Hell slap it intae ye! if you don’t visit Scotland during Hogmanay! Let’s give TWENTY THOUSAND people real flame torches and march down the Royal Mile? Let me tell you, this was the highlight of my trip!
If you are looking for a unique way to ring in the New Year, look no further than Edinburgh, Scotland. Hogmanay is the Scottish word for New Year. This is a 3-5 day stretch of some pretty fun traditions! The festivities begin a few days before New Years Eve. Approximately 185,000 visitors attended the festivities the year I went (2019-’20). The center of ‘Edin-bruh’ is transformed into a holiday wonderland with a Christmas Market, rides, games, and a lot of food.
Tickets for the individual events must be pre-purchased through the event coordinators. I purchase my tickets the minute they went on sale, months in advance. I signed up for the Torch Procession, the Street Party and the Concert in the Park. Since I am a Hilton snob, I booked the Hilton Edinburgh Carlton hotel way in advance (these hotels sell out super quick!)
The hotel was the absolute perfect location. I did walk in circles(literally) for a good 30 minutes before realizing I needed to walk up a ‘top secret (not really) stairway’ to get to the street I needed. The hotel was right in the middle of all the action! I walked only steps to the torch procession, just a quick trip down the ‘top secret stairs’ to the markets and to where the concert was As an added bonus it was a 5 minute walk to the train station and the location where one of my guided tours left from (more on that soon).
The Scots use fire festivals to purify and drive away evil spirits. The Torchlight Procession during the Hogmanay was wild! Thousands of people carrying torches lined the streets of the Royal Mile (this is the road that stretches from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace) When it was time to begin our march, event organizers lit a few torches of the first people and we all lit ours from the groups in front of us. Very quickly 20,000 torches were lit, the bagpipes and drum bands started and off we went. Je suis prest.
Each year has a theme and this year’s theme was “Be Together” which is ironic because soon into 2020 we were anything but together! We all marched along the streets to the park at the end where all the torches came together to form an image of two people shaking hands. It was fun to be a part of. Fun fact: the torches are sort of like giant candles. You will be covered in wax by the end of the evening.
The next day I walked through the Christmas Market, drank a Hot Toddy or two, feasted on some Haggis,(you’ll want to Google that one) neeps and tatties, and toured Edinburgh Castle. The evening was shaping up to be an exciting way to ring in the New Year: a street party and a concert featuring Rudimental and Mark Ronson, ye ken?…the Uptown Funk guy!
Princes Street, which is the main road into Downtown Edinburgh was blocked off to vehicle and pedestrian traffic late afternoon. Only those with tickets would be allowed in the rest of the evening. The street party had so much going on. Food, drinks (a lot of drinks) and music stages around every corner. There were traditional dances, and performances going on for everyone to enjoy.
The main event, that required a separate ticket, was well worth it. Mark Ronson and Rudimental entertained us for hours as everyone sang and danced along. When midnight approached, Mark Ronson had a pure dead brilliant performance of Uptown Funk to coincide with the fireworks that were set from Edinburgh Castle up on the hill. (not to be confused with Ed Sheeran’s Castle on the hill)
I froze my ass off, danced with complete strangers, (yes, I danced, stop it.) and had a fantastic evening. I went by myself, but I never felt alone. 10/10 recommend attending this festival.
Last year, because of COVID the festival went virtual. They had a 3 night drone show which was insane and still available to view each segment on their Facebook page. I think they may be in the process of re-structuring the future events, but I sure hope I get to experience it again.
Haste Ye Back!