Cold Comfort: Amazing Experiences to be had in a Scotland Winter Wonderlands

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Cold Comfort: Amazing Experiences to be had in a Scotland Winter Wonderlands

By Richard Jones

At this time of the year, there’s nothing better than wrapping up warm, getting outside, and making the most of the short, crisp days.

And it’s even better when you know the reward for time well spent embracing the elements is warming up by the fire with a hot chocolate or a wee dram.

We take a look at some of the best things to do north of the border in Scotland during this magical season.

Party time

Kicking off the festivities is St Andrew’s Day on November 30, when you can put on a playlist of Scottish tunes, get some haggis on the go, and celebrate Scotland’s patron saint.

This year, Blazin’ Fiddles will be setting toes tapping at Usher Hall and Mharsanta in Glasgow will be hosting an evening of traditional Scottish food and drink.

Looking ahead, Edinburgh’s four-day Hogmanay celebrations kick off with the return of the Torchlight Procession which will blaze a trail through the capital’s Old Town.

Beyond the cities, the party atmosphere spreads far and wide. Those venturing to Aberdeenshire can discover one of the oldest New Year celebrations in the world – the Stonehaven Fireballs.

The festive spirit continues with the Up Helly Aa Fire Festivals across Shetland (January-March), and on Burns Night, the Big Burns Supper takes place in Dumfries.

Also in January, iconic annual folk, roots and world music festival, Celtic Connections, returns to Scotland’s UNESCO City of Music, Glasgow.

Bright Lights

During winter nights, Scotland’s dark skies become dazzling spectacles as a variety of installations transform some of the country’s beloved attractions.

Iconic landmark Edinburgh Castle is illuminated with extraordinary light and sound displays in The Castle of Light.

Alternatively, you can follow a one-mile illuminated trail that winds its way through the world-famous Royal Botanic Gardens.

At Monteviot House and Gardens near Jedburgh, its inaugural winter light trail, Monteviot Lights, shines a light on the beauty of the Scottish Borders.

Visitors will be transported to a magical evening wonderland at Brodie Castle in Forres.

The whole family can go for an after-dark wander through the estate, following lit-up pathways in the gardens and along the magnificent West Avenue.

Set in the magical surrounding of Beecraigs Country Park near Linlithgow, Beecraigs Festive Forest is a mesmerising family experience with panoramic views over the Forth Bridges, Edinburgh, the Lothians and Fife. There’s also a Santa’s Grotto and festive street food.

Christmas Essentials

Roaming freely since 1952, the Cairngorm Reindeer Herd is Britain’s only free-ranging herd of reindeer.

Glasgow’s George Square will see the Christmas Lights Switch On, while at the newly renovated Radisson Blu Glasgow, you can take part in a night of festive glamour at one of its annual Christmas Parties. To bring in 2024, the hotel is hosting a vibrant New Year’s Eve Themed Street Party.

If shopping is your thing, drop by one of the great eight cities Scotland has to offer..

Think artisanal gifts from Perth or items celebrating V&A Dundee’s landmark exhibition Tartan which runs until January.

Get historical in Dunfermline, and go local in Stirling, exploring the Victorian shopping mall filled with independent retailers.

Head to a magical winter wonderland at Dundee’s WinterFest @ Slessor Gardens or Braemar’s Festival de Noël, home to family events, 40 market stalls, Christmas concert and workshops.

Get cosy and coorie in!

Murrayshall Estate, Perthshire

The 400-year-old Manor House in scenic Perthshire, Scotland has a festive pop-up with handcrafted gift ideas, while there are wreath-making masterclasses. If you’re twiddling your thumbs between Christmas and New Year, Murrayshall Estate has special offers including a stay in an Estate Guest Room and a full Scottish breakfast in Eolas Restaurant. murrayshall.co.uk

Ross Bay Retreats, Dumfries & Galloway

These cosy coastal cottages overlooking Ross Bay are situated in the UNESCO Galloway & Southern Ayrshire Biosphere – 15 minutes away from the lively fishing port Kirkcudbright. Featuring stunning scenery and sea views, guests can roam across the working farm or explore the acres of forest and coastline. Four-legged friends are welcome. rossbayretreat.com

Loch Katrine Eco Lodges, Stirling

Choose from 10 lochside lodges in one of the most beautiful parts of The Trossachs overlooking Loch Katrine and Ben Venue. This eco camp is the perfect base to get away from it all and you can head out onto Loch Katrine for the Santa sailings on Lady of the Lake and in the Steamship Café. lochkatrine.com

Highland Coast Hotels, North Coast 500

This winter, guests can explore three stunning coasts thanks to Highland Coast Hotels’ East Meets West itinerary package. It’s the perfect way to be immersed in the local culture, explore hidden gems and tuck into seasonal produce at different properties along the route with a luxury winter lunch picnic. highlandcoasthotels.com

Glenapp Castle, Ayrshire

Set on the stunning Ayrshire coast, Glenapp Castle is the perfect retreat to enjoy long scenic walks on a crisp Scotland winter day. Choose to unwind with a relaxing in-suite massage, or warm up at the private members coastal spa nearby. Those looking for something more active can choose from Glenapp’s unique activity programme, which includes axe-throwing, archery and hiking. glenappcastle.com

For more information on these and other winter experiences around Scotland, go to: visitscotland.com

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