December 31, 2006

Happy Hogmanay!

The more traditional way to bring in the New Year is to attend a ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee). This is a night of dancing, drinking and merry-making and practically every small village up and down the country will have a ceilidh...not all as formal as this one though! The origins of the word Hogmanay are lost in the depths of time, and there is no agreement as to what language it comes from, some suggest Norman or Old French, Flemish or Gaelic. No matter! However you plan to see in the New Year, have a graet time...and remember, when you're singing Auld Lang Syne, the most famous song in the world, think of this wee corner of the world and try not to bring in Ne'erday with a hangover!

December 30, 2006

Hogmanay Events

While the street party is the biggest event, there are plenty of other events going on, many with a more traditional Scottish flavour to them. My criticism of the street party is that there are so many tourists, it has lost all sense of Scottishness. In the 90s, you would get impromptu renditions of Auld Lang Syne and ceilidh dancing on the street...and after midnight all hell would break loose as people try and outdo their friends to the number of people they can kiss. Policemen and women were always very popular at Hogmanay! Anyway, tonight there is the Night Afore International, a sort of ceilidh on George Street, this year with a German theme...fitting as that's where I'm spending New Year!

December 29, 2006

Torchlight Procession

Tonight is the Torchlight Procession to mark the beginning of the New Year festivities. Fire plays an important part in New Year and winter festivals in this part of the world as we try and light up the darkness and cast out bad spirits. Some well known fire themed New Year festivities can be found in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire with the fireballs and in Comrie, Perthshire with the flambeaux.

December 28, 2006

Hogmanay Revellers

My friends Alan, Jack and Ben will probably kill me for using this lovely photo of them! The street party has been a fixture on the Edinburgh calendar for a little over 10 years. It grew sporadically in the early to mid nineties and in the early years needed no control over numbers. However, it was a victim of its own success and at New Year 96/97 there were roughly half a million people packed into the streets of the city centre, way too many for these old streets to cope with. It was dangerous and I was scared that year. I ended up having a fairly miserable Hogmanay as I got detached from my friends and there was no way of finding them. After that year, they introduced a free ticketing system, beefed up security and limited numbers of tickets to 100,000. Now there is space to move around and you can enjoy the party in a safe environment.

December 27, 2006

Mounds of People

The Royal Bank Street Party is the centre point of Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations. Some 100,000 party-goers will brave the cold weather to be out on the streets of the city centre to see in the New Year, and they'll be able to enjoy live music from the Fratellis on the Indie stage as well as others on the folk/hoolie stage and of course, the cheesy pop stage! Big screens will count us in to the New Year and at midnight, fireworks from the castle and the 7 hills of Edinburgh will envelope the city.

December 26, 2006

Life in the Fast Lane

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and not too many hangovers and sore stomachs are being nursed today! Christmas is over and Edinburgh is about to get very, very busy as tourists from all over the world descend on the city for our annual Hogmanay celebrations. Over the coming days, I'll show photos from Hogmanays past to give you a flavour of how we bring in the New Year.

December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and best wishes for the festive season. Nollaig Chridheil!

December 24, 2006

Farewell Frankurters!

It is the last day of the Christmas Market today, and typically the stalls have been very very busy as Edinburgh's discerning shoppers hope to pick up a little bargain before the German traders pack up and head home to Frankfurt. Only one more sleep till Santa!!

December 23, 2006

January?? Sales

It's the Saturday before Christmas and the bloody sales have started already! They used to be January sales but have crept steadily earlier and earlier with most shops making people work on Boxing Day to start the sales...but to have the sales start before Christmas Day just smacks of desperation on the part of the retailers!

December 22, 2006

On holiday!

The first day of the school holidays has seen lovely weather here in Edinburgh. While freezing fog has enveloped the south of England and caused transport chaos, the only difficulties faced by Scots travellers are the fact that flights to Heathrow and some other English airports are cancelled. As for me, I've had a suitably relaxing first more work till January 8th...yay!

