The weather’s turning colder, but for Scotland’s horticulture

enthusiasts the outlook is bright – many of the country’s spectacular

gardens are offering winter opening hours and free admission, giving

visitors the chance to pick up some handy seasonal tips. Even if you

don’t have green fingers, you can still enjoy Christmas fairs, carol

concerts, dazzling festive light shows and guided walks. Full details of

Scotland’s winter wonderlands can be found at Visit Scotland, but below are some of Country Life’s favourites.

Cairngorms Reindeer

Now Dasher! Now Dancer! Now Prancer and Vixen! This year, the Cairngorm Reindeer will be parading in the grounds of Crathes Castle, Aberdeenshire from December 4 – 5. You can also pick up some stocking-fillers at a tented Christmas Farmer’s Market on the same dates. From December 10 – 12, the castle and estate will be transformed by a cutting-edge light and sound display. Wander through the magical landscape on an evening walk, surrounded by fire-breathers, magicians and jugglers.

Achamore Gardens

Yearning for sunnier climes? Achamore Gardens on the Isle of Gigha enjoys a unique microclimate, giving sun-starved visitors a year- opportunity to marvel at exotic plants and trees, including a fire-engine red Metrosideros umbellata, the prehistoric-looking Anopteris glandulosa and Australian native Atherosperma moschata. Owned and managed by the Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust on behalf of the islanders, the garden can be easily reached by ferry on a day-trip from the Kintyre peninsula.

Edinburgh Royal Botanic Gardens

The Edinburgh Royal Botanic Gardens’ bracing Christmas Walk starts at Inverleith Park at 11am on Sunday December 5. The route goes around Inverleith Park, through the Botanics, along the Water of Leith, through Strockbridge and back to the park. Whether you do it solo or with friends and family, it’ll be an invigorating – and fun – day out. Sign up at www.challengescotland.com.

Glamis CastleGlamis Castle’s busy Christmas programme of events including storytelling, horse rides, Christmas carols, a Santa’s Grotto and mulled wine for visitors. Entry to the beautiful gardens and grounds, which have been carefully nurtured by generations of the Strathmore family, will be free. A range of guided walks have been created to take in a mixture of habitats, ranging from the landscaped parkland in the immediate vicinity of the castle to the formal Italian Garden, and mixed woodland and Pinetum to the north-east.

 Duthie Gardens

The ever-popular Duthie Park & Winter Garden in Aberdeen, with its impressive glass dome, is the city’s most visited attraction. From January to December it becomes a floral paradise, housing rare and exotic blooms from all over the world, as well as 600 different species of cacti.