As fireplaces roar with flames and snowflakes start to crystallise on window frames, in Greenland Santa is prepping his elves for their busiest time of the year. Here in Scotland, we’re enjoying the crisp winter mornings, jovial Christmas markets, cosy bedtime socks and discussions about how it is suddenly December.
That’s right, the festive season is quickly approaching and with many of us having angry words with our bank accounts this month, we’ve selected a bundle of attractions, activities, events and places to visit in all of Scotland’s magnificent regions, which can be enjoyed completely for free!
Keep reading to see what’s happening around Scotland.
1. Argyll & The Isles
Head into one of Argyll and the Isle’s most enchanting woodlands, Glenbranter Forest, for some forest festivities where you’ll be surrounded by ancient oaks and festive cheer. Or, discover more about the creative spirit of this glorious region by taking a stroll along the Art in Nature Sculpture Trail in Calgary.
The Orkney isles played an important role in both World Wars, and hauntingly powerful wartime relics remain today. Step inside the beautifully ornate Italian Chapel, which was built by Italian prisoners of war seeking a place to worship on the island of Lamb Holm.
3. Edinburgh & The Lothians
In the capital city, we love a bargain with free entertainments available all year-round. Settle down to some free folk music at cosy pubs in the Old Town’s favourite watering holes, such as the Royal Oak, the Captain’s Bar and Whistle Binkies, each of which are known for their talented, musical regulars.
Tip: although the musical entertainment is free at these pubs, you may be encouraged to purchase a drink or two!
4. Loch Lomond, Stirling, Trossachs & Forth Valley
Head to Falkirk where you can spend an afternoon admiring the beautifully restored Georgian mansion, Callendar House, featuring fascinating tales of historical figures from Mary Queen of Scots to Bonnie Prince Charlie. Don’t miss a look around the Park Gallery, a superb contemporary arts venue situated inside the house which offers a programme of exciting exhibitions.
It’s definitely woolly hats, scarves and gloves weather, and these chillier climes and frosty days make for some wonderful winter ambles in Perthshire. The Birks of Aberfeldy is a circular walk offering excellent photo opportunities for budding photographers, as the route guides you past the cascading Moness Falls, a magnificent gorge and some really big trees. Did you know Perthshire is also known as the Big Tree Country?
6. Ayrshire & Arran
Hop over to Ayrshire & Arran and take winter-wandering to the next level, by climbing a Corbett. The 874 m Goat Fell on the Isle of Arran awaits, with its mist-shrouded peaks and mysterious pathways which take you past the nearby fortress of Brodick Castle. Providing you are well-equipped with warm clothes and a sturdy pair of walking boots, hillwalking on a clear day will reward you with some excellent views.
7. Greater Glasgow & The Clyde Valley
Architecture buffs will be mesmerised by The Lighthouse, Scotland’s Centre for Design & Architecture. It was the first commission completed by the one and only Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and it is renowned for the astonishing views of Glasgow’s cityscape available from the Mackintosh Tower.
8. The Highlands
Tours of the Black Isle Brewery are free and take place all year round. You can witness exactly how an organic brewery produces its world-class beers, which are enjoyed all over Scotland and beyond. The brewery is nestled quietly in the unspoilt Highland landscape, where all of the ingredients are grown and made into a selection of pale ales, blonde beers, stouts and many more tasty brews.
9. Dumfries & Galloway
It is prime time for stargazing in Scotland at the moment, so wrap up warm, grab some blankets and reach for the stars at the Galloway Forest Park’s Dark Sky Park. It’s one of the best places in Europe to see the galaxy with the naked eye, and a beautiful spot to enjoy a flask of hot chocolate under the stars.
10. Dundee & Angus
Step back in time at Broughty Ferry Castle, a 15th century coastal fort which has lived through many dramatic battles and sieges. The castle houses a fascinating museum and art gallery displaying works from the Orchar Collection, a surviving group of Scottish Victorian artworks which are a vital part of Dundee’s cultural heritage.
11. Outer Hebrides
Believed to have been erected around 2,900 BC, the Calanais Standing Stones on Lewis are always a Hebridean highlight. Situated on a prehistoric site of intrigue, these stones form one of the most complete stone circles in Britain, and they exude a sense of ageless mystery.
12. Kingdom of Fife
Did you know Scotland’s first university is over 600 years old? In Fife, at the Museum of the University of St Andrews, you can take a look at the town’s early history and the life of St Andrews students through the ages.
13. Aberdeen City & Shire
Goodness gracious! On Hogmanay, the town of Stonehaven greets the New Year with great balls of fire, in an ancient ceremony to welcome the New Year. In Aberdeen, crowds gather to watch 60 local fireball experts parade through the town, swinging flaming globes above their heads. The spectacle ends by throwing the fireballs into the harbour.
14. Scottish Borders
jumpers are one of my favourite things about this time of year, and the Scottish Borders is a region which truly embraces ‘sweater weather’, by producing wool, tweed and cashmere in abundance. Witness the ancient process of fabric handling at the Borders Textiles Towerhouse, where you can see the how fashions of the past and present are dyed, teased, weaved and spun by the local craftspeople.
Speaking of fashion, it would be wise to take tips from the Shetland ponies when packing for a winter stay in Shetland. It is one of the best times to visit, with the elusive winter light heightening the mysteriousness of these islands. Witness an amazing array of wildlife roaming the deserted landscape, from otters during the daylight hours to snow-white mountain hares hopping across the hills. There is always the chance you might catch a display of the magical Aurora Borealis at this time of year too.
Are you planning an enchanting winter break in Scotland? Share your snaps with us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, and check out our Christmas & winter breaks for further inspiration to keep you amused until spring.