1 Irn-Bru Carnival

SEC, Glasgow

Billing itself as Europe’s largest indoor funfair, the Irn-Bru carnival opens on Thursday at Glasgow’s SEC – so only four more sleeps to go, kids – and offers a cornucopia of thrills and delights.

Pluck up your courage if you want to take on rides such as the Top Flip, the Speed Buzz, the Midnight Express Matterhorn or new additions the Rotor and Airmaxx 360, or try some of the more sedate attractions. Among these are the Flying Dumbo Ride, the Carousel, the Big Apple Coaster and (because no funfair would be complete without this troika of delights) the Ghost Train, the Dodgems and the Waltzers.

There are also kids’ rides, stalls (yes, there’s a coconut shy) and other attractions such as arcade games, sweetie and ice cream stands, bungee trampolines, a climbing wall, the inevitable face-painting and, of course, a fortune teller.

Ticket prices start from £9, children under three are free, there are 10 ride vouchers per entry. Runs until January 13, 2019.

2 Winter Wonderland 2018


Taking place in Whin Park, this annual event sees the area turned into a brightly lit wonderland for children and families.

A light show will bring the boating lake and surrounding trees to life, and of course Santa and his reindeer will be putting in an appearance, joined by other characters such as the Ice King and Queen.

The event has been running all weekend and finishes this evening at 7pm. Hurry now …

3 Giant Lanterns Of China

Edinburgh Zoo

Following on from last year’s smash-hit display of lanterns, which turned the zoo into a magical, glowing night-scape, the Chinese lanterns return for another outing, though this time the emphasis is on folk tales and myth.

There are more than 450 lanterns in all and they take creatures from Scotland’s storied past, such as the kelpies, the Loch Ness Monster, the Ghillie Dhu and the Nuckelavee (a centaur-like demon from Orkney), and match them with Chinese counterparts. Among these are the Mystical Winger Tiger, which represents autumn and, appropriately, the West, and the Monkey King, the master trickster of Chinese legend.

As well as the lanterns themselves there are food and drink stalls featuring everything from hot dogs and marshmallows (not together, obviously) to burgers, haggis and doughnuts. And being in large part a celebration of Chinese culture, there’s also a stall featuring the wares of Eteaket, who’ll offer you a cuppa of their speciality tea – or mulled wine, if you prefer.

The Giant Lanterns Of China runs until February 17 (days and times vary).

Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway Santa Trains


Probably the only thing better than a go on a steam train is a go on a steam train which has as a fellow passenger a certain Mr S Claus of Lapland – especially if he has in his luggage a present for everybody else on board. Everyone under a certain age, anyway.

There are four trains a day running today, and next Saturday and Sunday, the 22nd and 23rd, but if you can’t make it in time for Christmas there are also a series of Black Bun Specials running on December 30 and 31 offering black bun (natch) and a hot drink, or juice and shortbread for the kids. No coal, though: it’s needed up front to keep the engine running.

Hoot! Hoot! Here comes the Santa Special.

Royal Scottish National Orchestra Christmas Concert

Various venues

Starting in Perth on Wednesday, moving to Dundee on Thursday, passing through Edinburgh on Friday and winding up in Glasgow for two concerts at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Saturday, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under the baton of Matthew Hamilton performs a live accompaniment to The Snowman, the 1982 screen version of Raymond Briggs’s much-loved children’s book.

The presenter is Jamie MacDougall and the concert also features the RSNO Chorus and Junior Chorus. But don’t think you’ll get away without any audience participation: the concert also features a host of favourite Christmas carols and from the stalls to the cheap seats, everyone is encouraged to lend their voice. Everyone.

Holly’s Elf School


Taking place at the North Lanarkshire Heritage Centre on Saturday, Holly’s Elf School promises to train up Christmas helpers in case Santa needs a little extra in the way of boots on the ground come the big day. Only small boots, though: the event is aimed at children between the ages of five and 10.

Over the course of a 90-minute workshop, Holly (real name? Who knows) will help these wannabe elves practice wrapping presents, teach them some elf games and help them make a craft-based present to take home.

And at the end of it all, if they earn their antlers, they’ll also earn an Elf School certificate.

