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24 November 2015

A Guide To Hogmanay

Edinburgh is a city that takes New Year’s Eve – or Hogmanay – very seriously, with three full days of celebrations. There’s even an extra national holiday on 2nd January on which to recover – or not.

Heather Richardson is an award-winning travel writer based in London. She has worked in print, online and in broadcasting in the UK, US, Asia and Australia. In 2015, she was selected as one of TTG’s 30 under 30 travel influencers for her work in the luxury travel industry. @HG_Richardson / www.hg-richardson.com

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Background

One of the most famous New Year’s Eve festivals in the world, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations are expected to attract up to 150,000 people this year. Starting on 30th December, the festivities run right through to New Year’s Day.

The concept of Hogmanay is thought to have been brought to Scotland during the 8th and 9th centuries by the Vikings, who celebrated the passing of the shortest day or the winter solstice. This winter festival was known as Yule.

Hogmanay has always been a big celebration in Scotland, partly due to the fact that up until the 1950s, the Scots often worked over Christmas; New Year was the time when they celebrated with friends and family.

Today, Hogmanay is still a full-blown affair and both the 1st and 2nd of January are public holidays in Scotland.

Torchlight Procession

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Image Credit: iStock.com/Segey

The Torchlight Procession marks the beginning of Hogmanay on 30th December. Thousands of people carry torches from the cobbled Royal Mile – the mile-long street from the castle down to Holyrood Palace – to Carlton Hill, which affords some of the best views of the city.  The procession starts at 7pm from George IV Bridge and ends on Carlton Hill at around 8.15pm with a firework display.

TIP: Book in advance for this popular spectacle – last year over 30,000 people attended. You can always view the procession along its route if you don’t get tickets to join the event.

The Street Party

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The Princes Street street party is one of the main events of Hogmanay in Edinburgh. Held on 31st December, the street party takes over Edinburgh’s main shopping stretch, Princes Street. This is where the Hogmanay celebrations are centred, and the bars and restaurants around this area will be busy. The area opens at 7pm and the live acts start at around 9pm.

TIP: Wrap up warm for outdoor festivities in Edinburgh – it’s not a city known for it’s temperate climate and there’s often an icy wind that ups the chill factor.

The Concert in the Gardens

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The main Hogmanay concert in Edinburgh is held in the Princes Street Gardens, which run alongside Princes Street and are overlooked by Edinburgh Castle. This year, Scotland’s own Biffy Clyro are headlining the concert – and over the last few years, previous headliners have included Twin Atlantic and Simple Minds…also proudly Scottish.

TIP: The Concert in the Gardens is always a sell-out event, so make sure you book those tickets early. This year’s concert is fully booked, but you can still enjoy live music at the adjacent street party.

Fireworks

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Image Credit: iStock.com/Chee Seong Foo

Edinburgh is a beautiful city, but under a sky illuminated by golden explosions, it looks even more magical. It’s well worth making sure you’re in a good spot for the midnight fireworks, which are set off from the castle ramparts and are best watched from a short distance – those on Princes Street will have excellent views, but you can also see the display from further afield.

TIP: You don’t need to wait until midnight to see fireworks. There are ‘countdown’ fireworks at 9pm, 10pm and 11pm.

Ceilidhs

What is a celebration in Scotland without a ceilidh? The Old Town Ceilidh, the largest outdoor ceilidh in the UK, takes place on 31st December in Parliament Square and is a sure way to warm the extremities on a chilly Edinburgh evening. The good news is that you don’t need to be a ceilidh expert to enjoy the dancing – instructions are provided by the ‘Ceilidh Makers’ and you’ll be amongst plenty of Scots who can show you the ropes (flat shoes are recommended). There are many other ceilidhs around the city, including the Corn Exchange’s annual ‘Hogmanay Hoot’.

TIP: If you’re attending the Old Town Ceilidh, stick around for the Guinness World Record attempt at 11pm, when you could be a part of the ‘World’s Largest Scottish Country Dance’. What a way to kick off the new year.

Loony Dook

Throw yourself headfirst into 2016 with the 30-year-old ‘Loony Dook’ – the annual 1st of January event that sees people plunging into the brisk waters of the River Forth. Participants come in fancy dress and gather for the Dooker Parade on the High Street, before moving down to South Queensferry and the freezing water of the Firth of Forth. It’s all for charity and the sponsor, Stoats, will be on hand with warming bowls of their trademark porridge.

TIP: Reward yourself afterwards with a big roast lunch at one of Edinburgh’s many fantastic pubs or restaurants. Stay local at the Inchcolm Inn in South Queensferry or head back to the city centre and try the Queens Arms on Frederick Street.

Tickets for all the events mentioned are available at here.

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