St Andrew’s Day – a day to celebrate our patron saint (who interestingly we also share with Malta, Romania, Ukraine and Barbados, among others). OK, so we don’t do much celebrating of the saintliness itself, but like most of other Saints Days, St Andrew’s Day has become more a celebration of national identity and discovering more about our rich history and culture. I don’t recall celebrating it much when I was younger, but the 21st century has brought with it an interesting twist on this traditional day.
Fittingly a lot of Edinburgh’s celebrations and activities on the 30th will be focused in and around St Andrew Square, but with the date fast approaching what should you be doing? There are events going on across the city – you can find details of all of them on the Scotland.org website – but likely as not you don’t have a huge amount of time to dig through lists of events, so here is Edinburgh Editor’s pick of Six things to do on St Andrews Day:
1. Visit the Castle
Always wanted to have a look around Edinburgh Castle, but not fancied the hefty price tag that goes with a ticket? Well this is your chance, as it’s open for FREE! Yes, once again Historic Scotland is opening up the doors of its flagship venue and if you register in advance online you can get you ticket for free! Explore the army museums, National War Museum of Scotland, see the Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny – and best of all get to see the stunning panoramic views all across the city! Tickets are limited, so apply early; you could also apply for tickets to Craigmillar Castle at the same time!
2. Get your Skates on!
Always wanted to go ice skating at Christmas but never quite made it? As part of the St Andrew’s Day celebrations the ice skating in St Andrew’s Square will be FREE on the 30th. Skate around the Melville column in the square and see how you fare on the ice! Tickets must be booked in advance and are limited – if you can’t get tickets (or don’t fancy showing yourself up!) then there will be demonstrations on at various points throughout the day by the Murrayfield Skating School and the Royal Caledonian Curling Club!
More information can be found and tickets books on EdinburghsChristmas.com
[EDIT: Ice skating tickets are now all reservd]
3. Discover Lauriston Castle
One of Edinburgh’s hidden away historic treasures, Lauriston Castle was a private home until the 1920s when its last resident gifted it to the city. Today the Castle is a place of stories, art and history with fantastically landscaped grounds and gardens – including the beautiful Japanese Friendship garden. The back of the house also boasts great vistas out over the Forth. Entry to the grounds is free and there are special 2-for-1 tickets for guided tours for St Andrew’s Day.
More information can be found here.
4. Tour the National Museum
Do you feel a little overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the National Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street? Why not take an introductory tour and be guided around one of the UK’s most loved and visited museums in the very capable hands of the museum staff? Tours go on throughout the year at various times, but why not take the St Andrew’s Day theme and do a tour of the Scotland Galleries?
More information can be found on the NMS website.
5. Climb the Tower
Ever wondered what the view from the tower of St Giles Cathedral is like? Well now is your chance. As part of Book Week Scotland, there will be literary-themed tours of the tower which will allow you to see the tower up close, and the views beyond. More information can be found on the Scottish Book Trust’s website.
6. Fun for all the Family!
As previously mentioned, St Andrew Square is going to be a big hub of activity on St Andrew’s Day, with music, dancing, history tours, story telling and much, much more. For kids there’ll be all these activities as well as face painting, fancy dress and a haggis hunt! Most of the day will be free to come and go as you please, but some performances in the Speigel Tent are ticketed and require advanced booking.
For full details of the St Andrew’s Day festivities in the Square, please see Edinburgh’s Christmas’ website where you will find a full programme and details of how to book.
And there you have it – Six different ways to celebrate St Andrew’s Day. Of course all the Christmas Markets and Festivals will also be open by then, so there will be loads to do in town if you fancy a break from Christmas shopping. Oh, and if you want to raise a toast then there’s always whisky or perhaps a glass of mulled wine!