No haggis drop?
December 18, 2011 8:02 AM   Subscribe

How should I spend New Years Eve in Edinburgh?

I'm visiting a friend in Edinburgh for New Years, before moving to St. Andrews. I doubt said friend will unearth any good New Years options himself, but I'll easily cajole him into going out. Suggestions?

We're both young mathematics faculty, he in Edinburgh, me in St. Andrews. Ergo, we could get away with doing things like crashing an open party hosted by a graduate student association, historical society, hackspace, or anything similarly geeky.

Are Hogmanay tickets sold at the entrance on New Years Eve or must one buy them in advance?

Is there anything like a haggis drop in Edinburgh?

I'll welcome suggestions for St. Andrews itself as well, but I cannot move into my flat by then, so I'd need to convince my friend to stay in the hostel or something.
posted by jeffburdges to Society & Culture (9 answers total)
Back in the day you used to go to Princes Street for the countdown to midnight, then snog everyone in sight. This was the 1990s, though, so there may be some kind of restriction now. Erm, and I already knew the women. So there's that.

After midnight you can try crashing parties you can see that are happening by "first-footing" - knock at the door, cry "Happy New Year" when the open the door, see if they let you in. It's good luck. Worked for me in the past. Carrying around a bottle of whisky probably helps. If you or your friend is tall and dark, they should go first. If you're really organised, also carry a lump of coal. Be prepared to leave speedily if it doesn't work out, of course.

If you go to a more formal thing there may be dancing. In Scotland we all get taught the same basic five or so Scottish country dances, so they are announced but no-one tells you how they go (there is no caller, and no run-through). If you could possibly learn these in advance that might be very useful: none are difficult. The Gay Gordons, Dashing White Sergeant, Strip the Willow (known as Drops of Brandy in England), Military Twostep... actually, I can't remember any more!
posted by alasdair at 8:21 AM on December 18, 2011

Back in the day Princes Street was empty and 30,000 people would lob the contents of their offy-bought booze into the air on the street around the Tron Kirk - at different times, on account of how its four clock faces weren't in sync. Then the snogging. Then someone decided to make it an event and it's all down in the New Town and you're listening to Texas or some other shite. And one year in three the whole thing gets shut down because of weather.


Last I checked the 'gate' went up at about 6pm on Dec 31, from which time you can't walk into the city centre without a ticket/wristband/whatever. They don't make cash sales on the night but if you're already inside the barrier earlier in the day you may be able to evade the entire thing.

Tickets are here.

Haggis stuff is at the end of January.
posted by genghis at 8:33 AM on December 18, 2011

Count me reassured, I found myself wondering the other day if the '90s snogging was as universal as I remembered, or if it was just me. It was an extraordinary phenomenon, and I can't believe I never caught so much as a cold.

Back on topic - definitely buy street party tickets in advance if you decide to do that - I've not seen how they empty the area before putting up the barriers but it's a big money-spinner and I imagine they're as thorough as they can be at throwing out non ticket-holders.

You have to pay (a lot) more to get into the main concert in Princes Street Gardens - Primal Scream this year, I think. If you don't do that, you're wandering round the city centre where there are about three smaller stages and a fairground, and have a pretty good view of the huge fireworks display over the Castle at midnight. It can feel like a bit of an aimless way to spend the night, and it can be very cold (about -8C last time I did it), but the (expensive) beer keeps you warm, and you'll feel like you've been at a big event.

As alasdair says, a ceilidh (dance) would be a good, warmer, option. Try looking up The List magazine listings online for events (sorry no links, am on my phone).

Make a plan for getting home - there'll be no cabs!
posted by penguin pie at 10:32 AM on December 18, 2011

Edinburgher here. Yes, buy your Hogmanay tickets in advance. As soon as you can. Get the ones that allow you into the inner sanctum of Princes Street Gardens if you are able, as although the plain Princes Street stuff is terrific fun, the crowds, even ticketed, are astonishing. Check regulations about bringing in glass bottles and cans - they may only allow plastic containers in.

A ceilidh would be a very good option, in part because it's very, very cold on Hogmanay, and even wrapped up warm and armoured by drink the temperatures outside get low enough to be extremely uncomfortable.

Old and New Towns can get very treacherous with ice at this time of year, so if you have shoes that are good on the slippery stuff - bring them with you.

As has been said above, forget about cabs. That's a hard enough call on a normal Friday night, let alone Hogmanay.

To escape the biggest crowds but not miss the fireworks, think about heading for Inverleith Park, which is at the western end of Stockbridge: the view across the city from there is stunning, and most Princes Street-based firework displays are as worth seeing from there as on the spot.

Buy drink early in the day: I've seen off licences stripped clean by 5pm on 31st December here.

Above all, just enjoy the whole thing - everyone should come up here for it at least once in their life, and whatever you do, you're guaranteed memories for a lifetime.
posted by pyotrstolypin at 10:58 AM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

alasdair: I think you want to add Canadian and Progressive Barn Dances to your list pf school taught dances. Most people dont do them properly so be prepared to hang on or go flying.

pyotrstolypin: As well as the Off Licenses being stripped clean remember than some offies and bars will be shutting early to allow their staff to go along to parties and enjoy themselves.

Have a bottle of whisky and go first footing, anyone with their light on after midnight is fair game for knocking their door.

NB Scotland is generally closed for the 1st and 2nd to recover so have supplies in the house ready for the hangover.

...and of course the best way to have a good time on Hogmanay in Edinburgh is to go to Glasgow. :-)
posted by stuartmm at 11:12 AM on December 18, 2011

Response by poster: Am I understanding correctly that most city center destinations like the Royal Mile, Waverley, etc. are blocked off unless you have a wristband? Any suggestions for finding a ceilidh?

I'm staying maybe four longish blocks form the Royal Mile, so no cabs required, but probably not so close that the front door lies behind any barricades. Gardens tickets are already sold out.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:16 PM on December 18, 2011

Yes, Waverley, Princes Street and The Mound will be out of bounds without a wristband - can't remember about the Royal Mile.

Try The List magazine (as suggested above) for ceilidhs, or the Gumtree entertainment listings, or you could just try Googling Edinburgh Hogmanay Ceilidh. It's the kind of thing charities might do as a fundraiser, and hotels may also organise, I guess.
posted by penguin pie at 2:26 PM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Most of the city centre will be open to all. The Royal Mile isn't usually blocked off - you'll find The Mound, Princes Street, Princes Street Gardens and the foot of Frederick Street and Hanover Street closed without a wristband. Although those closures make moving around town more interesting than usual, it's actually only a small proportion of Edinburgh's heart and there's plenty left to experience outside it.

Waverley Station isn't usually closed, but this year the Waverley Steps are closed for long overdue escalator installation etc., so the only entrance open on Hogmanay eve is likely to be to the south side. Not that there's a good way in or out of Waverley at the best of times!

stuartmm is right about off licences and bars closing early, to which add bars closing and reopening with entrance fees/ticketing/other heinous practices. Probably not wrong about Glasgow either!

Anyway, you can't honestly fail with this. Have a great evening/morning.
posted by pyotrstolypin at 3:34 AM on December 19, 2011

jeffburdges, check your MeMail.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:36 PM on December 20, 2011

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