A Guide To: Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Torchlight Procession

Edinburgh's Hogmanay Torchlight Procession
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The Out About Scotland complete guide to Edinburgh’s Hogmanay torchlight procession

Great for Walks Outdoors Site or Landscape Tourist Attraction Event

What’s this attraction all about?

Edinburgh’s annual 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 has become renowned as the event to attend to celebrate the new year, with crowds coming to join in the fun from all over the world.

One of the highlights of the entire 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.

It’s a party atmosphere like no other, and if you’re ever in Edinburgh at the end of December I wholeheartedly recommend you come to join in the fun as well.

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What can you do there?

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, the 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 on a screen but the atmosphere is really quite amazing and the sight of thousands of burning torches lighting up the medieval Royal Mile is an awesome sight.

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, and each year sees the procession end with a particular theme – which in 2018 was a route shaped like the map of Scotland.

The culmination of the event is the festival in Holyrood Park which sees a variety of entertainment including live music, lots of food stalls, and a spectacular firworks 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 National Monument of Scotland 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 have been 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.

 

What I liked about this attraction

  • The atmosphere, once you get going, is amazing
  • The sight of thousands of flames in Edinburgh city centre is certainly impressive
  • The facilities and entertainment at Holyrood Park are great

What I didn’t like about this attraction

  • The procession took over an hour to actually start moving
  • There’s no music during the procession – it would be a nice touch
  • I thought there were too many people in the procession and it was quite congested at Holyrood Park

Getting there

Edinburgh city centre venues:

  • St. Giles Cathedral
  • North Bridge
  • South Bridge
  • Holyrood Park

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Contact details


Prices and opening times

For the latest prices and times see the Edinburgh’s Hogmanay official website

Prices and times (2018):

  • December 30, 2018 – 7:00pm – 8:45pm
  • Torchbearers (inc. torch): £12 (plus £1 box office booking fee)
  • Additional wristbands: £3

Facilities

Bus Stop Nearby Train Station Nearby Easy Access PathwaysAccessible for the DisabledSuitable for Young Children Suitable for the Elderly Toilets OnsiteLight Snacks AvailableHot Drinks Available


Gallery

 

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Craig Smith

Craig Smith is your guide to the best attractions in Scotland. He loves exploring the Scottish wilds and is happiest when he's knee-deep in a muddy bog in the middle of nowhere.

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