It’s perhaps a bold claim to make that there’s nowhere quite like Scotland in winter, but we are sticking to our guns on this one! With a unique combination of events, festivals, landscapes, natural wonders, food, drink and more, Scotland makes a pretty special package during the winter months. Want to know why? Let us show you how no one does winter like Scotland!
First of all… our amazing skies
You can be bowled over by the Northern Lights…
Cullen Bay, Aberdeenshire © Banffshire Coast Tourism Partnership / Lyn MacDonald
Yes, you can see them in Scotland! To experience this incredible night-time phenomenon, it’s mostly about being at the right place at the right time, but if you do manage to catch sight of those magical ‘mirrie dancers’ then you’ll probably find yourself uttering gasps of ‘ooooh!’ and ‘aaaah!’.
The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, are most often seen from the north Highlands, Orkney and Shetland, but have also previously been visible to the eye from as far south as Dundee, Edinburgh and Loch Lomond.
…or count thousands of brilliant shining stars
Scotland’s Dark Skies
You can also look to the heavens to see the many twinkling wonders of the universe. Scotland is rather fortunate as there are many areas which experience no or little light pollution, meaning that on a clear night you can enjoy wonderful stargazing with innumerable stars and planets can be seen without the aid of a telescope.
You could visit the Dark Sky Park in Galloway Forest Park in south west Scotland, head to Dark Sky Discovery Points across the Highlands, or set sail to the Isle of Coll, Scotland’s Dark Sky Island! Staring up at the vast starry sky, no doubt you’ll feel the presence of something greater and it’ll leave you with a sense of wonder.
Then there are our incredible events
You could join one of the world’s biggest parties…
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again; no place on earth does New Year celebrations like Scotland. Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is three days of full-on celebrations, perfect for those who want to say farewell to the year gone by and embrace the New Year with a BANG… and a splash, a song and much more!
In the run up to midnight on Hogmanay, there are torchlight processions, candlelit concerts, energetic ceilidh dances, pop concerts, not to mention all the action of the world-famous Hogmanay Street Party. On 1 January, refresh yourself at the Loony Dook and plunge into the reviving waters of the Firth of Forth.
…or perhaps feel the heat at a fire festival!
In Scotland in winter, we know how to turn up the heat. A number of communities continue to carry out some of their hottest ancient traditions in the months of December and January. Join in with fiery revelries at New Year with events such as the Stonehaven Fireballs or the Comrie Flambeux.
Or head to Shetland in January to see the subarctic merrymaking at the truly unique Up Helly Aa, an incredible spectacle of flame and fierce costumes to celebrate the island’s Norse heritage. It culminates when a Viking long ship is set ablaze – you won’t see that anywhere else!
Then dance the night away at Celtic Connections…
Glasgow is home to one of the world’s premier winter music festivals. Celebrating folk and roots music, the diverse festival sees over 2,000 artists, which includes both international stars and home-grown talent, perform across 30 of the city’s finest venues. In 2018 Celtic Connections will take place from 18 January – 4 February.
…or toast the Bard at a Burns Supper
In January every year, Scots and fans of Scotland celebrate the life and works of Robert Burns, but here we reckon do it with extra gusto – it’s the chance to honour one of our favourite sons, after all! Burns Suppers are a merry affair of eating, drinking, poetry and sometimes song. Haggis and whisky, the national dish and the national drink, are an important part of the proceedings, as well as the famous works of Burns.
Burns Suppers are not only organised by Burns Clubs, but plenty of venues hold events that you can join in with. Why not experience Burns Night aboard a royal yacht, or join in with the festivities of the Big Burns Supper in Dumfries in south west Scotland? You can always hold your own too!
We have our delicious food and drink
Warm up with a distillery tour…
Scotch whisky is a true winter warmer. Is there a better way to melt away the winter’s cold than on a distillery tour? You could follow the Malt Whisky Trail and take in the distilleries of Speyside, many of which are known for producing whisky distinctive characteristics of rich, fruity flavours. It’s not unusual to sample a sherry cask Speyside malt whisky and think of festive treats such as Christmas cake, cloves and sherry. You might find a nice bottling to take home – hot toddies, anyone?
As well as distilleries, there are plenty of cosy whisky bars across the country, which are the perfect place to relax, chat to knowledgeable bartenders and discover your favourite dram. Sláinte!
… then sample the best of Scotland’s winter larder
Whatever time of year, Scotland’s natural larder is full of tasty seasonal produce and winter is no exception. It’s the season where you can try the best game bird, hare and venison, root vegetables are bountiful and fresh mussels harvested in January are often the plumpest you’ll find!
One of the best ways to experience a country is through its cuisine. In Scotland there are plenty of fine restaurants, including 12 with Michelin stars, for those wanting a meal that little bit more special, as well as traditional pubs serving home cooked dishes and modern bistros offering great value for money. Prepare to ‘wow’ your taste buds!
And of course, our great outdoors
Be awestruck by magical winter landscapes…
Snow dusted peaks, enchanting woodlands, glittering lochs and rolling hillsides sparkling with morning frost; Scotland’s great outdoors is transformed into a true winter wonderful during the coldest months of the year. Take them in with your own eyes and explore some of the country’s many beauty spots.
Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park isn’t short of breathtaking scenery. Explore the shoreline at the likes of Milarrochy Bay and views of mountains across the water. Or admire the thick Caledonian pine forests of the Cairngorms National Park before taking the funicular railway up the CairnGorm Mountain to the Ptarmigan restaurant for a warming hot chocolate.
…and spot wondrous winter wildlife
Whilst you are out and about enjoying the landscapes, also keep your eyes peeled for Scotland’s wilder inhabitants as they adapt to the colder season. In the Cairngorms, you might be lucky enough to spy snowy ptarmigan and pure white hares on mountain sides. Bring your binoculars!
Did you know you can see wildlife under the cloak of darkness? Join Nocturnal Wildlife Tours in Dumfries & Galloway on a night-time excursion to spot roe deer, badgers and more with the help of specialist thermal imaging and night vision equipment.
And finally, our snow!
Hit the city, then the slopes
Did you know that from Scotland’s cities it’s only a few hours to Scotland’s fantastic ski resorts?! For example, from Dundee you could be at Glenshee Ski Centre in one hour and a quarter, while Glencoe Mountain is reachable from Glasgow in around two hours!
It’s easy to fit in a trip to one of the country’s ski centres for a session on the slopes, with many avid snowsports enthusiasts visiting for the day or an overnight stay. If it’s your first time skiing or snowboarding, or you need to refresh your skills, why not get some lessons?