Hogmanay Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland


Corinne Staley/Via Flickr

Tour director Paul Mattessini wrote a wonderful November 16, 2010, post called “The Best City In Britain.” His post, which featured a detailed city walking tour, highlighted The Guardian newspaper poll for the “Favorite UK City” award which went to Edinburgh. It was Edinburgh’s 11th year in a row to win the award and I’m not surprised in the least. I would have voted for Edinburgh, too. By the time this post goes on The Equator, I will have returned from a week in Edinburgh, visiting my daughter who attends graduate school there. Our entire family loves Edinburgh. My son spent a semester at the University of Edinburgh, and my husband and I have visited the city many times. However, this will be our first time celebrating Hogmanay in Edinburgh.

St. Giles Cathedral

Beth/Via Flickr

Edinburgh is famous for its Hogmanay festival, a three-day event that begins on December 30 to bring in the New Year. We may be skipping the world-famous street party on December 31 and most certainly, the New Year’s Day dip into the Firth of Forth, but there will be plenty of other events to attend. I’m hoping my daughter can get us some last-minute tickets to the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra Hogmanay Celebration that will be held in the Usher Hall on December 30 and the Candlelight Concert on New Year’s Eve in St. Giles’ Cathedral, which is Scotland’s most important church. As long as we can see the fireworks display on New Year’s Eve over Edinburgh Castle, then I will be a happy camper.

Since most of the Hogmanay events are held outdoors, we will be dressing appropriately for winter temperatures in Scotland. The crush from all of the natives and tourists who will be descending on Edinburgh to celebrate Hogmanay should keep us warm, too. Edinburgh is probably one of the safest places in the world to celebrate the New Year. I love being warm and safe. What more could you ask for on New Year’s Eve? Well, I’m sure my children, who are in their 20s, can think of other things to ask for when it comes to celebrating New Year’s Eve. My husband and I will just be happy to be with them. I hope I remember to pack a set of lyrics to “Auld Lang Syne” because I want to be prepared to sing this poignant song along with everyone else that night in Edinburgh.

Before the start of the Hogmanay festival, we are planning to go to the newly renovated Scottish National Portrait Gallery. There are many new exhibitions to see, but I hope I can see “Hot Scots,” a display of 18 portraits from contemporary culture. My favorite “Hot Scot” would have to be Sir Sean Connery. As far as I’m concerned, he’s one of Scotland’s greatest national treasures. Another exhibition that looks enticing is “Playing for Scotland: The Making of Modern Sport” about the transformation of sports during the 19th century. Since I will be back in Edinburgh in early April, I may try to see if I can take my students to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

My daughter will be taking us to a couple of places I have not been to before. One attraction is the Sir Walter Scott Monument. I hope I have the energy to climb the 287 steps to the top of the monument to get a great view of Edinburgh. The other place is Cramond Island, a tidal island in the Firth of Forth that is connected to the mainland at low tide by a causeway. Cramond Island is featured in one of my favorite novels about teachers (and Edinburgh), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, by Muriel Sparks. In the novel, Jean Brodie has an affair with the school’s singing master, Gordon Lowther, who has a house on Cramond Island.

We will be spending lots of time in a variety of restaurants, except for breakfast which we will eat in our bed & breakfast establishment. For lunch, we will be having “two-handers,” or gourmet burgers at the Holyrood 9A, sandwiches at the Piecebox Café, (a “piece” is Scottish for a sandwich and a “piecebox” is a lunch box), and pub food at the Doctors Bar. Some of the places where we are planning to have dinner are not Scottish in the least. We will be dining on Japanese food at Koyama, Italian food at Divino Enoteca, and Indian food at Mother India’s Café. Edinburgh is a city full of hills, steps, and stairs. I hope I can walk long and hard enough not to bring home any extra pounds as a souvenir.

I consider myself to be most fortunate to be able to bring in the New Year in Edinburgh with my family. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to slow down and cherish each and every opportunity I have to be with my family.

Readers, what has been your experience in Edinburgh, bringing in the New Year or just touring with your students?

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Flickr photo via PhotojenniAnnieGreenSprings, Bernt Rostad

Gail I.

Gail is a former longtime EF Group Leader, who was also a frequent mentor to new group leaders and a regular presenter on EF’s Free International Training Tours.

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