LOOKING for somewhere to stay in Scotland over the Christmas holiday period? Check out our guide to the country’s most historic castles, comfortable cottages, cheap and eccentric hotels, warming lodges and other accommodation that which will make your festive break extra special.
Looking for a five-star Christmas in Edinburgh? Try the Scotsman Hotel
To absolve yourself of festive responsibilities in style, go for the Scotsman Hotel’s luxurious Christmas Experience – a three-night package at the Edinburgh five-star hotel from 24-26 December at £500 per person (£300 per child) that includes a Champagne reception and three-course dinner on Christmas Eve.
On Christmas Day there is a five-course lunch and a screening of a classic Christmas film in the hotel’s private cinema with popcorn and ice cream. On Boxing Day relax with afternoon tea and access to the Scotsman Spa and Health Club.
Looking for a haggis? Try Hogmanay at Stonefield Castle
Elegant Stonefield Castle sits on the shore of Loch Fyne in 60 acres of Highland woods, which are put to good use every New Year in the Grand Haggis Hunt.
In the Hunt, guests are armed with pots and pans and given the opportunity to chase a haggis (or a member of the hotel’s staff dressed in a haggis costume) around the grounds.
Once the beast has been captured it’s back to the castle for whisky by the fire and bouillabaisse made with the morning’s catch from the loch. The three-night Hogmanay break from 30 December - 2 January includes a mulled wine welcome; buffet on 30 December; New Year’s Eve breakfast haggis hunt; Hogmanay cocktails, canapés and dinner; New Year’s Day brunch and dinner, plus a parting breakfast on 2 January, and is £450 per guest.
Looking for some cut-price Christmas shopping? Try MacDonald Houstoun House
Mary, Queen of Scots once stayed at Sixteenth-century Houstoun House, although it’s doubtful she enjoyed such ready access to retail bargains as modern-day guests.
The hotel is a ten-minute drive to Livingston Designer Outlet (formerly McArthur Glen Designer Outlet) where you can score major discounts on Austin Reed, Gap, French Connection, Kurt Geiger, Karen Millen, Nike, Adidas, Radley, Levi’s, Ted Baker and Tommy Hilfiger. From 16 December to 6 January the hotel is offering a package for £71 per night that includes a glass of wine at the bar, Scottish breakfast, use of the health club and spa and 10 per cent discount at Livingston Designer Outlet.
Looking for a bargain New Year break with outdoor activities on your doorstep? Try Cairngorm Lodge Youth Hostel
An old shooting lodge in the middle of the Cairngorm National Park near Aviemore, Cairngorm Lodge hostel is two miles from the snowsports area, directly across from the Loch Morlich Watersports Centre and right by the Rothiemurchus estate, where hillwalking, climbing, mountain biking, pony trekking and fishing are on offer – as is the chance to feed the residents at the Reindeer Centre.
The 72-bed hostel has Hogmanay meal packages on offer: the one-night deal for 31 December includes a Hogmanay buffet, glass of bubbly at the bells and Ne’er Day brunch (£19.50 for adults, £9.75 for kids) while the two-night package, for 31 December and 1 January, also gets you a Ne’er Day dinner and Scottish breakfast on 2 January (£38.45/£19.70). Accommodation isn’t included but book by 15 December and get £5 off the one-night menu deal and £10 off the two-night package.
Looking for somewhere the kids can meet a Highland Cow? Try the Newton Hotel
The Newton Hotel in Nairn in the Highlands boasts a Christmas package that includes a whisky tasting, carol singing, a three-course dinner and the opportunity to go to midnight mass at a local church on Christmas Eve.
On the day itself there is breakfast with Buck’s Fizz, Christmas lunch, a visit from Santa for the children and a buffet on Christmas Day. On Boxing Day there is breakfast and a buffet, as well as a farewell breakfast on 27 December.
The three-night break from 24-27 December starts from £229 per person (£75 for under-12s and £25 for under-5s), while two nights arriving on Christmas Eve starts from £169 (£59/£20). There’s a games room to keep the family entertained, but the main attraction has to be the opportunity to meet permanent residents Neeps and Haggis – the hotel’s own Highland Cows.
Looking to play the Clan Chieftain? Try Tulloch Castle
With its panelled Great Hall, turrets, battlements, four-poster beds and enormous original stone hearths filled with roaring flames, 12th-century Tulloch Castle in the Highlands makes the ideal getaway pad for today’s Laird and Lady on the go.
There are 20 en suite bedrooms, each with their own character and an abundance of tartan textiles. The three-night Christmas break costs £225 for 24-26 December and includes afternoon tea with mince pies on Christmas Eve, followed by a three-course dinner and a ghost tour.
Christmas Day breakfast with Buck’s Fizz, a four-course festive lunch and an evening buffet are all included, as well as breakfast, afternoon tea with Christmas cake, and a three-course dinner on Boxing Day.
