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7 ways to get into the festive spirit for less

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A man stands on Salisbury Crags viewing Edinburgh city.Salisbury Crags, Edinburgh

Picture this: festive fun which doesn’t break your budget. Could it be a Christmas miracle?

That’s right folks, Christmas in Scotland means that it’s time to put down the mince pies and head out for some amazing experiences.

We’ve come up with some delightfully frugal ideas to keep you amused and fill your heart and soul with Christmas cheer. This way, you can save money for more Scottish adventures in 2021!

1. Winter wanders

A frozen Lochan na h-Achlaise with a snow-capped Black Mount in the background, Rannoch MoorA frozen scene at Rannoch Moor, Highlands

It’s time to brush the dust off those hiking boots. A winter stroll can be a magical and exhilarating experience, with frost crunching underfoot and hopes of a sprinkling of snow. It’s also a beautiful time to capture magical winter photos, and marvel at glittering landscapes in the stunningly low winter light. There might also be a few wildlife sightings, especially in the north of Scotland, as red deer, who are most vocal at this time of year, venture onto lower lands as temperatures start to dip.

Where should I go? There are spectacular winter walks all across Scotland, from the thrilling clamber up Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh to pleasant ambles in Perthshire’s Big Tree Country. For experienced winter mountaineers, there are also more extreme climbs in the Cairngorm Mountains too – always check the forecast beforehand and read the safety guidelines from the Mountaineering Council of Scotland.

How much will it cost? A healthy dose of fresh air costs nothing, so why not stop for a hot drink or a pint along the way?

2. A wee whisky

The sampling room at The Famous Grouse Experience and Glenturret DistilleryThe Famous Grouse Experience, Perthshire

A fabulous accompaniment to the coldest months of the calendar, a sip of whisky is known to fend off the chill and warm the soul. Although rare bottles of whisky can sell for hundreds of thousands of pounds, a wee dram can still be enjoyed without breaking the bank.

Where should I go?  Why not learn all the basics at The Glenturret Distillery in Crieff, where you can try one of Scotland’s oldest single malts? Or, find distillery tours and tastings around Scotland – always double check opening times during the winter months.

How much will it cost? In pubs and bars, a dram of single malt varies depending on the age and quality of the whisky. Distillery tours also vary in price, some are free, and many are under £15 and include complimentary tastings.

3. Watch a film with a Scottish backdrop

The driving route through Glen Etive, GlencoeA driving route through Glen Coe. One of the filming locations for Skyfall.

When the wild winter weather sets in, there are still ways to admire Scotland’s beautiful landscapes without braving the great outdoors.

Watch Outlaw King on Netflix, which explores the story of Robert the Bruce and was filmed in 45 stunning Scottish locations. Or, admire the Glenfinnan Viaduct in Harry Potter or the looming mountains of Glencoe in James Bond action thriller, Skyfall. Learn more about famous filming locations in Scotland.

Where should I go? For a movie night like no other, head to one of Scotland’s quirky and unusual cinemas.

How much will it cost? Just the cost of a DVD or cinema visit!

4. Go to a Christmas market

Glasgow at Christmas timeGlasgow at Christmas time

Where should I go? Fall under the Christmas spell at this year’s European-style markets in Edinburgh and Glasgow, where you’ll find a magical whirlwind of twinkling lights, enchanting sounds, the smells of scrumptious treats wafting through the air, and lots of fun and laughter.

Don’t forget, there are many other winter festivals taking place all across Scotland too.

How much does it cost? Prices vary for certain events and activities at both festivals in Glasgow and Edinburgh, although much of the entertainment is free!

5. Eat some chocolate

Chocolate cherries being prepared by Iain Burnett the Master Chocolatier at Legends of GrandtullyChocolate cherries by Iain Burnett the Master Chocolatier at Legends of Grandtully

Gourmet truffles and chocolate logs, or artisan gift boxes and heavenly hot chocolates?  If you can’t indulge a little bit at this time of year, then when can you?

Chocolate is lovingly crafted by Scottish chocolatiers across the country – we have over 60 independent chocolate companies in Scotland. Why not follow a delicious recipe with a Scottish twist, and whip up some indulgent treats for the family this Christmas?

Where should I go? For more of the sweet stuff, try chocolate from: Oban Chocolate Company, Cocoa Mountain in Durness, The Cocoabean Company in Kirkcudbright and COCO Chocolatier in Edinburgh.

How much does it cost? It depends how much chocolatey goodness you want to buy! Expect to pay anything between £2 -7 for a bar of homemade Scottish chocolate.

6. Say hello to Rudolph

Reindeer rests on a hillside in the Cairngorm Mountains. The Cairngorms National Park, Highlands, Scotland.A reindeer relaxing in the Cairngorms © Neil McIntyre

What could be more magical than meeting some real, live reindeer this winter? You can get up close to these impressive animals, feed them a carrot or two, and learn all about them from experienced reindeer herders.

Where should I go? Head to The Scottish Deer Centre near Cupar in the Kingdom of Fife, and learn about the 14 species of deer on a guided walk or trailer ride. Or, at the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre, there is a lovely herd roaming freely in the wilderness and there are special events in December.

How much does it cost? Entry for adults to the Scottish Deer Centre is £11.50. Fill in an online enquiry form via the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre’s website to plan your reindeer sleigh ride.

7. Get crafty

Christmas decorations at Edinburgh's Christmas Market, Princes St GardensChristmas decorations at Edinburgh’s Christmas Markets

Head to one of Scotland’s craft fairs and find some great-value presents and stocking fillers, and enjoy some warm and tasty street food as you browse.

Where should I go? Head to Glasgow for the Country Living Magazine Christmas Fair at the SEC Centre. Running from the 2 – 5 December 2021, shop for one-of-a-kind gift ideas, sample delicious food and drink or get creative at a crafting workshop.

Or, find a unique gift that you can’t find on the high street at Support The Makers Christmas Market in Edinburgh on the 5 December 2021. This small Christmas market is jam-packed with lots of goodies, showcasing a variety of handmade products from local artisans and makers.

Find more markets and fairs around Scotland during December.

How much does it cost? Please check individual event websites for prices.

How are you getting into the festive spirit this year? Fill your inbox with Scottish inspiration by signing up to our newsletter.

Read more about Christmas in Scotland and discover more budget-friendly ideas for your next trip. Merry Christmas, everyone!