Christmas in Scotland is quite simply magical; wander through atmospheric cobbled streets, the crisp night air filled with the aroma of mulled wine, the sound of laughter echoing from the outdoor ice rinks, snow glistening upon beautifully illuminated castle turrets and bright lights twinkling from the bustling Christmas markets. Cosy pubs and restaurants with warm logs fires await happy shoppers with weary feet, and our collection of Christmas cottages offer the perfect place to gather friends and family to bring in the New Year.
Fall under Scotland’s captivating winter spell and enjoy the perfect festive break with your loved ones with our highlights of the great events, unique entertainment and shopping experiences that it has to offer in 2018:
When: St Enoch Christmas Market 9th November – 23rd December 2018, George Square Christmas Market 25th November – 31st December 2018
Where: St Enoch and George Square, Glasgow
Get your winter woollies on and embrace the festivities on offer with the whole family in the heart of Glasgow. Both traditional Christmas markets offer a wide selection of unique festive gifts and delicious street food, along with a welcoming bar to warm up in with a glass of festive cheer. Delight in the spectacular view from the iconic Big Wheel, enjoy the traditional carousel or join in some of the fantastic live entertainment that’s on offer.
When: 16th November 2018 – 5th January 2019
Over a period of six weeks Scotland’s Capital city transforms into a magical winter wonderland with an exciting programme of events to get the whole family into the Scottish festive spirit. Centred around Princes Street Gardens highlights include:
- Light Night – encapsulating the true spirit of the Scottish festive season this free event officially marks the start of Christmas in Edinburgh. Join an audience of around 20,000 people and watch the Christmas Tree on the Mound being lit against a spectacular backdrop of fireworks and the soothing voices of choirs from across Scotland.
- St Andrew Square Ice Rink – don your skates and take a turn around this glittering outdoor ice rink with Edinburgh’s famous skyline as an unrivalled backdrop. Evening slots are available, perfect for an after-dinner glide under the sparkling Christmas lights.
- Traditional Christmas Market – take a stroll through the cinnamon-fuelled markets, a mug of mulled wine or hot chocolate in hand and browse a plethora of stalls boasting the best crafts and gastronomic delights that Scotland has to offer.
- Giant Advent Calendar – be sure to visit this unique night-time sight, which is projected onto the General Register House every evening between 5.30pm and 10pm throughout December. Each evening a new window will be opened revealing glimpses of Edinburgh Winters from years gone-by, a marvel not to be missed.
- Santa Land – enjoy a host of rides and attractions for all ages including the Christmas Tree Maze and Santa Train, or if you’re feeling brave enjoy a thrilling journey on the Big Wheel or the Star Flyer, both of which are guaranteed to make your hair stand on end!
When: 22nd November – 31st December 2018
Where: Broad Street, Aberdeen
This family favourite Christmas event in Scotland boasts a picturesque open-air ice rink set against the beautiful backdrop of Marischal College, and festive fairground rides including a traditional carousel, helter-skelter and for the thrill seekers, The Blizzard. Visitors can indulge in a spot of Christmas shopping at the German style market, and sample some traditional food and drink as they soak up the atmosphere in the entertainment marquee.
When: 23rd November – 29th December 2018
Where: Edinburgh Botanic Gardens
As twilight falls, follow an enchanting botanical outdoor trail of light through the world-famous Edinburgh Botanic Gardens. This illuminated trail magically winds its way through the garden for one mile, creating a mesmerising display to delight all ages. Discover the new trail of glowing larger-than-life incandescent flowers rising up into the night sky, wander through the Cathedral of Light, decorated with over 100,000 pea-lights and don’t forget to give Santa a wave. Indulge in some spiced cider, mulled wine, or hot chocolate as the aroma of roasting chestnuts fills the air, before browsing the Garden’s festive gift shop.
When: 1st – 23rd December 2018 (check timetables on their website)
Where: Bo’ness Station, Bo’ness
Combine the nostalgia of a steam railway with the excitement of meeting Santa for a really great day out in Scotland. The ‘Santa Train’ runs for the first four weekends of December, and during the seven-mile journey to Birkhill, Santa will meet all the children and give each one a gift. There are complimentary festive refreshments for adults, and included in the ticket is a visit to the Museum of Scottish Railways, Scotland’s largest railway museum, perfect for some interactive fun afterwards.
