I’ve never liked New Year’s Eve. Historically for me it’s been a time filled with reflection and regret at an over-hyped and over-priced event. But when I attended Edinburgh’s Hogmanay a few years ago I learned it didn’t have to be this way. Not only is Edinburgh’s Hogmanay a fun-filled 3 days (where you’re far too busy to berate yourself for everything you didn’t achieve in the year before) but it’s great value for money too (any event where you can take your own booze is a winner in my eyes!).
Edinburgh’s new year festival, steeped in tradition, friendliness and whisky, attracts almost 85k visitors from over 80 countries. I was so incredibly lucky to be one of them once again for 2015/16.
The Hogmanay festivities begin on the 30th December with flames and Vikings. The Torchlight Procession is an event linked to Pagan tradition whereby participants parade through the streets of Edinburgh holding torches. The procession is led by the Up Helly Aa Vikings who travel from the Shetland Isles with their armour, axes and surprising approachability (they’re happy to take photo requests from the crowd). This year’s was one of the biggest events ever with 40,000 people in attendance; 10,000 of whom were holding flaming torches.
The procession starts in the Old Town, weaving its way down The Mound and then up to Calton Hill where a bonfire is lit and fantastic fireworks set the standard for the displays on New Year’s Eve.
It’s hard to describe how magical and surreal the sight of thousands of people holding torches and walking slowly through a historic city centre is – you’ll have to see it for yourself to get the full hypnotising effect.
Our New Year’s Eve begun a little differently – my fellow Blogmanay bloggers and I indulged our Guilty Pleasures. The Hogmanay street party, which kicks off at 9pm, has several stages with DJ’S and live acts to suit every taste of music. Guilty Pleasures lured us in with Prince and kept us dancing to Whitney, Beyoncé, Take That, and all the cheesiness you could think of.
Entrance to the street party closes at 11pm so the streets get noticeably busier at this point. My previous experience taught me that I needed to head towards where I wanted to be for midnight around 11pm in order to get a good spot.
This year we decided to go to the Concert In The Gardens where Biffy Clyro would be leading us into the countdown and you have a full view of the fireworks that frame the castle. There are screens and music throughout the streets so you can dance your way between each stage though. There are also plenty of bars (and portaloos!) but the great thing about Hogmanay is you can bring your own alcohol with you, as long as it’s in a plastic bottle not larger than 500mls.
In the Concert In The Gardens we rocked out to a topless Biffy for the last epic hour of 2015. Hourly fireworks had been ramping up our excitement throughout the night but nothing could have prepared me for the phenomenal display at midnight. Everyone at the street party was left stunned as the sky above Edinburgh Castle was set alight with displays that coordinated cleverly to a soundtrack including Uptown Funk and Changing by Sigma ft. Paloma Faith. I’d show you a video clip but all my filming is full of me screaming WOW at the top of my voice – I was just too caught up in the moment to stand there in silence. I’ve never seen a display like it and can’t tell you how incredible it felt to be there amongst it. Then Auld Lang Syne came on and we danced around like loonies before heading back to Guilty Pleasures for the last hour of the event. After that we didn’t go straight home but continued the cheesy tunes at Electric Circus karaoke bar. My voice is several tones lower today.
Hogmanay doesn’t end there though. On New Year’s Day many beautiful buildings around the city host concerts and arts performances as part of the Scot:Lands event. Participants are led on a mystery tour of the city, picking up a map and details of the next event as they pass through each venue.
This year we discovered interpretative dance in the National Museum of Scotland, foot-stomping fiddlers in Greyfriars Kirk and hauntingly beautiful voices in St Giles Cathedral. My friend Vicky was left stunned when she found herself front row for an intimate gig with Roddy Woomble the lead singer of Idlewild.
The Scot:Lands event is a fantastic way to explore Edinburgh whilst discovering new artists, meeting old favourites and shaking off your hangover from the night before.
So that’s how I had a fantastic new year’s in Edinburgh. I hope you had an incredible time wherever you celebrated in the world.
Happy New Year!
Find out more about Edinburgh’s Hogmanay. I attended the event as part of#blogmanay, which is brought to you by Edinburgh’s Hogmanay and is supported by ETAG, The Scottish Government, VisitScotland, Festivals Edinburgh, Marketing Edinburgh, Rabbies Tours and co-creators Haggis Adventures. Created and produced by Unique Events.
As always, all opinions expressed here are entirely my own.