Edinburgh's Hogmanay: Torchlight Procession

Submitted by edg on Wed, 9 Oct '19 7.26pm
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Edinburgh's Hogmanay torchlight procession heading down the Royal Mile
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As in previous years, the 2019 Torchlight Procession opens the annual Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations with around 8,000 torchbearers creating a "river of fire" down the Royal Mile. While it is not as big as Edinburgh's Hogmanay Street Party, last year saw around around 40,000 people come out for the event, to watch and take part.

The torchlight procession follows the route introduced by new Hogmanay organisers Underbelly in 2017, starting from three points or "zones" in Edinburgh's Old Town - North Bridge, South Bridge, as well as outside St Giles Cathedral - and streams down to Holyrood Park.

Leading the procession will be the 40-strong cast of the fire-brandishing warriors from PyroCeltica wielding fire fans, claymores and fire staffs. PyroCeltica will be accompanied by drumming from the Harbingers Drum Crew.

Ten Pipe & Drum Bands

In 2019, there is a range of traditional and contemporary piping and drumming outfits including Bigger RBL (Royal British Legion) Pipe Band, Cockenzie & Port Seton RBL Pipes & Drums, Scottish Borders Pipe Band, The Edinburgh Samba School, Hawick Scout Pipe Band, Boghall and Bathgate Caledonia Pipe Band, Glencorse Pipe Band, Preston Lodge High School Pipe Band, Edinburgh Postal Pipe Band and Pulse of the Place.

On arriving at Holyrood Park, torch-bearers will form a huge image of two people shaking hands, which will be captured from the air and broadcast around the world. The fiery picture reflects this year's Hogmanay theme "Be Together".

The event’s "house band", The Torches, and guest artists Clanadonia, whose music features in Outlander, will play at Holyrood Park.

The event finishes with fireworks from Calton Hill at 9pm.

Holyrood Park offers good vantage points to watch the torches blazing down the street. The event is free to watch, but only those carrying a £14 torch or those in a torchbearer's group, who are wearing a £3 wristband, can take part in the procession. The torches themselves are wax-based, like a big candle.

There will also be a stage at Holyrood Park with local bands. 

50p from every ticket bought goes to OneCity Trust, fighting inequality and exclusion in the City of Edinburgh.

Background and evolution of the Torchlight Procession

Prior to 2017, the Torchlight Procession under previous organisers 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.

In 2017, after the City Council gave Underbelly the contract to organise the 3-day Hogmanay Festival, the Torchlight Procession took a new route down the Royal Mile from outside St Giles Cathedral.

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". 

In 2019, torches increased from £13 to £14.  

How to get your torches

Vouchers for the wax-based torches cost £14 and wristbands cost £3 in advance. One person from each group must buy a torch and the rest must wear wrist bands to take part in the torchlight procession.

The event is not recommended for under-5s (although there is no age restriction) and buggies are not allowed.

Vouchers are available online, from the Hogmanay Box Office and other Hogmanay ticket outlets.

Torch vouchers can be exchanged for torches from 5.30pm on 30th December at the chosen Procession starting point.

Hot Wax

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."