What is Hogmanay? Hogmanay is the Scottish celebration for New Year’s Eve, where folk gather together to see in the new year and celebrate in style. Its origins reach back to the celebration of the winter solstice among the Vikings who formed wild parties in late December. And if Scots are good at anything, they are good at wild parties! Taking many forms, these include street parties, traditional ceilidhs, small town and village celebrations, fireworks, and house parties.
If your aim for New Year is to try something new, then Hogmanay in Scotland is just the ticket. We have listed some different ways to see in 2020 below, mixing in ideas for a variety of different interests and staminas!
Hire a large house and have a ceilidh
Whilst there are many opportunities throughout Scotland to get involved with many local events on New Year’s Eve, some of you may want to completely escape with your loved ones and seclude yourself from the madness to make your own fun. This is where our collection of large houses come in handy. Gather your friends and family together and rent a large house or castle for a week to celebrate New Year’s Eve with your own private ceilidh! New Lodge is a perfect example of a house that can accommodate this.
Being a purpose-built holiday home, it has been designed with the holiday-maker in mind and is an exceptional seven-bedroom house set in the open countryside of Strathcarron in the Highlands. Inside, there are two spacious sitting rooms, a large family kitchen, a splendid dining room and most of the bedrooms are en-suite. Outside, you will find a superb ceilidh barn which is equipped with snooker and pool tables, table tennis, roulette, table football, a large TV and wood burner. This is an ideal space for a celebration and there is certainly enough privacy and space for you to push the furniture back, turn the ceilidh music up and dance the night away. Stock up on food and drink, get the dancing shoes on and see in 2020 with those who matter the most!
Climb the highest mountain
If you are an experienced hill walker or mountaineer, this option will be right up your street, but if not, you might want to briskly move on to the next suggestion! Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in Scotland reaching 1,345 metres and it attracts 125,000 walkers a year who come to experience its rugged ridges and jaw-dropping views. Meaning ‘mountain with its head in the clouds’, it was once a large active volcano which exploded and collapsed on itself millions of years ago. If you reach the summit, you will see patches of light-coloured granite showing evidence of the explosion.
Bearing in mind that Scottish daylight hours in December lie between 8.30am and 4pm, this gives you a window of 7.5 hours to complete a trip up and down, so if you are not experienced then attempting the summit is a bad idea. Instead, you could start early and climb half way or, even better, take a ride on the mountain gondola which lets you enjoy a scenic ride 650 metres up the mountain. This would be an invigorating way to see in the end of 2019 and would certainly get the endorphins going for your evening celebrations of whisky and ceilidhs if staying in Fort William, the local town.
Essentials for the climb
- Map and compass
- Comfortable walking boots
- Adequate waterproof clothing
- First aid kit, whistle and head torch
- Plenty of water and filling snacks
*The novice walker should NOT attempt to walk up Ben Nevis between November and May in Scotland. The daylight hours are not long enough to account for mistakes in direction or accidents. Only experienced walkers should take this on.
Edinburgh city street party
At least once in your lifetime you need to experience the capital city of Scotland during Hogmanay. Many people who travel to Scotland comment on the friendly nature of the Scots and how their welcoming and fun attitude can be both memorable and contagious. Surely that is a good enough reason to come and party with thousands of them in the historical city of Edinburgh? With street performers, DJs and musicians performing throughout the night, there will be plenty of music and dancing to get you all in the mood to see in 2020 in style.
This year, world-famous DJ Mark Ronson will accompany the midnight fireworks which will take you from 2019 to 2020 in a way you will never forget. The event is ticketed and starts at 7.30pm and, due to the nature of the event, children under 12 are not permitted, so this would be more suited to a group of adults, or families with older children. You can find out all the other details and information here.
Follow this up on the 1st January by joining in with the age-old tradition of ‘The Loony Dook’ which takes place at South Queensferry in the shadow of the Forth Bridges. Thousands of people come in fancy dress and plunge themselves into ice-cold water after marching the length of the High Street in parade. Spectators cheer as the freezing-cold ‘good sports’ raise money for charity and freeze off their hangovers in mad Scottish spirit!
Stay close by: The Firkin is still available to book over New Year. Sleeps 4.
Highlight: A torchlight procession will take place on 30th December where hundreds gather to forge a river of light through Edinburgh’s Old Town. Pipers and drummers accompany and lots of fun is had.
Hogmanay celebrations happen throughout the country with the main city events also happening in Inverness, Aberdeen, Glasgow and Stirling.
Have a dram in Dufftown
Whisky is Scotland’s iconic drink and it is often on the list of beverages to try for those who visit Scotland for the first time. So, what better way to enjoy a dram but in the heart of the place that lives and breathes whisky: Dufftown – the malt whisky capital of the world. Set in the heart of Speyside in north-eastern Scotland, the small town is situated on the banks of the River Fiddich, and it is the only place in the world that is so highly concentrated with distilleries.
“Rome was built on seven hills, Dufftown stands on seven stills,” is the famous old rhyme, but in fact, it has risen to nine in the recent years encompassing Mortlach Distillery, Glenfiddich Distillery, Balvenie Distillery, Convalmore Distillery, Parkmore Distillery, Glendullan Distillery, Dufftown Distillery, Pittyvaich Distillery and Kininvie Distillery. Staying in this area will give you a taste of both remote Scotland and the true culture of Speyside and Morayshire. With many of the distilleries offering tours, you can find out all about the process from barley to bottle and even partake in a tasting. There are many Scottish villages and towns that can also be fitted in to a visit, and the area is great for cycling, walking, road trips and castle tours too!
Stay close by: Cure the hangovers in Woodburn Cottage (sleeps 6) and for the larger group, Guisachan would suit nicely (sleeps 10)
Celebrate like a Laird in a Scottish Castle
What could be better than waking up on New Year’s Day as king or queen of your own castle? Or even better, living like one for a week? Push the boat out and indulge yourselves with sumptuous breakfasts, long lunches and decadent dinners in an elegant castle and immerse yourself in history as you walk through the glorious rooms and explore acres of grounds.
Muckrach Castle, sleeping six, dates back to the 16th century and its fairy-tale turrets remain iconic as it stands proudly in the Highlands. The 12th-century Wardhill Castle, sleeping 16, is set within its own private estate and welcomes visitors from all over the world to enjoy a fine stay within its ancient walls. For those looking for fascinating and fairy tale, take note of Knock Old Castle. Built up from the rubble, this 14th-century castle has been restored to offer a totally unique experience on the west coast of Scotland. Throughout our castles, you will find spectacular dining rooms, great family kitchens, the finest of drawing rooms, cellars, chapels, games rooms, hot tubs and even saunas in turrets!
Whilst visiting historical castles gives us an insight into Scotland’s history, it’s not the same as actually staying in one, so why not browse our collection of castles and see if there is something fit for this occasion?
Scottish new year tradition: Inviting a handsome man into your home on New Year’s Day.
If you do happen to know a tall, dark and handsome man (or if you kiss one on New Year’s Eve) make sure they are the first person you invite into your home in the New Year. This age-old tradition of ‘first-footing’ suggests the first person to enter your home in the New Year will determine your luck for the following 12 months. Tall, dark and handsome men are considered the luckiest – and it’s a bonus if they come bearing whisky!