(By Chelsey Hale)

If you’re feeling stressed and slightly frazzled as 2018 comes to a close, it’s time for a strong dose of the highlands says Jessica Clarke, Marketing Manager for the free-spirited adventure travel specialists Busabout

“With so much to do in Scotland, there’s no reason not to make it your next holiday destination and if you’re braving the chilly winds of December then be sure to make your way out onto the streets of Edinburgh for the annual Hogmanay festival.”

Hogmanay, just what the doctor ordered

If you’re looking for an epic New Year’s Eve party to lift your spirits, look no further than Hogmanay (the Scottish word for New Year’s Eve).

Traditionally, the New Year has always been a more important celebration for Scots than Christmas, says Michael Leighton, a bagpiper who performs with the Cape Town Caledonian Pipe Band, as well as the Cape Garrison Artillery Pipes and Drums.

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“In towns, cities and villages all over the country, people fill the streets at midnight on 31 December to wish each other a good new year, knock back a few drams to keep the cold at bay, and then burst into Auld Lang Syne, a poem by Robert Burns set to folk music.”

In Edinburgh, the Hogmanay festival runs from December 30 to January 1, with events including a torchlight procession led by growling Vikings, a ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee) or traditional dance gathering, an enormous street party, live music concerts, and plenty of firework displays with Edinburgh Castle as the backdrop.

A wee case of the Loony Dook

To get the blood circulating, don’t forget about Loony Dook. As part of the Hogmanay celebrations in Edinburgh, this ‘daft dip’ takes place outside Edinburgh in the nearby town of South Queensferry.

“For this event on New Year’s Day, around 1 000 “dookers” kitted out in fancy dress march the length of South Queensferry High Street to the skirl of bagpipes, before launching themselves into the freezing Firth of Forth,” Michael explains.

“This tradition harks back to the 1980s when a couple of friends did it to banish their Hogmanay hangover.”

“We include Loony Dook with our Busabout package, but you can also drive, take a public bus, book a taxi or Uber, or go by train (to Dalmeny) from Edinburgh,” Jessica says. “Don’t forget to set the alarm, and be sure to pack a towel or a change of warm clothes. It’s really much much colder than the pictures look!”

Tickets and travel for Hogmanay and Loony Dook

There are always some free and unticketed events at Hogmanay, but the majority of the official events do require tickets.

“Tickets are required for participating in the torchlight procession, the Candlelit Concert at St. Giles, the Ceilidh, the official Street Party, the Concert in the Gardens, and Loony Dook,” Jessica warns, “and most are available on our Edinburgh Hogmanay trip.”

She also suggests opting for a holiday package, “as prices increase over the holidays and many hotels and trains also sell out”.

Special late-night bus and tram services operate on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. For those staying in the city, Lothian Buses and Edinburgh Trams have special, free late-night transport (after midnight) on New Year’s Eve into New Year’s Day.

“While Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is an incredible experience, don’t forget to leave some time to experience the rugged highlands with a local tour guide who will teach you all about the legends of William Wallace and Rob Roy.”

You’ll pick up witty Gaelic phrases while tucking into steaming Scots dishes and taste just enough whisky to tap into your inner Scotsman, concludes Jessica.

For more information, visit Edinburgh’s Hogmanay website.