December 20, 2006


The trees around Princes Street, the Mound and on the Castle Rock all have lights on them which make them look rather nice at this time of year. The lights of the Castle look nice at any time of year, but with it being dark so early, generally black by 4pm, in winter you get to appreciate the illuminated castle for a bit longer. Tomorrow is the shortest day...after that bit by bit the days will get a wee bit longer...and it's end of term at 12 noon! I wouldn't expect a post tomorrow!!

December 19, 2006

Castle Lit-Up

Apologies for not managing to post yesterday...the busy Christmas season keeps me away from the computer at times! Anyway, here's a zoom shot from the same place as the other day's picture, focusing in on the Castle and its illuminations.

December 17, 2006

Edinburgh by Night

This is the lovely evening view over the city from Calton Hill. I've shown this view before, but not with all the lights on. I think it's pretty special.

December 16, 2006

Old Town Roofs

Usually with a bit of height, you can sort of tell the way streets are laid out in a city, but not in Edinburgh's Old Town. Streets suddenly curve or stop. They go up a level or down a level and the result is the higgledy piggledy joy that is the Old Town.

December 15, 2006

Old Town and Castle

On one of the few days of decent weather recently, this shot was taken from the top of the National Museum of Scotland looking towards the Castle and the Old Town tenements lining the Royal Mile. The weather has been pretty shocking recently with high winds, heavy rain and flooding across many parts of Scotland, most especially in my home region of Perth & Kinross.

December 14, 2006

Princes Street

The poor Scott Monument is almost totally hidden by the bright lights of the Ferris Wheel. I'm sure the view from the top is lovely, especially with the festive atmosphere in the city, but I'm still too scared to go on it!

December 13, 2006

Festive Edinburgh

The bright lights of the attractions in Princes Street Gardens during the Christmas and Hogmanay period really help lift the spirits of us weary Edinburghers who are desperate for the Christmas holidays to arrive. It's a real pleasure to spend time enjoying what the city has to offer in this festive period.

December 12, 2006

Full Moon

I think this is quite an eerie shot of Edinburgh. Early evening darkness, the full moon, the lights from the boxy New St Andrew's House, one of the few art-deco buildings in Edinburgh and Nelson's Monument and Calton Hill looming in the background.

December 11, 2006

City Chambers Illuminations

Edinburgh does light itself up nicely at Christmas time. These are the City Chambers, the seat of the city's council right in the historic Old Town. The Chambers sit back slightly from the Royal Mile, and in fact due to the hilly and split-level nature of the city, when you enter the building here from the High Street, you in fact enter at Level 5 I think.

December 10, 2006

A Sea of Santas

My apologies for the lack of posts over the past week or so, but I've been snowed under with work and things and have not been able to devote my time and attention to the blog.

Anyway, today was the Great Santa Run in East Princes Street Gardens with more than 2,000 people dressed as Santa.
The event was held to raise funds for the children's charity When You Wish Upon a Star for children with serious or life threatening illnesses. The charity hope to send 100 seriously ill Scottish children on a daytrip to Lapland to meet the real Santa.

December 09, 2006

Edinburgh Wheel

Personally, I hate riding on Ferris Wheels - am scared of heights, but the wheel right in front of the Scott Monument is always a popular attraction during the festive season. The lights at night really add to the festive atmosphere Edinburgh has at this time of year.

December 08, 2006

Craft Market

Alongside the German Christmas Market, there is this Scottish Craft Market selling things ranging from scarves and gloves to children's book and sweets and jam to jewellery. It's in East Princes Street Gardens for the duration of the Edinburgh Christmas Festival.

December 07, 2006

Pork Sandwich anyone?

It's not often you see whole suckling pig rolls on offer, but here at Edinburgh's farmers' market, this was one of the items on sale along with the lovely fresh meats, organic vegetables, juices, local fruit wines and much more. In fact, Edinburgh's farmers' market was voted the best farmers' market in the UK - another accolade for the city!

