Celebrate Hogmanay in Edinburgh

At midnight, you hear the volley of a great cannon from the castle rampart followed by a dazzling fireworks display. You put down your wee dram of scotch to link arms with your friends and family as the entire nation sings a rendition of Auld Lang Syne. What a way to enter a new year! But this is only a small part of the celebration in Edinburgh.

No one rings in the New Year quite like the Scots. The folks of Edinburgh have been celebrating Hogmanay for centuries. The custom dates back to Viking times to celebrate the winter solstice, but the festivities have since grown to encompass many traditions, which last three days.

Dec 30th

The torchlight procession is the official opening of Hogmanay. The Up Helly Aa Vikings lead over 8,000 torch-bearers, pipers, and drummers to create a river of fire and illuminate the city as they walk from the Old Town to the ancient meeting ground of Calton Hill. Here the revelry culminates with a sound and light show and fireworks display.

Dec 31th

All of Edinburgh celebrates New Year’s Eve with massive outdoor concerts and fetes across the city. Revelers gather at the Concert in the Gardens on Princes Street for their annual music festival. This year, the headliners are the English indie rock band The Charlatans, which will play against the stunning backdrop of Edinburgh Castle. Those seeking more traditional Scottish music and dancing should head to Parliament Square for the Céilidh, where masters will be on hand to instruct dance and keep you moving into the new year.

The Midnight Moment rings out with bells around the city and cannon fire from the castle. The fireworks display is extravagant as across the country family and friends link arms for the singing of Auld Lang Syne. Originally a Robert Burns poem, this tune has become synonymous with the celebration of New Years the world over.

Jan 1st

Nothing clears the cobwebs from a night of revelry quite like a dash through a freezing river. Enter the Loony Dook, an annual plunge into the River Forth at South Queensferry. Now in its 31st year, Dookers parade through the High Street before taking to the freezing water, all in costume. And when they get out of the frosty depths, Stoats Porridge is there to hand out warm, hearty porridge to participants. “At the event, we give out over 1,000 bowls of porridge,” says Olivia Stone from Stoats. “And despite the indulgences of the night before, the most popular topping is Whisky & Honey!” Stoats also hosts a costume contest and many of the participants use this event as an opportunity to raise money for charity.

While you’re there

While the New Year’s celebrations are a perfect reason to visit Edinburgh, this charming city has so much else to offer while you’re there. Take some time to shop the boutiques on Victoria Street to stock up on the traditional tweed fashions of Walker Slater or vintage hardbacks at The Old Town Bookshop, and scale the Scott Monument, a gothic commemoration dedicated to novelist and poet Sir Walter Scott, to get the best views of the city. 

And no visit to Scotland is complete without indulging in a fine single malt to help you stay warm during this time of year. Enjoy a wee dram from the Islay, Speyside, and Highland regions of the country at the Scotch Whisky Experience, which boasts the largest whisky collection in the world. And after all the Hogmanay celebrations come to an end, rest your head at the stately Balmoral Hotel and enjoy waking up to a New Year.