Dreaming of a shopping-hell free Christmas? Present-buying doesn't have to involve a trudge around the malls and the chains, or an online marathon. It can be about getting that indie vibe in small shops, finding unique gifts, and enjoying feeling connected to the makers and curators. Here's our guide to the 21 coolest independent shops in Scotland.

Clothing and accessories

Ryan James Studio, Osborne Street, Glasgow

The go-to lifestyle store for men who care about fashion and women who like something gender neutral. Here it’s about capsule wardrobes and curating, and James Rennie, the genius behind it, has said he thinks of the store as like “a big dressing room”. The store, named after two of his grandfathers, stocks independent brands ¬ clothing, grooming products and accessories ¬ from across Scotland, the UK and Europe. For the run-up to Christmas, Rennie has also collaborated with Wear Eponymous to set up pop-up store, Shop Small. There you can buy an outfit, or just splurge on stocking fillers like their McMullan’s handcrafted beard oil, or Westburn & Granite lip balm.

Covet, Thistle Street, Edinburgh

The very idea of this place is enough to make a bag fiend salivate. Launched in 2007 by best friends and co-directors Anna Somerville and Blaise Donald, this is the go-to shop for accessories in Edinburgh. Really, though, it’s mostly about the bag, particularly the Edinburgh Bag, one of their own-brand designs originally launched in 2016. It’s a kind of everybag, coming in 13 different colours and adaptable to be worn four different ways. Covet’s products are from up-and-coming designers from all over Europe, and also include scarves based on Somerville’s work as an artist.

Missy Magpie, Lint Riggs, Falkirk

A shop that really does live up to its name. This magpie’s nest is packed to the gunnels with handbags, shoes, jewellery and other shiny or quirky accessories. Here you can buy Princess headbands, Mary Poppins umbrella bath fizzers, furry animal slippers, sparkly things of many varieties, and cartoonish shoes that look like they were made to be worn by Minnie Mouse or Judy Garland.

Cartocon, Nethergate, Dundee

This menswear shop, opposite the DCA, tells you so much about Dundee’s own brand of coolness. It’s fashion forward, but chilled, as if it were really there mainly just to hang out in, whilst chatting about music and maybe picking up a Comme Des Garcons perfume or a t-shirt. The men behind it, Shafiq, Nathan and Gary, have said they always wanted it not to feel like an intimidating space. Brands like YMC, Garbstore and Soulland, add to that relaxed, urban vibe.

Pink Poodle, Cresswell Lane, Glasgow

When everyone else was having Black Friday, this store in the West End, was doing Pink Friday. Here is a heaven for anyone who likes things pink or shiny, a gorgeous bazaar lined with clothes, gifts, own brand candles, scarves, jewellery and quirky little knick-knacks. In short, it’s girly but with attitude, the kind of place where you can find an own-brand candle that says “She’s beauty, she’s grace, she’ll punch you in the face”, a flying unicorn necklace, or a fancy clipper purse. Plus, when you’ve overdosed on pink – and, by they way, they do have things in other colours – you can wander round the rest of De Courcy’s Arcade and fairylit Cresswell Lane.

Books and music

The Bookshop, Main Street, Wigtown

Once upon a time the big selling point of this shop was the fact that it was the largest second-hand bookshop in Scotland, a labyrinth of rooms lined top to floor with dusty literature, the jewel at the heart of Scotland’s book town. Now, it’s a magnet for those pilgrims who have read The Diary Of A Bookseller, the deadpan memoir of shop owner Shaun Bythell. Go there for that special out-of-print gift, or perhaps to see if you can get a mention in his next book. Bythell also once, as a protest against Amazon and the digital book, fired a shotgun at a Kindle.

Golden Hare Books, St Stephen Street, Edinburgh

Yes, dream book shops like this, really do still exist – but there are fewer and fewer left of them. Golden Hare is a gem staffed by avid readers, lined with walls of wonders, and with a great events calendar that includes its regular Sunday Stories for Children. When, earlier this year, Waterstones announced the 2019 opening of a non-branded new store in Stockbridge, just around the corner from the Golden Hare, manager Julie Danskin rightly kicked up a fuss. She said: “We have built our independent business. We do it for the love of books and people. We love being part of our community, Stockbridge, and want to be there for many years to come. Only you can help us do this. If you do, Waterstones cannot hurt us. Please choose to shop indie.”

Monorail, Kings Court, Glasgow

Nestled inside vegan café, Mono, is one of the UK’s finest record stores – which means shopping for vinyl can be that chilled, social leisure activity it should be. Set up by Stephen McRobbie of The Pastels, it doesn’t just sell the latest indie vinyl releases, it also has its own in-house label and hosts live sets.

Groucho’s, Nethergate, Dundee

Get there while this legendary record store is still going. Earlier this year owner Alastair “Breeks” Brodie announced he will be retiring in August 2019, and there’s a chance it won’t be taken over or the lease won’t be renewed. Needless to say many were unhappy at this news. Johnny Marr of The Smiths fretted over its possible closure, saying it was one of his “favourite places”, and Dundee’s own Kyle Falconer, frontman of The View, said: “Groucho’s is the best place to buy music, listen to music and breathe music in Dundee.”

