Well Winter is officially here, but no it’s not time to hibernate quite yet. Not when a flurry of festive festivals are rampaging their fun filled way through Scotland. Join me now as I take you on a six stop tour of belly-and-heart-warming festivals guaranteed to lift your mood, get you in the festive spirit and propel you towards Hogmanay. There are plenty of great youth hostels to use too as a base for your seasonal festivities. Enjoy!

1. Glasgow – People Make Glasgow so the slogan goes and Glaswegians do tend to be at their gregarious best at this time of year. As well as being a brilliant place to do your Christmas shopping there is Glasgow Loves Christmas. An ice rink graces the Georgian grandeur of George Square, as well as tempting flurry of food and drink stalls and funfair rides. Kids love it and it gets adults in the mood too. The energetic amongst you can enter the frankly barmy Glasgow Santa Dash on December 6. If it is chilly I recommend a wee ‘break’ at the Hamleys store near George Square. Father Christmas will be in attendance.
Nearest youth hostelGlasgow.

Image Credit: Edinburgh Christmas

Image Credit: Edinburgh Christmas

2. Edinburgh
– Edinburgh already had a brilliant Hogmanay, but in recent years the Scottish capital has upped the ante on Christmas too. A few German market stalls is not good enough for Edinburgh. Instead the whole city centre bursts alive with an impressive display of festive fever. Edinburgh’s Christmas bustles on right through to January 4. The main focus is on East Princes Street Gardens and St Andrew Square. The former is host to Santa’s Grotto and his, er festive train. There is a small ice rink too and a swathe of market stalls where you can pick up gorgeous festive fare or some last minute presents. St Andrew Square boasts everything from a double decker carousel and helter skelter tower, through to a big ice rink (with a bar in the middle) and a theatre tent home to myriad performances. My favourite experience? Tucking into lobster and chips while I watch the kids on the carousel! If you have an EH postcode make sure to take proof along for 20% off all shows, rides and events. A new attraction for this year too is the Virgin Money Street of Light, which sees 60,000+ lights spectacularly light the Royal Mile. It kicks off on St Andrew’s Day on November 30. Although you will need a ticket to head along, they are free.
Nearest youth hostel – Edinburgh Central.

Image Credit: Edinburgh Christmas

3. Stirling –
Deeply historic Stirling lets its hair down at this time of year. Visit Stirling Castle on December 1 and it is not about King Robert the Bruce or the Stuart Dynasty, but something more festive. The Stirling Castle Christmas Shopping Fayre to be exact. There can be few more atmospheric places for festive shopping than here high up within the ramparts of this ancient fortress. Whether you want to pick up a unique souvenir or just some Yuletide foodie treats you will find it here. Booking is recommend with tickets for adults £5. Children under 16 go free.
Nearest youth hostelStirling.

4. Inverness – Festive festivities come to the Highlands with a flurry of activity in Inverness. The Christmas Arts, Crafts and Food Fair on November 28 and 29 kicks things off. Look out for mulled wine and music with the backdrop of Brodie Castle and its stables. The market sprawls over two fun filled floors. The £4 admission includes non-alcoholic mulled wine and mince pies. Children and parking are free. December 4, 5 and 6 see the Christmas Arts, Crafts & Food Fair at Eden Court 2 take over two floors of the Bishops Palace and upstairs in the bar area of Eden Court with over 80 exhibitors tempting festive shoppers. Free Entry. Winter Wander at Belladrum meanwhile on December 10 involves a stomp up Phoineas Hill then a wander the grounds of the Belladrum Estate. The next day sees Winter Wonderland kick off. Whin Park is transformed with illuminations as that hard working man in the red suit and his reindeer arrive for a wee break before the big night. Runs until December 13.
Nearest youth hostelInverness.

5. Cairngorms – What could be more Christmassy than reindeer? Not just any reindeer either. These furry fellas are the only herd in the UK to spend much of the year in the wild, high up on the Cairngorm plateau. The Cairngorm Reindeer Herd make the effort to drop down among us to put in a serious festive shift. They tour the country appearing at various events, but you can also catch them at their home in the national park. The Cairngorm Reindeer Centre offers the chance to meet these graceful animals and to ride along in an open top sleigh with all those cheesy songs swirling around in your head. I took my girls up a few years back and they loved their ride in Santa’s sleigh!
Nearest youth hostel – Aviemore / Cairngorm Lodge.

6. Aberdeen – Scotland’s third largest city does not like to be outdone at this time of year. It offers the delights of the Winter Festival. It all kicked off on November 26 with the spectacle of the Christmas Tree Switch On which saw the Granite City’s Christmas Tree Lights turned on by the Lord Provost of Aberdeen and a dignitary from Aberdeen’s Norwegian twin town of Stavanger. This fellow North Sea port provides Aberdeen’s annual Christmas spruce tree too. Get your vocal chords in tune for some carols on November 29 and then visit the Christmas Village. Look out too for the Trinity Centre Reindeer Parade. The same night heralds the Christmas Lights Switch On Parade, a massive event that last year brought in over 20,000 people.
Nearest youth hostel: Aberdeen.

Biography for Robin McKelvie

Robin McKelvie (www.robinmckelvie.com) is a Scottish travel writer, broadcaster and blogger who has been covering his native land since the 1990s. A member of the British Guild of Travel Writers, Robin is the author of a number of guidebooks, including National Geographic’s Scotland guide. He regularly contributes to a variety of newspapers and magazines across five continents, such as the Times and the Scotsman, as well as doing travel slots for BBC radio. Robin can be found on Twitter at www.twitter.com/robinmckelvie.

Leave a Comment