For some people Christmas and the festive season is the most wonderful time of the year to spend with family and friends from near and far. Whilst grandparents can enjoy the often rare opportunities in these modern and increasingly digital times to interact with their grandchildren in person and play with them some real board games which don’t involve computer screens, the parents can take pleasure in a harmonious family get-together that includes the older as well as the younger generation – if they are not too busy with festive shopping, decorations and preparations.
But there are also people – perhaps a rising number – who just want to get away from home and family traditions. For them, a Christmas tree is no longer a must-have and an open fire can easily be created virtually on a large tv screen. They are no longer looking for a festive haven, instead they prefer some outdoor activities amidst the wintery elements, followed by a fine-dining experience and some hygge time for two or with their children, whether they are still young or already grown-up. These are the people I have in mind when I share my top 5 festive hotels in the south of Scotland with you.
SCHLOSS Roxburghe Hotel, near Kelso, Roxburghshire
The hotel invites their guests to enjoy the festive magic in a castle − hoping that nobody will be too grown up to search the skies on Christmas Eve for reindeer and a sleigh. There is a 3-night package available with a selection of flexible options for this special time of the year. Residents are able to relax with crackling open fires, culinary delights and, with a little bit of luck, wake up to a beautiful white Christmas morning in the heart of the Scottish Borders.
At SCHLOSS Roxburghe guests can also indulge in a truly unforgettable Hogmanay, celebrating into the New Year. The 2-night package includes a luxurious stay on a beautiful country estate as well as all meals and entertainment. Scotland is world-famous for its Hogmanay celebrations; no one is sure, but the word Hogmanay may come from Gaelic or Norse. Everybody is greeted at the bells (midnight) with a warm Scottish welcome and all will leave for home having made new friends.
Cringletie, near Peebles, Scottish Borders
To celebrate Christmas at Cringletie guests can arrive in style by chauffeur-driven limousine on Christmas Eve from Edinburgh, Glasgow or Newcastle airports. Cream tea, champagne and canapes await them, as well as a welcome dinner in the Sutherland Restaurant. The morning of Christmas Day offers some activity options on the estate or in the Walled Garden. The highlight of the day is of course the sumptuous lunch, and in the evening a light buffet supper is served in the Conservatory. The 3-night package includes a cookery demonstration and some ceilidh dancing after a light Burns’ Supper on Boxing Day.
The Hogmanay celebrations package at Cringletie can be enjoyed at leisure, as it includes 3 nights in this stately country house as well as all meals and daytime and evening entertainment. A class to teach guests ceilidh dancing takes place on 30 December, a welcome warm-up for dancing to a ceilidh band on Hogmanay. Cocktails are served in the Garden Room on Hogmanay followed by a delicious dinner. On New Year’s Day a festive brunch will give everybody a good start into the New Year and a gala dinner will complete this stay in the Scottish Borders where Scotland starts.
Knockinaam Lodge, near Portpatrick, Dumfries & Galloway
Guests are invited to join the house party for Knockinaam’s 3-night Christmas break. This is a wonderful place to get away from it all and just spend time with loved ones. At the end of the cul-de-sac and overlooking the Irish Sea, the Lodge is there to take care of all your culinary desires – from a welcome dinner on Christmas Eve and an abundant Christmas Day lunch to a fine farewell dinner on Boxing Day.
For Hogmanay Knockinaam Lodge is offering a relaxed 3-night break to welcome the New Year in style, and to spend time away from the hustle and bustle of business and family life, as well as restore the well-being and inner strength to face the new challenges of the coming year. The traditional Hogmanay celebrations centre on a gourmet dinner, a piper and a proper ceilidh – and the New Year can be welcomed by a dip in the Irish Sea from Knockinaam’s private beach!
Glenapp Castle Hotel, near Ballantrae, Ayrshire
Glenapp Castle becomes a winter wonderland at Christmastime when the entrance sparkles with fairy lights and Christmas trees. Guests step inside to enjoy the warmth of the roaring open fire in the drawing room and immerse themselves in this magical setting. If they want to make the festive season truly memorable for partners or families, they should opt for a 3-night stay in this breath-taking part of Ayrshire. This will include falconry displays, stargazing, clay pigeon shooting, archery, treasure hunts, open fires and new friendships, so something for all the family.
New Year is always a highlight of the Scottish calendar and always in its own inimitable style. Glenapp Castle’s 3-night stay and their New Year House Party is no different, offering luxurious accommodation, Scottish dancing, pipers, ceilidhs, fine dining, black tie and glamorous dresses in the evening, banquets, drams and an ice-curling competition and of course Auld Lang Syne at the bells. A true taste of Scotland and memories for a lifetime are guaranteed amidst a fascinating castle ambience.
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The Dunstane Houses, Edinburgh
If guests stay at the Dunstane Houses over Christmas, they will never need to lift a finger but be treated to all indulgent luxuries that come with a truly memorable Christmas break. They are encouraged to hang up their stockings and simply enjoy the festive break the Dunstane way. The hotel is flexible about the duration of this break, where you can experience the magic of the Scottish capital in full festive swing, but a minimum of two nights for the Christmas Experience and three nights for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations are strongly recommended.
Because of the owners’ Orcadian background, the festive food and drink will always carry the spirit of Orkney. From Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day residents can choose from mulled wine and mince pies on arrival, 5-course champagne Christmas Day lunch and Boxing Day supper as well as whisky or gin tastings followed by a welcome dinner on December 30, a sumptuous 5-course Hogmanay dinner and a traditional steak-pie supper on New Year’s Day. No offence to Glasgow, but there’s really no better city in Scotland to be in when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve than Edinburgh!
Depending on their personal preferences, visitors to Scotland can decide on either a very relaxed and indulgent Christmas break or an entertaining Hogmanay experience in full swing – the choice is yours! Perhaps you prefer a stay in a quiet, intimate country house which almost feels like home but without the stress over turkey-cooking times and who is doing the clearing-up afterwards. Or, if a festive atmosphere and exclusive ambience is important to you during the Christmas season, I would suggest celebrations in a proper style in a Scottish castle hotel.
For the discerning traveller with time available in the Twixmas period my recommendation is to explore “Scotland starts here“ (the southern part of Scotland), staying in a country house of your choice and then, maybe at another time, opt for a castle hotel as the kind of place you have been dreaming of for a long time. For Hogmanay at the end of the trip there is nowhere but Edinburgh with a wealth of additional shopping opportunities, leisurely walks along the Water of Leith and the new Johnnie Walker Experience on Princes Street.
Dorothy Welsh is the CEO of Luxury Scotland. Luxury Scotland offers true Scottish hospitality, culinary delights and unique experiences.