From roof-raising celebrations to cosy Còsagach experiences, winter offers the chance to experience a completely new, yet equally exciting, side of Scotland.
As the landscapes change and the weather cools, the atmosphere is heating up as the country prepares to celebrate some of the biggest dates on the Scottish calendar including St Andrews Day, Hogmanay and Burns Night.
Winter is also the perfect time to embark on a new outdoor adventure to enjoy Scotland’s beauty during a different season.
Unmissable highlights include:
Coorie in and embrace Còsagach
You don’t always have to be outdoors to appreciate Scotland’s beauty. From glamping and log cabins, to treehouses and eco-cottages, there are plenty of cosy corners located in stunning surroundings that offer the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and a chance to experience some Còsagach. Try a cosy log cabin for the weekend like the ones at Eagle Brae, Beauly or Forest Holidays, Strathyre. Or maybe enjoy a romantic weekend in a treehouse made for two such as The Hideaway Experience, outside Dundee or Loch Seil Cottages, south of Oban?
An evening under the stars
A clear winter’s night is the best time to appreciate the wonders of the cosmos. Find perfect stargazing spots at Galloway Forest Park – the UK’s first Dark Sky Park , the Isle of Coll – a Dark Sky Island or Dark Sky Discovery Sites such as Tomintoul and Glenlivit within the Cairngorms. Look out for planets as well as a host of twinkling stars as the sky, unlike during the summer nights, becomes properly dark.
A night time adventure
Scotland doesn’t stop when the sun goes down. There are a whole host of thrilling activities to try during twilight. Feeling brave? Take the plunge at Highland Fling Bungee in Killiecrankie, Perthshire which also includes Europe’s first (and only) black out bridge bungee jump. Zip through the forests with special night time session at Go Ape Aberfoyle on selected dates in November or enjoy a night paddle on the waters across Perthshire with Outdoor Explore.
There’s no business, like snow business
Hit the slopes on one of Scotland’s five ski resorts which offer the best outdoor skiing and snowboarding in the UK. If you fancy trying a different snow sport head to Aviemore and book a sled dog safari or strap on a pair of snowshoes and join C-N-Do Scotland on a guided expedition.
See old favourites in a new light
Winter is great time to enjoy some of Scotland’s most popular destinations at a quieter time of year. The Highlands and islands was recently named Best in Travel 2019 by Lonely Planet. Take a road trip on the North Coast 500, use the dramatic winter sun to grab the perfect picture at the beautiful Eilean Donan Castle, stop for a dram at one of the region’s many whisky distilleries or discover the magic and mystery of Skye.
Scotland’s Winter Festivals are a great way to experience the country’s famous hospitality. From torch light processions and winter festivals to Christmas fayres and huge Hogmanay celebrations there are plenty of ways to join in:
St Andrew’s Day – 30 November 2018
There’s fun for all the family during this ten-day celebration of Oban’s unique culture and community with street parades, international and local performances. Sample the finest Scottish fayre, take to the floor at a ceilidh and don’t miss fire artists, crafts, pipers and parades and so much more.
Where: Oban, Argyll & Bute
When: 16-25 November 2018
Watch Glasgow’s west end light up as a special community torchlight procession takes place to mark Scotland’s Patron Saint Day, with pipe bands, samba drummers and fire performers.
Where: Glasgow’s West End
When: 30 November 2018
The first of its kind in Europe, brings big music to small halls around Skye and Lochalsh. The country’s greatest trad musicians will deliver concerts, cèilidhs and music workshops to communities in remote rural areas to celebrate the unique Highland culture and Gaelic heritage connecting people across many generations. The multi-artform festival will culminate in the Big Cèilidh, a celebration for all on St Andrew’s Night at the Sligachan Hotel.
Where: Skye and Lochalsh
When: 23 Nov – 1 Dec 2018
Scotland’s Best Performing Arts Venue (Sunday Herald Culture Awards) delivers an inclusive celebration of winter traditions, across generations, cultures and societies, from St Andrew’s Day celebrations to Burns Night.
When: 30 Nov 2018 – 26 Jan 2019
The Hunterian Museum is hosting fun-packed Night at the Museum events with creative, inspirational and fun programmes, including music, talks, poetry, performances, object handling, and treasure trails. St Andrew’s Day ‘Comics Scotland’ will showcase the diversity of characters and storytelling and provide opportunities for creating alternative worlds. Burns Night will celebrate ‘Pie, Pop and Play; Burns on Stage’, with an innovative children and family programme.
When: 24 Nov 2018 – 26 Jan 2019
Scotland’s Winter Festivals at An Lanntair An Lanntair’s Winter Festival events begin with a full week of activities to celebrate St Andrew’s day including cinema, food, drink and music of Scotland. The Burns weekend begins with a programme of music performed by The Neil Johnstone Quartet with the Nicolson Institute Girls’ Choir providing the songs in both Scots and Gaelic followed by an alternative Burns Supper. The following evening there will be a family friendly Scottish quiz night and a trad music session in An Lanntair’s bar and restaurant.
