Edinburgh’s is well known for it’s many festivals throughout the year, which spectacularly ends with one of the best New Year’s celebrations in the world, Hogmanay. Hogmanay, a Scot’s word for the last day of the year, is a three day festival that takes place in Edinburgh which entails concerts, parties, a polar plunge, and a torchlight procession of thousands of people through Edinburgh’s Old Town–certainly a sight to behold.
Highlighted as one of the “100 Things To Do Before You Die” and recently included on the Discovery Channel’s Top 25 World Travel Experiences, this is an event not to be missed–and I was lucky enough to experience the festivities myself to ring in 2017!
Surrounded by some close friends, we rented a flat at the top of the Royal Mile for an unforgettable weekend first soaking up Edinburgh’s rich history of course, and then indulging in the 3 day festival.
I had purchased tickets for the Torchlight Procession and the Street Party in advance and was excited to be part of the energy that overtakes Edinburgh during these three days. I am not one for massive crowds so when I heard the number of people going to attend these events I became a little apprehensive–but it was all for nothing. This city knows how to do festivals and I felt completely safe with plenty of room to hang out and chat, move about, or dance if the moment called for it!
We kicked things off with the Torchlight Procession which was the event I was most looking forward to. What a beautiful experience!
A few tips if you find yourself attending the Torchlight Procession for Hogmanay in the future:
- One torch per group The festival suggests only a single torch per group of 4 (we were 5) so we only purchased one to share which was perfect…it’s a lot of fire people!
- Pick up your torch early It was very easy to pick up the torch at a booth located just off the Royal Mile early in the afternoon and the line took no time at all–maybe because we headed over right when they said they would open?! I’d recommend being on time to pick up your torch.
- Also, get in line early! When we picked up our torch we were told to start lining up at a designated place at 5:15, well before the procession began at 7 pm. SO EARLY we thought! We planned to start queuing at 6:15 instead, but we probably ended up arriving around 5:45 since it was right next to our flat–and thank god we did! Just about 10,000 people participate in the Torchlight Procession. When we arrived I couldn’t believe how long the line already was, and later I couldn’t believe how many people continued to line up after us. We weren’t way up front but we were well ahead of several thousand people which I think ended up being a great spot.
- Don’t go hungry like me Bring any food or drink for sustenance because the waiting in line in addition to the actual procession can last several hours! We also played some games to keep ourselves busy (and our minds off our hunger! #rookiemove).
- Check the weather and don’t dress up Wear clothing you’re not too fond of–it was a bit windy so some wax from the torch blew onto my coat and even onto the microphone of my camera! It wasn’t a lot and came right off, but if the weather is worse you might want to take extra precaution.
- Extinguish your torch Once your torch has burned pretty low, start looking for a bin to extinguish it. They’ll have them marked all along the procession route with water and a bin to dispose of them. Some people waited until the last second once their torch had burned all the way down to look for a bin, and when one wasn’t immediately accessible they would drop it before it burned their hand! Then there was flames on the ground and melting wax…it was just a big firey mess. Best to start looking for a bin before it get’s to that point!
- Enjoy! Have fun, but be safe and respectful! It truly is a safe and fun event if everyone cooperates–thousands of people running around with open flame is something you shouldn’t take lightly. Be mindful of your own torch and also the torches of others around you–one person in our group was 2 meters tall…poor thing was ducking all over the place because he was right at the level of the flames!
We walked with our torches from the top of the Royal Mile all the way up to Calton Hill where the first fireworks show of the festival took place. This was such an amazing event, I can’t even really explain it! It was fun to walk through the town with the glowing flames as a “river of fire”…it really made you feel part of something. A great way to acknowledge the end of the old, and the start of the new.
We finished the procession with thousands of others and made our way to a cozy pub to finish off the evening before resting up for the next day–New Year’s Eve!
How about you, have you ever attended the Hogmanay celebrations in Edinburgh? Truth be told, I had never heard of it before this year–I can’t believe that because it’s such an amazing festival! If you’ve been, which events did you enjoy the most?