Hogmanay in Edinburgh

We had gone to Canada for Christmas and decided to go to Scotland on the way back to Australia. For no other reason than to experience Hogmanay in the land of my distant ancestors.


We arrived in Edinburgh on the first day of Hogmanay. It was to be a three-day party.


The weather was cold and night came very early. Our hotel, The Scotsman, was a fabulous old building that had been the headquarters of The Scotsman, a major daily newspaper. It still had all the stained glass and wooden panels of its original manifestation.





We looked down on Princes Street with its festival feeling of rides and lights. The Scots are a hardy bunch to venture out in the cold.




The main event of the first night of Hogmanay was a torch parade through the main street up to Calton Hill lead by a band of Scottish soldiers and a band of Vikings. The Vikings hauled a longship behind them. At the top of the hill there was a mock battle to the sounds of bagpipes and was it was meant to end with the longship being thrown on a bonfire. The longship got bogged and the cart broke an axle so the bonfire proceeded without it.



The snow was flurrying and there was something really primitive about the fire, the torchbearers and the pipes in the night.


There were the inevitable street mimes trying to look scary in the dark.


And during the day there were plenty of Bravehearts to be photograph with For a fee of course.


The next day we just meandered around the central shopping area and went into Jenners, one of the oldest department stores in the United Kingdom.



We walked the Royal Mile, taking in Edinburgh castle and visited a weaving museum.



We arrived at St Giles Cathedral just as a wedding party was coming out. Everyone looked so cold.



St Giles Cathedral dates mainly from the 14th and 15th centuries. There has been a church on this site since the 9th century. It was here that John Knox struggled to establish Presbyterianism.





At the bottom of the Royal Mile we found a shop selling wonderful clothes from young designers from all over Scotland. Omar encouraged me to over spend. And how could I resist a label called ‘Angels Don’t Trudge’.




The bars were welcoming havens of warmth with Omar delighted to find that fresh salmon and vegetables were a fixture of all bar menus. I tried all sorts of Haggis. The wine was mainly Australian and the beer came by the pint.


The second night of Hogmanay involved a giant street party in George Street.


They were trying to get into the Guinness Book of Records with the most people performing a Scottish reel at the same time. There were a couple of training runs and I even got Omar dancing.


As part of the celebrations we came upon a Belgium street performance group who were just setting out. The troupe consisted of a ringmaster, a diva, a clown and a herd of three-story high red giraffes. The music was ethereal and the entire effect was spectacular although a little odd.




To get down town we passed through the wonderful Waverley Station and wistfully watched all the trains leaving on other adventures.





The next day we walked through the New Town mainly looking at the architecture. The area comprises a great example of Georgian Town Planning. In 1767 James Craig won a competition to design a New Town. Robert Adam was responsible for many of   the wonderful facades. The area was remained residential and has been lovingly cared for. A wonderful place for meandering.


We also visited the gallery at Holyrood Palace where there was a fabulous exhibition of the Queen Elizabeth collection of Leonardo Da Vinci’s drawings, mainly characters and caricatures. We took a tour of the Palace and were surprised at the thickness of the walls and the smallness of the rooms in the original section of the Palace. We visited the room that Mary Queen of Scots slept in and where her Italian lover was executed.


The third night of Hogmanay was New Years Eve. We over-indulged in the hotel and didn’t go out until quite late to catch the fire-works that exploded from the hills of Edinburgh.


The next day was another long walk to Stockbridge. We had been told that there were a lot of antique shops and cosy little eateries there. It is not a tourist location. Because of the time of year there weren’t many tourists in Scotland anyway.






We found a great shop that was run by a flamboyant gay couple who were shutting their shop down and we bought a couple of 1950’s broaches designed by Jacque Cocteau in Bakelite.


We also walked down to the docks to see the Royal Yacht Britannia. Unfortunately because it was the off-season it was closed.


This was a pattern that we would find all across Scotland. We need to come back when the weather is warmer.



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