Growing up down at the southern end of the globe, for us December has always signified the start of summer. BBQ’s at the beach, long hot days (along with less than desirable tan lines), pool parties, and an endless array of festivals designed to make the most of the glorious kiwi & aussie summer months. However this of course was not the case during the cold and wintery December we found ourselves in last year when we still lived in London, where temperatures rarely passed 5 degrees, there wasn’t a beach in sight, and our skin was about as far from being tanned as it has ever been. So what are two adventurers to do when faced with such unfamiliar conditions…?
Travel north and get stuck into one of the biggest wildest coldest New Years festivals to be found anywhere in Europe, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay!!!
Hogmanay traditionally is the Scottish celebration of the New Year, and while many of the customs previous generations took part in are still practiced in some smaller parts of Scotland, Edinburgh has seized the opportunity to host a party of enormous scale. Just about every inch of the city centre is home to processions, concerts and fireworks taking place over the course of the celebrations, so much so in fact that you’ll quickly forget that it’s so freezing cold! So wrap up in your warmest scarf, beanie and jacket, as we give you our guidelines to a festival that only a nation as crazy as the Scots could dream up!
Although Hogmany will likely provide more than enough festivities to keep you occupied during your time in town, Edinburgh itself is stunning in it’s own right, the Scottish highlands providing a beautiful backdrop for a city full of rich history and culture. Edinburgh Castle located at the top of the Royal Mile is an absolute must visit, even if just to take in the stunning panorama out across town. Try to get there around 1pm to witness the ceremonial firing of the ‘One O’Clock Gun’, a military tradition dating back to the 1860’s. Continuing down the mile you’ll come across plenty of shops showcasing typical Scottish fare such as whiskey, tartan scarves, and even bagpipes for those brave enough to attempt to play them. Keep in mind though that much like in other capital cities, the best is to be found tucked away from the main streets where the unobservant tourists can’t find them! Check out the streets of Cowgate and Grassmarket for some hidden gems.
If you find yourself feeling peckish and in need of somewhere to warm up you won’t be lost for options, every second building is a pub! Chances are you won’t have tried the famous Scottish delicacy of haggis before, so why not give it a go now. The Makar’s Rest tucked just below the castle served Blair up a portion of haggis he swore was delicious, but try it yourself to see if it’s worth the hype! For those less adventurous a huge European Christmas market sets up shop in East Princes St Gardens for a whole host of gastronomic surprises, along with a large array of crafts, artists, gift shops and of course mulled wine, the perfect winter warmer at any time of day!
But enough about Edinburgh, Hogmanay is the star attraction this time of year, and there’s plenty for you to get involved in! So much in fact that we couldn’t go into detail about all of it here, but here’s a few of the most fun festivities essential for enjoying the festival at its best.
The opening event of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay see’s thousands of torch carriers illuminate the city centre in a spectacular river of fire, proceeding from the old town up onto Calton Hill culminating in the first of many fireworks displays of the festival. Anyone is welcome to join the procession however tickets/torches must be purchased in advance, as this tends to be one of the most widely attended events. A unique experience that serves as a fitting calm before the storm of sorts before the wild party ahead.
This is it, the big one, the gathering of party people from all over the world to ring in the New Year in the streets of Edinburgh. You might have attended street parties before but the Scot’s definitely ramp it up a notch for Hogmanay, with multiple stages pumping out party music to suit all tastes, although the traditional Celtic inspired castle stage is easily the best! Street vendors stretch as far as the eye can see to ensure you’re well fueled up (with booze of course) and every pub keeps its doors open late in case you need to take refuge from the cold, but be warned, they will all be just as ram packed as the streets themselves. As to be expected from a New Years festival the countdown to the midnight moment does not disappoint, Edinburgh castle and Calton Hill serving as the scenes for impressive fireworks and laserlight shows even more breathtaking than that midnight kiss you’ve been waiting so eagerly for.
If the mayhem of the street party sounds a little too much for you, then the concert in the gardens may be more up your alley. Situated in West Princes Street Gardens, you’ll have undoubtedly the best view in town to witness the midnight fireworks, and more than enough room to dance away the cold. Although it has a slightly higher ticket price than other events, the concert is regularly headlined by big name acts guaranteed to get you into the party mood, with previous headliners including Biffy Clyro, Pet Shop Boys, Lily Allen and Kasabian.
They say nothing beats a hangover like a dip in the ocean, so why let the fact that its freezing cold outside stop you! This event is only one for the truly brave (or truly insane), participants marching the length of the High Street as part of the Dooker Parade before plunging themselves into the freezing Firth of Forth. As crazy as it sounds this silly swim has gotten so popular you definitely need to buy tickets in advance to get involved. Fancy dress is encouraged, probably to take your mind off the fact that you cant’t feel your legs anymore, but if you truly want to cap off your Hogmanay experience in style this is the way to go!
Have you been to Hogmanay? Or have some hot tips about Edinburgh? Found somewhere that celebrates new years as crazily as the Scots? We’d love to hear what you think! There’s so much culture and fun to be found around Europe the more we hear the more we can’t wait to go back!