Why Loch Ness and Inverness do Christmas & New Year’s the best

Scotland really does do the entire festive season justice. Why? It goes hell for leather, grabs the bull by the horns and takes Hogmanay by storm. It suffers no fools and takes no prisoners. Now, enough of the idioms and on to the specifics. Inverness and Loch Ness particularly know how to bring the magic of the Christmas season alive. And this makes any stay at Aldourie Castle or Cottages from November to January a pure delight. It also gives ample opportunity for guests to get involved in the Scottish Highlands’ festive spirit when they rent an entire castle. Last month the Highlands had its first snow of 2018, marking the start of celebrations in the region’s capital…

So far, we’ve witnessed the delights of:

Christmas Lights switch on
http://www.invernessfestivals.com/winter08/blog/static.php?page=static090824-123804

Victorian Market, Inverness
http://www.seeinverness.co.uk/shops/victorian-market.html

The Farmers Market
https://www.invernessfarmersmarket.co.uk/about

All the above and more is either still happening throughout winter or to look forward to in your 2019 Christmas holiday in the Highlands.

Yet to come when you rent an entire castle…

Winter Wonderland, Whin Park

For three days from 14th-16th December this already beautiful park is transformed into a Wonderland. Filled to the brim with shimmering illuminations, the event is based around a number of giant attractions installed by The Highland Council’s Lighting Team. Another main attraction is of course Santa, who will arrive in style with his devoted reindeer for a spot of relaxation before all the hard work begins. This event has always been popular with young families and a favourite for toddlers. All you have to do is wrap up warm, believe in magic and watch Whin Park come to life before your very eyes. This is ideally located when you rent an entire castle on the shores of Loch Ness, which provides a sumptuous home from home to return to after a night of festivities.

The Red Hot Highland Fling, Inverness

This official Hogmanay party in the heart of the city has had its line-up of bands and artists confirmed since the end of summer. The people of Inverness are almost bursting with anticipation of this festive celebratory event. Expect upbeat tunes, original songs and traditional Scottish favourites. The Trad Project, Blazin Fiddles and Tide Lines have been given the prestige of bringing in the New Year. Crowds will gather to watch a great fireworks display over Inverness Cathedral to signal the start of 2019.

Dinner with Ceilidh, ‘Bogmanay at Bogbain’

This event promises to be a night to remember in a unique venue. It’s a wonderful celebration of Hogmanay combining all the elements of this magical season with food, music and also laughter at its heart.

And finally, anyone who chooses to rent an entire castle and holiday in Loch Ness during Christmas and New Year will have the chance to spot Nessie in a Santa hat! Well, maybe this one’s a long shot, but here in the Highlands we have nothing if we have not faith. In addition to all of the above there are other ongoing celebrations to commemorate the Christmas culture. These includes festive drams, visits to Santa, Christmas pantomimes, food markets and fairs.


A Scottish New Year tradition: Hogmanay

On 31st December, the Scots are preparing for a celebration fest while most of the world will be celebrating New Year’s Eve. But the importance the Scottish people place on this night and beyond is a tradition like no other. For Scotland, Hogmanay is the biggest celebration in the festive calendar. It’s bigger even than Christmas Day – and it’s certainly worth waiting for. You thought the Highland Games was a cultural signifier; think again…

hogmanay-edinburgh

Definition of Hogmanay and its origins

Hogmanay is the name the Scots give to their celebrations on New Year’s Eve. Where did the word originate? History suggests that its common roots reach back to the Norsemen – “men of the north”. This occurred in Scandinavia (between the 8th – 11th Centuries) who celebrated the winter solstice (the shortest day of the year) with wild parties during late December. The Gaelic Samhain winter festival and the Vikings’ Yule highly influenced these parties. The Scots labelled these celebrations ‘daft days’. Hogmanay culminates in a real mix of cultural, national and historical influences now that has been established for a few centuries it. The best celebrations always do!

How do Hogmanay celebrations differ from New Year’s Eve?

The length of celebratory activities mainly differentiates Hogmanay from traditional New Year’s Eve parties. The former begins on 31st December but continues throughout New Year’s Day and into 2nd January (itself a public holiday in Scotland). This then divides the two celebrations culturally too. The streets in Scotland remain deserted while the rest of the UK is generally easing back into business.hogmanay scotland

How the big Scottish cities do it

Hogmanay is celebrated throughout Scotland in varying degrees from the intimate yet ‘daft’ gatherings to the elaborate, eccentric festivals. The big cities fall into the latter category and Edinburgh leads the way with a huge 30th December torch-lit parade. This comprises an enviable fireworks display and various performances from up-and-coming acts to full blown rock stars. Everything is performed wholeheartedly to (always) enthusiastic, (sometimes) bemused crowds from more than 60 different countries. Either way, people feel privileged to be part of the throng and tradition that is Hogmanay.

The Scottish capital’s largest crowd totalled 400,000 in 1996 and since then safety restrictions mean fewer people though the numbers are still high. Glasgow is another city that doesn’t disappoint. The Glaswegians can be seen singing, dancing, eating steak pie and stew, drinking by the gallon and storytelling till the sun rises on New Year’s Day.

The importance of Hogmanay to the Scottish people

Scotland began to celebrate Christmas only in recent years. The festive holiday was abolished by the Protestant Reformation for 400 years and it wasn’t until 1958 that Christmas Day was accepted as a public holiday in Scotland. Then, in 1974 the Scots announced Boxing Day as a public holiday. Scotland instead had to work through Christmas and wait until Hogmanay to celebrate with family and friends. Is it any wonder now that this traditional get-together has become an exciting explosion of freedom and fun!hogmanay scotland

Celebrate Hogmanay your way this year

It has to be said, there is no hiding it; the Scots love a good party. And that is usually the main focus of Hogmanay. But, if you’re lucky enough to witness this special celebratory period in Scotland you may observe, though you might not know them to be at first, a number of traditions as well.

‘First-footing’, where the first person to enter the house after midnight brings gifts such as food or coal, is the most popular tradition. It is regarded as affecting the fortune of the household for the coming year. This is dependent on the appearance of the visitor; the ideal guest is a tall, dark man. So, if you open the door to a flat-coat retriever called Lizzie wearing a Santa hat…well, you can guess the rest.

There are other traditions. Watching abominable and cheesy TV programmes (ones you would never ordinarily choose to watch, of course) before the bells chime, and linking arms whilst singing with all the clan, a rendition of Auld Lang Syne, the famous poem written by Robert Burns.

Celebrate Hogmanay in a Scottish Castle

Speaking of which, why not book your New Year’s celebrations at Aldourie Castle on Lochaldourie-castle-loch-nes-tea-and-champagne-020 Ness? It’s unique, luxurious and scenic; the perfect backdrop to a house party style that’s seen a lot more of Scotland’s history than anyone alive today. While there’s no rules to celebrating Hogmanay, maybe your first attempt could be kept quite simple with the core elements of Scottish culture at its heart. Many Scottish families this year will be sitting down to a delicious meal with family and friends with the drink flowing – oh, please don’t forget the whisky – to help bring in the new year followed by a steak pie dinner the next day. Should your head be a little sore ask any one of our dedicated hospitality team for a glass of Irn Bru (or a bottle). We’re almost certain this bright orange fizzy drink has been curing hangovers for centuries too.