Winter in Scotland means picturesque snow covered mountains inviting winter sports and traditional festivals. Ski or snowboard at any of the country’s top facilities, which also feature a number of off-piste activities and entertainment. Stick around for the holiday season for some of the most elaborate and unique events in the world. From the extensive New Year’s Hogmanay Festival to events celebrating Norse culture, winters in Scotland provide something for everyone.
The slopes at Cairngorm, Glenshee or Nevis Range offer thousands of acres of varied snow covered terrain and the perfect location for skiing and snowboarding from December through April. All facilities cater to winter sports enthusiasts of all skill levels and offer group and private instruction if desired. Glenshee features 36 runs and 21 lifts spanning over 2,000 acres that includes three valleys and four mountains. (http://www.ski-glenshee.co.uk/)
Cairngorm has an extensive array of off-piste activities ranging from sledding and tobogganing parks to mountain nature hikes. Venture to nearby Aviemore for shopping and nightlife entertainment. (http://www.cairngormmountain.org/) The Nevis Range features the highest peaks in the country along with vast open snowfields. The convenience of the location includes gondolas that pick up winter sports fans in the car park and then transporting passengers to the vast resort complex. (http://www.nevisrange.co.uk/)
All around the country, communities gather and celebrate the season. Glasgow starts the festivities with the illumination of Christmas lights, traditional music and a fireworks display launched from the City Chambers building roof. A special skating rink provides winter fun for all through January. Rink side cafes offer warming mulled wine and snacks.
By Edinburgh Castle, the community celebrates a Norwegian Christmas with the lighting of a 45-foot tall tree. A festive Winter Wonderland offers a magical setting for an outdoor skating rink complete with carnival, activities and vendors. The city also offers a traditional German market filled with dozens of stalls offering a vast selection of handmade crafts, toys and foods. An estimated one-half million turn out for the celebration annually.
For centuries, Christmas celebrations remained taboo in Scotland. The people redirected their desire for gathering and festivities around the coming of the New Year. Bonfires, fireworks displays and street parties accompany concerts, parades and the appreciation of fine Scotch whiskey in a celebration that spans at least three days.
Many local traditions include the “first footing.” At the stroke of midnight, neighbours commonly visit each other bearing gifts of fruitcake, shortbread or other baked goods. The household in turn offers the guest a small taste of whiskey. Legend has it that luck or peril for the coming year directly correlated with who passed the threshold. Amongst the many public celebrations includes the joining of hands while singing native Robert Burns’ world famous hymn “Auld Lang Syne.”
The people of Scotland gladly share their love of culture and tradition with guests visiting from all over the world. Whether looking for exciting modern day winter fun or desiring a bit of ancient Celtic history, Scotland has it all.
Sally writes on behalf of letinedinburgh.co.uk who provide serviced apartments in Edinburgh for when you visit Scotland’s capital city.