If you’re looking for a round up of the most festive things to do in Scotland right now I’ve just finishing talking with Fiona Stalker on BBC Radio Scotland’s Out for the Weekend show and these are the highlights. Listen here at 1:46:00.
1 TALK TO THE ANIMALS
Feed the Feed the Reindeer at Ythan – Just outside Ellon in Aberdeenshire it’s possible to visit Santa’s reindeer herd. As they wander around the paddock a guide will let little ones feed them and answer any questions about Rudolph and his friends. It’s a great opportunity to see these iconic beasts close up and learn more about them. It’s also possible to sit on Santa’s sleigh (which creates memorable photo opportunities for youngsters), enter his grotto to post your letter to him and hear a video message from the man himself. Ythan only opens annually from the end of November till Christmas Eve so grab your opportunity to visit now.
Don’t forget the fantastic Cairngorm Reindeer Herd in Aviemore. And reindeer will be visiting Holmwood House in Glasgow, 3-4 and 10-11 December 2016.
Jingle Owl the Way (my favourite title of the festive period)- Robert Burns’ Birthplace Museum, Ayrshire, 10-11 December 2016. The idea is kids spend time with one of Santa’s elves writing their own Christmas letter on parchment with quills and ink. Then you’re taken to meet Santa’s snowy owl (who knew he had one?) who takes each child’s message back to the north pole. A novel approach to the Christmas post.
2 Some events have combined NATURE with Christmas in really clever ways. My particular favourites are:
Christmas Tree Exploration – Crathes Castle – As part of the Nature Nippers series a Ranger and your kids explore the festive forest and the beasties that live in it. Each child will make a mini Christmas tree to take home with them. Tuesday 6 December 2016 11.00am-12.00pm.
Star Gazing – Galloway Forest Park is holding a Stargazing Event. They haven’t used the word ‘Christmas’ at all but considering the three wise men were led by a bright star to the manger this could be an atmospheric evening for older children. Galloway Forest Park is one of the darkest places in Scotland, which is why it’s the UK’s first Dark Sky Park (I didn’t know that!). Over 7,000 stars and planets are visible with the naked eye from the Forest Park, and their December star gazing evening falls on the 17th from 6.30pm.
Storytelling and Carols by the Fire at the Children’s Wood and Meadow in Glasgow on the 18 Dec from 4pm. So it will be pitch dark but early enough for little ones. Bring your own chair and your own adult!
3 OUTDOOR CITY LIVING
Aberdeen is building on its Christmas offering. New for 2016 is a Christmas tree maze which opened today. Lose yourself, or lose the kids, in the spirit of Christmas. This’ll be located near the ice rink and Christmas Village on Union Terrace so all very central. I also love the sound of the Twelve Days of Christmas Sculpture Trail. Recently Aberdeen had a dolphin trail and you could visit different parts of the city in search of these statues, so this is similar but Christmassy way to explore the city. The Partridge in a Pear Tree is already on display at the Castlegate. Keep across the council’s Facebook page for more info.
Edinburgh’s Street of Light is returning this year to a new location on the west end of George Street. Running till 24 December 2016, over 60,000 bulbs of light will dazzle the public accompanied by music from local choirs and bands – Edinburgh Festival Chorus, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra with their Junior Chorus, Blazin’ Fiddles and Tigerstyle will all feature.
Santa Run – 11th December 2016 at 11am – Fundraising Santas will run, walk and stroll around West Princes Street Gardens, which is spread over a short 2.5km circuit, raising money for When You Wish Upon A Star. The route is accessible to wheelchairs and mobility scooters. Children in push chairs and dogs on leads are more than welcome, with special prizes for the best dressed pushchair and best dressed dog.
4 HISTORY LOVERS
Duff House – Saturday 3 December 2016 – Learn more about how the Victorians put Christmas on the map at Duff House in Banffshire. This beautiful Georgian building was the home of the Fife family for centuries so join the Victorian Duke of Fife as he celebrates Christmas in his magnificent home and learn where our festive traditions originate from. For older kids this could be a nice change from Santa but still Christmassy.
Edinburgh Castle – Learn about the tales and traditions of a Victorian Christmas, the origins of the Christmas cracker, Christmas cards and other festive traditions. Mon 19 – Fri 23 December 2016. Or go back in time a few hundred years more and you can have a Very Mary Christmas at the castle on Christmas Eve. While Reformation Scotland shuns Christmas festivities, Mary Queen of Scots is celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas with her courtiers.
Lots of steam railways are doing Santa Specials – these are booked up super quick but check out Bo’ness, Strathspey, Milton of Crathes and Caledonian Railway.
6 ALL AT SEA
For something completely different head to Stonehaven Harbour on Saturday 17th December and see Santa arriving by RNLI LIfe Boat. Apparently you also get to meet Chase and Marshall from Paw Patrol so that’s any Paw Patrol fans’ Christmas completely sewn up.
Start planning your Merry Christmas!
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