Looking for the perfect way to end 2023 on a high? Then it’s time to get planning your festive break in Scotland!
Scotland in December is as beautiful a month as any, with its own subtle charms, and year-topping highlights you won’t forget. There’s festive atmosphere galore, perfect cosy retreats and bright winter days. Think of the crunch of winter frost under your feet while enjoying a beautiful country walk, or feeling your cheeks warm up as you sit by a pub fire while a delicious meal is being prepared for you. Scotland guarantees you a fabulous festive season!
Here’s some inspiration…
Christmas Markets and Festivals
We can’t talk about all the things to do in Scotland in December without highlighting our fantastic Christmas markets, which you can find across the country. Think of twinkling lights all around, with the smell of your favourite winter food & drinks wafting in the air and get into the festive spirit with some Christmas shopping.
- Edinburgh’s Christmas – Christmas in the capital is spectacular, and the Christmas markets are the star of the show. Located in Princes Street Gardens, enjoy the numerous fairground rides and carnival atmosphere as well as the wide variety of stalls.
- Castle of Light – Magic and Mystery (November – January) – See Edinburgh Castle light up for a mesmerising experience in one of Scotland’s most iconic attractions, with brand-new state of the art visuals and lighting installations. An all-new and expanded show will create truly unmissable moments as extraordinary projections dance from the castle walls.
- Beecraigs Festive Forest – head to Beecraigs Country Parknear Linlithgow to enjoy an atmospheric light show complete with lasers, illuminated trails, santa’s grotto and plenty of treats.
- Elfingrove (24 November – 3 January) – visit Glasgow and enjoy a celebration of Christmas at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Skate under the stars on Scotland’s biggest ice rink, with a magical music and light show and festive food and drink to enjoy.
- Aberdeen Winter Festival and Christmas Village (18 November – 31 December) – check out new and returning attractions including an outdoor ice rink, festive fairground and scrumptious food and drink.
- Perth Winter Festival (19 November – 31 December) – from street performers to magicians, santa runs to festive silent discos, there is plenty to see at the Perth Winter Festival this year! There will also be live music, stalls with artisan markets and wintry food and drink.
- Glamis Castle Christmas Market (26 – 27 November) – take a trip to this famous Angus attraction for family fun, with a Santa’s Grotto, festive gifts, tasty treats and tour of the castle.
Explore more Christmas markets and festivities across Scotland
Stay in a festive castle for Christmas
Surely one of the best things to do in Scotland in December must be to stay in a magical castle? Many castles offer Christmas packages, for a special holiday you won’t forget!
There are plenty of castles across Scotland to choose from, but here are a few to spark your imagination:
- Fonab Castle Hotel in Perthshire.
- Dalhousie Castle, a short drive from Edinburgh.
- Glenapp Castle in Ayrshire.
- Inverlochy Castle in the Western Highlands, near Fort William.
- Barony Castle near Peebles, in the Scottish Borders.
Find your fairytale castle for a Christmas stay
Glasgow’s annual IRN-BRU Carnival (22 December – 14 January), is Europe’s largest indoor funfair!
It’s a great thing to do in Glasgow in December and the perfect way to get out of the cold on a winter day without sacrificing fun and action. The carnival has it all – from children’s fairground rides, games, stalls and prizes, to an inflatable play area, giant slide and delicious food. This carnival is set to be fantastic fun for both the little and the big kids among us!
Find out more about Europe’s largest indoor funfair!
Curl up and watch a Christmas Rom-Com
Sometimes all you want to do is stay in and watch a movie! There are some fantastic new romantic comedies on Netflix set and filmed in Scotland; the perfect way to unwind after a day of exploring. Here are just a few:
- The Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star was filmed at Hopetoun House in West Lothian, and Newbattle Abbey College in Midlothian. You’ll also see Gosford House, Borthwick Castle, Dundas Castle, Dakota Hotel, Barnbougle and Dalmeny Estate, as well as the Royal Highland Centre.
- Falling for Figaro, which stars Joanna Lumley as a former opera diva-turned singing teacher, was filmed in Glencoe and Luss, on the west bank of Loch Lomond, and Glasgow.
- A Castle for Christmas, which stars Brooke Shields as a novelist and Cary Elwes as a Scottish duke, was filmed at Dalmeny House near Edinburgh, Tantallon Castle in East Lothian, Dakota Hotel in South Queensferry and Edinburgh Airport.
Check out more films set in Scotland
Christmas at the Botanics
Christmas at the Botanics (16 November – 30 December) is a must-see! One of the top things to do in Edinburgh in December, wander round the capital’s 70 acres of majestic gardens in the dark, magically lit up with light features such as the Tunnel of Light, Laser Garden, Festive Flotilla of glowing boats and Scented Fire Garden. There’s music, mulled wine, hot chocolate, festive foods and fire-pits to gather round. You’re guaranteed to get some insta-worthy shots on your way round. We highly recommend it!
Find out more about this sparkling event and book your tickets now
Husky Sled Rides in the Highlands
What better and more memorable way to enjoy Scotland’s beautiful outdoors in the winter than a husky sledge ride! Scotland has a number of husky centres where you can meet the dogs and go for a sledge ride, or even have a full-day experience with professional racers where you help to train the dogs. Snow is also not essential for a ride!
Try Bowland Trails in Perthshire, or explore Aberdeenshire-based Huskyhaven
Visit Santa and his reindeer
Head to the Cairngorms National Park to meet Santa and his reindeer!
The Cairngorm Reindeer Centre is home to around 150 free-ranging reindeer, and is the best spot to meet these friendly characters in their natural habitat. Surrounded by tinsel and decorations, Santa will be there keeping an eye on his reindeer and there are crafting activities you can try, too. You could also head to the nearby Highland Wildlife Park, where you’ll see polar bears, reindeer, arctic foxes, snow leopards and many more.
Visit the Cairngorms National Park
Enjoy World-Class Snowsports
Get out to the hills for some snowsports action! Did you know Scotland offers the best outdoor skiing and snowboarding in the UK? Surrounded by beautiful scenery, the country’s ski centres are accessible from all of Scotland’s cities and offer great runs for beginners and seasoned skiers or boarders alike. There are five resorts in Scotland to choose from – all of which offer skiing or snowboarding equipment hire, slopes suitable for beginners and lessons. The season in Scotland runs from December to April, although do check the conditions before you travel.
- Check travel conditions
- Sign up for snow alerts
- Read our snowsport FAQs
Start your Scottish snowsport journey today
Immerse yourself in unforgettable Hogmanay celebrations
Hogmanay street celebrations in Scotland are legendary!
- Edinburgh’s Hogmanay – soak in the atmosphere at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay street party on New Year’s Eve, with live music from well-known stars, outdoor bars and spectacular fireworks at midnight.
- The Hogmanay Hoolie – at Edinburgh’s iconic Ghillie Dhu, famous for its ceilidhs in this stunning converted church.
- Beach Ballroom Hogmanay Ceilidh – in Aberdeen you can dance the night away at the brilliant Beach Ballroom ceilidh.
- Oban Hogmanay Party – an annual celebration where you can enjoy a lively night of ceilidh music.
And the list goes on! Explore more Hogmanay celebrations across Scotland