Christmas in Scotland is quite possibly the definition of eat, drink and be merry. I went into it considering surrounding myself with the Scottish accent enough of a Christmas gift to myself, but left absolutely in love with the country – the culture, the people, the food, the language, the music, tartan everything, the highland cows, the dancing…you get it. And while Scotland is part of the United Kingdom, don’t for a moment think that the holidays there can be compared to a decorated, manicured London.
Wanting to see as much of Scotland in my short time in the country, and to learn a bunch and have fun with other people, I went on a rare-for-me group tour with Haggis Adventures, taking their 5-day highland tour. For me, going with a tour group instead of solo, it was important to not only have guides with expertise in a country rich with history, but I wanted a nice Christmas celebration. Luckily, I got both (and more).
To compare the landscapes of the Scottish Highlands to other parts of the world hardly seems fair. Mountains (bens) and lakes (lochs) and rivers and valleys and waterfalls. Less words now. Just pictures.
It’s really a shame that of all the things our ancestors brought over to North America, castles weren’t in there. It felt like there were castles everywhere we turned (ok, not really, but there were a LOT). And I’m definitely not complaining. The people who built these castles did an excellent job choosing locations with a view.
The dancing (what’s a ceilidh?)
Just when you think you couldn’t love Scots more, go to a ceilidh. Is that a real word, you ask? Yes. A ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee) is basically a Scottish dance party. Traditional Gaelic music is played with set dances to match – think organized chaos. While some dances are partner dances, most are much more social, dancing in groups upwards to 16. The dances are easy to learn and do, but you will certainly be sweating by the end of the first one. It was a good way for us to work off Christmas dinner.
Pro-tip: ladies, you will be doing lots of spinning – wear flats and easy on the wine.
The lore and the history
Nessie isn’t the only story you’ll hear in Scotland, but of course the most famous. I wouldn’t dare try to cover Scottish history here, but trust me on it that it’s interesting and there are a lot of viking battles and fairy spells.
Because of one, I even dipped my face in the River Sligachan in the name of beauty. Long story short, a fairy put a spell on the river to make a bride and her bridesmaid beautiful enough to be married in the name of bringing peace between two clans (how romantic!).
Waterfalls all over the highlands have fairy spells on them, so it’s probably worth taking a dip in as many as you can.
Or if you believe our guide, a special dance, if danced with enough gusto and passion, will summon Nessie for a visit. I’m guessing we weren’t good enough for her standards.
I am very much a whiskey (with an “e”) fan back home, but had not often ventured into the whisky (without an “e”) world. To be honest, I was intimidated. I always felt like it might be too sophisticated for little ol’ peasant me. So I was happy to jump in when I got there and learned that the best approach to whisky is go to the pub and order it. If you need external validation on your order, ask the person next to you what they’re having and go with that.
So, Christmas in Scotland?
The verdict? A definite yes. I can’t wait to go back in the summer, but couldn’t recommend Christmastime in the country more highly. If you’re looking for a group experience, Haggis Adventures met every expectation of adventure, learning and fun.