Looking to ring in 2014 looking good? Try Gleddoch House Hotel & Spa
Gleddoch House’s Hogmanay getaway begins and ends in the hotel’s spa. Partake of the 17m-swimming pool, Elemis spa, gym, steam room and sauna on New Year’s Eve before afternoon tea, followed later by a Champagne reception, five-course dinner, ceilidh and a piper to bring in the bells.
Recovery (or at the very least the semblance of it) on New Year’s Day will be aided by an Elemis treatment, after which there’s a buffet dinner and fancy-dress murder mystery evening – all for £220 per person.
Looking for a room with a view? Try Glengorm Castle
Sitting on the tip of Mull near Tobermory, Glengorm castle, and built in 1860, the Castle overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and boasts views 60 miles out to the Hebrides, as well as over forests, lochs and hills.
Still a family home, the castle’s four-star en suite bed and breakfast accommodation also offers guests use of the main hall, the library (where you’ll find complimentary whisky) and the dining room – all equipped with roaring fires.
Cooked breakfasts are made with locally-produced sausages and free range eggs, plus smoked salmon and haddock from Tobermory, and packed lunches for getting out and about to take in those views can be arranged. You can even take your dog. And you can get three nights for the price of two from now till April 2014, with rooms starting from £160.
Looking for a romantic retreat? Try Croft 103
With bookings not taken for less than a week, relaxation is going to be fairly mandatory at Croft 103 - ditto isolation, possibly why these two five-star self-catering cottages on the shores of Loch Eriboll in Durness are billed as an ideal retreat for couples. Or that could be down to the hi-spec of the designer interiors, best kept safe from chubby, grubby fingers.
Peeping out from among the rocks to look over the water, Hill Cottage and Shore Cottage are equal parts traditional craftsmanship and cutting edge design and were an eco-built labour of love, with their own wind turbine and solar panels, wood stoves, enormous windows, under-floor heating, oversized beds and a solar-heated hot tub. Weekly rental is from £1400.
Looking for an imaginary vocation vacation? Try Corsewall Lighthouse Hotel
Situated on Corsewall Point, near Kirkcolm in Stranraer, the 1815-built lighthouse is an A listed building, and still shines its guiding light for ships approaching Loch Ryan.
The en suite rooms (one of which is equipped for disabled access) are equipped with TV, VCR, telephone and tea and coffee-making facilities rather than anything too modern, thus enhancing the game of nineteenth-century lighthouse keeper all guests in their right minds will play during their stay. There are also five individual suites on the 20-acre grounds, accommodating two to six people, and prices start from £60 per person per night.
Looking to do some time-travelling? Try Gearrannan Blackhouse Village
Gearrannan is part of a restored Blackhouse settlement on the Isle of Lewis, overlooking the Atlantic. The original thatched Blackhouses – ranging in size to sleep between between 2 and 16 - have been refurbished in keeping with their character, all with open fires to keep out the ocean chill, and each is named after the crofting family who once lived there.
The cottages are located close to the Callanish Standing Stones and Carloway Broch, and guests can watch Harris Tweed being woven in the village’s living museum, making this the ideal holiday from modern life for those less enamoured of a commercial Christmas – from £331 per week.
Looking to throw one hell of a party? Try Blair Estate
Blair dates back to the construction of a Norman tower in 1105, the remains of which can still be seen, and is reputedly the oldest continually-inhabited mansion in Scotland, set in 250 acres of parkland.
More importantly, it can accommodate 40 guests in its 18 bedrooms, thus allowing you to look incredibly smooth in front of 39 of your friends. All the bedrooms are en suite – with bathrooms equipped with Penhaligon’s products – and there’s a chef on hand, plus the owners can arrange mini Highland games and falconry on the estate, or perhaps you’d prefer a spot of billiards indoors? Price for exclusive use on application – naturally.
Looking to hit the slopes? Try Argyll House
Cross your fingers for a white Christmas and head to this four-star modern B&B on the Hillside Estate overlooking Fort William, the outdoor capital of Scotland. Ski shops, the chairlift to the Nevis Range at Aonach Mhor and après-ski options aplenty are a stone’s throw away.
The railway track on which the Hogwarts Express conveyed Daniel Radcliffe and pals back to school is also on the house’s doorstep, if the kids are more excited by broomsticks than snowboards, although the steam train from Fort William to Mallaig only runs in the summer months. Prices start from just £33, so getting up on the hill won’t break the bank.
Looking to roll into bed after the world’s biggest New Year’s party? Try Holyrood Aparthotel
Planning a messy end to the year with your mates and quite fancy keeping your own home clean? Holyrood Aparthotel serviced apartments are a five-minute stumble from Edinburgh’s Princes Street and the Royal Mile – scene of the world’s biggest and best Hogmanay party.
The apartments come with fully-equipped kitchen (including dishwasher); flat-screen TV, DVD library and WiFi for New Year’s Day recovery cocooning session; continental breakfast hampers and use of the on-site gym (for those with strange ideas about exercise and hangovers). There’s a 24-hour reception desk and daily housekeeping service, and December promos mean rooms start from £59 per night, although for Hogmanay stays there is a three-night minimum and rates start from £206 per night.