Scotland: Holiday Markets, Winter Lights

holiday market

With shorter days and temperatures turning toward winter in Scotland, it is time for gathering in, for visiting friends and family, for getting ready for and beginning to celebrate the festive season — and for holiday markets and winter lights.

Winter festive and holiday markets in Germany, England, and other parts of Europe are widely known. Scotland, though, has its fair share too, some being long running events starting in early to mid November and lasting all the way up to Christmas, others being regular weekend events as the holidays approach, and some which are one off craft markets and community celebrations. All of these hold their own charms. All are convenient enough to explore, as well: as Scotland is a relatively small country it is easy enough to devise a day, weekend, or week long driving tour of Scotland’s festive celebrations, and to extend that idea with trips to celebrations on Scotland’s western and northern islands.

For two decades, the European Christmas Market has been part of city center holiday celebrations in Edinburgh. There are stalls with gifts and crafts which bring tastes of other parts of Europe to Edinburgh, and there are actual tastes as well, in the form of seasonal pastries, roast sausages and frankfurters, mulled wine and other treats. Scottish fare is on offer at the Scottish Market in Saint Andrew’s Square along with local and regional crafts and gifts, and there is a Children’s Market featuring toys nearby as well.

In Glasgow, under the watchful eyes of statues of famous folk including Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott, there will be ice skating in George Square. Saint Enoch Square is where the Christmas Market takes place in Glasgow, with works from Scottish artists and goods from abroad. There is seasonal food and drink on offer, including hot chocolate and glühwein, which red wine warmed and flavored with cloves, cinnamon, and other seasonal spices.

The Lanark Christmas Market, near Glasgow, usually takes place on a weekend late in November. It is also usually Scotland’s largest holiday market, with stalls from around one hundred folk including craftspeople, food merchants, artists, and others with seasonal material. Up north of Glasgow, as the Highlands begin to rise, the people of Fort William tend to celebrate their own year round shops, with an evening or more of late openings, festive music, and special events along the High Street. You may have the turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce most times of the year at Fort William’s Hot Roast Company, but it goes along especially well with ringing in the winter holidays –perhaps just the thing to enjoy before you head over to the craft fair held at the Alexandra Hotel.

Stornoway tree lighting news courtesy Hebrides Today

The folk at Loch Lomond Shores, just outside of Glasgow on the banks of the well known loch, have a packed program set, including a holiday market, a Christmas tree light switch on, food from the farmers’ market, a fire eating display, holiday music, and fireworks over the water to ring in the season.

Perth is well known as a place to find arts and crafts year round, and the makers of textiles, pottery, jewelry, painting, photography and other arts come out to share their creations as Christmas approaches on alternate weekends through Perth Craft Markets on King Edward Street in this east coast city — and what they alternate with is equally appealing: Perth Farmers Market, which comprises some forty sellers of local produce. There will be a Christmas parade in Perth, too.

Up in Dundee, Saint Andrew’s Day sees not only a celebration of Scotland’s’ heritage but also a celebration of winter holidays, with the city’s  Christmas Market taking place that day in Old Steeple and featuring many unique crafts and gifts.

There’s a holiday parade planned in Aberdeen, along with Christmas tree lighting and concerts of music. Music — both traditional Scottish music and seasonal music of many styles — is a feature of ringing in the holiday season up in Inverness, as well.

Orkney holiday market

Off the northern coast of Scotland, the people of Shetland and Orkney get into the festive spirit of the winter holidays too. Orkney craftspeople and artists hold markets in Kirkwall on weekends in winter, and in Lerwick in Shetland there are arts and craft fairs during the season as well, often featuring photography of the island and textiles with Nordic influenced designs. In the Western Isles community based celebrations are the way to enjoy the holiday season, with tree lighting and festive decorations along roads and in local shops lighting up the season.

All that is just a taste of what goes on in Scotland as November and December turn toward Christmas. Then there are the reindeer… who deserve a story all their own, in fact. That will be forthcoming. In the meanwhile, if you’d care for a soundtrack for your road trip, real and by imagination, through Scotland at the festive season, you’ll want to listen to the work of fiddler Bonnie Rideout, guitarist Al Petteway, dulcimer player Maggie Sansone and the Scottish Christmas Ensemble as they make their way through traditional carols as well as particularly Scottish music of the season on A Scottish Christmas.

Photographs courtesy of N Chadwick/Geograph UK, Orkney Arts and Crafts, and Hebrides Today

Kerry Dexter is one of six writers who contribute to Perceptive Travel’s blog. You’ll most often find her writing about travels in Europe and North America in stories that connect to music, history, and the arts, including such things as Scotland, Outlander, and Standing Stones and Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way and Music.

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  1. JessieV November 6, 2014
  2. Brette November 10, 2014
  3. Jane Boursaw November 12, 2014
  4. Jeanine Barone December 4, 2014

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