Top Events

Celtic Connections, January

West End Festival, June

Hebridean Celtic Festival, July

Edinburgh Festival Fringe, August

Braemar Gathering, September

January

The nation shakes off its Hogmanay hangover and gets back to work, but only until Burns Night comes along. It's still cold and dark, but the skiing can be good.

Burns Night

Suppers all over the country (and the world for that matter) are held on 25 January to celebrate the anniversary of national poet Robert Burns, with much eating of haggis, drinking of whisky and reciting of poetry.

Celtic Connections

Glasgow hosts the world's largest winter music festival, a celebration of Celtic music, dance and culture, with participants arriving from all over the globe. Held mid- to late January.

Up Helly Aa

Half of Shetland dresses up with horned helmets and battleaxes in this spectacular re-enactment of a Viking fire festival, with a torchlit procession leading the burning of a full-size Viking longship. Held in Lerwick on the last Tuesday in January.

February

The coldest month of the year is usually the best for hill walking, ice-climbing and skiing. The days are getting longer now, and snowdrops begin to bloom.

Six Nations Rugby Tournament

Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland, France and Italy battle it out in this prestigious tournament, held February to March. Home games are played at Murrayfield, Edinburgh. See www.sixnationsrugby.com.

Fort William Mountain Festival

The UK's Outdoor Capital celebrates the peak of the winter season with ski and snowboard workshops, talks by famous climbers, kids' events, and a festival of mountaineering films. See www.mountainfestival.co.uk.

April

The bluebell woods on the shores of Loch Lomond come into flower and ospreys arrive at their Loch Garten nests. Weather is improving, though heavy showers are still common.

Rugby Sevens

A series of weekend, seven-a-side rugby tournaments held in various towns throughout the Borders region in April and May, kicking off with Melrose in early April. Fast and furious rugby (sevens was invented here), crowded pubs and great craic.

Shetland Folk Festival

The end of April sees this engagingly eccentric music festival, with performances of traditional music from around the world staged everywhere from Lerwick pubs to remote island village halls.

May

Wildflowers on the Hebridean machair, hawthorn hedges in bloom and cherry blossom in city parks – Scottish weather is often at its best in May.

Burns an' a' That

Ayrshire towns are the venues for performances of poetry and music, children's events, art exhibitions and more in celebration of the Scottish bard.

Spirit of Speyside

Based in the Moray town of Dufftown, this festival of whisky, food and music involves five days of distillery tours, knocking back the 'water of life', cooking, art and outdoor activities. Held late April to early May in Moray and Speyside.

June

Argyllshire is ablaze with pink rhododendron blooms as the long summer evenings stretch on till 11pm. Border towns are strung with bunting to mark gala days and Common Ridings.

Common Ridings

Following the age-old tradition that commemorates the ancient conflict with England, horsemen and -women ride the old boundaries of common lands, along with parades, marching bands and street parties. Held in various Border towns; the Jedburgh event (www.jethartcallantsfestival.com) is one of the biggest and best.

West End Festival

June is Glasgow's equivalent of Edinburgh's August festival season, when the city hosts several major events, the most important of which is the West End Festival, the city's biggest music and arts event.

July

School holidays begin, as does the busiest time of year for resort towns. It's high season for Shetland birdwatchers.

Hebridean Celtic Festival

The gardens of Lews Castle in Stornoway provide the scenic setting for this four-day extravaganza of folk, rock and Celtic music.

August

It's festival time in Edinburgh (www.edinburghfestivalcity.com) and the city is crammed with visitors. On the west coast, this is the peak month for sighting minke whales and basking sharks.

Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Spectacular display of military marching bands, massed pipes and drums, acrobats, cheerleaders and motorcycle display teams played out in front of the magnificent backdrop of the floodlit castle.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

The biggest festival of the performing arts anywhere in the world. Takes place over 3½ weeks in August, the last two weeks overlapping with the first two of the Edinburgh International Festival.

Edinburgh International Festival

The world's top musicians and performers congregate in Edinburgh for three weeks of diverse and inspirational music, opera, theatre and dance. Takes place over the three weeks ending on the first Saturday in September. The program is usually available from April.

Edinburgh International Book Festival

Fun festival of talks, readings, debates, lectures, book signings and meet-the-author events; lasts for two weeks in August (usually the first two weeks of the Edinburgh International Festival).

September

The school holidays are over, the midges are dying off, wild brambles are ripe for picking in the hedgerows, and the weather is often dry and mild – an excellent time of year for outdoor pursuits.

Braemar Gathering

The biggest and most famous Highland games in the Scottish calendar, traditionally attended by members of the royal family. Highland dancing, bagpipe playing and caber tossing. Held during early September in Braemar, Royal Deeside.

October

Autumn brings a blaze of colour to the forests of Highland Perthshire and the Trossachs, as the tourist season winds down and thoughts turn to log fires and malt whiskies in country-house hotels.

Enchanted Forest

Crowds gather in the Explorers Garden at Pitlochry to experience this spectacular sound-and-light show. Three weeks of events occasionally spill into November.

December

Darkness falls mid-afternoon as the shortest day of the year approaches. The often cold and wet weather is relieved by Christmas and New Year festivities.

Hogmanay

Christmas celebrations in Edinburgh (www.edinburghschristmas.com) culminate in a huge street party on Hogmanay (31 December). The fishing town of Stonehaven echoes an ancient, pre-Christian tradition with its procession of fireball-swinging locals who parade to the harbour and fling their blazing orbs into the sea (www.stonehavenfireballs.co.uk).