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12 upcoming festive events and activities across the region

Christmas decorations at Castle Fraser.
Cracking Christmas events: Check out 12 of 12 best festive across the north and north-east. Photo supplied by National Trust for Scotland.

For many people, their December calendar is likely bursting at the seams with last-minute shopping trips and late-night movie watching. But no one wants to skip out on the joy of family festivities, especially with these seasonal surprises on the rise.

Christmas at the Castle – Crathes, Banchory

Aerial picture of Crathes Castle lit up for the Christmas holidays.
Crathes Castle spreads Christmas magic with festive wonderland. Picture By: Murray Hope.

Christmas magic is returning to Crathes Castle this festive period with an illuminated woodland trail and spectacular rides and attractions located around the historic grounds.

Guests are welcome to browse the festive food and gift markets, with mulled wine and a selection of gifts available for purchase, as families can gather beside the firepit as they toast marshmallows.

And a visit to Santa’s Grotto is the ideal opportunity for children to hear his magical tales and stories.

The popular event opened on December 8 and will run until Christmas Eve – though spaces are limited and visitors are advised to book in advance on the official Christmas at the Castle website.

Haddo Christmas Trail – Haddo Country Park, Ellon

Snow at Haddo Country Park.
Winter fun galore as the Christmas quest is underway. Picture By: National Trust For Scotland.

Haddo Country Park has transformed itself into the ultimate Christmas expedition as trail hunters are called to solve their festive-themed puzzles and complete the quest.

Decorated with Christmas trees, baubles, stockings and winter galore, guests must work together to unlock various (tricky) puzzles in order to take home a delicious treat.

Once hunters have completed the trail they must hand their quest sheet in to Mrs Smith’s cafe, where their reward awaits them.

Fancy dress is encouraged, but be mindful of the weather.

The trail runs until Sunday December 18 and tickets are available at £16 per family, or £4.50 for a single guest.

Skating With Santa – Inverness Ice Centre

Children and adults ice skating at Inverness Ice Centre.
Inverness Ice Centre skates its way towards festive cheer. Picture By: Shutterstock.

Inverness Ice Centre is hosting a rare opportunity to get those skates on and glide across the ice with Santa himself.

Sessions will be held on Saturday and Sunday December 17 and 18, between 10.30am-11am.

Tickets vary from £26 per family to £8 per child. More details are available at the Inverness Ice Centre website or by calling 01463 235711.

Christmas at Castle Fraser, Inverurie

Christmas decorations at Castle Fraser.
Festive fun: Families can explore historical Christmas traditions behind Castle Fraser walls. Picture By: National Trust For Scotland.

Guests are invited to explore the history of Christmas within the walls of Inverurie’s Castle Fraser.

Guided tours will unveil an insight behind some favourite festive traditions, such as wreaths, Christmas trees and even mince pies.

Decorations will also reflect upon the castle’s history, dating back 400 years, with a festive trail set up for children to take part in during their visit.

And to wrap up the day, visitors can stop by at the gift shop to pick up any last-minute Christmas gifts.

There is no booking required.

Visit Santa at Drum Castle, Banchory

Snow at Drum castle.
Cosy down for a Christmas chinwag with St Nick. Picture By: Scott Campbell/National Trust for Scotland.

The jolly soul himself is making a stop at Drum Castle with presents at the ready before his busiest trip of the year.

Children can sit down for an old chinwag with Santa to ensure their Christmas lists are in good order.

Only 10 children per session are permitted, and guests must arrive 20 minutes ahead of schedule.

Drum Castle is hosting the gathering on Saturday and Sunday December 17 and 18, between 9.30am-4.10pm.

Sessions can be booked on Eventbrite at £11.18.

Milton of Crathes Christmas Market, Banchory

A stall at Milton of Crathes Christmas Market.
Warm up with a delicious mulled wine as carol singers spread Christmas joy. Picture By: Shutterstock

The two-day festive event is offering an assortment of Christmas treats, entertainment and stalls to browse.

With carol singers performing throughout the weekend, the market is ideal for getting into the Christmas spirit.

Mulled wine and roasted chestnuts in the courtyard are only a handful of items up for grabs at the market, as well as jewellery and other festive goods.

The market is open Saturday and Sunday December 17 and 18 between 10am-4.30pm.

Christmas Village – Broad Street, Aberdeen

Festive activities at Aberdeen Christmas Village.
Cracking Christmas: The Aberdeen Christmas Village is in full swing. Picture By: Chris Sumner, DC Thomson.

The Aberdeen Christmas Village is in full swing once again this year with partners Codona’s and Aberdeen Inspired helping to provide an activity for everyone.

From ice skating to a festive fairground, the Christmas Village has ample opportunities to keep visitors busy, including the return of the Candy Cane Bungee Trampolines.

Open seven days a week in the centre of Aberdeen, families can easily venture through the wonderland to grab a hot drink or delicious sweet snack from one of the popular food and drink stalls.

Ardo Christmas Tree Pop Up Shop – Ellon

Christmas trees being sold by Ardo Christmas Trees.
A tree-mendous display at Ardo Christmas Tree Farm. Picture By: Yellow Balloon Films.

Locally grown Nordmann Fir Christmas trees will be displayed at the Ardo-based Christmas Tree Farm until Friday December 23.

More than 20 crafters will attend the event with a selection of gifts and decorations to be purchased, alongside a weekend catering van and a Christmas tree mini-maze.

Christmas Eve Dip – Fittie Beach

A person with a Christmas hat dipping in the sea.
Wash away those winter woes with a dip in the sea. Picture By: Shutterstock.

Of course, no winter break is complete without the traditional dip into the sea.

Organised by Seashell, participants will dive into this year’s Christmas Eve Dip at 10am from the Fittie Beach.

Christmas attire is encouraged, but suitable clothing is advisory, and appropriate safety measures should be considered before taking part.

The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan – His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen

Peter Pan Pantomime on stage.
Get your hooks on those tickets before they’re all gone. Picture By: Richard Frew Photography.

What is Christmas without a trip to the pantomime?

And this year, theatre fans are in for a swashbuckling adventure to Neverland as Peter Pan takes to the stage.

Featuring former Strictly Come Dancing pro Brendan Cole as the villainous Captain Hook, audiences are set to embark on a Christmas tale like no other.

The show will run until January 8, but may have limited availability ahead of the holidays.

For more information visit the Aberdeen Performing Arts website or call 01224 641122.

Dine With Santa – The Dunes Restaurant and Bar, Balmedie

A table set for a Christmas meal with a Christmas tree in the background.
Not even Santa and his Elves can resist a festive feast. Picture By: Shutterstock

Families are invited to enjoy a three-course meal and a visit from Santa at The Dunes Restaurant and Bar in the lead-up to Christmas.

Guests can choose between a festive lunch or supper before a special appearance from Santa, and there may be a surprise in store for those on his nice list.

Bookings must be made in advance, with prices ranging from £15-£60.

Dates include:

  • Sunday 18 December 18
  • Thursday December 22
  • Friday December 23

To book, contact the reservations team by telephone: +44(0)1358 743300.

Pop-up Soft Play Christmas Party – Victoria Hall, Ballater

Soft play Christmas activities in Ballater.
Christmas chaos at soft play. Picture By: Lizzie Scripps

Two hours of soft play, a bouncy castle and festive food are all a part of the Pop-up Soft Play Christmas Party on Thursday December 22.

The event is aimed towards children as young as babies to age seven as the excitement continues – all children must be accompanied by an adult.

Entry fees range from £1.50 to £3.50.

For more information check out the Visit Ballater website or contact Lizzie Scripps by phone on 07522 970002 or via email at