Why would you choose a New Year break in Scotland? Well, no other nation in the world celebrates the New Year with quite as much revelry and passion as Scotland does, and it’s hardly surprising that the enormous celebration that engulfs the country is legendary the world over.
Hogmanay is what we Scots call New Year’s Eve – 31 December – the big night that marks the arrival of the new year. Its origins reach back to the celebration of the winter solstice among the Vikings with wild parties in late December.
But whatever the scale of the event and wherever it’s held, Scotland’s Hogmanay celebrations guarantee a warm welcome and more new friends than you ever knew you had, all in a frenzy of goodwill! For an unforgettable Hogmanay break, it’s got to be Scotland.
Three days of fantastic atmosphere and unforgettable memories. It must be experienced to be believed!
30 December – Torchlight Procession
Join the revelers and get the party started! In Scotland, New Year’s carousing gets underway when thousands of torch-bearers join Up Helly Aa’s Vikings, pipes and drums. Together, they march through the heart of Edinburgh with flaming torches, creating a river of fire down the historic Royal Mile to Holyrood Park for the finale and closing celebrations.
31 December – Hogmanay Street Party
Princes Street welcomes the merrymakers to one of the greatest events on the planet (and we mean it!). Set beneath the spectacular backdrop of Edinburgh Castle, dance the night away at the Concert in the Gardens featuring incredible live music, entertainment, DJs, giant screens, and outdoor bars.
As the bells strike midnight, admire the world-famous Edinburgh Hogmanay Midnight Fireworks on the castle ramparts. And make sure you don’t leave before Auld Lang Syne – a national sing-along where you join hands with friends you just met from across the globe in its biggest rendition in the world.
1 January – The Loony Dook
And if you need something to clear your head the morning after, why not take part in the (literally) breathtaking Loony Dook, the annual splash in the River Forth at South Queensferry? Take part in the Dockers Parade through the High Street before taking the plunge in the freezing Forthwith the iconic Forth Bridges as a backdrop. And don’t forget your fancy dress! Or you could just sleep in.
Other Hogmanay Highlights
It’s not just Scotland’s capital that knows how to throw a New Year celebration! Here are some fantastic and unique ways to ‘bring in the bells’ in other parts of Scotland.
A Red Hot Highland Fling In Inverness
Scotland’s biggest free Hogmanay celebration can be found in the capital of the Highlands, Inverness. The family-friendly Red Hot Highland Fling will be celebrating this year on the banks of the River Ness in Northern Meeting Park, with music and fireworks more than entertaining the crowds. The top billing is always on stage before 10 pm so that families can get home to see in the bells.
In Stonehaven, they really turn up the heat at New Year! One of many winter fire festivals unique to Scotland, this fireballs parade in Aberdeenshire is a powerful spectacle to behold. It’s a free Hogmanay event that has been celebrated for over 100 years and it always attracts a large crowd. Traditionally, it was a cleansing ritual to burn off any bad spirits left from the old year so that the New Year can begin clean and purified. Watch in awe as the piper leads the procession marching down the street just before midnight as they swing balls of fire above their head in the ultimate test of bravery.
The Biggar Bonfire
An enormous pile of wood gradually starts to stack up in Biggar town center in the final weeks of the year in preparation for the South Lanarkshire town’s own New Year celebration. Lit at 9.30 pm on New Year’s Eve, Biggar Bonfire sees the welcoming of a New Year by the townsfolk in a warm, fiery glow.
Drams In Dufftown
Dufftown in Speyside is known as the ‘malt whiskey capital of the world’. While most of its New Year celebrations are much the same as you would find in small towns and villages up and down the country, it has its special twist. After the annual Hogmanay Ceilidh at a local hotel, the community gathers in The Square where drams of whiskey and pieces of shortbread are shared out to see in the bells, courtesy of the local Glenfiddich distillery and Walkers biscuit factory. Slainte!
Aberdeen’s Traditional Scottish Hogmanay
For something a little different, book a ticket to Hogmanay Live! in Aberdeen with two shows at the Tivoli Theatre – an evening of traditional Scottish music with Graham Geddes and friends, followed by the second show of Dancing on Tables, a five-piece indie-pop band from Dunfermline. Or enjoy a traditional Hogmanay Ceilidh at the Beach Ballroom.
Burghead ‘s Burning Of The Clavie
The residents of Burghead in Moray don’t celebrate their New Year on 31 December. Instead, they ignore the Gregorian calendar introduced in the 1750s and continue to celebrate ‘old Hogmanay’ on 11 January instead. They parade the clavie – a wooden barrel filled with wooden staves – through the town before setting it alight on a nearby hill, smoldering well into the next day. The origins of the festival are subject to debate, but as it takes place later than the official New Year’s Eve, it’s the perfect excuse to celebrate twice!
Like many of Scotland’s famous fire festivals, the Comrie Flambeaux is likely to be pagan in origin – when the fire was used to warn away evil spirits of the old year – but no one in this Perthshire village is certain of when it first began. On New Year’s Eve, eight or so lit torches, some nearly 10 ft in height, parades around the small village at midnight. The procession is accompanied by music, people in fancy dress and general merriment and celebration before the torches are thrown into the River Earn.
As the new year begins, celebrate the magic and origins of Hogmanay at Lauriston Castle with musicians, magicians, and storytellers. Located in secluded grounds on the outskirts of Edinburgh, this stunningly beautiful castle is rich in history with spectacular views over the Firth of Forth. Explore its opulent rooms, secret passages and hidden chambers as you uncover some of the weirdest and most wonderful Hogmanay traditions from around Scotland from the 2nd – 5th of January. Hogmanay House is part of Magicfest.