Celebrate St Andrew's Day In Style

31 January 2017

saltire festival

Photo: Saltire Festival

St Andrew’s day, on the 30th November, is a public holiday in Scotland, an excuse for a celebration, a day out or time to reflect on Scottish history and tradition. All round the country people will be getting together to make merry in special events that also herald the beginning of the winter festival season, these are a few of our favourites.

It should come as no surprise that the town that bears our patron saint’s name organises an extensive line up of events every November and this year is no exception. To begin with there is Savour St Andrews, a culinary themed weekend, designed to showcase the best of Fife’s local produce which will culminate in a St Andrew’s day dinner like no other. A free street party in Market Street with the best of Scottish music, street entertainers and local buskers will keep the party going throughout the afternoon, leading up to a traditional highlight of the day, the switching on of the Festive Lights at 6.00pm. Afterwards you can be part of the world s largest St Andrew’s Day Ceilidh. This fun open-air event in Market Street is free of charge. Come along and dance to the great music of the Kilrymont Ceilidh Band. No experience or tickets required – just wear sensible shoes and enjoy yourself. For something a bit more pedestrian then you could join one of the many walking tours around the town, or spend an afternoon with the renowned author Jodi Picoult if cerebral pursuits are more to your liking. Balfour House makes for a great short break getaway at any time of year. Within easy walk of all the attractions the town has to offer and an abundance of top quality restaurants.

The Saltire Festival takes place from 24 - 30 November and features a great selection of events throughout East Lothian. The festival gets its name from Scotland’s flag, whose official birthplace is at Athelstaneford Church and this appropriately plays a central role in the events that take place. The aim of the festival is to bring together people from all over the world to celebrate Scotland's fascinating heritage, wonderful culture and delicious food & drink traditions. The line-up is diverse and will appeal to all ages with author appearances, concerts, stand-up comedy, historical re-enactments and even trail running events on the schedule. Denfind House is superbly located right in the heart of the action while still being easily accessible to Edinburgh, the beach and some of the most renowned golf courses in the country.

Another feature of St Andrew’s Day is the fact that Historic Environment Scotland operates a scheme whereby many of its top visitor attractions are free to enter. The Arnol Blackhouse on Lewis is one of them. This traditional, fully furnished thatched house once sheltered a family and its animals under the same roof. Today it looks just as it used to with the peat fire never allowed to go out. It’s a stunning reminder of the island tradition and the hardships of life here. Also of interest is the byre next door which has been unchanged since the 1960s and the more modern white house furnished in the style of the 20s when it was built. Ceol na Mara is just a few miles away and is a striking contrast, its modern interior combined with the comfort of a wood burning stove and perfect location make it the ideal island holiday destination.

For those who want to celebrate this day in a traditional style then Hotel Eilean Iarmain offers a perfect opportunity to indulge in the very best of Scotland.  Enjoy a dram on arrival before being piped into the award winning Birlinn Restaurant. A three course menu showcases the finest Skye produce and this is followed by live music in Am Pràban, one of the best whisky bars in the country. After all this fun it’s relaxing to think that you only have a short journey home to Teangue House and the dramatic landscapes of the Sleat Peninsula.

Oban Winter Festival gets underway on Friday with a ballet performance, whisky-tasting and a fashion show. Incorporated into the festival will be a number of events for St Andrews day including a fun run called the Tartan Dash, a Haggis Hurling competition and a pyrotechnics and fireworks display from McCaig’s Tower. Rhunacairn is just a short drive away, if you needed any further encouragement to make the journey then the local council will be making all its pay and display car parks free during the festival.