Britain: New Year’s Eve in Edinburgh


We started the last day of the year climbing Arthur’s Seat, the highest point near Edinburgh (according to Robert Louis Stevenson, “a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design”). Regardless of how you classify it, it’s pretty…

Flowers in Holyrood Park

Flowers in Holyrood Park

Except that it had been raining so much (remember how I said a few posts back that it was the rainiest month on record)? And the trail was mostly mud. Without any grip on our shoes, it was a real struggle to make it to the top. This mountain was between our apartment and the city center, so it was a convenient hike.

It was insanely crowded, though – I guess because it’s close enough to the center to walk, and because of all the people there for New Year’s Eve.

View over Edinburgh from Arthur's Seat

View over Edinburgh from Arthur’s Seat

Having gotten a late start and taken our time climbing, we finally made it into the city proper. Since we’d be spending the whole evening outside, in the middle of winter, we had to prepare… I mean, buy whisky. We visited a highly-recommended shop at the end of the Royal Mile, Cadenhead’s Whisky. I think we talked with the owner, who didn’t blink when we said we wanted whisky for that night (you’re not supposed to smuggle drinks in). We got three small bottles, slightly larger than nips, including some of the house whisky.

The trail near Arthur's Seat... pure mud

The trail near Arthur’s Seat… pure mud

I’d developed something of a taste for whisky while in Edinburgh. Not the blander styles that taste like alcohol, but the peaty kind – a super-distinctive taste (my favorite kind was Laphroaig). It’s not something I’d drink every day, but was fun in Scotland.

Toy Museum

Toy Museum

Further up the royal mile was the Toy Museum, another (tiny) free museum good for 15 minutes of looking at creepy old toys.

Our view of the first band of the evening

Our view of the first band of the evening

After some more walking, we entered the New Year’s Eve area. This required ticket entry – it was all fenced off around the entire center of the city. There were three or four stages for music, and one additional one that required special tickets. We actually managed to get very close to the stage and saw a memorable performance by the band Rura (guitar, bagpipe, fiddle) – we were in the second row from the stage. Our biggest mistake in Edinburgh was leaving this area before the next band came on (there would be 3 on each stage before midnight).

We left to get a look at the other stages, but just weren’t impressed by anything else. There was some metal (screechy) but by this time the entire 5-6 block area was getting tough to move around in it was so crowded. We danced a little at the back of some crowds, but were mostly waiting. I’d say that this part of the festival just wasn’t for me – too many people, too tightly packed.

TV screen set up on the main street

TV screen set up on the main street with broadcast from the ISS

After tracking back and forth and drinking our whisky, we settled in for the final hour of the year: we had a good, unobstructed view of Edinburgh castle from a slightly raised streetcar embankment in the middle of the street. They’d put up a bunch of huge TV screens with funky music video type animations playing. A few minutes before midnight they paused the animation and a British astronaut came on (Tim Peake, from the ISS) to wish everyone a Happy New Year.

Fireworks over Edinburgh Castle

Fireworks over Edinburgh Castle

Then it was midnight, and another year was in the books. We got to see the best fireworks I’ve seen in person over Edinburgh Castle (here’s an aerial video of the fireworks from the year before). It was a wonderful way to usher in 2016: with a beautiful girlfriend in a warm and welcoming country halfway around the world.

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