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Surviving Hogmanay in Edinburgh

When I first heard ‘Hogmanay’, I’m pretty sure I replied ‘Excuse me?’.

So… after some Google research, I discovered Hogmanay is the Scottish word for the end of the year. It’s also the name of a giant new year party.

But when I heard more about the massive street festival that takes over Scotland’s Edinburgh streets, adorned with lights, ferris wheels, mulled wine and live bands, I was sold on the concept. That was a couple of years ago though, and finally last year I got the chance to experience it all myself!

Candy floss in a sea of people at the Edinburgh Christmas Market.

So this is my short guide, punctuated with all my favourite pictures, after spending both Christmas and Hogmanay in Edinburgh…

Hogmanay can be pricey

Between the price of tickets, the price of food and the exorbitant price for drinks, Hogmanay can end up being one of the most expensive nights out of the year if you’re not careful.

Fireworks at midnight.

What we joyously discovered is that you’re actually allowed to take your own drinks into the festival! Yip, have you ever? In any case, I’d recommend packing something simple like whisky (you’re in Scotland after all) in a container that isn’t glass. We took in hip flasks and didn’t have any problem with security. They were, however throwing out glass containers and anything larger than 500ml, so you’ve been warned.

The biggest Italian kisses I’ve ever seen.

In terms of food, there’s a decent selection at the Christmas Market, which is inside the actual festival area, that sells pretzels, sausages, chocolates, raclette and cured meats, but everything is pretty pricey. Eat dinner beforehand, the festivities only start around 9pm anyway, and grab a snack if you need to.

Looking down over the Christmas Market towards the train station.

In terms of tickets, it’s best to buy them beforehand. There are two types of tickets – one set for the main act (Concert in the Gardens), and another general access set (Street Party). We couldn’t bring ourselves to fork out for the main act as they were mucho costly when working with Rands, but also the main act wasn’t one we were super keen on.

Maximo Park! And they even payed my favourite song of theirs!

What is fantastic though is that even in general access there are live performances and DJs across different stages within the blocked off streets. I got to see a long-time favourite band perform too – Maximo Park!

TIP: Tickets are discounted for Edinburgh residents, so find a friend of a friend of a friend if you have to! Saving a few pounds will make all the difference to your night!

Layer up

I cannot actually tell you how cold it gets right around New Year in Edinburgh. There’s a bite in the air and a nasty wind picks up in the evenings. As Hogmanay is ONLY outdoors, how to keep yourself warm is in many, many layers.

I can’t tell you who this couple is, but I just loved how affectionate they were, celebrating new year.

The crowd is really busy too, so if you can grab a thick coat with lots of pockets to prevent taking a bag, even better! I perused the Boxing Day sales and ended up getting a great waterproof coat from GAP that probably prevented me from dying of hyperthermia. I wore tights under my jeans, three layers beneath my jersey and a scarf.

And don’t be a hero, take some gloves and a beanie!

It gets pretty busy at Hogmanay, so if you can leave behind anything you might lose, then do.

Walking is king

It’s pretty much a manic situation when you put thousands of people into one confined area anywhere, but it’s super organised and there are tons of helpful people around to assist with where you need to be. What did help was that we downloaded a map from the Hogmanay website beforehand to orientate ourselves with the different areas.

We weren’t staying all that close to the Street Party (about 1,5km away), but we opted to walk and I’m glad we did. There are so many people headed in the same direction that it really was a fun walk. We got more and more excited as we neared the actual Street Party and I’m pretty sure it was faster than trying to uber in or catching a bus towards Princes Street, where everything goes down.

Plus, you may get to make some Scottish friends. Whether or not you understand a word they say is altogether a different matter…

This is 4pm. Be prepared for early nightfall and rain.

Greyfriars Bobby – the legend of a dog who spent 14 years guarding the nearby grave of his owner. And rubbing his nose supposedly brings luck.

Inside St Giles Cathedral. It’s incredible and dramatic and definitely worth a visit.

Edinburgh is renowned for its alleys and sidestreets.

King’s Theatre – we went to pantomime to get into the Christmas spirit. It was far naughtier than any panto I’ve seen!

Inside St Giles Cathedral.

St Giles Cathedral from outside.

Cockburn Street, I just loved all the small independent stores here.

Calton Hill.

The view from the esplanade of the Edinburgh Castle.

Walking towards the Edinburgh Castle.

The entrance to St Giles Cathedral.

The Scott Monument is rather intimidating.

Inside the massive (and free) Scottish National Gallery.

What are these things actually called?

The Balmoral Hotel and its iconic clock tower.

A store named after me…

Spotted on Cockburn Street, which also happened to be my favourite street in Edinburgh.

I pity the person who has to co-ordinate trains into the station…

A self-appointed director of happiness amongst my friends and family, I spend my days writing, brainstorming online marketing ideas and figuring out which country is next on the bucket list of places to see.

Comments (1)

  • Love this. I was in Edinburgh way back in the early 1990’s, loved it then and your fabulous photos just make me want to go back immediately. My mom is from Scotland so I have many happy memories of mad, wild Hogmanay parties. Great post and HAPPY NEW YEAR lovely Kate. xx

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