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Scotland in late December and January

Hi all,
I will be an international student in Dundee Scotland begining in Sepetember and I have family joining me for a month from Dec. 19 to Jan. 19. I am wondering what events/activities would be good for them during this time?

We will visit the Christmas markets and enjoy Hogamany but I do have concerns about the extent of what will be "shut down" over this time. I know they would enjoy nature hikes and small towns.

Posted by
1913 posts

Not the best time of year for outdoor walking – weather not guaranteed, but short daylight hours are.

The period after 2 January, when everyone is over Christmas and New Year, will be quiet.

Focus on cities for things to do.

Posted by
2804 posts

In Dundee, of course there is the new V&A Museum. Daylight hours will be short, so plan accordingly for hikes.

You're not far from Glamis Castle, but unfortunately it looks like the castle is closed to visitors from December 15 until some time in March. (See )

Will your family have a car? A day trip to St. Andrews would be easy. You also have good access to Scone and, farther out, to Stirling. Stirling Castle appears to be open throughout the winter; the closing time is just earlier. It's a little unclear whether Scone Palace itself is open in winter, or just the grounds -- and it looks like it may be closed to visitors in January.

Posted by
5574 posts

I would head over to Dunkeld. If you don't have a car you should be able to take the train to Perth and change for the northbound train. There are some nice walks that you could do for the few hours of sunshine that you get at that time of year. And then go for a drink and dinner at The Taybank or one of the other pubs in town. There are some nice shops, but you can probably find out in advance of their visit what will be open.

But, I just found this link, which you might want to check out. WalkHighlands is a great site for exploring walking and hiking in Scotland. But towns also often have great info. Here's the one for Perthshire. They also have a page for winter walks!

There are lots of other places to visit over that time period, but you have to bear in mind when the sunsets. I'm originally from Wisconsin and so would not find the cold to bothersome. Scotland doesn't get the frigid weather that the middle of our country gets. It's winter, but it's not arctic.

One other thing to think about is the Northern Lights. I don't think that you can depend on Scotland for this. But this past winter, the Facebook group, Scotland from the Roadside was positively flooded with gorgeous pictures of the Northern Lights over the Scottish countryside.


Posted by
941 posts

Hi, Spencer,

Watch out for those Boxing Day sales! Most of the big shops have huge sales on Boxing Day, as they try to unload all the merchandise that wasn't bought for Christmas. You may be able to find some discounted furniture for your university lodging.

The week between Christmas and Hogmanay used to be called the "Daft Days." The phrase was coined by the Scottish poet Robert Fergusson. That week (which actually continued in many cases until the 6th. of January) was a time of merriment, but in times of austerity (late 20th. century), much of industry closed down or went to a three day work week. So those days weren't as daft.

Hogmanay will be celebrated with events throughout Scotland, so you should choose a town or city which has entertainment which everyone likes. One of the highlights of my times in Scotland was seeing Macumba and Runrig at Bught Park, Inverness, on New Year's Eve, 1999. On the way back to our lodging, we stopped by an ATM to see if it would work. It did!

On January 1st., you'll not find much open, with the exception of some corner shops and the larger supermarkets (which will have limited hours). There are two main shopping malls in Dundee - the Overgate and the Wellgate. The Overgate is upscale; the Wellgate isn't. Look for concerts at the Caird Hall - there is often great music to be found there.

You'll probably have about seven hours of usable daylight each day, so be sure to get an early start on your daytime activities. There are lots of great restaurants in Dundee, as well as the best independent record store in Scotland. Mozza, an Italian restaurant and pizzeria, is very popular with students. They have special pre-5:00 p.m. rates for pizza. If you have access to a car, you'll be able to travel farther afield. If you're limited to public transportation, there are some wonderful towns and villages to visit along the East Coast. You could easily spend a day or more in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Celtic Connections is starting in Glasgow on January 16th. It's one of the largest music festivals in the world, and runs through February 2nd. You may find something to everyone's liking there while the whole family is together, or maybe something for yourself after they've returned home.

Will you be attending the University of Dundee or Abertay University? You are going to love Dundee, and Scotland in general.

Could I possibly become a member of your family? :)

Best wishes for your studies, and for your time in Scotland.

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
4450 posts

Scotland isn't particularly "seasonal" so most things are open year round other than those that require specific weather conditionsso I wouldn't worry too much about what will be open or not other than Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day, all public holidays where much is closed.

Posted by
5574 posts

Wow, good point about Celtic Connections! I really hope I get to attend that festival some day!

Posted by
20 posts

Thank you everyone for the suggestions. I think St. Andrews would be a great idea and some of the villages along the Fife coast. Heading into Perthshire looks promising too, with some great hiking opportunities.

Yes, hopefully there will be shops open in some of the smaller villages after the new year and not complete ghost towns.