My son has been accepted as an international student at the University of Edinburgh. We are all very excited, for it is one of our favorite places in all the world. His fall semester will end on 20 December, and I am beginning to dream of bringing our family out to join him over Christmas break. We’ve never been there in the winter. Please share with me your favorite Christmasy things to do and places to stay in Scotland. Help me start my wish list. Think bang for our bubk/pound, too—there will be four young adults and my husband and me. We are adventurous and frugal; we choose exoeriences over luxury, and we love the outdoors as well as arts and culture. Thanks in advance for ideas!
You might consider one of the holiday breaks with guided walking at one of the HF Holiday country houses. They do Christmas/New Year’s programmes at their locations in Scotland, Wales, and in various locations in England (Lake District, Cotswolds, etc.). The place will be all decorated for Christmas. The shortest stay is 3 nights, which might be a bit expensive for sic people, but the price includes lodging, wonderful meals, guided walking, and transport to and from the walks. We have done this and really enjoyed the camaraderie and the whole experience.
My best friend’s daughter is a grad student at University of Edinburgh (they are from Vermont). Check with the school for events on campus. There’s activities for foreign families on campus during holidays.
Some of the sights such as Holyrhood and National Museum have special events during holidays. But just like the summer, you will want to book them early. Get onto email list serves early; like This is Edinburgh. Fantastic concert schedules in city, art events, and of course one of the best Christmas Markets in Europe! Edinburgh is amazing at Christmas!!!
We rent in York Place (see Air BnB) because it’s easy to bus terminal, train station, easy grocery shopping (great Coops in the neighborhood!), and the tram to airport stops a block away, and is more fun and better bang for buck than Old Edinburgh. Our friend’s daughter also uses the tram when she visits us from campus.
If you want to venture away from the city into other areas contact Rabbies directly. Weather dependant tours and if the group is large enough and the weather is cooperating, you might get a deal on a private tour. I recommend calling them way ahead and see what they recommend or can offer.
Shopping on Princes Street and back streets of New Town are lovely at that time of year.
It’s a great time to go! Have fun! But know the days are short at that time of year. We like visiting around American Thanksgiving and the day sets around 1500 pm. Once that sun sets, it’s cold. Bring lots of layers.
Our son lives in London so we spent Christmas there and New Years (Hogmanay) in Edinburgh this past season. We LOVED it!!
Here's what we did...
Meal at The Witchery - gorgeous 16th century house that is now a restaurant. A bit of a splurge but SO worth it!
Torchlight procession the night before New Years. See the Hogmanay website...there are MANY events to attend and hundreds of thousands of people descend on the city during the few days surrounding New Years.
We went to see a concert as part of the Hogmanay celebrations...got to see Capercaille, one of our favorite Scottish bands.
Rented a car for 2 days and drove to Stirling, Glencoe, and out the Glen Etive part of the highlands - stunning! Herds of deer and stags, waterfalls, and stunning light.
Visited Holyrood Palace, the cathedral of St. Giles, the vast Christmas market off of Princes Street.
We climbed the mountain in front of High Seat - not as much of a climb but stunning views nonetheless.
Did the cheesy yet very informative Edinburgh Whiskey Experience - learned a lot!
The Scottish National Gallery is free and very beautiful.
We stayed out in Leith, away from the crowds. About 15 minutes into the city center by bus with several lines going to different part of town. Great neighborhood with lots of pubs, coffee places, and restaurants.
If you have a chance, get tickets for one of the pantos, probably one of the bigger ones.
In terms of else, I would suggest self catering as eating out will be expensive that time of year if you can get a table.
We visited Edinburgh a few years ago in late November/early December and we really enjoyed visiting the Royal Botanical Gardens. It's a wonderfully peaceful walk through the snowy grounds and the planthouses offer an occational break from the cold. And very economical. https://www.rbge.org.uk/visit/royal-botanic-garden-edinburgh/
Thank you, everyone! I appreciate the input. Anita, we stayed in Leith the last time we were in Edinburgh...we loved it! It was easy to get into town for the Fringe Festival, and there were nice restaurants and pubs within easy walking distance. MC, we have yet to visit Glasgow...should we add that to our list this time 'round?
I would say yes. If you are staying in the capital, then Glasgow is less than an hour by train and the days between the holidays are probably a good time for a visit.
A bunch of years ago - ten? - we stayed IN the Univ. of Edinburgh dorms. This was during summer, when most students had moved out entirely, but maybe there's unused rooms available over the Dec. holidays, too? (or visiting faculty accommodations?) Lots of bang for the buck - cafeteria passes included, parking & linens, & quiet nights. Other hand, bare bones, zero charm, twin beds, washrooms down the hall. Unexpected entertainment/education one morning was the bleary-eyed undergrad ladling soupy baked beans over his cornflakes.