Edinburgh's Hogmanay - The greatest New Year party in the world

Wednesday 02 November 2016

New Year's Eve is celebrated the world over, but there's nowhere on the planet quite like Scotland's capital for partying the night year away. No matter where you come from, it's said that everyone should make at least one trip to experience Edinburgh's Hogmanay.

Maybe it's the fact that Edinburgh's party lasts for three days instead of just one. Or perhaps it's because of the sheer range of entertainment and fun on offer in a city already world-famous for its year-round selection of festivals. It could be the unique atmosphere generated by the huge crowd of welcome guests and friendly Edinburghers packed into the historic city centre. And don't forget the gasp-inducing sight of the outrageously good fireworks filling the sky with light and noise high above the turrets of Edinburgh Castle.

Whatever strange chemistry it is that brings together music, tradition, energy, history, vikings and fun, it seems to work, with sellout crowds year after year. And yes, we did say vikings, look:

Each year, these helmeted Norsemen travel from Shetland by longboat (probably) to take their place at the head of the opening event of Edinburgh's Hogmanay, the Torchlight Procession. The procession takes place on 30 December and it's truly a stunning sight to behold as celebrations get underway.

Thousands of torch bearers march through the city, first taking in the Old Town, parts of which date back to at least the 14th century, before heading downhill to the main thoroughfare of Princes Street.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of spectators line the pavements, cheering the walkers on as they create a river of fire through the streets and up to the summit of Calton Hill, for a spectacular finalé of lights, music and fireworks.

And that's just the first night.

Mere hours later comes New Year's Eve, or Hogmanay as it's better known in Scotland, when the party truly reaches its peak.

Stages carefully positioned throughout the city centre offer a diverse range of musical entertainment options, from indie rock to traditional Celtic music and from DJs and dancers to jazz, blues and more.

Up in the Old Town, the stunning St Giles' Cathedral hosts a candlelit classical concert, while right outside there are two stages devoted entirely to the ceilidh tradition, with thousands enjoying the chance to learn about and take part in wild Scottish dancing.

And back down on Princes Street is the centrepiece event of Edinburgh's Hogmanay, the Concert in the Gardens, where major acts such as Paolo Nutini, Biffy Clyro, Lily Allen, Soul II Soul, the Pet Shop Boys and others rock those revellers who were lucky enough to get a ticket.

Princes Street Gardens is also one of the best places to catch the magnificent fireworks bursting high above the looming majesty of Edinburgh Castle and its ancient volcanic rock.

The illuminations can be seen for miles around of course, but it's quite something to find yourself immediately beneath those dramatic eruptions of light and sound at midnight, and at the smaller hourly displays in the lead up to the big moment.

And at midnight, for all the choice of entertainment across the city centre, whether you came for the big names, the traditional culture, the party atmosphere or the fantastic fireworks, in that one moment the crowds join as one to sing the world's biggest rendition of Auld Lang Syne, in a show of togetherness and friendship.

And then the bands start up again and the party carries on into the wee small hours!

But wait there's more... Edinburgh's Hogmanay isn't done with you just yet.

If you're feeling bold on the first day of January maybe you can shake off the rigours of the night before as one of the hardy souls taking part in the Loony Dook, a street parade of costumed thrill-seekers culminating in a freezing cold plunge into the icy waters of the River Forth.

For those less keen on feeling the chill, you can still cheer the Dookers on as they walk through the town of South Queensferry, just a few miles west of Edinburgh, and take a dip in the shadow of the famous Forth Bridge.

Back in Edinburgh, there are some much dryer experiences to enjoy with the festival-within-a-festival that is Scot:Lands. Hidden venues across the Old Town host delightful tasters of Scottish contemporary art, music and performance, curated by some of the nation's most innovative creators.

At the start you'll be randomly allocated a single venue to locate, from where you can enjoy the intimacy of a live show before discovering your next secret port of call and heading onward. It's a sort of cultural treasure hunt, and it's great fun.


And after all that, there's still one more New Year celebration to enjoy in the shape of The Final Fling, a huge ceilidh dance held in the breathtaking main hall of the National Museum of Scotland.

For those who have felt the glare of the fiery torches, who have danced to the music, gasped at the fireworks, sung till their voices hurt, defied the cold of the river and navigated a trail of tantalising treasures this is one final chance to bid farewell to the year just gone, and welcome the next in the company of friends old and new.

There really is nothing quite like Edinburgh's Hogmanay. Time to plan a trip.

Edinburgh's Hogmanay is part of the year round selection of major festivals in Scotland's capital city. To book tickets for this year’s events, visit edinburghshogmanay.com 

Find out more about all of them at edinburghfestivalcity.com 

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