By Frances Sutton, Unique Events
This year, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Festival was named as one of the top 25 World Travel Experiences by the Discovery Channel. So it’s no surprise that visitors from all over the world flock to the city every year to celebrate New Year.
However, people might be surprised to learn that the celebrations don’t just revolve around street parties and fireworks on New Year’s Eve. Events are being held across the city for three days from Tuesday December 30 right through to Thursday January 1, 2015.
The Hogmanay celebrations get into full swing with a torchlight procession on the evening of December 30 from George IV Bridge to Waterloo Place. 8,000 people will carry flaming torches through the city accompanied by approximately 30,000 friends, family and spectators. The procession is led by the Up Helly Aa Vikings, who’re dropping in from Shetland for the occasion. They will be followed by more than 100 pipers and drummers who will provide musical accompaniment all the way to the son et lumière and firework finale on Calton Hill, which can be seen from various points across the city.
Organisers of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay are making a donation from the sale of the torches to the charity Erskine, which was founded in 1916 to care for servicemen injured on the front lines. Erskine remains dedicated to supporting veterans in Scotland.
The Hogmanay Street Party and Concert in the Gardens takes place in and around Princes Street and West Princes Street Gardens on 31 December, offering the largest outdoor winter music festival in the UK, with 12 bands performing on four stages. Lily Allen, Björn Again and Soul II Soul are all performing at Princes Street Gardens. Meanwhile, some big names in Scottish music will grace the Waverley and Scottish stages in the Hogmanay Street Party with performances from Twin Atlantic, the Mercury Prize winners Young Fathers, Eddi Reader and Breabach among others. This will be relayed on giant screens across the entire arena to 75,000 revellers. All stages go live at 9pm but the party starts from 7pm at the Street Party arena with bars, rides and many other attractions.
For those looking for something a little more traditional, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay also includes an outdoor Keilidh in the Mound Precinct next to the National Gallery of Scotland, where they can birl through the bells to some of the best ceilidh bands including The Smashers (featuring members of Rura), Hugh MacDiarmid’s Haircut and The Sensational Jimi Shandrix Experience.
Hogmanay would not be complete without fireworks displays. There are countdown displays at Edinburgh Castle and Princes Street Gardens at 9pm, 10pm and 11pm, building up to the climax of the spectacular Midnight Moment, which lights up the skies above the castle and Calton Hill.
Free NightBus services are running for revellers at the Hogmanay Street Party and other events in the city centre, supported by Lothian Buses and Johnnie Walker. These services start from 12.20am and run until 4am, and are part of the Join the Pact global responsible drinking initiative which has secured over one million personal commitments from people across the world, never to drink and drive.
New Year’s Day
As for the morning after, if you’re feeling particularly hardy why not take a dip in the River Forth in the annual Queensferry Loony Dook. If you don’t fancy getting your feet wet, there are plenty of vantage points where you can watch the action - it’s well worth it just to see the costumes, which range from the wonderful to the frankly weird.
Back in town, Scot:Lands offers a treat for New Year’s Day. In a truly innovative move, Pete Irvine has opened ten of the Old Town’s most beautiful buildings and outdoor spaces, and invited a selection of Scotland’s leading artists and musicians to create and curate their own programmes. For example, Heart:Land, presented by musician Roddy Hart and his friends from Withered Hand, Lonesome Fire and Admiral Fallow and HebCelt:Land, which recreates the wonderfully atmospheric festival from the Isle of Lewis with the help of Rura, Iain Morrison and Malin.
#Blogmanay was conceived in 2012 as a means of showcasing the unique experiences people have at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay. This year #Blogmanay is back, encouraging locals, visitors and attractions across the city to post blogs, reviews, videos, photographs and tweets that all highlight Edinburgh and Scotland as a premier winter destination. This year, guest bloggers from North America, China, Australia and Europe will be joining the award winning campaign that has generated over 150 million twitter impressions.
Edinburgh’s Hogmanay and Edinburgh’s Christmas are produced by Unique Events and Underbelly on behalf of the City of Edinburgh Council. Visit the Edinburgh Hogmanay Festival website for more information and to book tickets.