If you’re looking for winter holiday ideas then look no further! There are many reasons to vacation in Scotland over winter and even more reasons to hire a campervan for your adventure. Here, we’ve chosen what we see as the 5 best reasons to visit Scotland in winter. All of which will provide you with lasting, lifelong memories and all of which are best discovered in a campervan with freedom to explore the landscape at your own pace.
1. Incredible sights
Scottish scenery is awe-inspiring and secluded at the best of times but none more so than in winter. With snow dusting the mountains and red deer roaming free, you can really catch some incredible sights. If your preference is to avoid the crowds and parties, you can find yourself completely alone for days all over Scotland.
- For stargazers, a visit to the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory in Galloway Forest is a must. It offers a fantastic experience with two large telescopes and some of the darkest skies in the UK. They have an events calendar, catering to the full moons, eclipses and other astronomical experiences over winter. Booking is advised. The Forest itself is set in the valleys, surrounded by mountains and tranquil lochs as well as being home to wild deer and goats. There is camping available year round in the Forest and near Loch Doon for easy access to the observatory.
- There is so much winter wildlife to see in Scotland the BBC even developed their own tv series on it! From Red Deer and Stags to Golden Eagles and if your lucky, a sighting of the rare native bird, the Capercaillie. Wild Scotland provide an interactive map of the best places to spot these fantastic creatures from the Lowlands to the Highlands.
- Due to its northerly location, you can often see the Northern Lights (or Aurora Borealis) over winter in Scotland. Delving in to the most remote places in your campervan gives you the best chance to catch this remarkable natural light display. With little light pollution in these regions, providing you have clear skies, you’ll be dazzled by the Auroras performance. They also provide the opportunity to explore our northern isles such as Shetland, Orkney or Caithness.
2. Off-season rates
Scottish are famous for being ‘stingy’ with their money but let’s face it, everyone loves a bargain! Over winter in Scotland, you can find complete isolation in rural areas with no crowds ruining that special photo moment. Winter provides the seclusion to enjoy yourselves in this natural playground. Which ultimately means off-season rate for your campervan, campsites and many more, making it one of the most budget-friendly getaways for winter.
- Campsites offer low rates from November to February. You can enjoy the scenery in secluded areas with your campervan being able to run off grid for up to 3 days, ensuring you are entirely self-contained and self-sufficient. Or you can enjoy the ample and often luxurious facilities on offer at the many campsites open year-round. With discounted rates, these campsites can provide anything from a toasty log fire to hot tubs over the season.
- The Ferries running between the islands also offer low season rates over the winter months Booking in advance is recommended but not essential at this time of year, giving you the freedom to plan your route as you go. Campervans cost the same as a car which means you can take your house with you and enjoy last minute decisions as you wish.
3. Festive fun
Scotland as a country is thousands of years old and traditions have been passed down generation after generation. Many of these traditions are celebrated in the festive period, making Scotland one of the go-to places over Christmas and New year.
- Christmas markets are on all over the country with the two biggest hosted in the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Enjoy mulled wine or hot toddies under the festive lights whilst you explore the cities and get last minute trinkets and souvenirs to put in your stockings. Santa dashes and carol singing are sure to get you in the festive spirit.
- Hogmany is the most celebrated festival in Scotland, taking place on the 31stof December through to the wee early hours and sometimes further. Don’t expect to find anything open on the 1stor 2ndof January as either the parties are still going or people are cosied up trying to recover. Ensure you have planned in advance and stocked up on food and fuel to keep you going over this national 2 day holiday. As well as parties and ceilidhs up and down the country, traditionally you can first-foot anyone (follow the sounds of the music if you find yourself in remote surroundings) as long as you bring whisky, shortbread and a lump of coal for their fire.
- Burns night is celebrated on the 25thof January and marks an official end to Scottish winter festivities. A Burns Supper is held to commemorate the life of famous Scottish poet Robert (Rabbie) Burns, when tradition deems a poem is read as an ode to the haggis before commencing your meal. There will be bagpipes, whisky, kilts, ceilidh dancing and anything Scottish at most events and guests are always welcome.
4. Winter sports
With 5 ski resorts to choose from, winter sports enthusiasts often claim the remote and quiet pistes are Scotland’s best kept secret. Each resort offers its own attractions and limitless opportunities for all levels and abilities. Getting to the slopes in your campervan couldn’t be easier with winter tyres to get through snow and diesel heating systems to keep you sung. Often the resorts will offer camping facilities in their carpark with electric hook-ups or you can go off grid for up to 3 days with our campervans. This provides you with easy access to the slopes, secluded accommodation and the most glorious views to wake up to in the morning. Check out our Winter Sports in Scotland Blog for more information.
- Skiing and snowboarding are catered for at each of the 5 resorts with a range of achievable and more challenging green, blue, red and black runs. Each mountain is accessible with a variety of lifts and tows with specific mountains offering gondolas or funiculars to get to the summit.
- Sledging is a great outdoor activity for all the family. There are many activity centres all over Scotland which will hire sledges and offer advice on the best areas to sledge in. Though with the wilderness of Scotland you’ll most likely discover these yourself on your campervan travels. Speaking from experience, ensure you buy black binbags for your journey and you’ll never be caught out wishing you had a sledge after a night’s snowfall. A great alternative!
- Hillwalking is considered ‘Mountaineering’ in Scotland over winter and often pick-axes or crampons are required to reach the summit of some peaks. Ensure to check either online or at your local visitors centre for advice on which walks are achievable. Always be prepared with the right kit and check the weather in advance.
As Scotland’s national tipple, you can enjoy a whole host of whisky distillery tours all over the country. This malted spirit will warm your insides on a cold day and has a fascinating history to be explored at each distillery. Whilst Scotland’s winters are infamous for bad weather, there’s an old saying that ‘it never rains in a pub’ or make that a distillery! Some are even host to our Brit-Stop package that comes with your campervan, giving you a snug overnight spot to sleep off your whisky experience.
- Speyside is home to some of the most famous award-winning brands such as Glenfiddich, Glenlivet and my favourite, Macallan. Set in the beautiful district of Moray, you’ll find tall forests and sandy beaches whilst you partake in the cultural experience offered by the only malt whisky trail in the world.
- The Isle of Islay, the most southern of the inner Hebridean islands, is only a hop skip and a jump from mainland Scotland. Whilst only extending 239 square miles, it hosts no less than 8 whisky distilleries, making it the easiest to access for those who want to explore this cultural phenomenon in a short space of time. Here you’ll find brands such as Laphroaig and Ardbeg amongst others, with tours that will enlighten you to the fine craft of this spirit and it’s cultural origins of Irish monks.
- With over 120 distilleries nationwide, you’ll be sure to taste this experience on your campervan adventure. Known in Gaelic as ‘Uisge Beatha’, the water of life, it is truly part of our Scottish heritage. You must be over 18 years, drink responsibly and always have a designated driver.
We hope this has provided enough information to book your winter campervan getaway in Scotland.