Hogmanay or New Years Eve dates from pagan times when mid-winter was celebrated with festivals of fire and light.

The celebration of New Year is very much a Scottish Celebration which has migrated around the world.

The song "auld lang syne" is often attributed wrongly to the famous Scots Poet,  Robert (Rabbie) Burns, however this may be because he was one of the first people to write it down.

Nowadays Edinburgh's Hogmanay is one of the finest in the world and fire and light play a huge part. NOTE: Please see practical planning considerations at the end of this page!

Key highlights are:

  • The Torchlight Procession
  • The Night Afore celebrations
  • Hogmanay Street party and concert in Princes Street Gardens

The torchlight procession snakes through the streets of Edinburgh on the 29th of December. This event is a fantastic sight and finishes with the burning of a Viking Long boat. In 2008/09, the bonfire on Calton Hill was upstaged by a temendous display of fireworks. This is experience is not to be missed!

The Night Afore is a celebration of street arts and culture, and includes international as well as scottish artists.

Hogmanay itself is the night when everyone gathers together on the street with Edinburgh Castle as a backdrop to celebrate, there are several music stages with scottish and contemporary music and dance. Each year there is a concert in the gardens with headline acts and more recently there is a ceiladh held in the gardens. In 2010, Scottish rock band Biffy Clyro are set to headline the main stage in Princes Street Gardens.

The feeling of expectation as midnight approaches is exceptional with a countdown to midnight, then everything erupts as the crowd begin hugging and kissing and the fireworks start going off in the sky above. Everyone then joins hands and sings auld lang syne and it feels like these 1,000's of strangers have become your friends.

The following morning, revellers can clear their head by joining in Edinburgh's "Loony Dook". Held in South Queensferry beneath the infamous Forth Rail Bridge, locals & visitors join a Grand Parade down the high street of the town before taking a refreshing plunge in the icy cold waters of the River Forth. 


- Book your lodging as early as possible and stay in the Old Town - it's a very walkable town and you won't need a rental car and rarely a cab.

-Book restaurant reservations early as well, particularly for the 31st, but the other nights seating can be hard to come by too.

- Buy your street party tickets and other Hogmanay activity tickets as early as possible from the Hogmanay website (http://www.edinburghshogmanay.com/) which begins ticket sales at the beginning of October. 


-Definitely arrive by the afternoon of the 29th in order to participate in the Torchlight Procession that starts at 7:00pm from Georg IV Bridge in the old town.

-Arrive early because it gets crowded.

-Puchase your torch at a stand outside St Giles Cathedral for 10 BPS each

-Wear comfortable walking shoes and warm layers as you will be standing a bit at the start and the end. And the walk is probably 5-6 miles roundtrip.

-Bring a camera that does well in low light settings and you will capture some magical pictures.


- Plan on getting any shopping done on the 29th, 30th, and morning of the 31st. Most stores are closed 1-2 January.


- Definitely get street party tickets, whether you spend the entire evening there or not, as it allows you critical access to the heart of the city, which you may need in order to get to other activities like  a ceilidh ("Kay-lee"). Street party and most other city parties go from 9p to 1a.

- Consider attending the Candlight Concert at the St Giles cathedral from 730p to 9p. It's a beautiful church and wonderful classical concert. 

- Definitely attend one of the ceildh's - the outdoor one also treats you to the midnight fireworks. You will enjoy learning the scottish folk dances with thousands of new friends. Many people there are also learning the moves for the first time, so you are not alone, and it's a lot of fun.

-Download the full lyrics to the Auld Lang Syne and bring them with you, and you will sing like a pro at midnight.

- and the #1 PLANNING CONSIDERATION: ARRIVE TO THE STREET PARTY BEFORE 11PM, OR THE OFFICIALS WILL NOT LET YOU IN! This was the case in 2008/09 - so make sure you read the fine print on your ticket about access.


 This is a great day to walk about the city, and capture some pictures. Most stores and many restaurants and pubs are closed. But you will find places to get a bite to eat.