You may be forgiven for thinking that during the winter months, Scottish weather can be a little unforgiving, and thus refrain from booking winter holidays in Scotland. However, the Scots however, are a rugged race, and the years of bad weather have instilled a tough attitude to have fun come what may during the roughest of seasons. With this in mind you will find that Scotland is a great place to visit in the winter, especially over the Christmas period.
Scotland is well known the world over for holding some of the greatest New Year celebrations going, with Edinburgh in particular holding a spectacular New Years Eve party. Alternatively, for a truly waterside break, consider visiting Queensferry on the Firth of Forth over the Hogmanay celebrations and take part in the Loony Dook. Swimming alongside the scantily clad people who take it upon themselves to run into the icy cold waters of the firth may not be your thing, but the event attracts a fair number of spectators too. There are however many other internationally famous events in the winter that won’t require stripping and freezing yourself.
A decidedly warmer celebration takes place in Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire where at midnight on Hogmanay, a few hundred people light burning fireballs and swing them around their heads whilst walking to the harbour; finally throwing their fireballs into the sea.
Whilst there are many events in Scotland that still celebrate pagan rituals, there are also many cultural events that can find their roots in mainland Europe. The Shetland Isle, which is remarkably close to Norway, loves to celebrate their Scandinavian traditions each year by holding Europe’s largest fire festival. On the last Tuesday of January, the people of Lerwick dress as Vikings and walk through the town bearing flaming torches in memory of the settlers who populated the isle. ‘Up Helly Aa’ culminates in the burning of a Viking Longboat and many hours drinking in Lerwick’s town halls and pubs.
On the mainland and western coast, the links are more Celtic in culture and are more in line with the common held stereotype Scotsman. The internationally famous Celtic Connections Festival that takes place in Glasgow every year has grown rapidly in the 15 years since its inception, and now attracts 120,000 visitors per annum. The festival features artists whose acts find roots in traditional Scottish music and performers come from places as far away as Canada, The United States and New Zealand, whilst also attracting Celtic artists from Spain and France.
Fort William Mountain Festival is a slightly more modern event focusing on the many outdoor activities on offer in the Scottish mountains. Fort William itself has branded itself as the “Outdoor Capital of the UK” as thousands of people use the area in the summer months to go mountaineering, mountain biking, and sea kayaking. Whilst there is potential to go snowboarding, skiing and ice climbing in the winter, the event is a great excuse for people to showcase the product of the previous summer’s thrills whilst attracting people back to the area. The event is well cemented on the extreme sports calendar and has been likened to the Sundance festival of extreme sports. Waterside Breaks have many Scottish holiday lodges in the area too, offering a great place to stay with your friends.
And yet we haven’t already mentioned Burns Night. This most overtly Scottish of celebrations memorialises the national bard Robert Burns and is celebrated on his birthday: The 25th of January. From stupendously conventional formal dinners to pure whiskey drinking sessions, Burns night would not be complete without a haggis and a warm Scottish log cabin in which to stumble into a cosy slumber. Book now to avoid disappointment!
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