Top 10 Things To Do in Scotland

Scotland during the Christmas period is an enchanting, atmospheric and mysterious place celebrating its rich history and modern day cultural and political significance. 2014 marks a landmark year for the country when it hosts the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup, as well as holding a ground-breaking and long-awaited referendum on national independence. In fact, there’s so much going on that Scotland was recently voted the third best country in the world to visit next year.

In the run up to that landmark year, here is ‘a’ – not ‘the’ – list of Top Ten of things to do in Scotland over this Festive Period. We realize there is no pleasing everyone all of the time so if you have any ideas or suggestions please reply to (comments box). So wrap up warm and open your mind and enjoy the sights and sounds of this wonderful country.


10) Watch a (kind of) Football Match 

Here's our top 10 Scotland Attractions

It’s a game with no rules, no strategy in which the whole town takes part and were broken bones are common – the Kirkwall Ba’ is mass-participation madness which makes Pamplona’s running of the bulls look like a walk in the park. A huge football-cum-rugby game played along the town’s main street between two teams (probably better described as factions), the ‘Uppies’ and the ‘Doonies’, the Kirkwall Ba’s winner is whoever succeeds in carrying a 3lbs ball to either end of the town. The Ba’ has been played for centuries in Orkney and, though visitors cannot participate, it is fantastic to watch. If the rough and tumble is not for you then don’t worry Orkney has plenty of other great things to see. Why not visit the excellently preserved prehistoric village at Skara Brae or the Italian Chapel, a Catholic place of worship built by Italian prisoners of war during World War II.


9) Visit a Lego City

Paisley Museum

Small things are beautiful, which is definitely the case for artist Warren Elsmore’s Brick City, a great exhibition of the world’s most iconic buildings in miniature and all constructed from LEGO, which is on at the Paisley Museum (just outside Glasgow) from 8 November to 16 February. Some of the buildings on show include the London 2012 Olympic Park, the Las Vegas strip, Rome’s Colosseum, Edinburgh Castle and London’s St Pancras Station (measuring 5ft tall and 12ft wide and comprising 180,000 LEGO pieces!) The exhibition also sees a LEGO treasure hunt dotted around the town as well as the opportunity to contribute to a LEGO public art project.


8) See Sunrise in Shetland

It may be remote and largely uninhabited but the north easterly Shetland Islands are a fantastic place to watch the sunrise. With a unique and striking landscape and isolated beaches Shetland is a haven for early birds looking for that something special as the sun begins its ascent, so much so that the Lonely Planet recently voted it the seventh best place in the world to do so, behind the likes of Mount Fuji in Japan and Bali’s Mount Batur. There is plenty to do in this fascinating archipelago with a rich history dating back 6,000 years, which is actually nearer to Norway than the Scottish mainland. But, whatever you do be sure to wrap up warm and dry!


7) Go Castle ‘Hopping’

Credit - VisitScotland
Credit – VisitScotland

Scotland is simply bursting at the seams with castles: from the Lowlands and the Highlands to the east and west coasts, there are some amazing examples dating back to periods in the country’s often violent and turbulent history. The must-sees for short-stay visitors are Edinburgh, Stirling, Culzean, Dunvegan, Glamis and the iconic Eilean Donan, situated just before the Isle of Skye, which has been around since the 6th century and has played host to famous tenants, from Viking warlords and Jacobite rebels. If you don’t fancy climbing the ramparts then why not try Abbey hopping instead. Equally rich and symbolic of Scotland’s religious heritage, some of the best examples are Jedburgh, Kelso and Melrose.


6) Take a literary tour 

Edinburgh was the first city in the world to be given the title of UNESCO City of Literature and today it continues to celebrate its contribution to international literature. From Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson to Ian Rankin and JK Rowling, Edinburgh has spawned literary giants past and present. The Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour is a stand-out example of a literary tour which, on various dates throughout November and December, takes you on a beer-fuelled tour of the old and new town areas in search of the favorite haunts of writers. Also worth a look are Rebus Tours and the Edinburgh Book Lovers’ Tour.


