It took over forty years to make it to Edinburgh, inexcusable being that it’s barely eighty miles over the English border and only 300 miles from my hometown of Leicester. Scotland was also to be Andrea’s fifteenth new country of our extended European tour.
A short fifty minute flight from East Midlands airport and a couple of buses took us to an overpriced Cherry Tree Villa Guesthouse. We assumed that with our frequently used and trusty airbnb reservation system we’d have no problems finding accommodation – how wrong we were! Either people never got back to us or they were not available, even if this contradicted what were showing as open dates. In the end it was down to whatever was left, probably paying at least double for a basic, and shabby shoebox with a separate bathroom. Fortunately we did luck out on location, with a fifteen minute walk to Arthur’s Seat and Holyrood Palace, and no more than thirty to the cities lively Princes Street.
We had four nights in Edinburgh, primarily to enjoy the cities famous New Years Hogmanay celebrations, but with a little cooperation from the weather there were plenty of other things to do. This time of year Edinburgh is a huge attraction with visitors from all over the globe having the same idea, snapping up tickets for the street party, the concert in the gardens, and pushing accommodation prices through the roof. A limited number of tickets are made available for all the Hogmanay celebrations, so with both the new years eve venues being extremely popular we coughed up the $150 on the opening sale date. As it turns out tickets were still on sale for the street party when we arrived, we just wouldn’t have been able to stand out in cold, muddy conditions without alcohol watching Biffy Clyro. Who? Apparently they are extremely popular north of the English border!
Our first full day was a washout with rain and winds strong enough to close Edinburgh Castle and cause us to jump on and off buses destined for nowhere! At least things improved for the Hogmanay celebrations opening event, the torchlight procession, attracting thousands of torch carriers as they illuminate Princes Street. The weather on the last day of 2015 allowed us the chance to take a muddy walk to the highpoint of Arthur’s Seat, a location offering 360° views of the Firth of Forth, the Queens Holyrood Palace residence, and the surrounding city of Edinburgh. Not a bad way to spend a chilly Scottish morning, even if it was frustrating to see so many trail runners getting all down and dirty on the countless waterlogged trails.
Although cold the weather was still being friendly to us, providing hope that the evenings entertainment would not be too miserable. Miserable, what the heck, I’m a mountaineer, I can do as miserable as the weather gods can throw at me – Andrea on the other hand!
We had tickets for both the street party and the concert in the gardens, with the former being in a closed off Princes Street and various stages blaring out live bands. The latter needed an additional ticket leading us to think that this is what we needed to be attending – we had no idea that ideally you needed to be a big fan of local Scottish band Biffy Clyro. We missed the first band, weren’t overly impressed with the second, then at 11.30pm on came Biffy upon which the crowd erupted – this is what everyone was here to see and for the next hour and a half it was Scottish rock music at its best. Somehow we had pushed and shoved our way deep into the crowd allowing us little chance of hitting the bar, and so it was that as the countdown to 2016 came we were amongst hundreds of others unable to toast the new year.
Edinburgh sure knows how to put on an extravaganza, and with an hourly fireworks display leading up to the midnight finale the evening was a night to remember. We were certainly not going to forget it with barely enough drinks to count on one hand, a sharp contrast to the walking dead on chaotic Princes Street. Disappointingly, or maybe not, we had missed out on the drunken debauchery of the street party.
Recovery was not necessary for these two lightweights so instead of the usual moping around with sore heads we set off in search of whatever was open on the first day of 2016. Edinburgh had put on a full schedule of events, including the Loony Dook, the annual dip into the freezing river Forth, and five hours of live music, art and theatre – unfortunately I had overlooked this day and totally missed out on the limited free tickets. So now what? Beggars can’t be choosers so we headed to the only attraction open, Edinburgh’s famous castle, along with every other tourist who didn’t buy tickets for the other events! We latched on to a great free guided tour so it made for an interesting visit. A humorous night in haunted underground vaults bought our brief visit to an end, hopefully not for the last time.
So you want to celebrate Hogmanay in Edinburgh with the masses, then we recommend you start saving your pennies and book early, especially if Biffy is in town.
December 29th 2015 – January 2nd 2016