Dig in the back of the beverage cupboard for eggnog – Christmas is almost upon us. Most of us will be in Scotland and not in warmer climates to celebrate, so here’s our rundown of the best things to bring Christmas cheer to our two biggest cities.
Pantos, Christmas markets, seasonal dishes in restaurants, ceilidhs in hotels, skating, street parties, ballet, concerts with everything from bagpipes to Abba…. this year the stops are there to make up for the wet firecracker that Christmas 2020 has turned into, gratis to that ultimate party animal – Covid 19.
OUTINGS IN EDINBURGH
Edinburgh has events until the 12th day of January. This year saw the return of the city’s beloved Christmas Ice Rink to its new home on George Street. Skate to one of their bars and warm up with a mulled wine or hot chocolate.
Once again, East Princes Street Gardens is home to one of the UK’s best Christmas markets. There are offerings of European and local food, drink, and cute crafts, and the resistance pieces are the Forth 1 Big Wheel alongside the Star Flyer, all against the dramatic backdrop of Edinburgh Castle.
Pre-book tickets for Ice Skating, Santa’s Cave, Forth 1 Ferris Wheel (£ 7.50) and Star Flyer via https://www.edinburghschristmas.com/
Holyrood House is having an event next Thursday (December 16) called Christmas at the Court of Mary, Queen of Scots – a talk and then a tour of the palace. A must see for historians and well worth the £ 16.50. See www.rct.event / christmas
Among the evening light extravagances in the capital, my vote goes to the Botanics. Their piece de resistance is Aquastell – a huge installation of several dynamic arcs of light that change as people move around, making it appear as if they are walking among shooting stars. Along the trail you also encounter Digital Rain, Fireflies in the Woods, and Sea of Light is the festive finale. And, of course, Santa Claus is also making an appearance. This is a great tour for all ages. Pre-book for £ 20.
The castle light show – despite all the TV hype – was decidedly underwhelming and I don’t think it justifies the £ 20 entrance fee. The zoo’s festive light trail is good if you have kids, with lots of projections and sparkling fairy lights. Entrance slots every 15 minutes from 4:45 p.m.
EAT IN EDINBURGH
In terms of truly special festive meals to feast on your loved ones, here is the group’s choice: Seafood heaven in the stylish, newly refurbished restaurant Ondine is a treat all year round, but this year they have a Christmas too. special £ Menu 45 until New Years Eve (book in advance). Choices include the Chicken Liver Parfait with Truffle and Fig Jam on Brioche, Pumpkin Gnocchi, Sage Butter and Pecorino, and their own delicious sherry trifle. Their £ 100 New Years banquet begins with oysters and champagnes and continues after a course of delicacies like scallops, salmon and turbot, complemented by a choice of desserts. See ondinerestaurant.co.uk
‘Having dinner’ (www.dineedinburgh.co.uk) is an award winning restaurant next to Usher Hall with a great party program this year. The relaxed atmosphere is complemented by the super friendly staff. In addition to the good party meals, they came up with the perfect idea for weekend afternoons with a gourmet 3-course menu and a bottle of wine included for £ 49.50 per couple. Fill the crowds with Christmas shopping!
In Glasgow, this year’s Christmas market is in St Enoch Square. Among this year’s exotics are wild boar, ostrich, and crocodile burgers (I’d stick to gluhwein and pancakes if I were you.)
Now he might not be screaming Christmas, but the zesty Les Miserables musical is a treat for a loved one. The production takes place at the Theater Royal in Glasgow until the end of the year and is a good, uplifting show, with top notch performers and plenty of singing moments. The singers portraying Jean Valjean, Javert, Fantine and Enjolras deserve a special mention – superb performances and the directing is the best I have ever seen for a production of the Mis. Runs until Dec. 31 See atgtickets.com
Super-Christmassy is the Scottish Ballet’s wonderful Nutcracker production (performed in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Aberdeen). The caliber of dance makes you proud of our national ballet company. It features magical scenes such as snow on stage, a spectacular Victorian Christmas party and a delightfully romantic duet in front of a wall of 4,500 sparkling baubles – a feast for the senses and perfect for a family outing. Until December 31. Tickets from £ 19.50 See www.capitaltheatres.com
Glasgow has the Elfin Trail and Ice Experience, an immersive 60-minute journey of sound, lighting, as well as food, drink and ice skating. Essentially, it’s a walk along the Elfin River through Kelvingrove Park to see seven creatures brought to life by sound, lighting, and set designers before reaching the Kingdom of Elfingrove. See www.itison.com/elfingrove.
GLASGOW EAT OUTDOORS
The Ivy restaurants in Glasgow and Edinburgh look festive all year round, but this Christmas they’ve gone above and beyond. The Ivy on Buchanan Street in Glasgow has its Carousel Christmas theme, inspired by German Christmas markets and the Victorian carousel. They have a wide range of party cocktails like Pear Noel and Carousel Coffee – a decadent take on Irish coffee with Gray Goose vodka, coffee, sugar and white chocolate cream. On the food side, there are seasonal desserts like the snowball fight with brandy ice cream, white chocolate, gingerbread with cream sauce – to hook the diet after the meal. year that we have just lived.
Edinburgh’s Ivy was inspired by William Morris’ famous 1883 print, The Strawberry Thief, and they used it to inspire their party cocktails. Check out their Red Robin – a blend of Maker’s Mark Bourbon, Lemon, Pomegranate and Honey, finished with Apple Cider and Hold-Up Ginger, topped off with Haku Vodka, Aperol, Pineapple , lime and gingerbread.
For an intense Christmas party for those of a certain age, my vote goes to the Tropicana on Argyle Strett in Glasgow. Get moving to the music of the 80s and 90s and enjoy some sorbets while dancing the night away. A great club for all ages. See www.topicanaglasgow.co.uk
Festive meals and lavish decorations can be found at Arta – an ever bustling Glasgow venue. With a festive menu starting at just £ 19.95 (try the Baked Ham with Golden Molasses and Cloves) and Christmas and Hogmanay celebrations, book early. See arta.co.uk
Who needs the hassle of multi-covid testing and crowded airports? Wear that horrible Christmas sweater in Princes Street or Buchanan Street this year instead – you will have a great time and save a lot of money and hassle.