Scotland Travel

Edinburgh Hogmanay 2017 | New Year Celebrations in Scotland

edinburgh castle fireworks 2017

Just days after returning form a lovely Christmas weekend in the Scottish Highlands, we headed south to celebrate the New Year in Edinburgh.  Hogmanay is the Scots word for the last day of the year, New Year’s Eve.  And before moving to Aberdeen, I had no idea that one of the biggest New Year Celebrations around the world is the Edinburgh Hogmanay, a 3-day festival full of fireworks and events throughout the city.  So it wasn’t so bad that we were stuck here over the holidays… we made the most of it and spent an amazing new year celebration in Scotland.

Ever since our first visit to the capital during the world-famous Fringe Festival, we knew we’d be back soon.  The city is vibrant and full of life… things missing in Aberdeen.  It knows how to put on a festival and the New Year’s Eve celebrations proved that again.

The 3-day event started on December 30 with the Torchlight Procession.  Led by the Shetland’s Up Helly Aa vikings, thousands of people walked along Princes Street to Calton Hill with torches (heavy-wax candles) lit.  This created a magnificent sea of fire.  We were merely observers along the sidelines but once an opportunity to join the procession opened up, we walked among them trying not to get burnt by the flames and wax.  We didn’t walk all the way up Calton Hill for the bonfire but from down below, we watched the fireworks go from Calton Hill to signal the start of Hogmanay.

We spent the last day of 2016 just strolling through the city and doing some shopping (since there is a better selection in Edinburgh).  Anticipating a long night, we returned to our bed & breakfast located along Leith Walk for a cat-nap.  Side note: This was a great area to stay in.  A short bus ride to the city which is also walkable distance, and lots of places to eat nearby.

On New Year’s Eve, the city of Edinburgh puts on not one, not two, but 4 fireworks shows!  They go on the hour starting 9pm and increasing in magnitude.  For the first set at 9pm, we walked up Calton Hill to watch the fireworks over Edinburgh Castle from above.  Then by 10pm, we were up the star flyer whipping around quite close to the Scott Monument for 360 degree view of the city below.  Check out the video below to understand what I mean.

edinburgh castle fireworks 2017

By 11pm street party on Princes Street was full but not jam-packed.  With 4 concert stages and multiple screens, there was music and some form of party every couple hundred meters.  I’m sure up against the stages people felt like sardines, but it was surprisingly easy and roomy walking along the street.  Some parts were more congested than others, but given the size of the Edinburgh Hogamanay and the thousands of people there, I did not feel suffocated.  All along Prince Street, there were awesome views of Edinburgh Castle so just before midnight, we stopped and waited for the Midnight Moment.  

The countdown started at 20 second with lasers beaming on the castle, everyone counting down in unison.  Then as midnight struck, an intense 6-minute firework and light show surrounded the castle.  And there we were, ushering in 2017 in Edinburgh for our first New Years Celebrations in Scotland.

We couldn’t help but feel a little sentimental.  Last year we having a quite but fun celebration with my parents, sister and brother-in-law-to-be and returning home to Paris soon after.  This year we were alone with thousands of strangers, having to return to our new home in Aberdeen.  2016 was a big year of change for us but I know 2017 will be better as we settle into life here and start making the most of it.

We start 2017 on the right foot with a 5km jog through Edinburgh.  The weather was crisp but sunny.  Prior to the weekend when I told people I was going to Edinburgh Hogmanay, the first response was always, “I hope it doesn’t rain.”  And we are so lucky it didn’t.  In fact, the weather was pretty perfect for this time of year besides a light sprinkle on January 1.  So we took advantage of the nice weather and followed up our jog with a hike up to Arthur’s Seat.  Soaring 250m up and offering magnificent views of the city and coastline, we weren’t the only ones that thought it was a good idea.  It was busy and by the time we got to the top, it was windy and the clouds were moving in.   But we felt like we’d already accomplished quite a bit in 2017!  And hopefully that is a sign there is more to come.

