There is nowhere more festively fun to spend the run up to the big day than the Cairngorms. With so many things to do, it can be hard to know where to start so we’ve picked 10 highlights but be sure to also check out our entire listings, as this is only scratching the surface! Whether you want to chill out or thrill out, you will find something that hits the mark in the Park.
1.Have a dram!
There are few winter warming drinks that leave you feeling as festively fuzzy as whisky! (If you’re 18+, of course!). Head to Royal Lochnagar Distillery if you’re on the east side of the park, just off the SnowRoads. Or south to Dalwhinnie Distillery, which does free winter tours and tastings with chocolate.
2. Santa Run/Bike
What’s more festive than dressing up as Santa and jogging while ho, ho, ho-ing? Join the fun in Aviemore on Saturday 14th December for a midday start, in aid of Disability Snowsport UK. Or, if bike is more your thing, cycle as Santa with Mike’s Bikes, pedalling off from their store at 6.30pm on the 10th December.
It doesn’t truly feel like Christmas unless you’ve boo-ed a baddie. Head to Macdonald Aviemore Resort throughout December to cheer on Robinson Crusoe. Or, catch a one-off Hansel & Gretel puppet show in Tomintoul on Saturday 14th December.
4. Go wild with Santa
If you visit the Highland Wildlife Park over certain weekends running up to Christmas, you’ll have the chance to feed the reindeer with Santa himself, and learn all about these magical creatures. This experience is free with your entrance ticket, check out their website for more information.
This traditional evening of Scottish dancing is a firm festive favourite with locals and tourists alike. Various venues around the Strath host ceilidh dances such as Boat of Garten Hall & Kincraig Hall (Hogmanay; 31st December), Duke of Gordon Kingussie (every Sunday) & the British Legion (monthly music afternoons. )
Fairs are not only great places to get in the Christmas spirit, but they’re also fantastic opportunities to find unique, locally-made pressies. Grantown, Boat of Garten, Carrbridge, Tomatin & Aviemore all have their own Christmas markets.
On weekends leading up to the 25th, the paddock at the Reindeer Centre is decked out with tinsel & kids can enjoy festive crafting, as well as meeting Santa. This is in addition to meeting all Rudolph’s pals up the mountain, for the normal Cairngorm hill trips, which leave the centre at 11am.
Hopefully you’ll be in full festive swing by Christmas Eve but – never fear! – if you’re not then get yourself down to one of the Park’s parades; even Scrooge wouldn’t be able to suppress a smile. Aviemore, Kingussie & Newtonmore all host them.
Take in beautiful winter wonderland views, while chugging through the valley and savouring a mince pie and mulled wine (if you’re old enough, naturally, otherwise it’s a soft drink!). These special trains run from 27 December until 2 January (11am or 2pm) leaving from Aviemore Station. They’re very popular, so book as soon as you can.
Come down to the village green in the heart of Aviemore on Friday 20th December 3-6pm to officially welcome winter! Roast marshmallows, play on snow, hum along to festive tunes, pat a reindeer, meet Santa, sip a hot choc or mulled wine… all this, and more, all free! This launch kicks off a weekend of celebrations with, for example, taster snowsport sessions at Cairngorm Mountain the next day.