Hogmanay: Edinburgh’s own New Year’s festival


Location: Edinburgh, Scotland

Dates: 29 December–1 January

Level of participation: 5 – there’s a wee party going on in Scotland

For Scots, the New Year has always been a more important celebration than Christmas, and largely they’ve managed to convince the world of the same through the enormous Hogmanay celebrations that engulf Edinburgh.

It’s long been tradition for people to fill the streets in towns, cities and villages all over the country on 31 December to wish each other a Guid New Year and to knock back a dram or six to keep the cold at bay. In 1993 Edinburgh’s city council had the idea of spicing up Hogmanay by organising some events, laying on some live music in Princes St and issuing an open invitation to the rest of the world. In a short few years, Hogmanay became the world’s most famous New Year celebration as well as Europe’s biggest winter festival, regularly pulling in more than 250,000 partying punters.

Hogmanay events begin on 29 December with a free procession that shares much with Lerwick’s Up-Helly-Aa (see January week 4). With participants carrying flaming torches, the parade heads along the Royal Mile and onto Calton Hill, where a replica Viking longship is set alight. You can purchase a torch to carry in the parade, though you’ll need to pick up a voucher ahead of time to claim one. The following night – 30 December – is the suitably titled ‘Night Afore’, featuring a street arts carnival and more live music than you can poke a bagpipe at. New Year’s Eve is when Hogmanay truly explodes into life, with Edinburgh’s city centre becoming a gigantic street party where you can dance, sing, drink and don a kilt to see in the coming year.

Concert stages line the streets, or you can pick up tickets for events such as the Hoog dance party or the headline Concert in the Gardens, staged below the castle. Previous artists at this concert have included Blondie, UB40 and Moby.

New Year’s Day is probably Edinburgh at its silliest. On this day you can check out Dogmanay, which sees dog sleds racing across Holyrood Park, or join hundreds at Loony Dook, plunging into the icy waters of the River Forth in fancy dress. You can also seek a rather extreme hangover cure by racing in a triathlon or jogging for 1.6km in the One O’clock Run along the Royal Mile. Or you could just sleep in.

Essentials: All Hogmanay events are ticketed. For admission to the street party on New Year’s Eve you’ll need to book well in advance. Tickets go on sale in October and can be purchased through the event website.

Local attractions: Poke around clifftop Edinburgh Castle, wander the Royal Mile and get more regal still with a tour aboard the former Royal Yacht Britannia at the seaport of Leith.