For those of us who like to plan ahead you may already be thinking about where to see in the New Year. Maybe some of the coverage from Edinburgh’s Hogmanay has made you consider Edinburgh for the next New Year celebrations? I certainly had the time of my life and am sure you will too. Below are a few of the insider tips I picked up whilst celebrating my first Hogmanay that you may like to bear in mind if/when you make it there.
Stay Indoors Until At Least 9pm
Before attending the Hogmanay celebrations in Edinburgh I had images of us standing on the streets getting cold for the better part of the day and night, but it turns out the Scots are not that crazy! Unlike the New Years celebrations in Sydney, where you have to camp out all day to secure your waterside seats, the celebrations in Edinburgh are more like a festival with people moving around throughout. People don’t turn up until the first act they want to see comes on and as the stages don’t open until 9pm there is little point in arriving any earlier. We stayed in a nearby warm pub until just after 9, at which point we strolled right into the event without having to queue. People continue to stream in at their own pace right up until the gates close at 11pm.
(It’s business as usual on Princes Street until approx 4pm on New Years Eve)
Layer, Layer, Layer
But it does get cold out there as the night goes on so the best approach is to layer, layer, layer. My combination of 2 tops, 1 jumper, 2 scarves, tights, jeans and socks was enough to keep me toasty on the streets, and all the dancing and cheeky sips of wine didn’t hurt either. If taking part in something more energetic, like the Ceilidh (the UK’s largest New Year outdoor dance event), you’ll be relieved to have layers you can take off.
You can bring your own booze to the event (how good is that?!) There is no glass allowed so head to the supermarket early on the 31st to snap up the pre-mixed drinks in cans and plastic bottles of wine – they sell out quickly as the day goes on.
Alcohol is also sold at stands inside the event. The queues weren’t outrageous but the prices were higher than at Sainsbury’s (as you would expect).
Plan Your Night
Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is like a festival on the streets, there are several stages with several acts on at the same time. Some sections require separate tickets i.e. for the Concert in the Gardens where Pet Shop Boys performed this year and also the Ceilidh, but if you have these tickets you also get access to the Street Party. The Street Party itself consists of 3 performance areas (the Waverley Stage, Scottish Stage and Rewinder in 2013) plus all the bars, food trucks and screens and speakers dispersed throughout so you are never far from the music.
Despite our best intentions we didn’t make it to all the acts we wanted to see, we were too busy dancing in the street. But if there are bands you long to see make sure you have noted in advance where you need to be at what time. Hogmanay programmes distributed throughout the city can help you with that. There are also hourly firework displays from 9pm that act as your visual clock throughout the night.
There is no entry to the event after 11pm so make sure you are inside the gates by this time. This is also the point where the street gets most crowded so you should be thinking ahead about where you want to be at the midnight moment and making your way towards it. Lots of people have different opinions about where the best view of the fireworks are, in front of the castle at the Concert in the Gardens was one of the favourites but, to be honest, the show takes over the whole sky – as long as you can look up you are in a good place. Because I’m short and wanted to get photos without zillions of heads in we decided to head to a high point on The Mound where the Rewinder Stage was. This also meant I got to bounce to retro tunes whilst we waited. To find out how magical that midnight moment in Edinburgh was read my Hogmanay Diary here.
Snacks On Site
I’m going to put on my sensible head now and say ‘Make sure you eat a good meal before consuming alcohol’ (we had burgers at the Huxley but you could go local with some Haggis, Neeps and Tatties like Canadian bloggers Samuel and Audrey did for the first time here.) But you can also get a range of snacks on site including the infamous deep fried Mars Bar. I have 2 words to say about this – Do It!
Learn The Words
As the clock strikes twelve the city will be swaying to the sound of thousands of people singing Auld Land Syne. Make sure you are not one of the slurrers shouting nonsense to the tune by learning the words beforehand. They are helpfully printed in the Hogmanay booklet.
The party is by no means over at 12. Local bars and clubs have extended trading hours, some till 5am, and the Hogmanay street party continues until 1am. When you are ready to make your way home there are free buses to get you there.
Not Just 1 night
The Hogmanay celebrations are part of a 3-day event that begins the day before New Years Eve. The Torchlight Procession on the 30th was one of my highlights. (Try to imagine thousands of people parading through the streets holding lit torches and being lead by growling Vikings.) Do be aware that the wax of the torches can drip and be awkward to get off your clothing – wear a coat you are happy to dispose of or, better yet, get a plastic disposable kimono from one of the tourist stalls that you can throw away at the end of the event.
(The Up Helly Aa Vikings lead the Torchlight Procession)
On the 1st January the events continue in Edinburgh with Scot:Lands, a scavenger hunt around the city that leads you to acts and installations hidden in buildings of interest around the Old Town. It’s a great way to explore Edinburgh, learn about Scottish culture, and blow away the cobwebs from the night before! Or if you are feeling somewhat braver (reads: nuts) there is the tradition of Loony Dook – taking a New Years Day dunk in the freezing River Forth. Check out Kirsten Alana’s post ‘What the #$*! Is a Loony Dook?’ to find out more!
Foodwise one of the only cafes open for brunch on the 1st Jan was Hula Juice Bar and Gallery – and thank goodness they were. Their bacon and brie bagel and all fruit smoothies put me well on the road to hangover recovery.
Tickets for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Street Party 2014 are already on sale now and cost just for £20. For more information and to book visit http://www.edinburghshogmanay.org/buy-tickets. Follow the Edinburgh’s Hogmanay team on Facebook and Twitter for up to date news of the next event, as and when they are revealed.
#Blogmanay is brought to you by Edinburgh’s Hogmanay and is supported by ETAG, EventScotland, Homecoming Scotland, VisitScotland, Edinburgh Festivals, Marketing Edinburgh and co-creators Haggis Adventures. Created and produced by Unique Events. As always, all opinions expressed here are entirely my own.