5 January), a celebration of Christmas at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Enjoy a spellbinding night-time tour of this beautiful museum, where the magic of Christmas is brought to life. Then step out into the fairy-lit winter wonderland, where you can join a Silent Snow Disco (dance in a giant snow globe!), feast on delicious festive treats, local street food and drinks, and also enjoy few all-singing, all-dancing elfish surprises!
- Aberdeen’s Winter Festival and Christmas Village runs throughout December.
- Perth runs a number of markets and events throughout the month to look out for, including a Festival of Chocolate!
- Glamis Castle Christmas Market (13 – 15 December) 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 2019 Christmas event listings.
2. Stay in a festive castle for Christmas
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How would you like 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!
You can also enjoy one of the many festive day events at a castle so why not… celebrate Drum Castle’s Christmas Festival (7 – 8 December) in Aberdeenshire… hear about Traditions and Tales of Christmas at Edinburgh Castle… join the creative Christmas Wreath Workshops at Scone Palace (8 December) in Perthshire… or visit Brodick Castle on the Isle of Arran (15 December).
3. IRN-BRU Carnival
Glasgow’s annual IRN-BRU Carnival (20 December – 12 January), is Europe’s largest indoor funfair! It’s 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!
4. Christmas at The Botanics
Now in its third year, Christmas at the Botanics (22 November – 29 December) is a must-see! Wander round Edinburgh’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!
5. 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 Husky Ranch Scotland in Perthshire, Cairngorm Sleddog Centre in Aviemore, or Huskyhaven in Aberdeenshire.
6. 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!
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.
8. 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.
- In Inverness, dance the night away at the family-friendly Red Hot Highland Fling.
- See the renowned Stonehaven Fireballs in Aberdeenshire.
- Dundee’s Hogmanay party in 2019 will be the city’s first in 25 years, with an exciting line up of performers including Kyle Falconer, Eddi Reader, Sinderins 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.
- Glasgow has a host of ceilidhs and parties to choose from!
If an out-of-town getaway is your preference, you could:
- Enjoy the celebrations and dancing at Creiff 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!