Awesome Things to Do in Scotland in Winter

Enjoy views like these over Marchmont towards Edinburgh Castle in Scotland
Enjoy views like these over Marchmont towards Edinburgh Castle in Scotland | © David Robertson / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Richard Collett
14 October 2021

Yes, it’s going to be cold and, yes, it will snow. But visiting Scotland in the winter opens up a world of winter sports activities and snowy adventures that you won’t find anywhere else in the UK. Ice climbing, skiing and snowboarding await you during winter in the Scottish Highlands and you can even try snowshoeing on the moors or husky sledging in the glens. The Northern Lights can be seen under dark skies, while the cities are packed with Christmas markets. And of course, no Scottish winter holiday is complete without some scotch whisky tasting in front of a roaring fire. So, let’s get into it.

Feeling inspired? You can now travel with Culture Trip on our four-day Scottish Highlands winter adventure, in which you’ll go snowshoeing, dog sledding and chocolate tasting led by our Local Insider.

Go Ice Climbing at Ice Factor in Kinlochleven

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Ice Wall climbing at the Ice Factor indoor arena in Kinlochleven Scotland 14 03 2008. Image shot 2008. Exact date unknown.
© TNT Magazine Pixate / Alamy Stock Photo
Ice fanatics won’t want to miss out on the chance to go climbing in Kinlochleven, where you’ll find the largest indoor ice climbing centre in the world. Ice Factor has ice climbing walls suitable for every level of experience: the climbing centre’s instructors will show you the ropes – literally – if you’ve never climbed before. Pros will find new routes every climb, with over 500 tonnes of real snow and ice used to create ice walls reaching 39ft (12m) in height.

Ride the Caledonian Sleeper Train to Fort William from Glasgow

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73966 heads past Torlundy with the Caledonian Sleeper service.
© Phil Metcalfe / Alamy Stock Photo
One of the world’s great rail journeys is to Fort William from Glasgow, a scenic route that takes you through the heart of the Scottish Highlands. Watch the snowy scenery fly past from the heated comforts of the train, as lochs, mountains and Munros all pass by on the way north. It’s a four-hour journey from Glasgow to Fort William, but you might want to take the classic Caledonian Sleeper train all the way from London for a true travel adventure.

Go on a Snowshoeing Adventure at Glencoe Mountain Resort

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Glencoe Mountain Resort, Scotland
Glencoe Mountain Resort, Scotland | © fraser band / Alamy Stock Photo
Visiting the Scottish Highlands in winter will leave you awed by the snowy scenery and you can experience the natural beauty up close on a snowshoeing adventure. Led by experienced local guides from the Glencoe Mountain Resort – Scotland’s oldest ski centre – you’ll head off-piste across Rannoch Moor, as you explore the best of the highlands on foot. Strap on the snowshoes and you’ll find miles of trails winding their way up and down mountains and Munros all over the highlands.

Catch a Glimpse of the Northern Lights

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The Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) reflected in Loch Loyal, Scotland
© Nigel Wilkins / Alamy Stock Photo
Spend a winter in Scotland and you’ll have every chance of seeing the Northern Lights in the night sky. That’s right, you don’t need to visit the Arctic to experience this natural light show – when conditions are right and the skies are clear, you can see the Aurora Borealis in Scotland. To optimise your chances, visit dark sky locations such as the Isle of Skye, or national parks such as the Cairngorms, where you can get off-grid and away from the cities.

Join a Husky Ride with Bowland Trails

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The world championship-winning husky team at Bowland Trails are ready to take you on one of the most thrilling Scotland winter tours, but you need to be prepared for a serious off-road adventure. You’ll be guided over frozen moors, through icy glens and down snow-covered mountain slopes as you hold onto the reins of your husky sledge. Bowland Trails offer expert training and guidance, as you learn how to handle a team of powerful Siberian huskies in the Scottish Highlands.

Visit a Highland Chocolatier

Dessert Shop, Dessert
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Highland Chocolatier Grandtully Scotland  May 2017
© Stephen Finn / Alamy Stock Photo
Iain Burnett is a legendary master chocolatier who cooks up delectable chocolates in the Scottish highlands. Better known as the ‘Highland Chocolatier’, you’ll find Iain mixing up his award-winning Spiced Pralines and signature Velvet Truffles in the small village of Grandtully. Gorge on chocolate as he explains how he sources the milk from local Perthshire cattle, while the cacao is delivered all the way from Sao Tome and Principe.

Drop into a Cosy Pub for a Scotch Whisky

Pub, Pub Grub, $$$
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Did we mention that it gets cold in Scotland in the winter? Luckily, the Scots have perfected just the place where you can warm up after a day out in the snow: the pub. Scottish pubs are undeniably cosy and whether you’re in a remote highland village or the centre of Glasgow, you’re sure to find a cosy pub with a roaring log fire and tweed armchairs. Order up your favourite Scotch whisky, then sit back and enjoy the warmth.

Go Skiing at Cairngorm Mountain

Natural Feature, Ski Resort, Sports Center
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Snowboarders and skiers on Burnside ski run, Cairngorm Mountain Ski Centre, by Aviemore, Cairngorms National Park, Scotland UK. Image shot 02/2013. Exact date unknown.
© Julie Fryer Images / Alamy Stock Photo
If you’re looking for snowsports, then you’ve come to the right place at the right time of the year. Scotland is the UK’s winter sports playground and you can find some of the best skiing or snowboarding at Cairngorm Mountain. Reaching a height of 4,084ft (1,245m), Cairngorm Mountain is the sixth highest mountain in the UK. There are over 30 runs varying in difficulty from green to black and plenty of ski lifts to get you to the top of the mountain.

Spend the Day on an Islay Distillery Tour

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An Islay distillery tour is sure to blast away those winter blues, as you enjoy some of the finest Scotch whisky that Scotland has to offer. The Isle of Islay is Scotland’s premier whisky tasting destination – there are no less than nine independent distillers based on this windswept Hebridean island. This is the ‘Whisky Coast’ at its finest: whiskies on Islay are characterised by peaty tones and smoky flavours that are sure to keep you warm in even the coldest Scottish winters.

Go to the Christmas Markets in Edinburgh

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Edinburgh Christmas market in blue hour light. Edinburgh cityscape/travel photograph by Pep Masip.
© Pep Masip / Alamy Stock Photo
You’ll find Christmas cheer aplenty in Scotland’s two most popular city break destinations: Edinburgh and Glasgow. Visit Scotland between November and January to experience festivities at the Christmas markets in both cities – think Christmas trees, lights, decorations, market stalls, whisky, mulled wine and hearty festive food. Stay on in Edinburgh after Christmas and you’ll catch the world-famous Hogmanay celebrations that bring in the New Year.
These recommendations were updated on October 14, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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