Edinburgh Hogmanay

Some shops were still open, so from Holyrood Park we walked the Royal Mile popping in to look around and taking breaks to warm up over a cup of coffee.  We stumbled across the SCOT:LANDS festival.  The third day of Edinburgh Hogmanay focused on art, music and culture. Venues across the city were showcasing local artists including the St Giles Cathedral where we stopped to listen to some violinists and watch an interpretative dance.  Randomly and unrelated, we found more live music later at The Three Sisters bar.  Did I say already that we love Edinburgh’s vibe? Such a cool city with so much going on.

Edinburgh Scotland Edinburgh Scotland

Having already walked about 20km, we went back to the B&B and had a quiet Italian dinner in Leith.

Overall, it was a great weekend.  It wasn’t as busy or frustrating as I thought it would be.  Crowd control was well-managed and efficient.  And the fireworks were amazing.  The vibe, truly memorable.  I never gave Scotland one thought before moving here and little by little we are making memories here and making the most of it.  Edinburgh Hogmanay is now ranking high on my list of memorable New Years celebrations that also includes Sydney, Australia and Rio de Janeiro.  Bring on 2017!

If you don’t follow along on Snapchat (@lvsmall), check out the video highlighting the best moments from Edinburgh Hogmanay.

My advice for your first Edinburgh Hogmanay:

  • Book accommodation early.  We booked in August and even then it was a tad late with many places already full.  Expect high prices.
  • Buy tickets early.  There are tickets for all the events including the Street Party we went to.  The Concert in Gardens sold out quickly including the Loony Dook polar bear swim (Which I would have loved to do!)
  • Bring provisions for all sorts of weather.  It could always rain so dress warm and be waterproof.
  • Bags were checked but plastic bottles and Thermos were allowed in.  Many people we decanting bottles of liquor into plastic water bottles and that didn’t seem to be a problem.
  • Bring some snacks.  The lineups for food were long and overpriced.  We had a backpack with some carrots, Scotch eggs and other treats.
  • Be cool.  There is always some pushing and shoving especially by drunk people, but stay positive and happy and be grateful for the chance to ring in the new year in style.  

What’s been your most memorable New Year’s Eve?

PIN IT!

ediburgh hogmanay up helly aa viking

This week I’m linking up with

Oregon Girl Around the World

Wander Mum

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  • I AM DYING TO GO TO THIS!!! I discovered it a few years ago and still haven’t made it yet! You’ve given some great tips! I definitely saved this as we have already been talking this year about going to Scotland finally! Just means I might have to wait until the end of the 359 days to go! #FarawayFiles

    • Well if you can’t wait then I’d recommend going to Edinburgh over the summer – it’s a bit crazy there in august because of fringe festival but we really enjoyed it then as well.

  • wonderful! I really liked Edinburgh when I visited it #farawayfiles

  • AlicevstheWorld

    I’m so jealous you got to experience Hogmany, it looks ridiculously awesome! I want to celebrate New Years day with fire too!

    • Thanks! I would have never thought to do it but since we are now living in Scotland and so close… might as well!

  • Untold Morsels

    That looks like the most brilliant way to see in a New Year. My ancestors are from Edinburgh on my Mum’s side so I would really love to have this experience one day and am bookmarking and pinning for reference. Happy New Year and so wonderful to have you join us on #FarawayFiles Lillian

    • Thanks! David also recently found out that some of his ancestors are from Scotland. Had no idea – it just came up once we moved. Hope you do make it and hope the weather is as amazing for you as it was for us. That did make all the difference

  • Aw Edinburgh is the best! I think the street party is a bit overrated for what it is, but it’s nice and I love watching the fireworks! One of my favourite new year’s eve ever was spent in Edinburgh and then up until about 3-4 am partying. I love that you went up the Starflyer haha I was always too scared! I’ve spent four new year’s eve in Scotland and it never rained! Which I realise now is pretty lucky 🙂

    • It was quite expensive. But if the cost controls the crowds then I suppose that’s not a bad thing. We saw people in there apartments overlooking Princes Street and I’m sure they had an amazing view of it all. That where you’d want to be. Since we were there alone, it was the best option. And That is lucky! I’ve been to Edinburgh three times and it rained on 2 of those visits 😹

  • Ahila Thillainathan

    Looks like you had a lovely Hogmanay in Edinburgh. Beautiful photos!

