What's the attraction?
Scotland's winter season kicks off today, St Andrew's Day, with Christmas markets, boughs of holly and decorative tartan sashes. And when (or if) the snow arrives, ski- and snowboard-laden visitors will be heading for the pistes, including the Cairngorm, Glencoe and Nevis Range areas.
Despite the long nights and chilly days, now is a great time to visit Scotland's mountains, lochs, glens – and cities. Winter is when the country's crisp, frost-dusted landscapes are especially atmospheric. However, to make the most of a break at this time of year, preparation is key – not least finding somewhere cosy to stay.
City and sea
Only half an hour from Edinburgh by train, North Berwick is ideal to combine bracing coastal walks with urban indulgence. This small seaside town is home to the Scottish Seabird Centre (01620 890202; seabird.org). In January, the world's largest single-rock gannet colony returns to neighbouring Bass Rock. In the meantime, hunker down in the sleek glass, stone and wood holiday cottage at 8 Victoria Road (01620 890284; gonetothebeach.co.uk), complete with log burner and just 100 metres from the shore. Winter rental starts at £690 per week for up to seven guests. The websiteedinburghsparkles.com lists festive events taking place in the capital.
One place in the country's far north that's easy on the wallet is The Schoolhouse, a B&B in Dornie, near the Isle of Skye. Its three bedrooms cost from £70 per night, including provisions for breakfast. To keep costs down you can also cook your own dinner in a communal kitchen (01599 555482; highlands-info.co.uk/dornie).
Glencoe Mountain's new micro-lodges (01855 851226;glencoemountain.co.uk; microlodge.co.uk) have beds, heating and electricity (you take your own sleeping bag and have access to a separate toilet and shower block) and are due to launch in January. Rates start from £40 per night.
Courtesy of The Independent