Get into the festive spirit

It’s that time of year again!

And during the festive season sometimes we can’t help but feel a little overwhelmed and stressed, making countless Christmas lists and cramming all the shopping into the last minute. I like to enjoy the festive season and make the most of my free time and absorb the infectious Christmas atmosphere. As a local in Edinburgh I find there are so many things to do all year round, but here’s a countdown of my top 5 ways you can get into the festive spirit this year – both in the city and out in the wilder parts of beautiful Scotland.

5. Take a walk around a Christmas Market

The view from Edinburgh's Christmas market - photo by Andrew Palmer

Edinburgh is world famous for its annual German Christmas Market which settles into the hustle and bustle of Princes Street. There are plenty of activities to suit everyone. You can get a bird’s-eye view of the city from the unmissable Ferris wheel. Embrace the feeling of winter by meandering around the Ice Adventure on George Street and marvelling at the fantastic sculptures. Try your hand at ice skating around the rink at St. Andrews Square, or get the adrenaline pumping by alighting the tower of terror! There are also plenty of opportunities to try some new food or treat yourself or a loved one with a unique present from one of the plenty of stalls in the market.

Ice Sculptures on George Street - photo by Andrew Palmer

4. Be a tourist for a day

Edinburgh is Scotland’s top tourist destination and it is no surprise that there are plenty of activities to do, especially around the Royal Mile. Sometimes we get so caught up in the stresses of Christmas that we forget to have fun. My top recommendations would be:

3. Grab a hot beverage and savour the views

If peace and quiet and enjoying time with your thoughts is more your style, then Edinburgh has more than its fair share of cafes around the city. Surprisingly, a beautiful spot for taking in the views of Princes Street and the Gardens beyond is the Starbucks on Princes Street. From here you can even get a great view of Edinburgh’s stunning castle watching over the city. Evenings are quieter with a better chance of getting a window seat and simply relaxing with less pressure from the crowds.

2. Get out into nature

Sometimes the best way to enjoy the season is to avoid the crowds entirely and get lost in nature. Edinburgh has plenty of secluded places both in and out of the city where a person can rid themselves of the stresses of city life. My personal favourites are the Swanston Farm near Hunters Tryst: a gateway into the Pentland Hills and a great place to go hiking for a day. You may even spot the semi-wild herd of highland cattle that roam around the hills if you’re lucky! The Hermitage of Braid and Blackford Hill offer lovely walks a stone’s throw away from the city centre, and offer stunning views of Edinburgh and Arthur’s Seat.

1. Escape to the Highlands

Reindeer in the Cairngorms - photo by Andrew Palmer

My final recommendation is to get away from it all. I highly recommend booking a weekend in the Highlands of Scotland and enjoy the peace and quiet in a true winter wonderland. One of my favourite places is the town of Aviemore, 2 ½ hours from Edinburgh. Aviemore is located in the Cairngorms National Park and there is so much beauty to take in here, such as the Rothiemerchus Estate, where you can wander through Scotland’s ancient Caledonia pine forest of real Christmas trees. The Funicular Railway takes you on top of the CairnGorm mountain where you can truly embrace Scotland’s stunning landscapes. I cannot help but feel a little patriotic about Scotland when I visit such a beautiful places.

There also happens to be a herd of semi-wild reindeer reintroduced to Scotland from Scandinavia; you can pay for a tour and have the opportunity to feed them and learn more about this classic Christmas icon.

A reindeer in the Cairngorms - photo by Andrew Palmer

There are plenty of other places in the Highlands to visit also where you can enjoy the peace and beauty of nature, including Granton on Spey, the Isle of Skye, Oban, Inverness; the list is endless. I would recommend driving to these locations for a more independent journey, however tours can be booked from many places in the Royal Mile if you want to fit more into a short period of time.

Whatever you decide to do this festive season, have a great time.

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