Winter warmth and festive fun in Ayrshire

Shirley Husband

Here we are again – another year has flown by! In what seems like an instant, our kids have grown taller and wiser – or maybe just cheekier! This Christmas, they’re likely to have their eyes on the latest gadgets, clothes, or skincare, all with a price tag to make us gulp. But, amidst the festive rushing around, what matters is family.
Festive family activities
At this time of year (if the weather allows) you could take advantage of some great things to see and do in our lovely county. The Ayrshire Hospice Christmas Fair on 2nd December at Ayr Racecourse is a great way to spend an afternoon, and the Coastal Artisans’ Christmas Market will be held at the Grain Exchange on December 14th.
If the kids want to run around in the fresh air, check out Kilmarnock’s Dean Castle and Country Park, Irvine’s Eglinton Country Park, Culzean Castle and Country Park, or Dumfries House and Estate. These are just a handful of places where you can enjoy Ayrshire’s great outdoors.
There’s always plenty to do, from breezy beach walks to tranquil trails through frosty woodland. And if a blanket of snow happens to fall, why not head to the Glenn App Hills for a fun-filled afternoon of sledging?
Keeping busy indoors
When winter chills bite, it’s good to have family activities to do indoors. Have you considered creating a ‘Jar of Stars’? In Japan, folding paper stars is a way to capture wishes. Why not start a family tradition making these tiny origami stars? Every star can hold a special Christmas wish from someone in the family, and on Christmas Eve, you can share these wishes with each other.
Creating paper snowflakes is an easy way to engage little hands in festive crafting. This tradition began in the Victorian era when paper became widely available, and children created unique snowflakes with folds and snips. To make a snowflake, fold a circle of white paper into quarters or eighths, then let the kids cut small shapes and patterns.
Best books for the kids
With so much time over the winter spent inside, isn’t it great that you can spoil children with books at Christmas, knowing each one will make them a little bit cleverer, more thoughtful, and better prepared for life?
We’ve asked Waterstones on Ayr’s High Street to give us top recommendations to boost literacy this year, and here they are:
The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher
For kids aged 7-11, The Christmasaurus is funny and charming. It follows the adventures of a little boy named William Trundle, who travels to The North Pole to meet Santa Claus and meets a dinosaur. There are elves like Snozzletrump too, who speak entirely in rhyme. Santa has a vinyl-powered sleigh, and, of course, the Christmasaurus, who wishes he was a reindeer.
‘I love this book! It is Christmassy, amazing and crumpety, all at once! It’s a bit silly, and a lot funny, and there are poems and rhymes in each chapter that I loved reading out loud.’ – Toby, aged 8.
Finding Bear by Hannah Gold
Finding Bear is written for children aged 8-10 and the sequel to Hannah Gold’s award-winning book, The Last Bear. We travel to the icy wilderness of the Arctic with April Wood, who is on a mission to rescue an injured polar bear she believes to be her friend, Bear. Amidst the frozen landscapes of Svalbard, April’s journey becomes a quest for survival, and is beautifully illustrated by Levi Pinfold.
‘A roaring success.’ – The Times, Children’s Book of the Week
The Boy Who Slept Through Christmas by Matt Lucas
Matt Lucas’s debut children’s book is written for children aged 7-10. We meet Leo, a boy who loves Christmas, yet wishes it away in a bleak moment – it’s his first since his mum passed away. When his wish unexpectedly comes true, he ends up in a race against time to restore the holiday. This hotly anticipated book is described as ‘Home Alone meets The Christmas Carol’.
‘Nearly as good as one of my books’ – David Walliams
Impossible Creatures by Katherine Rundell
This book was shortlisted for Waterstones Book of the Year 2023 and will sweep children aged 9-12 into a fantasy where the ordinary meets the extraordinary. Christopher visits his grandfather’s house and enters an adventure beyond imagination. He discovers that his grandfather guards a passage to the Archipelago – a magical realm where mythical beasts live… but then, these creatures start to slip into the real world.
‘There was Tolkien, there is Pullman and now there is Katherine Rundell. Wondrous invention, marvellous writing. This book is her best yet, and that’s saying something. Just riveting, quite extraordinary.’ – Michael Morpurgo
The Miraculous Sweetmakers: The Frost Fair by Natasha Hastings
The Great Frost of 1683 has London in an icy grip. Thomasina and Anne sell sweets at the river Thames and hear rumours of a magical Frost Fair that awakens at night. It’s said that if you find the fair, ‘Father Winter’ will grant you any wish. Thomasina has an impossible wish: the return of her twin brother, Arthur. But the Frost Fair isn’t what it seems – and her wish doesn’t come for free. Nastasha Hastings’ debut novel is written for children aged 9 and over.
‘A gloriously told, wonderfully wintry debut, Hastings’ beautifully evocative historical novel is set during the Great Frost of 1683 and revolves around two girls drawn into the sinister world of a mysterious conjuror’ – Waterstones, Books of the Year 2022
Ayrshire’s Christmas Community Spirit
It’s lovely to give thoughtful gifts to our loved ones at Christmas, but thinking of families who could be struggling is important too. There are some great local initiatives like the South Ayrshire Christmas Toy Bank or Cash for Kids’ Mission Christmas, who will spread some joy to families having a tough time this year.
The South Ayrshire Christmas Toy Bank was founded in 2019 and is a great example of the power of our community. It works extremely hard to make sure that no child goes without a gift on Christmas Day. Why not make room by donating toys, books and games that your children don’t use any more?
You can get in touch at www.southayrshirechristmastoybank.co.uk, or find details of Cash For Kids’ Mission Christmas at www.cashforkids/mission.
It’s all too easy to get swept away with the commercialism of Christmas, but let’s try to remember the true spirit of the season and make time for family and helping others. We’d love to hear your family’s festive stories – can you share your Ayrshire Christmas with us with #AyrshireFamilyChristmas?