Hogmanay @ Edinburgh (29 Dec – 1 Jan 2010)

Dating back to pagan celebrations of the Winter Solstice, the New Year’s Eve festival of Hogmanay, enjoyed all over Scotland, is the perfect excuse for a party in Edinburgh.

The citywide Hogmanay party extends over four days. Technically, 31 December is Auld Year’s Night and 1 January is Ne’erday, but celebrations start before and often carry on afterwards. Thankfully, 2 January is a welcome bank holiday in Scotland.

On 29 December there is a torchlight procession: join up with 20,000 torch-bearing Vikings and revellers in a flaming procession from Parliament Square on the Royal Mile to Calton Hill. Enjoy the music of traditional pipes and drummers, and watch the ceremonial burning of the long-ship and wicker and willow effigies.

The ‘night afore’ is 30 December. Kick off celebrations with a fabulous free street party on George Street, including processions, pipes and drums, ceilidh bands, street theatre and storytelling.

The Hogmanay street party on 31 December is the main event, and is held in the city centre. You will need a free Street Party ticket to gain entry. In addition, Princes Street Gardens hosts a live music concert, and East Princes Street Gardens and Mound Square host the Ceilidh in the Gardens open air party. Both of these events require special tickets (they also include entry to the Street Party).
Further dancing with ceilidhs and DJs – known as the hoog and hoog royale – can be enjoyed at The Assembly Rooms on George Street and The Queen’s Hall on Clerk Street. For a more tranquil introduction to the New Year, try the evening Candlelit Concert in St Giles’ Cathedral on the Royal Mile.

At the stroke of midnight, fireworks illuminate the hills around the city, and form a stunning backdrop to Edinburgh Castle. For those wishing to escape the crowds in the city centre, head to Calton Hill for a spectacular view.

On new year’s day you can enjoy the spectacle of ‘the loony dook’, when the brave and the bold throw themselves into the icy waters of the Firth of Forth in South Queensferry. Fancy dress is optional.

After the previous night’s festivities you may well just want to watch the one o’clock fun run down the Royal Mile, with a glass of something restorative in hand.

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