Cool yule! Muddy guide to Christmas in Edinburgh
Ice rinks, Santa Land, fireworks and castles...For cracking Christmas celebrations and a helluva Hogmanay, head north of the border this winter.
From its beautifully lit castle perched high on a hill above Old Town to glittering Xmas markets and buzzing New Year celebrations in Princes Street, there’s something particularly magical about Christmas in Edinburgh. The Scottish capital makes a great escape whether you’re looking for a festive shopping and mulled wine-fuelled weekend break, a full-on happening Hogmanay or a place to blow away the cobwebs in Jan.
HOW TO SEE IT BEST
Take the train to Waverley Station and you’re delivered into the heart of the action, a short stroll from Princes Street and in the shadow of the castle. Arriving by air? Hop on a tram at the airport and it will whisk you quickly and easily to the West End and St Andrew’s Square. Getting around’s easy on foot, but there are plenty of steps and hills so pack boots and trainers.
Official Edinburgh Christmas festivities run until 4 Jan in East Princes Street Gardens and George Street and include a large ice rink, Christmas tree maze, Xmas market, big wheel, carousel and Santa Land, featuring a grotto where kids can meet the main man.
If you want something a little more chilled check out the light trail at the Royal Botanic Garden, where illuminated pathways and tunnels wind through the stunning grounds and there’s a chance to warm up with hot chocs and marshmallows along the way.
Staying for New Year? Book hogmanay tickets for the torch procession at 4pm, street party (this year headlined by Basement Jaxx), and midnight fireworks which illuminate the sky above the famous castle. Want to see them for free? Make like locals and stroll up Calton Hill on Edinburgh’s east side for a glorious view of the city scene.
If you’re in the ‘Burgh on 1 Jan check out Loony Dook, an annual jump into the icy waters of the Firth of Forth for charity. And before you leave Edinburgh, whatever time to year you visit, a walk up Arthur’s Seat is a must. The city’s extinct volcano in Holyrood Park takes around 30 minutes to summit and you’re rewarded with amazing views of the city and sea beyond.
Shopping in Edinburgh’s a treat, with a noticeable amount of independents. Muddy’s fave discovery was SDX, Scottish Design Exchange, started as a retail revolution against chains taking over the high street. It’s packed full of work by local artists and crafts people and every penny you spend goes back to them – lots of fun stocking filler ideas and some great art too.
Browse in Bruntsfield and you’ll discover Xmassy decorated stores like Maddie & Marks Shoes and gorgeous gift shop Halibut & Herring, where you can pick up everything from kitsch fairy-lights to stationery.
Hit The Marshmallow Lady for a handmade sweet gifts and hot choc to remember (unicorn themed marshmallow, anyone?).
And don’t miss the Xmas stalls at Santa Land in East Princes Street Gardens, full of festive goodies like Christmas decs, confectionary and candles.
FOOD & DRINK
Warm-up mid-sightseeing with a stop off at the Holyrood Distillery in the heart of the city, where you can take a tour then enjoy a wee dram of whisky (or gin) at the bar.
Enjoy a steak-ation (groan) at Kyloe on Rutland Street, where diners tuck into award-winning succulent rib eye, fillet, sirloin and rump organic steak. The rest of the menu’s lush too including a wagyu burger and Isle of Gigha oysters and, as it’s the season to be jolly, order Prosecco mixed with gin liqueur Edinburgh Fizz cocktails. The Christmas menu includes two courses and a glass of fizz for £22.
Veggie? Head to Hendersons in Bruntsfield to try the wild mushroom, pearl barley risotto with tarragon pesto followed by pumpkin spice baked cheesecake. It’s guilt-free dining, from the sustainable wood decor to the organic herbs and veg, much of which is actually grown in a garden at the rear of the restaurant.
Just down the road is sceney low-lit cocktail bar The Wildcat, where expert mixologists will whip up a unique Christmas concoction just for you.
Edinburgh Grassmarket Wilde Aparthotels is the best of both worlds – high star hotel room-style modern decor but enough space for a family or group of friends. Studios with living rooms include a sofa bed, small kitchen and dining table as well as a separate bedroom.
Lots of love for the Old Town location beneath the castle (it’s the first thing we saw when we opened the curtains in the morning), and its help-yourself coffee and croissants in the spacious reception were a welcome sight the morning after the night before. Studio apartment from £120pn.
HOW TO GET THERE
Lumo recently launched a new train service from London to Edinburgh which starts at just £15 one-way, has a menu with plenty of plant-based options and takes four hours and 30 minutes.