Sunday, 12 January 2014

Hogmanay in Edinburgh

The title may have given it away but yes, I was in Edinburgh this year celebrating Hogmanay, that's New Year to the uninitiated. Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland, located in Lothian close to the Firth of Forth and attracts nearly 1 million visitors per year, of which approximately 80,000 were at the Hogmanay celebrations! And I must say, it was delightful! I had many recommendations to go and visit but only now had I actually gotten around to it, and boy am I glad I did. Arriving on the 29th meant I had time to familiarise myself with the city before the 3 day celebrations began.

The Accomodation
After having spent Christmas at home in Manchester, I travelled up by train, taking roughly 3 hours. Once there we had a short stroll to our accommodation, which was absolutely stunning and much better than it looked in the pictures, I was really impressed.
Built in 1854 and renovated in 2008, the bottom floor of this historical house was very cosy and homely. As the family who own it stay there often, it has everything you could possibly need, and I mean EVERYTHING. There were even films, books and board games to pass the time. It was more extensively stocked than my own flat! The owner had even switched on the heating before we came and bought us some bread and milk etc to welcome us.  The flat never seemed to end. There was a reasonably sized double bedroom with a walk in closet, a huge second bedroom with 3 beds in, a fireplace and a good sized cupboard, a long hallway leading up to a well stocked bathroom, a utility room in complete with washing machine and various household cleaners, the biggest lounge / diner I have seen in a while with another cupboard full of items and finally the kitchen, with cupboards filled to the brim. Not only is there a pretty garden to the back of the apartment, but also a private gated garden across the road leading down to the river. A nice walk down there and into the town was a lovely way to start off our stay there.

The City
What surprised me was the proximity of the city, everything was in walking distance. There was absolutely no need for the use of public transport or taxis at all. There are plenty of amenities in the area that you would expect of a city. Lot's of restaurants / pubs, small supermarkets etc. I am told there is also a leisure centre nearby and even an 18 hole golf course!
Walking around the city is a pleasure. The sights are spectacular. Most of the buildings are historical, intertwined with the occasional modern building and you can feel an almost electric atmosphere here. There are many historical sights here, Edinburgh castle, perched on top of hill, as well as the new town and old town, both listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Edinburgh Castle at night.

A close up.

An alternate view of the castle, taken from Princes Street, this time during the day.

Princes Street.

The old Town, taken again from Princes Street.

Looking up to Calton Hill.
An alternate view of Calton Hill taken from the Old Town.
The most shameless photobombing I have seen. No idea who this couple are, or why they felt the need to pose in my picture, oh well. Arthur's seat is in the background, taken from the tourist office.

The Food
The food was both delicious and at times, very interesting! But never bad. Of course Haggis, tatties and neeps made it on the menu, well, it would be rude not to. This is the heart, liver and lungs of a sheep minced with onions and a few other things stuffed inside a sheep stomach (tasty!), served with potatoes and turnips, just in case you were wondering!
I also found chips, cheese and gravy being served, which brings back fond childhood memories! I was addicted to this as a teenager.
The next food I describe should come with a health warning! Be warned, the chip shops fry EVERYTHING! The menu included fried mars bars, fried pizza, even fried Christmas pudding! Oh mon dieu! It was too much of a muchness, as I like to say! Hesitantly I tried the fried mars bar. Expecting to regurgitate it any second, I closed my eyes and took a bite. And do you know what? It was bloody delicious! So delicious, I had to avoid the chip shop for the duration of my stay in case I couldn't help myself again and succumb to the warm, chewy, caramel laden delight! Weird eh?

The fried mars bar delight!

Haggis, tatties and neeps.
Do not forget to have a wee dram of whisky!
Do indulge in coffee and cranachan (a traditional Scottish dessert made of whipped cream, whisky, honey, raspberries and toasted oatmeal).

Day 1 - 30/12/2013 - The Torchlight Procession
Nearly 8,500 people bearing large torches made their way around the city, me being one of them. It's a great way to introduce yourself to the city as you march along down the mound, along Princes Street and up towards Calton Hill for the spectacular finale of the firework show and big bonfire, known as the Son et Lumiere. Along the path is various spectators, street entertainers, food and drink stalls and music, apparently with a fire theme! Nice touch! This event alone attracted 35,000 visitors this year.

My torchlight and I during the procession. WARNING: Do not wear a brand new coat you had just received for Christmas to this event, you will get wax all over you.... like me. Sigh.

The torchlight procession.

The Vikings prepare for the torchlight procession.

The fireworks on Calton Hill at the Son et Lumiere.

The fireworks on Calton Hill at the Son et Lumiere.

The fireworks on Calton Hill at the Son et Lumiere.

Day 2 - 31/12/2013 - The Street Party
The penultimate part of the celebrations involves a massive street party, filled with music, food and drinks stalls, and horrendously long queues and fights for the toilets (definitely not my highlight of the night). Pay more and you can get in to the garden party. I opted for the 20 GBP wrist band which I think was sufficient. You must buy a wristband to enter as there is a fenced off control zone put in place after one year when something like 300,000 revellers showed up and destroyed the place in the 90's! I do think it's a little on the pricey side but I do believe some goes to charity so it isn't that bad. Come midnight we were inevitably and drunkenly wailing to non other than Auld Lang Syne. To be honest I don't remember much more of the night, the rest was hazy :)

Happy New Year!

Day 3 - 1/1/2014 - The Loony Dook
What is this you ask? Well, let me explain. It's a tradition where a load of absolutely insane people have a splash around in the ice cold waters of the Forth all in aid of charity. Was I there? Was I hell, I was in bed nursing the mother of all hangovers, like a normal person!

So lets cheer on Scotland for 2014, who have a lot to look forward to. The impending referendum in September, the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup to name but a few. This year will be something to look forward to for all Scots and I for one, will drink to that!

Playing the bagpipes.

 Happy New Year everyone!!!!


  1. What an incredible looking celebration! Edinburgh is high on my list and I will most definitely have to keep this in mind!

    The city alone seems incredible though, I love how they light up the castle!

  2. It was! I thorougly enjoyed it and would recommend it to everyone! The castle was great! In fact, they appear to like lighting a few buildings up, it looks great.