The Torridon, Wester Ross

Holidays

5 Fantastic Winter Break Ideas

Winter in Scotland can be truly magical. The gold and red colours of autumn give way to frost-covered glens and snow-capped peaks, the chill in the air makes your cheeks glow and nose tingle, while shimmering lights of Scotland's cities beckon.

It's a season that lets you see places in a new light and offers new experiences that you just can't enjoy at any other time of year. Even planning where to stay in winter throws up some exciting and unusual options that you've probably never thought of before.

Check out these ideas for a unique Scottish winter break you'll remember for years to come:

Best for

Fans of Islay's famous peaty malt whiskies and vibrant island culture.

Things to see and do

If there's one thing that will warm you up in winter, it's whisky, the country's national drink. For a winter break with a difference, take the ferry to Islay, Scotland's whisky island. 

With nine distilleries to visit, you'll no doubt find a favourite peaty dram to warm your cockles on Islay. You could visit Bowmore Distillery, situated in the heart of the village of the same name, or get up close to the stills of Lagavulin Distillery. Islay also boasts some lovely beaches and clifftop nature reserves, perfect for a winter stroll.

Unwind in a cosy fire-lit pub where you might hear some live traditional music. If you visit during 22 - 24 November 2019, you can experience great craic during the Islay Sessions, a small winter festival featuring incredible folk musicians.

Stay

The island offers a great range of places to stay, from traditional hotels to luxury eco-lodges with saunas and hot tubs.

Find accommodation on Islay.

Eating out

Treat yourself to some fine Islay produce, including tasty fresh seafood. At the restaurant in the Port Charlotte Hotel, you can enjoy a sumptuous meal in elegant surroundings, or tuck into a bar supper in the relaxed atmosphere of the bar and conservatory.

Getting there

Located off the coast of the Kintyre peninsula on Scotland's west coast, Islay is most easily accessed from the port of Kennacraig, with car ferries running daily. A ferry also departs from Oban once a week.

When it comes to getting around the distilleries without a car, local taxi companies can arrange bespoke tours.

Best for

Anyone who enjoys listening to live music, exploring museums and soaking up a vibrant city atmosphere.

Things to see and do

Glasgow has its finger on the pulse all year round, and even in the dreariest of winter months this dynamic city really shines. Explore the handsome city centre and admire Glasgow's striking architecture. At The Lighthouse, discover touring exhibitions, take in panoramic views of the city, or find out more about designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh in the dedicated Mackintosh Centre. Take a subway to the West End to visit the beautiful Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum and discover the area's quirky shops, cool bars and restaurants.

If you visit in January, you can catch a gig or two at one of the many fantastic venues across the city during Celtic Connections, the world-famous celebration of traditional, folk and roots music. This winter festival features the best of home-grown talent and incredible musicians from all across the globe, and you can see both legendary artists as well as up-and-coming acts.

Stay

From smart boutique hotels to sleek serviced apartments, Glasgow has a huge range of places to stay.

Find accommodation in Glasgow.

Eating out

Glasgow's dining scene is thriving. Experience a Glasgow institution and book a table at the Ubiquitous Chip, or opt for one of the trendy restaurants in the Finnieston area of the city.

Getting there

Glasgow is served by three international airports with regular flights to cities in the UK and Europe. It's also very well served by train and bus routes.

Best for

Those who want to enjoy a scenic coastal break and see amazing night time wonders.

Things to see and do

The Highland region of Moray Speyside is perfect for a quiet escape filled with bracing coastal walks along beaches and paths. Explore charming historic fishing villages, take walks along unspoilt stretches of sand and try to spot the resident dolphins frolicking close to the shore. Get a real flavour of Speyside by following the River Spey to one of the region's whisky distilleries.

Did you know the Moray area is one of the best places in the UK to catch sight of the Northern Lights? If you're lucky enough to get clear night skies and an aurora forecast, head to Lossiemouth East Beach or Bow Fiddle Rock at Portknockie, two places where the Northern Lights have been spotted at in recent years.

Stay

The Moray Firth has a range of accommodation, including family-run hotels and inns and cosy self-catering cottages.

Find accommodation in Moray.