When: 30th November – 24th December 2018
Where: North Ballochruin Farm, Balfron Station
Board the magical trailer and take a journey through an enchanted forest, keeping your eyes peeled for Santa’s woodland neighbours as you head towards his cosy cottage. On arrival you will be greeted by Santa himself and invited in to tell him what you would like for Christmas. Kids are given the opportunity to have their photo taken with him, before waving goodbye and setting off for home on the trailer accompanied by a wealth of Christmas singing led by the elves. Delicious hot food, drinks and a range of Christmas decorations are available for purchase when you return to the shed, and it is an experience the whole family will never forget.
When: 17th November – 24th December 2018
Where: Snow Factor, Glasgow
What could be more magical than visiting Santa and getting to play in the snow? At the Snow Factor you can do just that. Over the festive period they are offering experiences with Santa including a short story reading and present giving, followed by 30 minutes of sledging on real snow (adults can join in too!). Snow Factor is home to the longest indoor real snow slope in the UK and offers a range of exciting family activities if you would like to continue your winter fun. There is an indoor ice wall to tackle, or you can learn to ski or snowboard by expert instructors. There’s even an Ice Bar where adults can chill and be chilled with a festive cocktail.
When: 8th – 9th December 2018 (timed tickets)
Where: Burns Cottage, Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, Ayrshire
Visit Burns Cottage and let your little ones spend some time with Santa’s elves writing their Christmas letter on a parchment using traditional quills and ink. One of the elves will then take them to meet Santa’s snowy owl who will take their letter back to the North Pole after stopping for a photo, which kids can take home as a wonderful keepsake. Santa is waiting in the Cottage Kitchen to give out gifts to children who have been good this year, and there are plenty of snacks for kids and mulled wine and mince pies for the adults. There is also a Fayre Market on the Saturday, ideal to pick up some special last-minute gifts for friends and family.
When: 1st – 2nd December 2018
Where: Culzean Castle and Country Park, Ayrshire and Arran
Step back in time and experience a Victorian Christmas at Culzean Castle. This family-friendly festive event in Scotland boats a plethora of merry delights including traditional parlour games with Lady Evelyn, hanging stockings, Christmas storytelling and helping the cook prepare a magnificent feast. A special treat is meeting Father Christmas in the long drawing room and riding in traditional horse and cart. There are plenty of unique gift ideas and decorations to browse on the wonderful gardeners stall and traditional hot refreshments to keep everyone in joyful spirits.
When: 9th December 2018
Where: George Square, Glasgow
Santa Claus is coming to town and you can join him and thousands of other Santa’s for a festive 5K run in the name of charity! This annual Christmas spectacle has raised more than £200,000 for various charities since it began in 2006 and is now a firm favourite in the city’s events calendar. Who wouldn’t want to witness a sea of merry Santa’s pounding the streets of Glasgow?
When: 15th - 24th December 2018
Embark on a special journey to Santa’s grotto and watch kids beam with delight aboard a magical boat trip. Dance and sing along with Santa’s elves as you approach his winter wonderland; there are gifts for all the good girls and boys and the chance to have their picture taken with Santa. There is plenty of festive fun to keep little ones entertained ranging from gingerbread decorating, to face painting, Christmas games and more. Adults aren’t left out either with mulled wine and festive treats a plenty.
When: 20th December 2018 – 13th January 2019
Where: SEC Glasgow
Roll up, roll up and enjoy some festive family fun at the Irn-Bru Carnival, Europe’s largest indoor fun fair with over 60 rides and attractions, perfect for thrill seekers of all ages. Smaller tots can use the soft play area and a selection of smaller rides whilst bigger kids and adults can scream to their hearts content on a host of adrenaline fuelled larger rides including Speed Buzz, Air Swing Star Flyer and Extreme (the names say it all!). If rides aren’t your thing there are plenty of games stalls to try your luck and win some prizes, so be sure to book your tickets in advance if you fancy a livelier lead up to Chrimbo this year.
Map of Christmas attractions in Scotland:
Plan your festive break in Scotland by finding your favourite Christmas attractions from the list on the map below.
Whether you want to revel in the bustling Christmas markets, witness a dazzling firework display or delight the kids with a visit to see Santa, we have a variety of cosy places to stay in Scotland, perfect for a cracking Christmas break.
Take a look at our holiday cottages in Scotland.
*Dates are correct at the time of publishing; however, they are subject to change.