Where to Find the Best Christmas Markets in Scotland
It’s never too early to get into the festive spirit – here’s where to find baubles, bratwurst, and the best gluehwein in Scotland’s Christmas markets.
Is it even Christmas until you’ve spent a day sipping on mulled wine and browsing the maze of stalls at a Christmas market? We don’t think so. This festive tradition may have originated in Germany, but this year we’re looking forward to eating our body weight in gingerbread in the best Christmas markets in Scotland. Here at Plum Guide we might not have a team of elves at our beck and call but we do have our home critics, and they’ve been hard at work searching for the best places to enjoy Scotland’s Christmas markets.
If you’re visiting a Christmas market in Scotland for the first time, you can’t go wrong with heading to Edinburgh. The capital puts on a show filled with enough festive cheer to rival the North Pole itself, with Santa staging a six-week takeover of Prince’s Street and the gardens. Here you’ll find everything from ice skating, grottos, and fairground rides as well as the more traditional wooden chalets selling artisan decorations and enough gluehwein to get you very merry indeed. Not a mulled wine fan? Head to the pop-up Johnnie Walker Bothy Bar, which has become a fixture of the festive season with its warming whisky cocktails and hot toddies, perfect for warding off Edinburgh’s December chill. It’s arguably Scotland’s prettiest Christmas market, and the rest of the city ain’t bad either. Once you’ve finished in the market, go for a walk around the scenic Old Town and marvel at the beautiful tenement townhouses and cobbled streets that give this city a particularly festive feel.
It may be better known for golfing than grottos, but if you’re searching for the most interesting Christmas markets in Scotland you can’t bypass Ayrshire. The majority of events are held in the capital, Ayr; explore Christmas light installations and public artworks around historic buildings with Winter Wanderland (see what they did there?), and drop into the Ayr Collective Christmas Market to buy tweed and treats from local sellers. It might not be the largest of the Christmas markets in Scotland, but it’s definitely one of the most individual and the destination of choice if you really want to impress with your stocking stuffers this year. With attractions like the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, countless castles (this is Scotland, after all) and the beautiful Arran Island wilderness, Ayrshire is our top pick for a festive family holiday in Scotland.
Recommending you go to the Highlands is, admittedly, a bit of a cop-out – the region counts for almost a third of Scotland’s total landmass so it’s hard to avoid going there. But we fear we’d end up on the naughty list if we left it out, and we’ve been so good all year. The Highlands is home to the country’s most magical landscapes, with fir forests, frequent snow flurries, and roaming deer making for a seasonal setting kids will go wild over. (And let’s be honest, adults as well). There’s no shortage of Christmas markets in Scotland’s northern corners, either; head to Inverness for a Christmas craft and food market, or head to coastal Ullapool to see a Christmas tree made entirely out of lobster creels and enjoy a wander through their Winter Festival. End a day in the snow searching for reindeer prints with mulled cider around the fire (make sure you book your stay at one of our homes with fireplaces in Scotland). Just make sure the chimney’s clear for the big night itself, or Santa might leave you a sooty carpet as well as a stack of presents.
Here in Fife, they march to the beat of their own drum; or at least they do at the Dunfermline annual Christmas Parade, which has previously seen local punk bands rub shoulders with traditional pipe bands. This ancient city was once Scotland’s capital (yes, it’s true - Edinburgh only took the crown in the 17th century) and so it’s fitting that there’s a strong Scottish vibe to the accompanying Christmas market, with a focus on local products. If you’re looking for tartan tree trimmings or Santa-shaped shortbread, you’ll find it here. There are also a number of artisanal food stalls to pick up the last bits and bobs for the big day – we might not be swapping the turkey out for a haggis anytime soon, but some traditional oatcakes and a few drams of Scottish whisky never go amiss for festive nibbles. And if you’re worried about your carbon footprint this holiday, there’s no need to try and count the air miles on Santa’s sleigh – just head up to one of the most guilt-free Christmas markets in Scotland, the Dundee Ethical Christmas Fair. You won’t find any plastic tat here, just beautiful gifts made by local creatives and an overwhelming sense of seasonal smugness.