5) Go to a Pantomime

Peter Pan - Credit Festival City Theatres Trust
Credit Festival City Theatres Trust

Any visit to Scotland during the Christmas period would not be the same without going to see a Pantomime. A strangely entertaining form of theatre that is an offshoot of the Italian 16th-century tradition of commedia dell’arte, ‘Panto’ has morphed into a peculiarly British-type of festive period theatre where men dress as women and vice versa while recounting classic fairytale stories. Audience participation is a big thing in Panto (oh no it isn’t, oh yes it is) so make sure you sit in the right place for you. Be prepared for lots of double entendre, sexual innuendo, slapstick humour, singing, dancing and mime. Some of the best examples this year are Aladdin Jack and the Beanstock and Peter Panto and the Incredible Stinkerbell (Glasgow) and Peter Pan (Edinburgh).


4) See an exhibition

Creative Scotland Exhibition - Credit National Museum Scotland
Credit National Museum Scotland

A major exhibition looking at, and reconstructing artifacts from, the Early Medieval period (around AD 300 – 900) in Scotland; a critical juncture in the country’s history, coming as it does just after the Romans and before the Viking invasions. The exhibition, from 25 October to 23 February 2014, digitally and physically reconstructs period artifacts in order to give the modern viewer a new perspective on the quality craftsmanship and way of life in this important era of the Picts and Gaels tribes’ people and at the dawn of Christianity. The Creative Spirit exhibition presents the latest findings of the Glenmorangie Research Project, a partnership between the Glenmorangie Company and the National Museums of Scotland (NMS).


3) Go dancing

Credit Baby Loves Disco
Credit Baby Loves Disco

If you thought festive clubbing was solely the preserve of adults, then think again – Baby Loves Disco  encourages babies, toddlers, pre-schoolers AND their parents to throw some shapes on the dance floor. With real DJs spinning retro and contemporary kid-friendly pop tunes in venues across Glasgow and Edinburgh and plenty of other attractions such as a chill-out room, themed crafts, face-painting, games, healthy snacks and more, these parties are a must. Baby Loves Disco caters to two age groups: 0-5s and 4-11s, so make sure you choose the right one. If you don’t have children and don’t mind staying up past 9pm bed time, then why not check out a ‘real’ disco experience at Glasgow’s Sub Club, one of the longest-running and most respected underground (also in the literal sense) club venues in Europe.


2) Come ‘Home’

Credit Edinburgh's Hogmanay
Credit Edinburgh’s Hogmanay

In 2014, the country will celebrate “Homecoming Scotland”, an annual programme of festivals, events and activities that showcase the country’s many cultural, political and historical attractions. But you can get in on the early action on 1 January with the infamous Loony Dook in South Queensferry. This year kicking off the Homecoming Scotland celebration, the ‘Loony’ (crazy) ‘Dook’ (Scots slang for dip) is indeed an apt name as the event involves a mass participation swim in the freezing waters (participants are often naked!) of the River Forth and under the shadow of the famous Forth Road Rail Bridge. All money raised goes to charity.


1) Experience ‘Edinburgh’s Christmas’


Thanks to its scale, scope and diversity by far the best place to be for the festive period is eastwards in Edinburgh. Edinburgh’s Christmas, from 22 November to 5 January, brings together a huge festive outdoor market at the bottom of the Mound on Princess Street, where you can buy anything from mulled wine to handmade crafts. Set against the stunning backdrop of Edinburgh Castle you will find a fairground with Santa’s Grotto and plenty of attractions such as the Star Flyer, an ice rink, children’s and adult’s theatre, concerts and a Spiegeltent with all sorts of evening entertainment from burlesque to comedy to music. Basically, Edinburgh’s city centre transforms itself into a one-stop, non-stop, easily accessible Christmas party that has something for everyone. Definitely not to be missed!



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