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December 02, 2022 5 min read
Yes, winter in Scotland is cold and dark, but there is something so magical about the country transforming into a winter wonderland. These colder months open up a world of winter activities and adventures that are so unique to Scotland. From spotting the Northern Lights, climbing snowy Munros, skiing in the Cairngorms, wildlife watching, and wandering the Christmas markets, there are so many wonderful activities you won’t want to miss out on. There is nothing better than nestling in by the roasting fire after an adventurous day exploring the wonderful winter landscapes Scotland has to offer. So, let's get into it.
Scotland is home to five spectacular outdoor ski resorts, three of which are in the stunning Cairngorms National Park. Whilst the hills in Scotland aren’t quite as high as those in the Swiss Alps, there is fantastic skiing and snowboarding to be had. There is an impressive 462 metres of downhill runs, which are strategically equipt for individuals of all levels. You won’t have to worry about making your own way to the top of the slopes as there is a ski lift to the top of the mountain which offers beautiful panoramic views, as well as the Cairngorm Funicular which will whizz you up the hill in no time.
If skiing isn’t for you, there are professional guided walking tours in the surrounding mountains as well as plenty of activities for children including tubing runs. There are also great facilities such as restaurants and cafés in the area to kick back and relax after a day of winter fun. Typically, the ski resorts are open from December to April, however, this depends on snowfall and weather conditions. The best time of year to go is usually February, as that’s when there is the most reliable snow cover.
There are 282 Munros across Scotland and ‘Munro Bagging’, where you climb as many Munros as you can, has become a very popular pastime with over 6000 people having climbed them all. Munros are mountains that are 3000 ft or above in height so climbing one is an impressive feat!
If you’re a beginner and want to bag your first Munro here are some recommendations of easier climbs. Ben Lomond is one of the most popular Munros to climb being only an hour and a half away from Glasgow and with a clear path to the summit where you can see amazing views over Loch Lomond we can see why. Another one that’s great for beginners is Ben Chonzie in Perthshire. Like Ben Lomond there is a decent path to follow and not many technical difficulties new climbers can’t navigate. At the top of Ben Chonzie there are great views over Glen Turret and Loch Turret and you may even see some mountain hares on your way up.
We recommend checking out mountaineering Scotland’s winter safety advice before climbing in cold, harsh weather.
The Scottish Highlands are stunning no matter what time of year it is, but there is definitely something so magical about the Highlands in the winter months with their snowy mountains and dark skies. Many of us may think that wildlife watching during the winter months is pointless as animals curl up to hibernate, but many animals are in fact just as active in winter as in summer, and sometimes it’s actually easier to spot them in the winter due to the lack of foliage. Larger animals such as red deer are much more suited to Scotland’s climate as they can travel great distances in search of food. The best time of day to spot them is early morning and evening when they leave the edges of the forest to forage for food. They can be seen throughout the Highlands, but Glen Affric, the Isle of Skye, and Galloway Forest Park have one of the largest populations of them.
Another animal that is more easily spotted in the winter are red squirrels. They tend to mate when the temperature drops, so keep an eye out for them in Scotland’s forests. Bird watchers will also be blessed with a variety of species to spot, including a type of grouse called the Ptarmigan, and birds of prey such as red kites and golden eagles. These birds are commonly found in the Cairngorms, but if you head over to the coast you’ll be able to see Sea Eagles, also known as ‘the flying door’ thanks to their colossal 8-foot wingspan.
Sitting up in Blairgowrie surrounded by 220 acres of woodland are over 40 huskies and sled dogs ready to take you on an exhilarating adventure. Bowland Trails are a European and World Championship Sprint Racing Team who offer husky sled ride experiences. Dog sledding as a sport is more commonly known as mushing, meaning a sport powered by dogs, where one or more dogs pull a mode of transport like a sled, a scooter or even skis.
Bowland Trail’s run their experiences from September to April. Before you start the sled ride you will get to know the dogs, their roles in the team and what makes their personalities so special. After the exhilarating experience you’ll get plenty of time to fuss over the huskies and spend some time petting them. According to Bowland Trails after the ride the huskies want nothing more than a bit of attention!
You can find out more about Bowland Trials and book a sled experience here.
Did you know you can see the spectacular Aurora Borealis right from our very own Scotland? It’s practically impossible to see these stunning lights in the city so if you head to dark sky locations such as national parks like the Cairngorms or the Isle of Skye, you’ll have every chance of seeing them. In Scotland, these Northern Lights are called ‘Mirrie Dancers’ and they’re often seen in winter when the nights are cold, long and clear. The best places to see them are areas that effectively have no human populations for a fifty-mile radius.
The International Dark-Sky Association is a great resource that lists the darkest regions in each country, and in Scotland these regions are Galloway Forest, Moffat, Glenlivet in the Cairngorms and The Isle of Coll. Other good areas to view the Northern Lights are Perthshire, Lewis and Harris, Shetland and Orkney, and Rannoch Moor.
Scotland’s biggest Christmas market is held in Edinburgh from the end of November till the start of January. It’s the perfect place to get into the festive spirit with hot drinks, famous bratwursts and festive market stalls. Shop unique gifts, enjoy the rides, show off your skills on the ice rink and see some amazing views over Edinburgh from 130 feet up at the top of the big wheel.
You can find Santa Land down the hill in East Princes Street Gardens with attractions for all ages and if you are wanting to soak up as much Christmas spirit as possible, you can head over to Castle Street to visit Santa’s Grotto.
Open until the 1st of January, 10am - 10pm, East Princes Street Gardens. Find out everything you need to know and book tickets here.
We hope we have inspired you this winter, we'd love to know what you guys get up to in the comments below!
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