December 06, 2006

Bungee Ball

The Bungee Ball is another popular regular in the Gardens in the run-up to Christmas and New Year. Don't really fancy it myself, but there are always queues for those that want to jump up and down on elastic bands!

December 05, 2006

Portrait Gallery

The walls of the National Portait Gallery have some wonderful, and very intricate carvings of various characters from Scottish history. I'd love to be able to tell you who they all were, but I don't know!

December 04, 2006

Scottish National Portrait Gallery

The National Portrait Gallery, part of the National Galleries of Scotland is an iconic sandstone building on Queen Street. It has a fantastic collection of Scottish and international portraits and has a rather nice café inside too. It's not just inside the building that there are interesting portraits...I'll show you tomorrow.

December 03, 2006

The Christian Path

At the back of St John's Episcopal Church, and pretty much hidden from view is a set of steps leading down to a little arcade full of 'Christian' businesses. I hadn't really noticed them before and to be honest I didn't actually take a closer look. Anyone know if the Cornerstone café is a good place for a coffee - fair trade of course!

December 02, 2006

The Falkirk Wheel

I took a day trip out of Edinburgh and visited the Falkirk Wheel. It's been the butt of jokes on a Scottish comedy sketch show, but I have to say I was hugely impressed by it. It was designed as a Millennium project to revive the old canals in central Scotland and it links the Forth-Clyde and the Union Canal. Previously there were 11 locks to navigate to get up and down between the two canals, but this lift has replaced 8 of them and saves about 8 hours! It picks up a boat at the bottom and rotates and places it at the top. The weight of the two gondolas is 18 tonnes, I think I was told, but it takes no more energy in one rotation than it does to power 6 electric toasters to make toast! Another great example of Scottish engineering and the only one of its kind anywhere in the world.

December 01, 2006

Stained Glass Window

As people all over the world open the first window of their advent calendars today, I thought I'd share with you a couple of the beautiful stained glass windows from St John's Episcopal Chruch at the west end of Princes Street.

November 30, 2006

Happy St Andrew's Day

Today is our National Day, the day of our Patron Saint, St Andrew. I think traditionally St Andrew's Day has been celebrated more fiercely by the Scottish diaspora (in fact I'm cheating with this photo as it's the London office of Visit Scotland), but the Scottish Executive has pushed for greater celebrations of Scotland and Scottishness on St Andrew's Day. If there hadn't been 80mph winds in Edinburgh today, then I'm sure tonight's One Scotland Street Ceilidh would have been a big success, but I'm going to stay home instead. Have a wee whisky, tuck into some fine smoked salmon and think of the amazing contribution that such a wee country has made to the world.

November 29, 2006

St John's Episcopal Church

St John's stands at the west end of Princes Street, and until the weekend I had never had cause to go inside. I usually find Scottish churches a bit austere and drab however, St John's is well worth a visit. It has beautiful, colourful stained glass windows but what attracted me in was the Charity Christmas card sale. There were cards on sale for so many worthy charities that it was hard to decide which to support, but at least I know that this year the charities will get something. I find the "charity" cards on sale in the supermarkets and High Street chainstores a bit of a joke - 10p from the sale of this pack will be split among seven charities!

November 28, 2006

German Market

If I'd spent a bit of time on photoshop, I could have got rid of that bollard in the middle of the road, but I prefer to show the city as it is, and to get the view of the Galleries and the Mound buildings behind and to the side of the German Market, I had to be across the road. You can see how popular the German Market is. There was also a French Market at the weekend, which was mainly food and on 14th December, there will be a Polish market too.

November 27, 2006

Winter Wonderland

East Princes Street Gardens have been turned into a fairground as part of Edinburgh's Christmas festivities. One of the most popular attractions every year is the outdoor ice rink in the lower level of the gardens. I'm not a skater myself, but I imagine it would be great fun to skate around and enjoy the lights and the view.

