Celebrate New Year in Scotland’s Capital, the Home of Hogmanay for 21 years.
Edinburgh’s Winter Festival over Christmas and New Year 2013 has been a fantastic success with a bigger and brighter feast of entertainment, a Carnival atmosphere, Funfair fun and Fireworks for all ages.
Scotland’s capital city is without doubt the ‘Home of Hogmanay’.
Throughout December, city visitors and local residents have flocked to Princes Street Gardens to enjoy a sky high ride on the Ferris Wheel, a whirl around the ice-rink and browse the European Christmas market.
Over at St. Andrew’s Square, there were screams of delight from those brave enough to go on the Star Flyer; a circus cabaret at the Spiegeltent theatre, kids’ carousel rides, then warm up with a hot whisky toddy at the Chalet bar.
First launched in 1993, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is a three day Festival starting on 30th December with the ever popular Torchlight procession led by Viking Warriors, from George IV Bridge to Calton Hill. The finale was a dramatic Son et Lumiere fireworks and longship-burning spectacle.
On the evening of 31st December, my partner Ken and I were among 75,000 international revellers gathering in the city centre to celebrate New Year at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Street Party. The weather was perfect, mild, dry with a clear sky to see the dark silhouette of the Castle up on the rock.
This is a major global event, welcoming visitors from over sixty countries including Australia, Brazil, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malta, New Zealand, Portugal, Sweden, Turkey and USA.
We weaved our way through the happy crowds of friends singing and laughing, many wearing crazy costumes – three men dressed as large yellow bananas! – and others in novelty hats, kilts and even formal tuxedos with black ties.
The Street Party began with a burst of Fireworks from Calton Hill at 20:14 (8.14pm), followed by countdown fireworks at 9.00pm, 10.00pm and 11.00pm from the Castle Rock. Music performances took place all evening on various stages from Waverley Bridge to Frederick Street, featuring such bands as King Creosote, Django Django and the Rezillos.
At the top of the Mound, the Rewinder DJs played the best dance tunes while those with tickets to the Keilidh joined in a truly Scottish party for traditional Highland reels and country dancing.
The Concert in the Gardens, headlined by Pet Shops Boys with special guests, The 1975 and Nina Nesbitt, (live music from 8.30pm – 1am) was a sell out gig.
The minutes ticked by very quickly amidst the festive mood and soon time for what we had all been anticipating, the magnificent Fireworks at midnight: a sparkling display of 16,000 shooting rockets and golden flashes from Edinburgh Castle lit up the night sky. 2014 had begun with a cracking, colourful bang.
And the Hogmanay Festival continues next day on 1st January with more entertainment, Art Galleries, Films and outdoor activities on offer.
Start the New Year perhaps with a refreshing, chilly dip in the Firth of Forth – the Loony Dook – beside the Forth Bridge!.
New in this year’s Festival was Scot:Lands, an imaginatively-curated programme of regional arts, culture, music and drama from around Scotland – families with children welcome and especially ideal for all the international visitors. And it was all completely free.
At the National Musuem of Scotland, participants were given postcards and a map to set off on a walk around the Old Town to churches, galleries and theatre venues for a magical range of performances all afternoon.
First to Greyfriars Kirk to hear Jenna and Bethany Reid from Shetland playing keyboards and fiddle, then on to Assembly CheckPoint for Highland Storytelling and Songs, with charming hospitality – local beer, cheese and oatcakes – from Ullapool.
Our journey continued to the Hub to see the multi-media play, “Whatever gets you through the Night” by Cora Bissett and friends. The audience sat on rugs on the floor watching the romantic, enchanting story unfold through drama, mime, music, dance and film.
As darkness fell around 4pm, we reached Old St. Paul’s Church to join a queue of like-minded Scot:Lands enthusiasts – many faces we had seen in each venue. We waited and chatted and shared our mutual, cultural experience from place to place and nobody minded the slight drizzle of rain.
Soon we made our way upstairs into the ancient Church – dark shadows, candlelit. In the centre, the art collective FOUND, a unique band of eclectic instruments performed melodic, electronic, funky, jazzy music and choral songs.
This dreamlike concert in the incense-scented chapel was the perfect, calm and quietly spiritual start to the New Year. 2014 is Scotland’s Big Year – Commonwealth Games, Homecoming, Ryder Cup, Arts Festivals and a lot more besides!
“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take,
but by the places and moments that take our breath away”
So begins Patricia Schultz’ travel book, “1,000 Places to See Before you Die.”
Edinburgh’s New Year Festival is one of her 1,000 breathtaking places to see. If you haven’t experienced Edinburgh’s famous Hogmanay Party, add it to your own travel Bucket List now!
Happy New Year – Cheers!
Photographer credit: Ken J. Scott