The Torchlight Procession - returning in 2023 - is the opening event in the annual Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations with thousands of torchbearers creating a "river of fire" through the city streets.
While, historically, it has not been as big as Edinburgh's Hogmanay Street Party, around 40,000 people have come out for the event, to watch and take part. In 2023, there are 20,000 tickets available.
The 2023 Torchlight Procession will be the first since 2019 and is being held in partnership with homelessness charity Social Bite. The aim is to raise over £50,000 for Social Bite projects in Edinburgh and across Scotland.
The event begins with a carnival atmosphere at the Meadows and follows a route through the Old Town.
Street theatre, fire performers, pipe bands and drummers will get the festivities started, before Vikings from Shetland’s South Mainland Up Helly Aa’ Jarl Squad lead the procession through the Old Town.
Order of events
- 6pm: Entertainment begins at the Meadows
- 7pm: Torchlight Procession leaves The Meadows
- 8pm/8.30pm: Procession ends in city centre
Background and evolution of the Torchlight Procession
Prior to 2017, the Torchlight Procession, under organiser Unique Events. took a different route from the High Street, down the Mound, along Princes Street, led by the Up Helly Aa vikings and accompanied by the pipes and drums of both traditional and contemporary outfits.
The pipes and drums component included the likes of the Dhol Drummers, the Erskine, Stewart's Melville and Coalburn Pipe Bands, the Sativa Drummers, She-Boom, the Coalburn Silver Band, the Impact Drumming Group, the Gutty Slippers and Commotion.
The torchbearers ended the procession and enjoyed fireworks in the Son et Lumière on Calton Hill.
The idea of having three separate starting points for the torchlight procession was introduced by new Hogmanay organisers Underbelly in 2017. The procession started from three points or "zones" in Edinburgh's Old Town - North Bridge, South Bridge, as well as outside St Giles Cathedral - and streamed down to Holyrood Park.
At Holyrood Park, torchbearers spelled out the Scots word "braw". The word was voted most popular in a competition by young people. In 2018, torchbearers drew a giant map in fire of Scotland to mark the end of Scotland’s Year of Young People, and 14 wicker sculptures were placed together inside the map to form a heart-shape, representing "a collective national youth voice". The following year, torch-bearers formed a huge image of two people shaking hands, reflecting the year's Hogmanay theme "Be Together".
In 2019, torches increased from £13 to £14 and wristbands (to walk with a torch-bearer) cost £3 in advance. In 2021, although the event was ultimately cancelled due to pandemic restrictions, the ticket and torch price increased to £15 (plus £1 booking fee).
In 2023, torch tickets hit £20 per ticket and £7.50 for additional wristbands (price includes a £2/£1.50 charity donation and fees).
The event is not recommended for under-5s (although there is no age restriction) and buggies are not allowed.
Organisers point out that when burning the wax torches may drip:
"Safety guards are supplied to protect Ticket Holders from hot wax. Please note, when windy the wax from the torches can be blown onto clothing. Whilst easily removable (top tip – an iron and brown paper) please dress appropriately and do not carry torches if wearing delicate fabrics."