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.
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.
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.
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?
This week I’m linking up with