Scotland’s Winter Festivals!

The Christmas Tree at Glasgow's George Square. Photo courtesy of VisitScotland

From toasting our patron saint on St Andrew’s Day, November 30, to Burns Night suppers on January 25, and with Hogmanay in between, Scotland’s Winter Festivals will certainly celebrate the spirit and fun of Scotland’s festive season, all warmed up with a cosy jumper and a wee dram.

As Christmas arrives, Scotland’s towns and cities are dressed up to sparkle, offering Christmas markets full of delicious local produce, along with fun and attractions to keep both naughty and nice children entertained.

And once the presents have been unwrapped and the turkey’s been eaten, there’s nothing quite like seeing in the New Year in Scotland, where the party doesn’t stop – even on January 1.

Here are a few of this year’s winter highlights to look out for…

St Andrew’s Day

The Saltire Festival, East Lothian
November 23 – 29, 2015

East Lothian’s Saltire Festival returns for its sixth year, with a packed programme of events celebrating St Andrew’s Day in The Home of the Flag. As well as a specially themed race day at Musselburgh Racecourse, people can enjoy a St Andrew’s Day themed Haddington Farmers’ Market and an evening of fine wine, food and gastronomy at The Saltire Epicurean Encounter.

The John Muir Winter Carnival returns to Foxlake Adventure, promising another action packed day and the chance to try a variety of water and land-based activities, from kayaking to mountain biking.

Other events include Scotland on Film, a showcase of Scottish cinema at The Brunton Theatre; Appetite for Music, inviting young, local musicians to play local pubs and restaurants in collaboration with ELJam, East Lothian’s Youth Music Forum.

Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh
November 28 2015 –  December 1, 2015

The Scottish Storytelling Centre welcomes an exciting and varied programme of readings, talks and suppers to mark St Andrew’s Day, including Oor Scotland, presented by Andy Cannon and Wendy Weatherby; a Family Ceilidh; A National Anthem For Scotland featuring musician Bob Murray; and Café Ceilidh St Andrew’s Day Celebration featuring Linten Adie and friends from the Scots Music Group.

Santa Claus is coming to town…

Edinburgh’s Christmas
November 20, 2015 –  January 4, 2016

Scotland’s Capital pulls out the stops for the festive season, with Edinburgh’s Christmas beginning with the stalls of the Continental-style Christmas market on East Princes Street Gardens.

Funfair attractions range from the Big Wheel to the gravity-defying Star Flyer while for a fun day or night out with family, St Andrew Square features the Spiegeltent with its many fabulous shows, the Scottish Market, a Children’s Market, the helter skelter, one of the two fantastic carousels, a circular ice rink and bars.


Glasgow Loves Christmas
From November 13, 2015

With a jam-packed events programme, some of the best shopping in the UK, great places to eat and drink and a glittering city centre backdrop, it’s clear to see why Glasgow Loves Christmas.

This year’s Glasgow Christmas Market will run at St. Enoch Square from November 13 until December 20, while from November 16, George Square will be a hub of festive activity with free, family-friendly entertainment every day of the week. Enjoy the sparkling Christmas lights and the beautiful tree surrounded by the festive displays. Go for a drink in the pavilion bar area or have fun on the fairground rides which includes the much-loved carousel.


Aberdeen Winter Festival
November 26 –  January 3, 2016

This year, Aberdeen will have the city’s first ever Christmas Village, open-air ice rink and festive fairground rides. Other festive features of Aberdeen Winter Festival will include the Christmas Lights Switch-On, special St Andrew’s Day Celebrations on 30 November, Trinity Centre reindeer parade, Nativity Scene, and Carol Concert and Hogmanay Celebrations.


Christmas at Blair Castle, Perthshire
December 13 & 20, 2015

Set within the beautiful Perthshire countryside, visit Blair Castle at Christmas, decorated as it was in the Victorian era, when the 7th Duke lived and his family lived there. Enjoy a break from Christmas shopping with a three-course Christmas Sunday lunch next to the roaring fire in the historic ballroom and finish off your visit with a trip to Santa’s magical grotto, set in one of the oldest parts of the castle.

And, by popular demand, Santa will be returning with his bagpipes, with Christmas jingles and special requests!

Party like it’s 2016!

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay
December 30, 2015 – January 1, 2016

The world-famous Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations begin on December 30 with the Torchlight Procession then on December 31, the musical line-up across the seven stages in the centre of the city promises to deliver an exhilarating party soundtrack for the anticipated 75,000 revellers.

On January 1, 2016, brave souls will take part in the Loony Dook which sees 1,250 ‘Dookers’ in fancy dress, ranging from the weird to the wonderful, welcome the New Year with a dip in the River Forth at South Queensferry.


Stirling’s Hogmanay
December 31, 2015 – January 1, 2016

The streets come alive with a carnival parade of light and sound, and midnight fireworks explode over the city’s historic skyline.

Stirling’s Hogmanay celebrations include a programme of family-friendly entertainment for the countdown to midnight fireworks. The celebrations will be rounded off on January 1 with Stirling’s Resolution Run, a 5K organised with local sports clubs to kick off the New Year.


We’ll have more on Scotland’s January events soon, and keep an eye out for our Up Helly Aa and Loony Dook special in the January issue of The Scots Magazine!
For more information on festive events in Scotland, to check out what’s happening near you and to download VisitScotland’s A-Z of Winter in Scotland, click here.

Sleigh Divider

At The Drive In!

The UK’s biggest Christmas drive-in cinema, the Edinburgh Christmas Spectacular, is coming to the Royal Highland Centre in Edinburgh.

With the world’s biggest outdoor screen, he festival will be showing iconic films including Elf, a sing-along version of Disney’s Frozen, Miracle on 34th Street and Die Hard.

As well as movie screenings, visitors can enjoy a Lapland market, food and drink stalls, in-car karaoke and take part in the Christmas dressing-up competition.

The Edinburgh Christmas Spectacular runs from December 19-23, with tickets  priced at £26 per car. To find out more, click here.


On the afternoon of January 1, 2016 in the centre of Edinburgh, Scot:Lands offers a scintillating selection of the best of Scotland’s artistic talent.

Audiences ‘check in’ at the Departure Lounge in the University of Edinburgh’s Old College, before spinning a compass to discover their first destination on a randomly, tantalisingly selected, unpredictable journey through 11 hidden Edinburgh Old Town venues.

Tickets are free and available from