New Year's is Hogmanay in Scotland: The Guide to Edinburgh Hogmanay

Swimmers Brave The Loony Dook New Years Day Swim
A New Year's Day swim in the Firth of Forth, part of Edinburgh's traditional Hogmanay - though the selfies are new. Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images

In Scotland, New Year's Eve is its own special celebration called Hogmanay. It is Scotland's biggest winter holiday—far bigger than Christmas in terms of holiday festivities. This three - to four-day New Year's party kicks off with a dramatic torchlight procession and fire festival. Some year's, there's even a special dog celebration called Dogmanay. Every year, Hogmanay is held from December 30 through January 1 in Edinburgh and across the country.

Edinburgh Hogmanay

The biggest Hogmanay celebration is in Edinburgh. Here's what to expect there:

  • The Torchlight Procession To join the river of fire that kicks off Edinburgh Hogmanay at 7p.m. on December 30, choose one of three starting points. Then buy a ticket online by clicking on that starting point on the map that appears on the procession web page. You can buy a ticket for the procession and a torch or just the procession. Thousands of people carry flaming, wax-based torches wind their way through the city to Holyrood Park. In previous years, as many as 50,000 people took part. And, despite all that fire, the event is safe and child-friendly. Organizers are planning a new and spectacular feature in 2019 that you can be part of. As they enter the park, torchbearers will be channeled into the shape of two people shaking hands. Images of the flaming figures will be captured from the air and broadcast around the world. How cool is that?
  • The Ceilidh Under the Castle  The Ceilidh is a giant, open-air Edinburgh New Year's Eve celebration of traditional Scottish music and dance. Jigs, reels and highland flings by three different ceilidh bands have the crowds dancing in the New Year. The entertainment is different every year, and tickets for 2019 cost £65. The settling is a great place from which to watch the fireworks at midnight.
  • The Street Party One of the biggest Hogmanay events is the street party, which includes a pop concert on three stages around the city center. Many consider the Edinburgh Street Party the biggest and best outdoor party in the world with live music, DJs, street entertainment and, of course, the amazing fireworks display from Edinburgh Castle. It ends with the midnight fireworks, choreographed to a spectacular soundtrack arranged by Mark Ronson. Tickets are £31.50 online.
  • Concert in the Gardens Concert in the Gardens, in a specially constructed enclosure at Princes Street Gardens, features music producer and DJ superstar Mark Ronson. Tickets from the website start at £75 and include wristbands for the Street Party.
  • The Loony Dook  At 2:15.p.m., on January 1, New Year's Day, anyone daft enough to dress up in a funny costume and jump into the icy waters of the Firth of Forth can have a splash off the Moorings, in South Queensferry, near the famous Forth Bridge. Loony Dook is no longer free but ticket proceeds usually go to a local charity.
  • Bairns Afore Since 2018, a special New Year's Eve program called Bairns Afore has been added for kids to bring even the youngest family members into the festivities. From 5 p.m., the west end of Princes Street Gardens, below the Castle is turned over to family entertainment and spectacular early fireworks "all afore bedtime." Tickets start at £10.

How Other Scottish Cities Celebrate Hogmanay

  • Oban HogmanayScotland's West Highland's seaside resort holds public events every other year and New Year's is always a big one. Expect concerts, fireworks, and other celebrations. The atmosphere in the town is very lively with most pubs and bars having extended hours to 3 a.m. or later. Many operate a "lock-in" with no one admitted after midnight. The ferries and boats in the harbor add to the din and there's plenty of well lubricated Scottish jollity in the streets. Don't expect an early night.
  • Stirling Hogmanay: Stirling plans its biggest ever midnight fireworks display above the walls of Stirling Castle (grounds open from 10:45 p.m. to 12:15 a.m.) and an earlier show at 9 p.m for families (grounds from 7:45 to 9 p.m.). Drummers and pipers will keep everyone entertained while waiting for the fireworks and there will be hot food and drinks and a bar on offer. Tickets are available on the Stirling Winter Festival website.
  • Biggar Bonfire: An enormous bonfire in the center of this small town starts about 9:30 p.m. on New Year's Eve. This bonfire is so big that they actually start building up the pile of fuel for Hogmanay ignition on December 1. You can watch them build the bonfire from December 1 on the website. If you have a streak of pyromania in you, you'll love it.
  • Stonehaven Fireball Festival: 60 marchers whirl 16 pound balls of fire around their heads in a dramatic and terrifying spectacle on New Year's Eve. At one time, only men born in the borough of Stonehaven could take part. Today, people who have lived there for a number of years and have served as parade marshals can apply to take part. And quite a few women can whirl the huge and heavy ball of flame around their heads too.
  • Burghead Hogmanay - The Burning of the Clavie: Celebrated on January 11 (otherwise known as the The Old New Year), this is a ritual fire ceremony that involves burning barrels and spectacles to chill the heart of anyone who saw the cult horror film The Wicker Man.
  • Comrie Flambeau Procession: A torchlight procession that involves thousands of people, many in costumes. The Comrie Flambeau torches are usually at least 10 feet tall and are made from saplings wrapped in hessian—or hopsacking fabric—soaked in tar. No one really knows how far back this event goes, but some people claim it is of pagan origin. 
  • DufftownIf you're doing a bit of whisky touring and find yourself in the Speyside whisky region on New Year's Eve, head for Dufftown, the capital of Speyside, to see in the New Year. Just before the stroke of midnight, the local distillery and shortbread manufacturer give out free drams and shortbread to "wet the baby's head" as they say.