  • Clare Thomson

    Great to read this, Lillian. I’ve always wondered what Hogmanay is like in Scotland and I’m very impressed with your fit start to New Year’s Day! I’m really hoping to get up to Edinburgh this year. Thanks for sharing this with us on #FarawayFiles. I hope that 2017 brings you everything you’re wishing for.

  • Danielle from Boots not Roots

    This is super cool! I had never even heard of Hogmanay before this. We might have to do this next year! Thanks for sharing!! #farawayfiles

    • Thanks! I hadn’t either until I moved here. that’s the best part of living in different places… you get to discover news things and experience things you wouldn’t have otherwise!

  • I’ve seen this on an episode of the Amazing Race, actually. Did you have a chance to talk to anyone about Scotland’s position on Brexit and a possible referendum to leave the UK?

    • I live here now and go to school… it’s not a huge topic of conversation. I generally avoid talking politics with people I don’t know well and I’m still settling into the city… don’t want to say something dumb or worse offensive, and be labeled that dumb foreigner 😛

  • Lara Dunning

    I’ve read some about this event, but not in so much detail. It’s good to know that the crowd wasn’t overwhelming. I’m not a fan of crowds so it made me realize this would be an event I could handle. Thanks for sharing!

    • There were definitely areas that were jam packed but it was easy to find breathing room. I was nervous about that as well and it was totally fine 🙂 thanks for commenting.

  • Nancy Pitman

    You couldn’t ask for a better way to bring in the New Year. Hogmanay looks like it would be so much fun too. Not so sure I would want to walk along the flames and hot wax but everything else looked amazing.

    • Yeah there were some sketchy moments especially because the wind really picked up near the end of the night. Flames were flying a good foot from their torches :/

  • Melody Pittman

    The Fringe festival looks like such a blast. They have a mini one in NYC during the summer. I am officially jealous. 😉

  • New Year’s Eve goals! WOW! I thought it was epic in Copenhagen, but there isn’t such a festival atmosphere – just about a zillion crazies lighting off their own fireworks just about everywhere! I can’t believe you were videoing from the top of those high swings either! I’ve been on the one in Tivoli in Copenhagen and there was NO WAY that I would have let go to get my camera out! Impressive. Thanks for sharing and joining in with #FarawayFiles – happy new year. Can’t wait to see where you take us next! Cheers from Copenhagen, Erin

  • Passports & Pigtails

    What a spectacular way to ring in the New Year! I’d love to experience this with the kids someday, it would be a memory they would never forget! Would also love to attend the Fringe, our festival here in Edmonton is second largest only to that one!

    • I lived in Edmonton for 4 years! I know that Fringe festival well. So that was one of the first things we did when we moved here.

  • Adelheid Bethanny

    Whoaa. Looks like you had a superb experience! Love that you add some tips in the end, I didn’t know they would check your bags. Sounds super safe then 🙂

  • Emilia Mlak

    Wow. The photos are amazing. Hard job to capture moving ‘objects’ with lots of people around when it’s dark… I really love them! It must been great and hope worth every penny spent! 😀 Vikings look like they had fun 😛

  • lauren @ youneedtovisit.co.uk

    Great post Lillian. I am originally from Edinburgh, it’s one of my favourite cities in the world. At Hogmanay it is just brilliant and I love your great photos. The torch lit procession is brilliant and we were very lucky this year to have good weather. With young children now we don’t go to the street party on Princess Street now but your photos and words tell the story beautifully.

    Another tip is to watch the fireworks from Calton Hill, you have fantastic views of both the fireworks and the city below.

  • I haven’t been to Edinburgh at Hogmanay for a long time but it was always wonderful- such a good-natured atmosphere, everyone having fun. One of my favourite ways to celebrate New Year. #citytripping

  • Tas D

    It looks amazing. We’ve been to Edinburgh a few times but never at new and it looks just stunning. I’m going to try to book hotels soon for the new year I think!

  • What an amazing experience. It looks like a fantastic atmosphere and the fireworks absolutely magical. I think I need to pay Edinburgh a visit at Hogmanay. Very impressive photos too and I love the one from Arthur’s seat. Thanks for linking #citytripping