At the turn of the year, people gather to celebrate the previous 12 months and look forward to what lies ahead. New Year's Eve is a special time, one that sees millions of people propping up bars, dancing in streets, and spending time with loved ones.
Across Scotland's towns and cities, the occasion is known as Hogmanay, with origins reaching back to the celebration of the winter solstice among the Vikings, which saw wild parties in late December. Edinburgh is the Hogmanay capital, lit up by lights and fireworks, turning into one enormous party, with similar scenes to be found in Glasgow and Aberdeen. Many other areas, including Stonehaven and Shetland, have long-established traditions that they honour once a year.
Whether you prefer raucous celebrations that run into the early morning or simply want a memorable event to mark the turning of the calendar, Scotland has a new year break for you.
Scotland’s most famous celebration takes place in its capital city. The streets of Edinburgh are adorned with light over several days, before and after the night itself, with events including concerts, fireworks and a torchlit procession through the Old Town. Originally an informal street party, the event became official in 1993, with around 100,000 tickets available ever year (priced at £28.50 this year, available only from the city’s official Hogmanay website).
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The torchlit procession happens on the night of 29 December between the Old Town and Holyrood Park, before the traditional dancing and whisky-drinking kicks off in the evening of 31 December in both the city centre (the Hogmanay Street Party) and West Princes Street Gardens (the Concert in the Gardens). There are dozens of other ticketed events throughout the city but make sure you have a good view when Edinburgh Castle lights up and the fireworks start. Once Auld Lang Syne has been sung, crowds will eventually start to disperse and head to the late-night gatherings.
Stay less than 10 minutes away from the main festivities at the Hotel Indigo, courtesy of British Airways Holidays. This elegant hotel is set within a series of Georgian townhouses within the city centre. Rooms are colourfully decorated, and there are excellent breakfast options available £15.
From £538pp, including three nights’ accommodation, return flights from London Heathrow and one piece of checked luggage per passenger. Departing 30 December.
Glasgow’s celebrations are smaller in scale than those in the capital – but they’re sure to get equally as spirited. Like Edinburgh, you’ll find events in the days before and after 31 December; you can expect ceilidh dancing and whisky galore.
The pubs around areas like Finnieston, Merchant City and the West End are some of the most popular places to prepare for the evening celebrations, before dancing gets underway in George Square or Merchant Square. Other get-togethers include Ashton Lane’s street party and various themed hotel events and dinners. Make the most of the subsequent bank holidays to explore the rest of Glasgow, whether walking through Kelvingrove Park or grabbing a bite in the southside.
easyJet Holidays offers a Hogmanay package to Scotland’s second city with a stay at the voco Grand Central. The hotel has suitably grand interiors – including the magnificent Champagne Central Bar – and slick, spacious rooms, while its location, near the central station and less than 10 minutes from the main celebrations, means it’s an ideal place to base yourself for a Hogmanay to remember.
From £410pp including four nights’ B&B accommodation, return flights from London Luton and one piece of checked luggage per passenger. Departing 30 December.
The highlight of this city’s celebrations are the Aberdeen Street Party around Schoolhill. This free, ticketless event has tribute act performances, a bar and even allows revellers to bring in their own food and drink (which will help keep prices down). Plenty of hotels have events on – from open-mic nights to long, drawn-out dinners –with other choices including a traditional Hogmanay ceilidh at the Beach Ballroom.
For a comfortable city centre stay in Aberdeen, opt for the Residence Inn by Marriott. Expedia’s package consists of a three-night stay in a contemporary studio, complete with kitchen, with breakfast included. When you do venture out, you’ll be just five minutes from the centre and less than 10 minutes from the site of the Street Party.
From £321pp, including three nights’ B&B accommodation and return flights from London Gatwick. Departing 30 December.
Just 15 miles down the coast from Aberdeen lies Stonehaven, a small harbour town that is most famous for the centuries-old, fire-centric Hogmanay celebrations. Traditionally held as a cleansing ritual ahead of the new year, nowadays it comprises a procession of dozens of locals swinging balls of fire around their head – in order to banish the bad spirits of the old year – before throwing the balls into the harbour. The ceremony is attended by thousands, starting around midnight and usually lasting around 20–30 minutes, followed by a fireworks display taking place from just above the harbour.
You can stay right on Stonehaven harbour if you book the Shorehead Guest House. Located right on the waterfront, it has sweeping views of the sea and warm, homely rooms that make it an ideal New Year’s Eve base.
Inverness and neighbouring Loch Ness offer a turn-of-year break that combines buzzing city celebrations with a scenic nature trip. Take in the beautiful views on a winter hike or simply hunt for Nessie at the loch, before heading back into Inverness for suitably buoyant celebrations. The Red Hot Highland Fling, a concert that has been organised since 2008, is the main event in the city, followed by a dazzling fireworks display on the banks of the River Ness. To complete your Highland Hogmanay, get a ticket to any of the special New Year’s Eve events, from hotel gala dinners to Scottish folk performances.
Book with British Airways Holidays for a convenient stay in central Inverness at the Mercure Inverness Hotel. You’ll be right in the middle of the action and less than 10 minutes from the Highland Fling, staying just off the River Ness in a hotel with Highland-inspired interiors and plenty of local character.
From £504pp, including three nights’ accommodation, return flights from London Heathrow and one piece of checked luggage per passenger. Departing 30 December.
For something completely different but equally memorable, head to the Shetland Island town of Lerwick to witness their Up Helly Aa. These celebrations mark the end of the Yule season, and the main event consists of a large procession of around 1,000 people dressed as Vikings – known locally as “guizers” – carrying their torches and then setting fire to a replica Viking longship. These events are followed by various ticketed events in a series of local halls, where the celebrations continue well into the morning with singing, dancing and other performances from some of the guizers. The event actually take place on the last Tuesday of January, so will be held on 30 January for 2024’s edition.
Stay at Glen Orchy House to be near the main action. This functional, cosy guest house has pared-back, comfortable rooms and lies less than 10 minutes away from the procession route.
Read our reviews of the best Scotland hotels