Toys and laughs

Grasshopper Toys, Princes St, Helensburgh

This wonderland in Helensburgh, run by science toys enthusiast, Dr Wendy Hamilton, really is one of the UK’s best toy shops – it even made the top ten put together by travel website Youneedtovisit.co.uk, alongside other more obvious names like Hamleys. Here, it’s possible to find a wide variety of toys you just don’t get in the high street stores and chains. Lauren Vaughan of Youneedtovisit.co.uk said, “There are very few great independent toy shops left in the UK and Grasshopper toys is one of the very best.”

The Big Top, St Georges Road, Glasgow

A family-run traditional toyshop that sells not just toys, but also circus equipment. Anything fun thing you can think of, this place has it: children's toys, games, masks, kites, Russian dolls, jack-in-the-boxes, face paint, mobiles, tin toys and an amazing range of Teddy bears and other cuddly companions. It even runs circus and other fun workshops and provides performers for parties and events.

A Ha Ha Ha, West Bow, Edinburgh

Edinburgh’s long-running and much-loved joke store is hard to miss, with its giant Groucho Marx nose and specs above the door. When Bill Cowan first opened the shop in 1996, he was told by the council that the Groucho sculpture was too big. Some locals even complained that it lowered the tone of the area. But the nose stuck, and its presence adds to the bonkers feel of this store, From fake poos to stink bombs and daft wigs and masks, there really are endless jokes, pranks and scares here. Not just for Halloween, but also for Christmas.

General and designer gifts

Flux gifts, Bernard St, Leith, and High Street Dunbar

The gift wonderland of Flux actually has two locations, one close to The Shore in Leith, the other on the High Street in Dunbar. It’s one of those one-stop present shops, with an ethical and local approach, that seems to have it all covered – gifts for babies, designer jewellery, fun light-fittings, candles, scarves, socks, funky water bottles. Whoever you’re buying for, there’s bound to be something that feels quirky and individual here.

Hannah Zakari, Candlemaker Row, Edinburgh

Founded by jewellery designer Rachael Griffiths as an online store in 2004, Edinburgh’s funkiest seller of indie designer and handmade arts and crafts, has been namechecked by many a style magazine, including Vogue. The name of the shop derives from the Japanes term hanazakari meaning blossoming. And it does feel like a shop in full bloom, full of beautiful things, including Griffiths own jewellery line, Dotpop.

Colab, Dowanhill Street, Glasgow

Not just a shop but an “independent lifestyle and concept space” with a café, whose interiors style is industrial aesthetic, stripped brick walls and neon letter lighting. Just one year old, Colab has already made its mark as an independent store, stocking interesting products, from the Triumph And Disaster skincare brand to funky lockers or chocolate from Coco Chocolatier.

Spirito, Crow Road, Glasgow

Denise Laird had long been a shopaholic before she set up Spirito, driven by her passion for original products and her notion that she could source items that were different and not readily available in other stores. Particularly popular right now in this interiors and gifty store, she says, are decorations, jewellery, slippers and candles. They’re also happy to give your gift a free wrap, so, if it's a last-minute shop on the way to a gathering, your present is good to go.

Geek Bothy, Kemnay, Aberdeenshire

This family run business was set up Emma Black who used to run Wee Tootie handmade hair accessories, and husband Morgan, who was one of the creatures of Granite City Comic Con – so you can imagine what kind of aesthetic that would make. “The Geek Bothy,” their website declares, “blends their love of the geek lifestyle with a wide range of products." Stock ranges from POP figures and retro brands to not-so-geeky crafts from local artists and makers. They also really like dogs. In fact, they like them so much, that, on Instagram, they declare themselves “#dogswelcomepeopletolerated”.

Concrete Wardrobe, Broughton St, Edinburgh

Back in 2001, textile designer Fiona McIntosh and weaver James Donald set up this boutique to promote the work of Scottish-based or trained craftspeople, and it has just grown from strength to strength, promoting the craft community with heart and passion – selling everything from clothing to glassware and ceramics. Donald even curated the Cloth#18 textile show and Glow Christmas fair at the Dovecot studios. A trailblazer.

Dog gifts

House Of Hound, Roseburn Terrace, Edinburgh

Darren Donaldson, former head of menswear at Harvey Nichols and dog-lover, opened this little emporium of everything canine in 2014 and it quickly became a destination spot for those who want to indulge their pooches. Here you’ll find everything from doggy Christmas scarves, collars, bandanas, jumpers and Harris Tweed bow tie collars to doggie hampers, biscuits and treat jars. Yes, all that, under one woof.

Boozy gifts

Valhalla’s Goat, Glasgow

Stepping through the doors of this bottle shop owned by Williams Bros brewers, beer lovers will feel like they’ve died and gone to heaven. Though Valhalla's Goat is not just home to one of the most extensive ranges of beers in Scotland it's also about other “liquid treasures”, which include wine, spirits, craft gins and even the odd bottle of sake. Beers here include Fallen, Kernal, Fyne Ales and, of course, Williams Bros.

Demijohn, Edinburgh and Glasgow

Back when Demijohn first opened on the Grassmarket in Edinburgh, this so-called “liquid deli” was quirky and ahead of its town. But now, with three shops across the country, it seems destined to be a fixture. The formula is simple – spirits, oils and vinegars stored in huge demijohns from which they could be decanted into individually chosen bottles. The stock revolves around local, artisan products, with low food miles, great taste – plus, they score extra green points for that fact that you can come back and get a refill of their beautiful bottles.