November 26, 2006

Farmers' Market

Edinburgh's Farmers' Market is a weekly treat for foodies in this city. Farmers and local producers come from all over Scotland and the North of England to sell their meat, fish, cheese, eggs, vegetables, sweets and anything else you might expect. It's extremely popular and well worth getting out of bed for. This is the queue at a butcher who specialises in venison. I'm looking forward to trying the venison and whisky sausages I bought from them.

November 25, 2006

The Aussies are in town

Rugby weekends against the major nations are always great fun in Edinburgh. Today the city was awash with Scotsmen in kilts and Aussies wearing green and gold and carrying blow-up wallabies on their way to Murrayfield! I had tickets for the game, but somehow managed to lose them so ended up watching the game on TV. In any case, after a bright start and Scotland going 10-0 up, we ended up getting a bit of a lesson and finished on the wrong end of a 44-15 scoreline. Well done the Aussies!

November 24, 2006


This photo was taken yesterday while the stalls were still being set up, but when I walked through earlier today, all the stalls were pretty busy and there was a lovely smell from the food stalls. The city centre really has put on its winter fur coat now and it looks pretty amazing. The trees are adorned with lights, the big wheel and the funfair are up in the gardens, the outdoor ice-rink is open and the markets are in full swing. Edinburgh's Christmas is becoming better and better each year.

November 23, 2006

German Market

This photo was taken just a couple of hours before the Christmas lights were swicthed on and Edinburgh's Christmas festival season was declared officially open. The next time I walk past the German market it will be full of people buying Christmassy things and enjoying a nice mug of Glühwein. The German market, with traders coming from Frankfurt, has been here the last few years and it's something that has really enlivened the dark months of November and December.

November 22, 2006

Leith 2

We're still looking towards Leith, but this time in a slightly more easterly direction. The focal point of this photo is the Easter Road Stadium, home of Hibernian FC...the green and white half of Edinburgh football. When you enlrage the photo you can clearly see the different kinds of housing in the area, from the traditional tenements built at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, to 60s low and high rise blocks.

November 21, 2006


We're looking down from Calton Hill towards the port area of Leith. Leith and Edinburgh used to be separate towns, but Leith has pretty much been subsumed into the city. It still retains a character of its own, and the area has seen a huge amount of regeneration in recent years. It still has its Leith folk and its own identity, but it's come a long way since it was used as the backdrop for Irvine Welsh's novel 'Trainspotting.'

November 20, 2006


It's been a fairly dull, drab and dreich November day. I left work today to howling wind and hailstones and by the time I got to the bus-stop, I was wet and very cold. It's been a night to stay in with a large mug of hot chocolate and sit beside the radiator.

November 19, 2006

Dusk from Blackford Hill

As any cyclist will testify, Edinburgh is a hilly city. The advantage of this is that there are lots of vantage points to get nice views over the city. This is from Blackford Hill on the southside of the city. We're looking over some fairly posh and studenty suburbs such as Newington and Marchmont, towrds the castle and the Firth of Forth and Fife in the distance.

November 18, 2006

Autumnal Blue Sky 2

From the more or less the same spot as yesterday's photo, this time we're looking east over the railway station and towards the extinct volcano of Arthur's Seat. This side of the railway station as some brutally ugly buildings, such as the boxy Jury's Inn hotel on the right of the shot.

November 17, 2006

Autumnal Blue Sky

A nice crisp autumnal day. Lovely blue skies over the city as we look west from North Bridge over the glass roofs of the railway station towards the castle, Scott monument, galleries and the other buildings of central Edinburgh.

November 16, 2006

Still at the Botanics

I hope you're enjoying this walk through the Botanic Gardens. These gardens have a truly impressive array of plants and tress from all over the world as well as some beautifully landscaped parts. No matter the season, it's a relaxing and pleasant place to be.