Visit Scotland in winter
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Visit Scotland in winter

Scotland – a place of craggy mountains, caerulean lochs and shadowy forests.  Some places are so theatrically attractive they spiritually move us, by evoking a sense of wild loneliness and tongue-tied wonder. The bleak mid-winter only compliments them; with ethereal light and white horizons.  Visiting Scotland in winter will give you an unrivalled atmospheric experience like no other. Read the top reasons below.


WINTER LANDSCAPES & MOODINESS

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This blog is not meant to tarnish a Scottish summer. It’s just that, summer is ever in the limelight. True, you’re not likely to be burning the midnight oil in winter – but – you’ll be treated to some poetic vistas.  

Inky storm clouds unfurling over snow tipped peaks, molten gold poured into darkening loch waters, salmon belly skies, late afternoon, glimpsed through the charcoal scribble of wooden glens…    

Winter frames Scotland in a way that inspires the soul and is a landscape photographer’s dream. Check out Visit Scotland’s beautiful winter photos.


CASTLES STRAIGHT FROM A FAIRY-TALE

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We’ve all been to a castle that’s no more than a pile of rubble with a stuffily written plaque.

Wouldn’t it be lovely to visit a proper castle? The type from folklore and fantasy. The type with secrets, legends and draughty stone hallways that seem to stretch on forever…

Scotland has some of the most iconic and well-preserved castles in the world and the scenery to match. Although we don’t (necessarily) associate castles with seasons, if we did, it wouldn’t be summer.

Castles are not summery. They are hewn from cold rock, with thick walls and intended to withstand whatever assaults time and weather can muster.

Visit Scotland have created a list of Scotland’s most famous castles, from Edinburgh to Eilean Donan – check it here.  


BEST SKIING & SNOWBOARDING IN THE UK

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This is undisputable.

A dry ski slope will never offer the same thrill as carving down the side of powdered mountain. You may think ski trips are the domain of Switzerland, Canada or somewhere in the arctic circle – not so.

There are five ski resorts in Scotland.

Scotland is the only country within the UK that has the terrain, altitudes and climate to support a flourishing outdoor ski and snowboarding industry.

Breaking up a Scottish winter holiday with a couple of days of skiing up in the mountains is a brilliant way to experience the backcountry. Pure white slopes, cosy lodges and fiery whisky. Perfect.

Read the Guardian’s guide to all five Scottish ski resorts


HEARTY SCOTTISH FOOD


A rich meat pie doesn’t go with a hot afternoon, much like a salad doesn’t go with a snow drift. Winter then, is an ideal time to try Scottish classics such as haggis, neeps and tatties.  

What about sitting by a fire with some buttery Scottish shortbread? What’s heavy in summer, is comforting in winter. 


SCOTLAND’S WINTER WILDLIFE

For much of Scotland’s wildlife winter hibernation isn’t an option, nor is migrating. The show must go on. For red squirrels, this means preparing in advance by burying lots of acorns. It’s remarkable they remember where any of them are.

Best places to see red squirrels in Scotland.

Red deer are also active in Scotland during winter, escaping the worst of the elements within woodlands and forests. The image of a regal stag huffing misty plumes with the rugged highlands in the backgound, is as Scottish as it gets.

Other creatures to spot include golden eagles, puffins and Atlantic salmon. The thought of eagles being in the UK surprises many – considering in most places we’re lucky if we see a buzzard.

The only place to see them is Scotland. There are over 500 breeding pairs – find out more.


THE AURORA BOREALIS: COSMIC LIGHT SHOW

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When we think of the Northern Lights, we think of arctic explorers with snow caked beards and icy tundra, somewhere at the top of our planet. We may think of Scotland as chillier than the rest of the UK, but not polar in any way.

The northern most parts of Scotland share a latitude with Southern Norway. This puts it in the Aurora Borealis club. But, this doesn’t mean travelling to the ends of the Scottish earth to be in with a chance of seeing them.

Under the right conditions the otherworldly waves of the Aurora have been witnessed over Scotland’s capital. Winter is the best time though, because nights are darker.


WARMING WITH THE WORLD’S FINEST WHISKY

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Scotland is famous for its whisky, which soaks its past through and through. It’s believed the whisky industry was up and running by the 15th Century, evolving from a Scottish drink called “water of life”. Many consider Scottish whisky to be the finest in the world.

Whisky is more than just a drink to Scotland. It symbolises rebellion and national pride. In the 18th Century there were only a handful of legal distilleries, the rest (several hundred!) were illegal and flew belligerently in the face the English taxman.

This amber liquid of smoke and fire is one for freezing nights. One for intense conversation and comfy chairs. Whisky is for winter.