Scots are renowned for their party spirit at New Year but you will never get a warmer welcome, from locals and tourists alike, than at a Highland Hogmanay.
Indeed, by the time you are singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ after the bells, you will be in your element with acquaintances old and new over a cup of kindness (or two…).
Whatever your age, the biggest problem you will have is in choosing where to spend New Year’s Eve because there is so much going on. Here are a few suggestions to get you in the mood for the most memorable of celebrations:
Grantown-on-Spey’s ‘Hogmanay in the Square’
Locals embrace organising this event with so much gusto that it is regularly one of the biggest gatherings in the Highlands for Hogmanay, famous for its convivial, merry ambience. The streets throng with revellers, dancing and enjoying the ceilidh band music. Of course, traditional Scottish refreshments like haggis are on offer, as well as typical Christmas treats like mulled wine. Crowds gather from 11pm and party on until about 1am, with fireworks marking the bells.
Nethybridge Hogmanay Torchlight Procession & Family Ceilidh
A popular precursor to Hogmanay in the Square is this charming family oriented procession and ceilidh. Regardless of whether you’re a visitor or resident, you’ll receive a hearty Highland greeting of mulled wine, soup and Scottish speciality ‘stovies’ when you meet at 7pm on Lynstock Crescent. Children are captivated by the 30 minute torch lit walk through this beautiful woodland village to the Hall, which is followed by dancing and fireworks, all wrapping up by around 9.30pm, giving you plenty of time to make the celebrations in Grantown. At only £5 per adult or £15 per family, it’s a bargain. And never fear, if you didn’t pack your torch, they are available at the event for £5.
Kingussie and Newtonmore Torchlight Processions & Fireworks Displays
Like the Christmas festivities, villages punch well above their weight when it comes to celebrating Hogmanay and bringing people together, whether young or old, residents or visitors.
In Kingussie, the free parade starts from the train station at 11.30pm and ends with fireworks at Ardvonie car park nearby.
Torches will also be available to purchase for £5 and hot chocolate (or a wee dram of local whisky, if you fancy something stronger) is usually in abundance too. Similarly, neighbouring village Newtonmore hosts an impressively spectacular New Year’s Eve celebration too, with a torch parade, bagpipes and fireworks, meeting at the Balavil Hotel at 11.30pm. Tipple of choice at this event is usually Stags Breath whisky liqueur, washed down nicely with some Walkers shortbread.
Both events end shortly after the bells but the tradition of “first footing” – turning up on doorsteps to offer New Year greetings – is alive and well, meaning you can party until the very wee hours, should you wish.
Village Ceilidhs / Dances
Booking is essential for Boat of Garten’s buzzing ceilidh where party-goers can, not only dance until their heart’s content, but also see in the bells here and sample the local Scottish cuisine, the humble ‘stovie’. The event, which welcomes children, kicks off at 7.30pm at the community hall, ensuring you can make the most of the licensed bar and raffle.
Similarly, after the success of last year’s free event, the Richmond Arms Hotel, Tomintoul, is running its Hogmanay party again, complete with band and buffet.
Or if you’re staying around Ballater, the Victoria Hall is hosting a similar event called the “Hogmanay Hootenanny” from 8pm with stovies, oatcakes, trifle, buffet, BYOB and dancing. Braemar, as well, has its own celebratory ceilidh with acclaimed band Celtic Horizon, with tickets available from the local newsagent and pharmacy.
Kincraig, too, is throwing a party in its community hall, this year the music is provided by local up and coming band Hollow Whisper, playing a varied mix to suit most tastes, with the odd ceilidh dance thrown in for good measure.
A Banquet fit for a King (or Queen) at Muckrach Lodge
If it’s class and luxury, coupled with exemplary Highland hospitality, that you’re looking for as you usher in the New Year, then head to Muckrach in Dulnain Bridge. This high-end boutique hotel is laying on a 7 course menu for Hogmanay, accompanied by a glass of house wine to compliment each course.
Arrive in style for 6pm and prepare to be treated to canapés and fizz, before sitting down to a sumptuous feast, after which you’ll be treated to Scottish music and fireworks at midnight. The bells are accompanied by another glass of fizz or a wee dram of whisky and, if you’ve got any room left, cheese and port. At £165 per person it’s not cheap, but the regal experience is well worth the expense, which is why the hotel has been ranked as 3rd best in the UK and 11th best in Europe in the Best Small Hotel category of the 2016 TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice award.
Other venues hosting more formal Hogmanay dinners include the Deeside Inn, Ballater (£70 per person), Kincraig’s Loch Insh Boathouse restaurant (£60 per person), and Aviemore’s Macdonald Resort, which offers either a child-free gala dinner (£75 per person) or a family-friendly dinner party (£75 per adult, £45 per child), both with music.
New Year’s Day
If you are feeling a bit delicate on New Year’s Day and need to recharge your batteries, then you couldn’t be in a better place to blow away the cobwebs with a brisk walk in beautiful surroundings, perfect for inspiring those resolutions. There are also a couple of lively events to start off the New Year with a smile, such as the New Year’s Day Wildcat Trail Walk in Newtonmore and the traditional Shinty “Challenge” match in Kingussie. Or, if you’re feeling really brave (or sore-headed), you might consider joining the usual throng of fancy-dressed dare-devils at Loch Insh for the customary “dip” to see in the New Year with a splash.
The Visit Cairngorms team would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
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