Edinburgh Hogmanay

Spectacle of fire and light before Edinburgh's New Year

The Torchlight Procession is the warm-up for the magnificent Hogmanay, kicking off the New Year celebrations in Edinburgh on December 29th at 6.30pm. It is a magical march of 12,000 people carrying flaming torches and creating the illusion of a river of fire flowing through Edinburgh city centre.

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The Torchlight Procession starts in the Edinburgh's Old Town, continues down the Mound street, along Princes Street and finishing off on Calton Hill. It is accompanied by pipes and drums the entire way and it climaxes on Calton Hill with the burning of a lifesize Viking longboat followed by spectacular fireworks.

The burning of the Viking boat is an event borrowed from Shetland's famous Up-Helly-Aa, the largest fire festival in the world. In fact, Viking warriors come from Shetland to Edinburgh to help carry the longboat up on Calton Hill and set it alight.

The purpose of the procession is to raise money for charity. Although it's a free event, people are encouraged to buy torches with all proceedings going to Edinburgh's One City Trust and Radio Forth's Help a Child Appeal.

Sequence of events in the Torchlight Procession

The Torchlight Procession takes place in the evening, after Edinburgh's city centre lights up.

The most emotional moment of the first Hogmanay event is seeing the thousands and thousands of torches of the massive procession marching along Princes Street, past the Winter Wonderland's Ferris Wheel, and towards Calton Hill as well as hearing the bagpipes.

Once on Calton Hill, the Viking longboat is placed and secured on a wooden platform and then Shetland Vikings, in their authentic costumes, use their torches to set it on fire.

It's amazing how quickly the longboat turns into a giant-size bonfire whose flames help burn the old year and welcome the New Year, to the delight of the crowds.

When the longboat is all but ashes, fireworks are launched from behind the Observatory on Calton Hill. You can clearly hear the crowd gasping with surprise. The pipe bands present at the Torchlight Procession then play a few tunes marking a truly Scottish finish to a magical New Year family event.

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