New Years Celebrations: Scotland vs England

To kick off the travels for 2019 Ruchi Dhir decided to venture North to experience Edinburgh for New Year and the tradition of Hogmanay.

Edinburgh has changed considerably in the last 5 -6 years, resembling an affluent borough of London. The beautiful castles and traditional architecture abound and the city has a different slant on it after the success of the Harry Potter series in the last decade and a half. Wizard shops and magicians memorabilia are popular throughout the city, as are magic themed coffee shops including the coffee shop where JK Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book.

JK Rowling finished the Harry Potter series at the Balmoral hotel in the centre of Edinburgh just across from Waverley train station. In an interview, she said that writers/artists are often superstitious about where their success comes from and she had a successful writing day at the Balmoral and then stayed until she finished the final book in the Harry Potter series there.

The Balmoral hotel is an imposing structure overlooking the city and, during November and December, the Edinburgh Christmas market.

The Edinburgh Christmas market is spread over three levels. It has restaurants, fairground rides and plenty of smaller cafes and eateries serving festive food and treats.

Hogmanay is the Scottish word for the last day of the year or New Year’s Eve. There then follows two more days of celebrating: New Years Day and the 2nd January which is also a Scottish bank holiday. Following celebrations, traditions for the first and second day of the year involve gift giving and visiting friends.

Having last visited Edinburgh during the Edinburgh festival a few years back, Ruchi Dhir drew comparisons with the jovial and relaxed atmosphere. At the time of the fringe festival in Edinburgh, the city takes on an almost European feel with revellers awake and roaming around the city throughout the night. Even with the influx of visitors and late-night drinking, the atmosphere at that time is always a relaxed one where one can feel safe roaming the city and enjoying the culture and not worrying about safety too much as the streets are busy and lit throughout the night.

Similarly, at the Hogmanay celebrations on Princess Street on New Year’s Eve, the streets were full and the city drinking had been in full swing for several hours but, on her arrival and in moving around the city, Ruchi found it welcoming and people relaxed and just out to enjoy the New Years Hogmanay celebration .

Scotland is renowned for its whisky trails, so it’s unsurprising that the major street party on Princess Street should be sponsored by Johnny Walkers Whisky. The upside is that all the party goers receive a peg of whisky! The entertainment organised is also second to none. This year Franz Ferdinand played on the main stage and led the singing of Auld Lang Syne with helpful subtitles on the screens down Princess Street so that nobody was caught out mumbling on camera!

Judge Jules also played to offer a completely different type of music as well as several local rock and funk bands which meant the whole street was dancing throughout the event.

The security was well placed throughout the city centre to prevent any brawls or fights breaking out and there were ushers up and down Princess Street, especially nearby the drinks wagons to guide partygoers smoothly throughout the evening.

Edinburgh was completely lit up even before the fireworks with beautifully placed lights and spotlights on the major landmarks, architecture and the focal point, Edinburgh castle. At midnight, the fireworks are concentrated around Edinburgh castle as the finale of the evening.

The lovely draw of New Year’s Eve in the city of Edinburgh was the Christmas market which remained open until midnight. It meant the party goers on the street were spread a little broader which meant there was very little bottleneck traffic as is normal when so many people depend on a city. It also gave people a relaxing distraction at the start of the evening which inevitably contributes to the lack of aggression and disturbance with so big a crowd.

Thinking back to the fireworks at the Thames in London on the eve of the Millennium and the  New Years Eves she had attended since that time in London and at the Lord Mayors fireworks, Ruchi could only think that Edinburgh was the better option. Although Edinburgh was considerably smaller, the number of people travelling to the city was extensive. The fact that all the activity was located in the centre, apart from the new upcoming and rejuvenated Leith docks, meant that people were spread out. There wasn’t the big squash and uncomfortable pushing and shoving that is normally experienced on the banks of the Thames. The Street party on Princess street was ticketed so, although not everyone was attending, the presence of so many people filling up the local bars and clubs created a buzz through the city. Even walking from place to place was fun and exciting as there were so many people in a cheerful and jolly mood. All of this helps to create the vibe and energy of the city at this time.

As much as the people was the tremendous effort made by the organisers to light up Edinburgh in a stunning way. All the major buildings and streets were lit in stunning spotlights in a variety of colours to bring out their features as well as have further lights superimposed on the trees and buildings to give the city a Christmassy and festive feel.

Edinburgh has always been a fantastic city of culture, with the university, architecture, art galleries and history. But it has been undergoing an extensive facelift in recent times bringing modern restaurants and rejuvenating areas such as Leith docks to create further social pockets in this dramatic city.

Edinburgh is easy to travel to by road or rail but has the advantage over London in that, once you are there, you are there. London, on the other hand, is as complicated to navigate on arrival and can take as long to reach your destination once you arrive in London, as to arrive in London from wherever you start.

Edinburgh has all the vibrancy of the English capital city, all the restaurants: the Ivy and Martin Wishart, but also so much Scottish tradition: the witchery for example, still being one of all time best places to eat.

Edinburgh is also better located for a weekend break. Its easy to get into the city quickly and enjoy all the  pleasures that the city has to offer but its also very easy and convenient to escape to any one of the surrounding beautiful sanctuaries of nature , whether it be one of the Lochs , or to a smaller town or even a castle for a meal or spa , walking or country pursuits . Edinburgh , as a capital city , for New Years or otherwise  , Ruchi noticed  , had a way of giving you all of the excitement  , energy and variety of a capital city whilst giving you the opportunity and access to de-stress , relax and easily experience more of the beauty roundabout of Scotland and mix a weekend of fun  and adventure whilst being able to leave unfrazzled.