Where: Stornoway, Lewis
When: 26 Nov – 01 Dec 2018
Edinburgh’s spectacular array of festive entertainment is set to return in 2018, featuring a Christmas market, as well as seasonal rides, attraction and shows. This traditional and romantic Christmas Market in the heart of the City of Edinburgh offers a unique shopping experience for every visitor with its fair of crafters, artists, gift shops and gastronomic surprises.
When: 16 November 2018 – 5January 2019
Located at Dundee City Square, with over 45 exhibitors selling quality gifts, made locally, ethically and/or through Fair Trade, this is a busy and vibrant shopping event. Following an exciting year during which the city celebrated the opening of the new V&A Dundee (15th September 2018) Dundee is the ideal place to celebrate the festive season and the close of 2018. For visitors heading to Dundee to enjoy the Christmas market and spectacular new V&A Dundee just a half hour drive from Dundee is Glamis Castle, which will be offering the opportunity to enjoy a Christmas market in the spectacular surroundings of a castle adorned in festive decorations. The Glamis Castle Christmas Market will run from 7 – 9 December.
When: 5December – 22 December 2018
Glasgow boasts a variety of Christmas markets. The George Square Christmas Market (25November – 31 December) and St. Enoch Square Christmas Market (9 November – 23 December) offer festive gifts, delicious street food and a warm, welcoming bar. There are many independent markets taking place throughout the city during the festive season, including 3d2d Glasgow Christmas craft, Art & Design Fair (1 and 2 December).
When: Dates vary
Hogmanay – 31 December
Marking Scotland’s Year of Young People 2018 coming to a close, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay officially gets underway with the fiery finale of the popular Torchlight Procession (30 December). The focal point of the Torchlight Procession will be #ScotArt, which will consist of 14 giant wicker sculptures, each a symbol representing the regions of Scotland, as agreed within creative workshops of young Scots, led by young Champions and emerging artists recruited by Edinburgh’s Hogmanay. On the big night itself (31 December), the Street Party will return bigger and better than ever with the Concert in the Gardens headlined by Franz Ferdinand. Bairns Afore will once again give children their midnight moment early on in the evening. There is something for everyone at this year’s Edinburgh’s Hogmanay including Ceilidh under the Castle and Hogmanay HQ, an exclusive VIP party at The Hub. Kick 2019 off with a brisk dip in the chilly waters of the Firth of Forth with The Loony Dook or stay indoors in the beautiful surrounds of McEwan Hall for a series of concerts including the free First Footers Family Ceilidh and performances from Capercaillie and Carlos Nunez later that evening. Message from the Skies returns for 2019 and will run through to Burns Night, with a celebration of Scotland’s literature, in a co-commission with Edinburgh International Book Festival.
Where: Edinburgh, various
When: 31 December 2018– 1 January 2019
Celebrate Family Hogmanay in the Honest Toun at The Brunton. Fun for all the family includes lantern making, samba drumming, ceilidh swinging, panto, puppetry, fairytales and more! After all that, join the beautiful Apus Birds and mischievous Jacks of Frost with an early evening lantern procession to a free fireworks display on Musselburgh Links. Later, Hogmania celebrate the arrival of 2019 with live music, food & pipers.
When: 31 Dec 2018
After 80 years, the Stromness Yule Log is back! Revived for Stromness 200 last year, this old tradition returns for Hogmanay 2018. The Northenders and Soothenders will once again do battle. Split roughly along an old town boundary the teams will once again try and pull the yule log to their territory. This year, in support of the Year of Young People 2018, the event will include a Junior log pull, expanding the reincarnation of this traditional event to the towns youth.
When: 31 December 2018
Bring in 2019 in spectacular style with the Peatbog Faeries in a celebration of the best in contemporary folk music! The night will begin with a traditional Shetland variety concert, opened by the Peatbog Faeries with performances by local bands and musicians, followed by supper and the chance to relax in one of the cinema screens, while the stage is re-set for the Peatbog Faeries to bring in the bells for Hogmanay 2018!
Where: Mareel, Shetland
When: 31 December 2018 – 1 January 2019
Bring in the New Year on Stirling Castle Esplanade with live music, food and a spectacular fireworks display. Two celebrations will take place at the castle; an early family-friendly fireworks event, which will be followed by a later Midnight Hogmanay celebration featuring live music performances and fireworks at midnight.
When: 31 Dec 2018
Start your New Year with a magical 3km walk around the Helix, Home of the Kelpies. The park will be transformed into an extraordinary spectacle of fire performances, interactive light installations, breath-taking puppetry, enchanting sculptures, and animated projections depicting the zodiac signs. Find out what your future holds.
Where: Falkirk, Helix Park
When: 1-2 January 2019