11 Jan My Last Minute Trip to Hogmanay in Edinburgh
One of the items on my list of 30 things to do before 30 was to attend Hogmanay in Edinburgh.
If you haven’t heard of Hogmanay, it’s basically one of the biggest, if not THE biggest New Years Eve festivals in the world. When it comes to ringing in the New Year, the Scots now how to do it right.
Now it didn’t really happen the way I expected.
I always imagined that I would plan to go Hogmanay, maybe book a hotel for the night and tour Scotland afterwards.
Instead, I found myself deciding to go to Hogmanay last minute, on New Years Eve itself! Yep, that’s how rock n’ roll I am…
I initially had plans to spend New Years Eve with my best friend, but when those plans fell through, I was left with two options – spend NYE at home watching Jools Holland on the TV by myself, or make lemonade out of lemons and do something cool. Since I’m always up for an adventure, I decided to go with the second option.
When things don’t go to plan, I try to tell myself that life and fate are trying to send me a message. Perhaps I should follow the signs because there is a better plan waiting for me.
I knew my friends Sabina (girlvsglobe.com) and Peter (travelunmasked.com) were heading to Edinburgh for Hogmanay, so I sent them a quick message to see what their plan was. The only question was, how would I get there and where would I stay?
Luckily, I now have the British Airways credit card so I’ve built up thousands of air miles over the last few months. A quick look on the app showed me I could use my miles for a BA flight and only pay £17.50 in taxes. And Sabina and Peter kindly offered me a ride to Glasgow afterwards to stay with them.
So at 3pm in the afternoon I booked a ticket using my British Airways Air Miles, threw a toothbrush and some clothes into my bag, then dashed to Heathrow airport for a 5.30pm flight to Edinburgh. This would have gone without a hitch, except, in all my rushing about, I forgot to check in online!
I purchased the ticket, but I completely forgot that you have to do online check-in an hour before the flight, so I missed it by just 3 minutes! Doh. I showed up to the airport and had to use another load of air miles to buy another seat on the next flight… 🙁
But the good news is I was on my way to Hogmanay!
To cheer myself up I ordered a glass of champagne while I was waiting for the flight, and before I knew it I was boarding the flight to Edinburgh. Taking just 1.5 hours vs 5 hours on the train, travelling by plane is definitely the speedier option.
Edinburgh’s airport is only small, so by 8.30pm I was in the centre of the city and ready for my NYE festival experience.
So what’s Hogmanay Like?
Well, Hogmanay in Edinburgh is one big outdoor party with LOTS of crowds. There’s a festive Christmas market with rides and food stalls, as well as a Street Party with live bands, DJs and various different stages. There are barriers that basically cordon off the entire festival area, so you need tickets to get in.
Up in the old town you can join in the Old Town Ceilidh, which features top class Scottish artists and traditional ceilidh bands. There’s also the Concert in the Gardens, but Street Party tickets will not get you access to these, so you need to purchase specific tickets.
Paulo Nutini in concert
The main highlight of Hogmanay is the Concert in the Gardens set beneath the backdrop of the iconic Edinburgh Castle. The setting was really magical and best of all, it wasn’t too crowded, so we were all able to see quite easily. The Lightning Seeds, The Vegan Leather and Lemonhaze performed first, with headliner Paolo Nutini taking to the stage around 11.15pm.
Paolo Nutini was really awesome. I wouldn’t have thought to go an see him live in concert but I’m so glad he was playing at Hogmanay. He sang some of his famous hits but put a new twist on them, as well as singing some songs from his latest album. There’s something about the quality of his voice that makes me want to listen to him forever.
With the new year fast approaching a giant countdown clock was projected onto the castle hill, and as the clock struck midnight, it triggered a colourful display of fireworks set to music. The fireworks were phenomenal and they were really well timed. Afterwards Paolo continued his performance and it was one of the longest sets I’ve seen (almost as long as Bruce Springsteen), so people who bought tickets definitely got their money’s worth.
Tips for Hogmanay in Edinburgh
There is NO entry after 11pm, so you must arrive before. There are barriers everywhere so you won’t get through after that point. The best time to arrive is about 9pm it seems.
Hogmanay is a ticketed event, so book in advance online. The tickets can be mailed to you or collected from the box office.
There are street food vendors, outdoor bars and toilet facilities throughout the festival, so you don’t need to worry about going hungry or walking miles for the loo.
In winter Scotland is cold and you’ll be outside for hours, so dress warmly with a thick coat, scarf, gloves and comfy boots, since you’ll be standing for a while.
Tickets for the Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Street Party only grant access to the Street Party arena. Street Party tickets will NOT permit access to the Concert in the Gardens or Old Town Ceilidh events.
Tickets for both the Concert in the Gardens and Old Town also allow access to the Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Street Party.
Everything pretty much shuts down around 1am, then lots of people start heading home. We were really hungry by the end of the night, so we stopped at an Italian restaurant on the way to the car park, which was open late.
If you decide to do Hogmanay super last minute, accommodation can be expensive and fully booked. If you’re OK with being the designated driver and not drinking alcohol, consider staying in a different city. We drove to Glasgow afterwards and it took just over an hour. You can always make a mini trip out of it and see more of Scotland! Or you could just pop up for the night…after all, there a regular flights to and from London. Otherwise, plan ahead!
Edinburgh definitely puts on a great party and there are lots of events leading up to New Year’s Eve as well, such as the Torchlight Procession, which takes place on December 30th. If you’re brave enough you can also take part in the Loony Dook, joining hundreds of ‘Dookers’ as they dip in the freezing River Forth on New Year’s Day!
To book your tickets for next year visit: https://www.edinburghshogmanay.com
Have you visited Hogmanay? Do you want to go? Leave your comments below!