City Break: Hogmanay Guide 2016/2017

There are few places in the world better to see in the New Year than Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations

Up to 150,000 people are expected to attend Hogmanay celebrations in Edinburgh this year, during three days of events to welcome in the New Year. Celebrations begin with the Torchlight Procession and continue through to the 30th Loony Dook on New Year’s Day, which sees hundreds of people in fancy dress plunge into the freezing River Forth in view of the renowned bridges. We’ve put this guide together to not only let you know what’s going on, but to help you prepare for the midnight moment itself. You'd better get practicing.

The Torchlight Procession

Edinburgh’s three-day Hogmanay celebrations kick off in style as thousands of residents, worldwide tourists and party goers descend on the city for the Torchlight Procession or as it's fondly called the 'River of Fire'.The procession is led by Vikings (and yes, they’re real Vikings) and a pipe band, from George IV Bridge to the Son et Lumiere. An estimated 10,000 torchbearers (you’ll be one of them) carrying wax based torches illuminate the streets. The procession culminates in a fireworks display on Calton Hill. When you reach the top of the hill look behind you, the streets below look like a river of fire. The Torchlight Procession starts in Edinburgh’s Old Town, Friday 30 December, from 19.30, torches £12 and wristbands £3.


Street Party

It’s the big one, when DJs and live singers bring the streets of the city alive. This year, the Waverley Stage will be headlined by the Charlatans (I met the band last year at Corona Capital in Mexico City and again on the flight home), there’s a Party Stage (I figure you can guess what goes on there), the Castle Stage features performances from Scottish Bands Salsa Celtica and Manran and the Mound Stage will be home to the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival. There are other stages, but I’m sure you get the idea; there’s loads going on.Our advice is to get there early and head to the front of the stages, but if you can’t manage that, at various points around the city there’ll be eight giant screens, showcasing the evening and the midnight moment.Every hour from 21.00 there’s a giant fireworks display set against the backdrop of the iconic Edinburgh Castle. It’s a serious contender for the best place to say goodbye to 2016 and welcome in 2017 on this planet.


Photo credit: Tartan Zone Photo

Old Town Ceilidh

If you fancy getting kitted out in traditional dress; a kilt, sporran, tartan or a sash, the outdoor ceilidh event is a must-do. Expect two live stages featuring the best in traditional Scottish music with performances from Cask Strength Ceilidh Band, Whisky Kiss and others on hand to teach you how to get your Scottish groove on.At 23.00 join in with the world’s biggest outdoor dance event and get yourself into the history books. If everyone manages to pull it off, the Ceilidh will get into the Guinness World Record attempt. What a tale to tell your mates when you get back home.Jeans, t-shirts and other non-Scottish traditional dress is not allowed.High Street and Parliament Square, Saturday 31 December, 20.00 – 01.00, tickets £47.50.

The Concert in the Gardens

The Concert in the Gardens is set beneath Edinburgh Castle offering an amazing view of the stage and one of the best views of the hourly fireworks. This is a great location for revellers to bring in the New Year with friends old and new. Literally everyone is up for it.And if you’re a Paolo Nutini fan you won’t want to miss the concert. The Scotsman will sing his heart out, as the New Year fireworks explode from the backdrop of Edinburgh Castle.West Princes Street Gardens, Saturday 31 December, 20.00 – 1.00, gardens £55 or enclosure £65.

Candlelit Concert

Every year hundreds head to the Cathedral to watch Scottish solo singers, the choir and orchestra before heading out for the party and celebrations.The other festivities don’t start until later, so why not go along and experience something spiritual and unique.St Giles’s Cathedral, Saturday 31 December, 18.00 – 19.30, £18.50.

Midnight Moment

The celebration of the New Year originates from Scotland, which explains how they manage to do it so well. The Scots have centuries of experience behind them. At midnight, watch the spectacular firework display from many points across Edinburgh and party like it’s 2017 and join in with Auld Lang Syne.If you’re a bit of a perfectionist or you just don’t want to look out of place, learn the words to Auld Lang Syne. You’ve got two months to nail it.As the bells strike midnight, join hands in the world’s biggest rendition of AULD LANG SYNE...

Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?

Should old acquaintance be forgot, and old lang syne? 


For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne,

we'll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne. 


And surely you’ll buy your pint cup! and surely I’ll buy mine!

And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne.


We two have run about the slopes, and picked the daisies fine;

But we’ve wandered many a weary foot, since auld lang syne.


We two have paddled in the stream, from morning sun till dine; 

But seas between us broad have roared since auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand my trusty friend! And give me a hand o’ thine!

And we’ll take a right good-will draught, for auld lang syne.


I feel a little embarrassed to admit that I’ve been singing Auld Lang Syne for a couple of decades and I still don’t know all the words. Just the average Englishman!

Edinburgh City Centre, Saturday 31 December, free to view from across the city.


Photo credit: Grant Ritchie

Stoats Loony Dook

It’s New Year’s Day, you’ve overdone it on the Whiskey and you could do with a way to shift that hangover. If this is how you feel, then help is at hand! The Stoats Loony Dook consists of 1,500 Dookers taking part in a fancy dress parade through Edinburgh. Don’t expect miracles, you’ll still have the hangover at this point.As a reward for participating you get a bowl of Scottish porridge, before throwing yourself into the freezing River Forth.

It may sound extreme, but our Aussie and Kiwi friends seem to love it, it’s a lot of fun and you’ll never forget it.Alternatively head down to the River Forth and watch it. 

 South Queensferry, Sunday 1 January, at time of print not sure of the time, £10.



If throwing yourself into the Firth isn’t for you then we’ve found an alternative, Scot:Lands, a festival within a festival. The pop up focuses on the spoken word, dance, music and film, by some of Scotland’s most innovative artists and arts organisations.   

Edinburgh Old Town at various venues, Sunday 1 January, 13.00 – 17.00, free.

The Final Fling

If you’re not finished with Scottishness just yet we’ve found one last event for you. Edinburgh’s Hogmanay closing ceilidh, with music and dancing in the Museum’s Grand Hall. It’s a beautiful venue and one we think you’ll enjoy. 

National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh Old Town, Sunday 1 January, 17.30 – 19.00, £6.50.

For the first time ever the shops and pubs in Edinburgh’s old town will be open on New Year’s Day. Join in with the pub crawl around the city and schedule Stoats Loony Dook and Scot:Lands into the day. It’s doable with some preparation.

We’ve managed to find some deals from our friends at HAGGiS Adventures and MacBackpackers and some of them include transport from London. What are you waiting for?

And if you’re planning to go it alone stay at the Edinburgh Central Youth Hostel. It’s got a bit more going for it than the average hostel, it’s modern, beds are comfortable, staff are helpful and the food isn’t bad either.