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The atmosphere transforms into a magical playground in Scotland in December. The pleasant smell of yuletide treats infuses the air during this month and tells you that Christmas is around the corner. Ski season arrives in the highlands along with a slew of other wintertime activities while feasts and festivals dominate the picturesque cities and villages of Scotland. With Edinburgh and Glasgow adorned by Christmas lights and decorations, this is a great time to visit Scotland to explore its attractions and be part of local festivities.

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Scotland Weather in December

Courtyards in Glasgow are snowy on your Scottish trip in December.
Pack warm clothes if you are heading to Glasgow in December as it is among the coldest Scottish cities.

Temperatures take a dive in Scotland in December. Winter is in full swing, so expect a nationwide average of between 2°C and 7°C. Glasgow is the coldest among the major cities, with lows of 0.9°C and highs of around 5°C. Edinburgh is a tad warmer, between 1.6°C and 6°C, but the city also witnesses rain showers of around 40mm throughout the month. Scotland in winter can get pretty windy and as a result, the temperature can drop a few degrees. Most parts of Scotland only get two to four hours of sunlight during December, so plan your sightseeing accordingly.

See our travel guide on the best time to visit Scotland to find out what the rest of the year looks like.

Weather in Scotland in December - Rainfall and Temperatures

Avg Daily (°C)975
Avg Nightly (°C)321
Avg Daily (°F)494541
Avg Nightly (°F)383634
Avg Rainfall (mm)707070

Why Visit Scotland in December

Visit the Christmas market in Edinburgh while touring Scotland in December.
Make sure to hit the Christmas markets in Edinburgh as Scotland bursts into the festive mood.
Enjoy sights in Scotland like Glasgow City Chambers at better rates.
You can get better deals when you travel to Scotland in the winter and there are fewer crowds as well.

While the winter weather conditions in Scotland may not seem ideal for a holiday, there are still many things you can do to make your trip memorable. It is the festival season, so the general mood of the country is jovial. This is the perfect time for those looking to soak up a festive spirit in a magical setting. Here are some more reasons why it is a good idea to visit Scotland in December.

  • The Island Fling: Portree’s Hogmanay Hoolie is one of the most authentic events in Scotland. This festival rings in the new year on the Isle of Skye with a myriad of Gaelic music, Scottish folk songs and dances.
  • Irn-Bru Carnival: Glasgow is home to the biggest indoor funfair in Europe, the place for everyone to leave their reservations at the door and let their inner child loose. Enjoy carnival games, rides and food at the Irn-Bru Carnival.
  • Christmas markets: The Scottish know how to celebrate Christmas, starting with an abundance of festive markets. Scotland promises markets and fairs of all shapes and sizes in the run-up to the celebration. One of the newer ways of celebrating this occasion is Christmas at the Botanics, a magical light display in Edinburgh’s 70-acre botanical garden.
  • Low-season bargains: Winter is a low season in Scotland, which means travel and accommodation rates are easy on your pocket. Moreover, there are fewer crowds at major attractions, allowing you to explore them thoroughly and at your own pace. Here are our Scotland budget tours.

Where to go and what to do

Witness the amazing Northern Lights on your Scottish holiday.
December is a great month to view the Northern Lights in Scotland.

Scotland offers tons of fun winter activities if you head to snowier destinations in the mountains. Head to Cairngorms, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs for snowshoeing in the scenic mountains. You can also conquer Ben Nevis, the country’s highest peak, while it snows to add to the adventure. Or hike up to Arthur’s Seat to enjoy a panoramic view of Edinburgh.

For a more traditional winter experience, head to one of the splendid ski resorts like Glencoe Mountain Resort. If you find yourself in the northern highlands, you can also embark on a sled-dog safari across icy landscapes.

Some of the best places to visit in Scotland are located higher up than some Scandinavian towns. Although daylight hours in some of these areas are less than three hours per day, it also allows you to experience one of the greatest natural phenomena. See the Northern Lights as they make their appearance in the Shetland Islands and the Orkney Islands.

For festival and revelry, the Hogmanay New Year’s party while exploring Edinburgh is the stuff of legends. This is not your usual new year’s party that lasts for a few hours. The event starts on December 30 with a torchlight procession and goes on for three days. Edinburgh and much of Scotland descend into a fervor of celebrations replete with musical entertainment and firework displays. On the first day of the new year, brave souls take an icy dip as part of the annual Loony Dook event which takes place at Firth of Forth in South Queensferry.

A Scottish holiday in December is all about festivities mixed with a bit of sightseeing and some adventure treks under snowy and icy conditions. It is also about cozy firelight pubs, strolls through Christmas markets and a couple of days on ski resorts. So make the most of sparse crowds and low travel rates to see one of the most beautiful countries in Europe.

Read our travel guide on how many days to spend in Scotland or contact our local travel experts to plan a customized holiday in the country.

Check out our tours to Scotland in December for more ideas.

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Published by Tim Green, updated on January 2, 2024

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