A festive homecoming

By | Travel
Edinburgh, capital of Scotland offers many opportunities for travellers. Image credit: Moyan Brenn on Flickr

2014 has marked a year of homecoming for Scotland. The country’s busy one year programme of events has seen them take centre-stage, playing host to the Commonwealth Games as well as the Ryder Cup. Scotland’s year in the spotlight is culminating with a busy annual winter celebration period: St. Andrew’s Day marks the beginning of the festivities, and it is closely followed by Christmas, Hogmanay, and Burns Night.

St. Andrew’s Day is a patriotic and historical celebration, observed as a part of Scottish culture for centuries. St. Andrew has been the patron saint of Scotland for over 1000 years, while St Andrew’s Day falls on the 30th of November annually. It is celebrated nationally as a bank holiday, with large numbers of celebrations held all over the country. In Edinburgh, for example it is marked by a series of cultural, ancestral heritage and arts functions. The gardens in St. Andrew’s Square host a variety of activities and music throughout the day. Moreover some attractions which usually charge a fee such as Edinburgh Castle open their doors, offering free entry for visitors.

St. Andrew's Day celebrations.  Credit@visitscotland.com

St. Andrew’s Day celebrations. Credit@visitscotland.com

The city of Edinburgh is a destination revered by many.  It’s rich history and heritage, elegant Georgian architecture and refined dining scenes compliment the city’s vibrant nightlife to ensure that Edinburgh offers something for everyone. The quaint winding streets of the Old Town provides a picturesque insight into the city’s history, with a broad selection of cafés and pubs where one can order a dram of warming Scotch. Edinburgh is a city with much green space, such as the Royal Botanical Gardens, situated within the north of the city. The Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of Scotland offer interesting and welcome indoor attractions.

Edinburgh has plenty to offer after dark, from its diverse live music scenes to the vast array of restaurants, bars and pubs which line up Rose Street. The city’s nightlife has something for every taste and every budget; from lively Cowgate to the more sophisticated cocktail bars of upmarket George Street, visitors have plenty to choose from. The broad selection of live music venues means that Edinburgh also plays host to a thriving live music culture. The Corn Exchange, The Queens Hall and Usher Hall all feature an array of live performers from all genres.

Hogmanay in Edinburgh. Credit@Grant Ritchie

Hogmanay in Edinburgh. Credit@Grant Ritchie

As well as the St. Andrew’s Day celebrations, Edinburgh hosts a range of world-renowned festivals throughout the year – from the iconic Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Hogmanay. Hogmanay is a traditional Scottish New Years Eve celebration held on December 31st each year. Hogmanay celebrations are extensive and often run into the first couple of days in January. The Hogmanay celebrations held in Edinburgh are amongst the largest in the world, beginning this year with a torchlit procession through the city’s streets. Midnight on the 31st is marked by an elaborate fireworks display and a mass rendition of Auld Lang Syne. The celebrations aim to eventually culminate with the annual tradition of a dip in the River Forth on New Year’s Day.

Burns Night follows on from Hogmanay on January 25th each year. Burns Night is celebrated with a traditional supper, marking the life of Robert Burn, a celebrated author of many Scots poems. Burns suppers take place in formal and informal settings, and typically includes Scottish haggis, neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes), and Scotch whisky. Traditionally as the haggis is brought into the dining area bagpipes are played, before the diners recite the Burns poem ‘Address to a Haggis’. A toast of Scotch whisky is then proposed to the haggis. After dinner, the evening continues with recitations of Burns’ poetry, singing of his songs with the evening being brought to an end by singing the traditional song Auld Lang Syne.

Edinburgh is a city which aims to offer a distinct rich and plentiful collection of activities and attractions. The city’s busy events calendar, filled with diverse celebrations, has something on offer to appeal to everyone.

How do other countries come together to celebrate their patron saints or patriotism?

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