Wendy And Peter Pan

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

You can chorus “Oh not it doesn’t!” all you like but nothing says festive days out quite like a pantomime does, though admittedly if you’re attending an evening rather than a matinee performance then technically it’s a festive night out.

Either way there are plenty of pantomimes to choose from, but Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre usually provides one of the best. This year it turns its attention to a long-standing Christmas favourite, JM Barrie’s classic story about Captain Hook, the Lost Boys, Tinkerbell, the Darling family children of Wendy, John and Michael and, of course, Peter Pan, the boy who wouldn’t grow up.

It would be too strong to call this version a feminist re-telling, but as the title suggests Ella Hickson’s adaptation (which has previously been performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company) puts Wendy, Tinkerbell and Tiger Lily centre stage as they fight to save the Lost Boys from the clutches of Captain Hook. It’s directed by Eleanor Rhode and stars Isobel McArthur as Wendy and Ziggy Heath as Peter.

The production runs until January 5 (times vary) and there’s a relaxed performance on January 3 at 7pm.

A Magical Christmas At The Falkirk Wheel


A bit like the Santa Train only on water, this festive day out takes you and the family on a magical boat trip. Santa will come on board with a sackful of presents and as he hands them out there will be time for a quick selfie (or should that be elfie?). Then it’s off to his grotto by boat.

The trips run until Christmas Eve and run hourly between 12.30pm and 6.30pm.

Stromness Yule Log Competition

Stromness, Orkney

Revived for last year’s Stromness 200 celebrations after having been banned by the town council in 1937, the Yule Log Competition returns to pit Northenders, those who live in the north of the town, against their rivals the Soothenders in what is essentially a tug-of-war. The aim is to drag a log – actually a tree trunk – through the opposing team’s “goal”.

Current champions in this iteration of the contest are the Soothenders, so the Northenders are out for revenge this year. Kick off, if that’s the right term, is 4pm on December 31 although the teams will start limbering up from 2.30pm.

You don’t have to take part, of course. Last year’s event attracted 200 competitors but a great many more simply watched from the, er, sidelines and you’ll have just as much fun watching the shenanigans unfold as you will taking part. Almost, anyway.

There will be musical entertainment on the pier throughout and fireworks at the end, and the whole thing is free.

Christmas At The Botanics

Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

Fast becoming a seasonal favourite in the capital, this stunning visual display turns the always ravishing Botanic Garden into a genuine wonderland of lights and projections.

Follow the outdoor trail as it winds through the grounds, watch flowers apparently rise into the sky see snowflakes, stars, baubles and even a reindeer or two appear, watch the hot houses and Inverleith House itself turned into vibrant colour-wheels.

Making its debut this year (and never before seen in Scotland) is the enormous Cathedral of Light, a 70-metre long installation featuring over 100,000 pea-lights and running the length of the garden’s wonderful Beech Hedge. And when you’ve finished, drink spiced cider, mulled wine or hot chocolate from one of the refreshment stalls.

The event runs until December 29 (dates and prices vary) with 11 entry times beginning at 4.40pm and ending at 8pm.

Festival Of Choirs

Princes Square, Glasgow

Taking place daily until December 23 at 2pm, this free concert features choirs from local primary and secondary schools as well as community choirs performing seasonal carols and offering shoppers a respite from the hurly-burly. It’s in aid of the charity Quarriers and if you’re able to get down there today you’ll head the Quarriers Voices in action.

Tomorrow it’s the turn of the Glasgow Academy and they’re followed on Tuesday by Wallacewell Primary and on Wednesday by Lorne Street Primary. The Cedars School of Excellence, Saint Clares Primary and the NAC Workplace Choir take the Thursday, Friday and Saturday slots respectively and the Rock Us Choir closes proceedings on the Sunday.

24 Days Of Advent

Various venues, Edinburgh

What a brilliant idea – for each of the 24 days of advent, a normally closed or relatively inaccessible building in the capital throws open its doors to all comers. The programme has been running since the start of December of course, the same day all those eager little fingers prised open the first door on their own advent calendars, but there are still nine real doors to open and among the highlights are the Edinburgh Playhouse (Tuesday), the Anatomical Museum of Edinburgh University (Wednesday) and Tynecastle Park (Thursday), home of Heart of Midlothian FC.

Note: some visits require booking in advance.