Eating out

The coastline boasts some fine traditional pubs at the likes of Findhorn, or dine in an 18th century stone salt cellar at La Caverna in Lossiemouth. You could also choose the cheery Mosset Tavern in Forres.

Getting there

From Inverness, it's easy to drive to Moray. Elgin, one of the largest towns in the area, is just an hour away by car.

Best for

Those with a passion for the great outdoors (who also like the finer things in life)!

Things to see and do

Combine your passion for the natural environment with a good dollop of indulgence on a break to The Torridon, a luxury estate retreat in the beautiful north west Highlands.

The Torridon offers activities year-round. In the winter months, there's a programme of archery, sea kayaking, canoeing, rock climbing, and guided walks and mountain bike rides. The surrounding landscape is truly wild and rugged, making for some very exhilarating hiking. Experienced climbers can get a taste of navigating the Torridon mountains in challenging winter conditions. Be sure to pack the crampons!

Stay

The Torridon itself offers elegantly decorated rooms in the grand hotel, built originally as a hunting lodge, and rooms in the Inn. You can also enjoy the privacy of the picturesque boat house, perfect for a self-catering break.

Or find other accommodation in the Torridon area.

Eating out

The Torridon is a slice of foodie heaven, with Torridon Inn offering hearty pub grub and the 1887 Restaurant serving fine, award-winning cuisine with exquisitely matched wines. And should the weather conditions affect the activities in the outdoors, then why not relax in a comfy arm chair and enjoy a delicious afternoon tea, complete with a warming pot of The Torridon's signature blend?

Getting there

The Torridon is accessible by road. From Inverness, the journey takes approximately 1 hour and 30 mins, crossing the Kessock Bridge and following the A835, A832, and the A896.

Best for

Those looking to experience unforgettably dark skies and traditional Scottish culture.

Things to see and do

Dark skies

Winter is a fantastic time to soak up the splendour of the night sky. One of the best places to go stargazing in Scotland is the Galloway Forest Park in south west Scotland, which was the second park in Europe and first in the UK to be awarded Dark Sky Park status.

Find dark sky park events in the Galloway Forest Park and visit the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory at Dalmellington in Ayrshire to take part in a range of great events and navigate the skies using the observatory’s high-powered telescopes.

The Galloway Forest Park is also part of the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere and you can book a dark sky event with one of the biosphere’s Dark Sky Rangers.

Another superb location for stargazing is the town of Moffat in Dumfries & Galloway as it’s a designated Dark Sky Town – the first town in Europe to be awarded this status. The streetlights in the town are specially designed to minimise light pollution so that you can enjoy the starry skies above uninterrupted.

Robert Burns and Burns Night

If you’re looking to experience authentic Scottish culture then January is a fantastic time to visit. Traditional Burns Suppers take place on and around 25 January to celebrate Robert Burns’ birthday, which is known as Burns Night.

Robert Burns was born in Ayrshire and every year you’ll find events celebrating his life at the Burns An’ A’ That! festival. Look out for the Burns Hame Toun events happening in January. Burns attractions to visit in Ayrshire include the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway and Burns House Museum in Mauchline.

Dumfries & Galloway also has strong connections with Robert Burns and is the place where he lived and spent time in the later years of his life, including at Ellisland Farm at Auldgirth and The Globe Inn and Robert Burns House in Dumfries. From 24 January – 2 February 2020 you’ll find a packed programme of events at the Big Burns Supper, taking place in venues throughout Dumfries.

Find more things to see and do in Ayrshire and Dumfries & Galloway.

Stay

Choose from hotels, B&Bs, self-catering cottages and much more across both regions.

Find accommodation in Ayrshire & Arran and Dumfries & Galloway.

Eating out

Tuck into tasty local produce at eateries including The Green Frog Café in Moffat, Loch Arthur Farm Shop Café near Dumfries, the Kirkmichael Arms near Maybole and The Coo Shed near Alloway.

Getting there

Travelling by car to either Ayrshire or Dumfries & Galloway is straightforward, with good road connections throughout both regions.

You can also travel by train from Glasgow to Dumfries or Edinburgh to Lockerbie in Dumfries & Galloway. The train line through Ayrshire from Glasgow to Stranraer stops at many destinations along the Ayrshire coast, including the major town of Ayr.

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