Santa experiences can be a mixed bag. You book with fingers crossed that you won’t be at the mercy of a sarcastic elf or find yourself in the presence of a Santa with a wonky beard. But when you find a truly enchanting one, it’s a delight for both young and old. So here are some of the best places to visit Santa at Christmas in Scotland.
The Woodland Experience
Once on board you will set off through the woodland in search of Santa’s woodland home. Take in the beautiful views and keep your eyes peeled as you may spot some of Santa’s woodland neighbours!
When you arrive at the cabin, you will be greeted and invited into the cabin by Santa himself, where he will be waiting to hear all about what you would like for Christmas.
After the visit with Santa it is a wave goodbye and back to the tractor trailer for a ride to the shed where we have tea/coffee and hot food on sale and take a look at the range Christmas decorations we have available.
Santa at the Woodland Experience in 2019
The Woodland Experience is located on North Ballochruin Farm, Stirlingshire. The private woodland is on the edge of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, about 40mins drive from Glasgow and 30mins from Stirling.
The Woodland Experience has a winning combination of a brilliant location (on a Christmas-tree farm) and the fact it includes a tractor-ride. When we visited the staff were wonderful; engaged and friendly – they gave the impression they had all the time in the world to help our two choose their Elf Names. The shed where you wait has lovely food, burgers and gorgeously spicy pulled pork from local renowned local butcher Skinner of Kippen. You can toast marshmallows, get the kids’ face-painted or have a bounce on an inflatable tractor – there is a small charge for all of these activities. When it was our turn to go the kids’ peered out into the darkness until a tractor arrived (beeping Jingle Bells as it went), festooned with fairy-lights. Each group gets its own Elf to keep you company on the tractor-ride through the woods, update you on Elvish gossip and tell bad jokes. As we bumped along the track it occurred to me that Patrick, our 4-year old, would have been delighted by this ride alone. Peeking out of the forest are naughty elves, slacking off from their festive duties amidst living Christmas trees decorated with outsized baubles.
The tractor arrived in a clearing and we disembarked to follow the Elf along a little path, past Santa’s voluminous washing hung out to dry, before arriving at a wooden cabin. We rang the doorbell and after a suitably exciting wait, Santa himself answered the door. And he was a terrific Santa. The cabin was really lovely, a vintage carousel twinkled in the corner, little stools were dotted around Santa’s chair for the kids to sit on, and a huge messy pile of presents strewn around. Santa told us the elves had had a party the night before and hadn’t tidied up yet. After a long chat (you really never feel rushed), he then called each child forward by name to receive a wrapped present. This was to be placed under our Christmas tree so that Santa would know where to put the presents on Christmas Eve. Then with a sigh Santa complained about the mess and asked if the boys and girls could help him tidy up by taking a toy home. Cue disbelieving looks from all the kids, could they really be allowed to choose anything? Patrick headed straight for a giant dinosaur and Edie a rag-doll. All the presents looked great. The magic continued when Santa asked everyone to do some of their own, we all had to sing Jingle Bells as loud as possible, and when he opened the cabin door it was snowing outside.
Quite hard to return to reality after that but after a bouncy return journey and a few more renditions of Jingle Bells we were back in the real world. Two extremely happy kids and two slightly glowing adults. At £16 a child and £8 for adults it’s not cheap but for a truly rural Santa Experience, I think it’s a real find.
40 mins from Glasgow, 30mins from Stirling. £16 kids, £8 adults. Full trailer £210.
The David Marshall Lodge
Another outdoorsy option nearby is a trip to The David Marshall Lodge just outside of Aberfoyle. We go here a lot with our kids and it’s always a brilliant day out. The Lodge is set in the beautiful Trossachs National Park, there are miles of paths to bike or hike and a kiddie-friendly loop which takes in a dramatic waterfall and a Red Squirrel hide. At Christmas they put on a festive trail along this loop. Along the way you can help locate Santa’s suit which the naughty elves have hidden. Each piece of clothing is found by a native animal so they learn a little about water voles and pine martens along the way. The lodge is also a brilliant, sustainable place to pick up your Christmas Tree. Every weekend in December they have wreath-making and crafts taking place.
Really close to Glasgow is Mugdock Country Park. During the year this is a great place for a cycle or a walk. At Christmas their lovely little cinema is home to a panto. The combination of fresh air and panto is a great one to me. There’s an adventure playground, loch, two castles, stables and a walled garden to explore which makes it an entire festive day out. Entry and parking at Mugdock are free, panto tickets are an additional cost.
Mugdock’s Christmas Wonderland 2022 (12 nights 8th – 24th Dec)
Tickets on sale now for Mugdock Christmas Wonderland 2022! Book fast for your favourite time! At #Mugdock Country Park there’s so much to get jolly about this festive season…
Enchanting lightshow around woodland & gardens
Santa’s Grotto & Story Telling Experience
Fairground rides & other attractions
Festive street food & drinks
From 8th – 24th December, it’ll be a truly magical occasion for the whole family to enjoy!
Info & Tickets…
Santa at Balmaha
Nestled on the East side of Loch Lomond Balmaha is a great spot for a winter walk and a pub lunch. The National Park’s flagship visitor centre is here too. Take a hike up Conic Hill, it is steep in places but well worth it for the amazing views over Loch Lomond. Trek back down and you will have earned a slap-up lunch at the Oak Tree Pub. The pub does great found and is warm and cosy. At Christmas the entire pub is wrapped in giant red ribbon and throughout December they also operate a Santa’s Grotto, we haven’t visited yet but it costs £7 per child and you get 10% off a meal with each booking.
Come and visit Santa during our Christmas Festival on the 4th and 5th December at Loch Lomond Shores Christmas Festival.
Come and visit Santa during our Christmas Festival on the 4th and 5th December where he and his helpers will be waiting to greet you in his cosy grotto, tucked within our play park, keen to find out what you’d like for Christmas and hoping you’ve been good!
Visits can only be booked online via this page, and include a chat with Santa, opportunities to take pictures with him and a wee gift for each child.
One child per booking and the cost is £7.50 per child. Book via the Link Below…
Follow our Social Media to keep up to date with everything that will be happening over the Christmas Weekend!
Caledonia Railways Santa – Polar Express
THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride is coming to the Caledonian Railway this Christmas with the magic of the 2004 motion picture THE POLAR EXPRESS™ being theatrically re-created so you and your family can be immersed in the sights, sounds and intrigue of this classic children’s tale.
Come and join us for this fantastic event and immerse yourself in the magic and wonder of the Christmas season.
As you and your family take in the festive decorations at THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride station, you can almost hear the faint sound of sleigh bells in the distance and the fun begins.
THE POLAR EXPRESS™ is waiting for you at the platform. Wait for the train Conductor to invite you and the other passengers to climb aboard, shouting “All aboooooard!”. Anticipation builds as you are served cookies and hot chocolate – step onto the Train to be escorted to your seat by the Chefs from the film.
Before long, scenes from the film come to life as dancing Chefs and Waiters arrive. Children (and the young at heart!) are invited to engage with these exciting characters who are eager to hear from the youngsters about what makes the Christmas season special to them.
While the train travels to the North Pole you will hear the story of The Polar Express with Chefs showing pages from the beautifully illustrated book for the whole carriage to follow.
As your adventure continues, you notice other key elements of the story — both inside and outside your train — springing to life. Watch and listen as another scene unfolds on-board before your eyes.
Huge thanks to Jenny for compiling this list!