Edinburgh’s Hogmanay torchlight procession is a fiery spectacle in the heart of the city where over 20,000 torchbearers carry burning candles through the city streets to celebrate the coming of the new year.
The procession ends in Holyrood Park where music is staged alongside a fireworks display for the ultimate feel-good experience. Discover this incredibly popular annual winter event in Edinburgh with this complete visitor guide.
Like a shortened version of Edinburgh’s Christmas Festival, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Festival is one of the biggest celebrations of the new year in the world where an incredible 100,000 visitors (on average) descend on the city to enjoy three days of spectacular events.
From the wild street party on Princes Street where revellers party under the striking backdrop of Edinburgh Castle to the impressive fireworks display that lights up the sky at midnight, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is an absolute riot of sound and colour that has to be seen to be believed.
The festival has been growing in popularity in recent years and it has now become the biggest event in Scotland to celebrate the new year, with people coming from all over the world to join in the fun.
One of the highlights of the Hogmanay festival is the torchlight procession that sees the city come alive with over 20,000 people carrying burning torches through the city centre towards their final destination in Holyrood Park.
Not only are there a huge amount of people in the procession but the event is such a spectacle that it regularly draws in another 20,000 people who come to watch the river of fire as it makes its way down The Royal Mile.
1: The atmosphere, once you get going, is electric and it gets even better once you arrive in Holyrood Park.
2: The sight of thousands of flames in Edinburgh city centre is certainly impressive but it really comes alive when you get to The Royal Mile. Watching the flames flickering against the medieval buildings is spine-tingling stuff.
3: The facilities and entertainment at Holyrood Park are great, especially the number of food stalls. There’s usually live music as well which makes the event have a real party atmosphere.
1: The procession took over an hour to actually start moving and it gets damn chilly standing around doing nothing. I took one of these hand warmers (Amazon link) with me and it was money well spent
2: Don’t wear an expensive jacket because all that hot wax goes everywhere (that’s from personal experience).
3: There’s much more to Edinburgh’s Hogmanay than the torchlight procession. See the official website for details.
Due to the number of people that attend the event it now starts from three different positions around the Royal Mile – outside St. Giles Cathedral, near The Balmoral Hotel on North Bridge, and the South Bridge.
As you make your way into the queue you’ll be given a torch – which is actually a giant paraffin wax candle – and you’ll wait until all three sites are ready to move off. Once the three enormous crowds begin moving you’ll be able to light your torch and you’ll then slowly walk towards Holyrood Park.
It might not sound like a big deal when reading about it online but the atmosphere is an amazing thing to experience, with thousands of burning torches lighting up the medieval Royal Mile.
Look all around you and you’ll see what looks quite literally like a river of fire as far as you can see in either direction, and I’m guessing the torchlight procession is one of the reasons why Edinburgh’s Hogmanay was added to the Discovery Channel’s Top 25 World Travel Experiences.
The crowds are led to the endpoint in Holyrood Park by Shetland’s Up Helly Aa Vikings who have been leading the event since its earliest days.
Each year sees the procession end with a different theme, such as a final route through the park that looks like a map of Scotland when viewed from above.
The culmination of the entire event is a festival in Holyrood Park which sees a variety of entertainment including live music, lots of food stalls and a spectacular firework finale from Calton Hill. This was probably the highlight of the event for me and it was a great way to ease into the following day’s New Year celebrations, with the iconic Calton Hill lit up by a blaze of lights and explosions. What a sight!
The only negatives I can think of for this event are that the crowds took too long to get moving (over an hour) because there were simply too many people in the procession. It would be much better if the organisers sold fewer tickets, but maybe they’ll sort this out in future years.
It also would be nice to have some music playing while we were waiting, but at least there was a (rather corny) DJ going around talking to people, along with a band of pipers marching up the Royal Mile.
Discover more things to do in Edinburgh with: The Best Places to Visit in Edinburgh – Ultimate Visitor Guide.
Edinburgh Hogmanay Map
Edinburgh city centre venues:
- St. Giles Cathedral
- North Bridge
- South Bridge
- Holyrood Park
Things to Do
Join the Torchlight Procession: Kick off your Hogmanay celebrations by joining the spectacular Torchlight Procession. You’ll be one amongst thousands of torchbearers illuminating the city’s streets, creating a river of fire from the historic Royal Mile to the finale at the foot of Holyrood Park.
Attend the Concert in the Park: The green space on Queen’s Drive comes alive during the Hogmanay Procession with food and drinks stalls and live music from a huge custom-built sound stage. It’s a great party atmosphere where all ages are welcome.
Witness the Fireworks Display: As the event draws to a close, prepare to be astounded by an awe-inspiring fireworks display. The sky above Calton Hill is set ablaze with colour in a mesmerizing spectacle of fireworks that has to be seen to be believed.
Experience the Street Party: After the procession, immerse yourself in the world’s biggest New Year bash, the Edinburgh Hogmanay Street Party. This vibrant festival features live music and DJs coupled with a unique blend of traditional Scottish music.
Participate in the Loony Dook: For the adventurous, this is a unique and somewhat chilly way to start the New Year. Brave the icy waters of the Firth of Forth in South Queensferry in this annual charity event. It’s a fun, albeit extremely cold, way to shake off the previous night’s celebrations and start the New Year with a splash.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where can I watch the Hogmanay fireworks in Edinburgh?
Here are some of the best spots to watch the Hogmanay fireworks in Edinburgh:
Princes Street Gardens: This central location offers an excellent view of Edinburgh Castle where the fireworks are launched.
Calton Hill: A bit of a climb, but the panoramic views of the city and the fireworks display are worth it.
Arthur’s Seat: Another high vantage point, Arthur’s Seat offers a unique view. Remember, it’s quite a hike, so be prepared.
Grassmarket: Located directly below the Castle, the historic Grassmarket area offers a great view of the fireworks.
What is the torchlight procession in Edinburgh?
Edinburgh’s torchlight procession is an annual event that occurs each year at the end of December.
The festival involves thousands of event-goers carrying burning torches through the city to Holyrood Park.
The festival can be traced to pre-Christian festivals when Vikings celebrated the winter solstice.
Where does the torchlight procession start?
The torchlight procession starts at three places; Waverley Bridge, Bristo Square, and outside St. Giles Cathedral.
What visitor facilities are there at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay?
Visitor facilities at Holyrood Park for the Hogmanay event include food stalls and public toilets. Car parks at Holyrood Park are closed for the Hogmanay celebrations.