It may well be the most amazing New Year’s party in the world.
From December 30’s 20,000 person torch parade (real flames!) to December 31’s street party and traditional dancing under the Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh makes up for the short days and long cold nights with more than just delicious Scotch in the locals (even though there was plenty of that too). We joined three of our friends and had a perfect three-day New Year’s trip to Edinburgh.
Just down the hill from the Georgian New Town, Stockbridge is a quaint neighborhood of Edinburgh. It’s namesake bridge cross the River Leith and offers a bucolic respite from some of the touristy parts of the Royal Mile. Raeburn Place, the main drag, is chock full of coffee shops and retail, and is teeming with families out for a Sunday afternoon stroll. The Stockbridge Market features a local farmer’s market and street food, but we’re here for the Sunday roast at The Scran and Scallie. The Scran and Scallie is a rustic gastropub with modern Scottish offerings as well as traditional pies and roasts. The boys behind the bar make a great cocktail as well.
If one cocktail in this part of the town isn’t enough (and how could it be), head to The Last Word Saloon on St. Stephen Street. Beyond The Last Word Saloon, it is an amazing street to peruse with Georgian row houses doubling as shop fronts above street level to several pubs below street level. Head downstairs to the candlelit bar and observe the inventive drinks menu, listen to the hand-carving of their ice, talk to the bartenders about their most innovative bitters. But one of the more surprising twists is their #breakevenbottle, which allows you try an ounce of rare whisky at the bar’s cost.
After walking back toward the Old Town, we went to Edinburgh’s enormous Christmas market. With mulled wine, Scotch, shopping, and kids rides, it offers a great way to extend the holiday feelings well after Christmas is over.
The Torch Light Procession
20,000 people converge on the Royal Mile with the intersection with North Bridge and South Bridge holding flaming torches and parade down the High Street and into Holyrood Park where all in the procession form an image for an overhead helicopter to take still photos for distribution around the world.
Local pipe bands lead the procession. You feel like you’re headed to battle. This would never fly in the U.S., which makes it so freaking phenomenal to experience. Buy tickets ahead of time and show up early. It can get cold, but the parade experience makes it all worth it.
After the extinguishing our flaming torches and watching fireworks from the top of Calton Hill, we had dinner and wine at Monteiths along High Street, which is an intimate spot for inventive local Scottish fare.
New Years Eve
New Years Eve day provides a great time to visit some of Edinburgh’s fantastic museums – National Museum of Scotland, Scottish National Gallery, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, or Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.
We chose a stroll to the modern art museum followed by a hike up Carlton Hill for sunset (3:30pm). Using the word “hike” is generous since the hill can be traversed using paths and stairs, but the hill provides gorgeous views of the old city with the sun setting behind the castle.
After making a dinner at the AirBnB on Castle Terrace (offering a grand view of the fireworks), we went to the street party and Ceilidh under the Castle. The street party runs all along a shut down Princes Street. The Ceilidh is a fun alternative from the rocking party and offers traditional Scottish dancing (with instruction) and a manageable crowd size, not to mention the great views of the fireworks over the Castle.
Edinburgh’s New Years celebration was the best way to ring in 2020. It’s something we are so glad to have experienced and it far exceeded our expectations.