Scotland’s Winter Festivals 2016/2017

Celebrating St Andrew's Day in St Andrews. Pic by Jane Barlow

Make sure you top up your supply of #ScotSpirit this winter by visiting as many of Scotland’s Winter Festivals as you can!


Between raising the roof for Hogmanay and raising a dram in honour of the Bard on Burns Night – it’s fair to say that Scotland does a celebration well.


Here’s our guide to Scotland’s Winter Festivals 2016/2017.



Illumination: Harbour Festival of Light


The sky will light up with fireworks and Irvine’s historic waterfront will shimmer into life this St Andrew’s Day withIllumination – a four-day art and light spectacular marking Scotland’s 2016 Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design.

Where: Irvine, North Ayrshire

When: 30 November – 3 December 2016 

Edinburgh’s Christmas


Edinburgh’s Christmas has two festive markets: the European Christmas Market in East Princes St Gardens (19 November – 7 January), and the Scottish Market at George Street (26 November – 24 December).  The Street of Light is once again illuminating George Street in a canopy of light synchronized to music and this year’s packed theatre programme in the new Festival Square Theatre promises magic, music and Five Guys Named Moe!

Where: Edinburgh

When: 18 November – 7 January

Glasgow Loves Christmas


Glasgow Loves Christmas sees magical events, shopping and festive fun happening in the heart of the city.  Head to the Christmas Market in St Enoch Square for festive gifts and treats or get on Santa’s good list by taking part in this year’s Santa Dash on December 6 to raise money for good causes.

Where: Glasgow

When: 13 November 2016 – 17 January 2017 

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay


Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is Scotland’s world-famous New Year festival.  Join the enchanting Torchlight Procession as it passes through Edinburgh’s Old Town on 30 December, before grabbing your ticket for the famous Hogmanay street party and a spectacular fireworks display on 31 December.  Watch headliner Paulo Nutini at the Concert in the Gardens on New Year’s Eve too.  On 1 January, brave souls can take a refreshing (read icy cold!) dip in the Firth of Forth during the annual Loony Dook.

Where: Edinburgh

When: 30 December 2016 – 1 January 2017

Family Hogmanay in the Honest Toun


The Brunton, Musselburgh, hosts a day packed with family-friendly activities to celebrate Hogmanay. Ticketed activities and events run from 11am – 5.30pm with an early evening free Lantern Parade and spectacular free Fireworks Display at Fisherrow Links.

Where: Musselburgh, East Lothian

When: 31 December 2016

Stirling Winter Festival


With a host of great events taking place over the St Andrew’s Day weekend, artist-led creative workshops throughout December and a carnival of light and sound at Hogmanay, Stirling Winter Festival makes for a wonderful family event.

Where: Stirling

When: 20 November – 31 December 2016

Big Burns Supper Festival


The Big Burns Supper Festivais the world’s biggest Burns Night celebration and features a nine-day programme of music, cabaret, comedy and theatre, including the biggest street carnival in Scotland with over 5, 000 participants.

Where: Dumfries & Galloway

When: 20 -28 January 2017

Alloway 1759  


Alloway 1759 is a unique commemoration of the birthplace and the life of Robert Burns.  Discover special illuminations, be enchanted by mischievous sights, sounds and entertainment as historic landmarks come alive – and be amazed by the Alloway 1759 Haggis Hurling Championships!

Where: Ayr

When: Throughout January

Burns Unbound – National Museum of Scotland


Celebrate the national Bard with a packed programme of performances and activities for all ages.  Burns Unbound will celebrate the best contemporary and traditional Scottish music and the spoken word of Burns in the iconic setting of the National Museum of Scotland.

Where: Edinburgh

When: 22 January 2017



For more information on festive events in Scotland, and to download VisitScotland’s A-Z of Winter in Scotland, please visit   

More Midwinter Magic

This December, the National Trust for Scotland has fairies, elves, reindeer parades, visits from Santa and Mrs Claus and even owls lined up to help families grab Christmas by the antlers!


Events are taking place in NTS properties all over Scotland throughout December, including:


Christmas Wonderland

Crathes Castle, Aberdeenshire
Sat 3 & Sun 4 Dec, 10.30am – 4pm
The castle has been transformed into Santa’s workshop, see Santa and his reindeer on parade, pop into Mrs Claus’ Christmas kitchen and try your hand at Christmas pudding skittles on the croquet lawn.


The Magical Castle – A Christmas Dream 
Culzean Castle and Country Park, Ayrshire

Sunday 4, 11 & 18 Dec, 10.30am – 4pm (timed tickets)
The family are preparing for a Victorian Christmas. Carols are being sung, servants are preparing tasty treats and the halls have been decked! Tickets also include a trip to see Santa in his Grotto.


Drum Castle, Aberdeenshire

Sat 3, Sun 4, Sat 10 & Sun 11 Dec, 11am – 4pm
Back for its 22nd year, Holly Fest is a special time at Drum, with an indoor market, elves’ toy factory, driver-friendly mulled wine and music.


Midwinter Lights & Festive Market 
Falkland Palace, Fife

Sat 17 & Sun 18 Dec, 4 – 8.30pm (timed tickets)
Brighten up your dark winter nights with a stroll around the formal gardens at Falkland Palace, with its gorgeous lighting display and a Festive Market.
Return of the Reindeer
Holmwood, Glasgow

Sat 3, Sun 4, Sat 10 & Sun 11 Dec, 11am – 4pm
Santa and his reindeer are returning for Christmas 2016 so come along and find out if you made the ‘nice’ list and meet the real reindeer.
Winter Holly Days & Santa
Newhailes, Musselburgh

Sat 10, Sun 11, Sat 17 & Sun 18 Dec, 11am – 4pm
Celebrate the Winter Holly Days at Newhailes, with Santa in his grotto, music in the courtyard, delicious seasonal treats in the café, gift ideas in the shop and wreath-making workshops.
Pollok House, Glasgow
Sat 3 – Sat 24 Dec, 11am – 4pm (timed tickets)
Meet Mrs Claus at Pollok House this Christmas. The house will be decorated for Christmas and all good children will receive a special gift from Mrs Claus in her cosy festive room.


Jingle Owl the Way 

Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, Ayrshire

Sat 10 & Sun 11 Dec, 10am – 4pm (timed tickets)
Write a Christmas letter with a quill with the help of Santa’s elves, meet the snowy owl who will take it to the North Pole and have a chat with Santa in Burns Cottage.


Booking is essential for all events. Click here for the full festive programme, prices and booking information.

The Ghost of Christmas Past


From December 18-22, guests visiting The Real Mary King’s Close can join the attraction’s Scotland’s Yuletide Past tours and uncover a different and somewhat darker side to the festive season.



Advance booking is recommended and this can be done here.