AN ESTIMATED 7,000 torch-bearers created a “river of fire” in Edinburgh last night, setting light to the capital’s Hogmanay celebrations.
As walkers set off from Chambers Street, following a new route for the procession this year down the Bridges to Calton Hill, the flames they carried flickered and merged into a stream of glowing light that flowed into the wintry darkness on the penultimate night of 2012.
Suitcase-bearing tourists, arriving in the city, looked bemused as they battled their way from Waverley Station through the crowds, to be greeted by the massed pipes and drums and a Viking horde which led the procession. But they were evidently also impressed by the sight.
An estimated 18,000 people turned out to watch the parade which had drawn revellers from across the world.
As fireworks were set off above the National Museum to mark the start of the procession the air was filled with the sound of bagpipes, leaving no-one in any doubt this was a truly Scottish event. But the make-up of the marchers was decidedly international.
Theo van Rÿn and Sandra Salome had flown in from Holland for the event, and spent the afternoon in Chambers Street to make sure they were at the front of the procession.
“This is the first time we’ve been here for Hogmanay and we wanted to come to Edinburgh. We arrived to pick up our torches at 1:15pm this afternoon and then we went to the museum, before coming back to wait for the parade to start,” said Theo.
Accents and languages from across the world could be heard in the crowd as excitement grew before the procession began. Overhead, two giant fish puppets and a flying saucer were being carried aloft by French puppeteers.
People had come from Germany, France, Italy and the United States, among other countries, with a particularly high turn out from Australia, including students Karen Stacey and siblings Jack, Oliver and Sophie Cook, from Perth.
“We’ve come to Edinburgh specially for Hogmanay and we’re going to spend five days here. We’re looking forward to the big street party tomorrow night,” said Ms Stacey.
“There’s nothing like this at New Year in Australia, certainly not in Perth,” added Jack Cook.
Even the tiny nation of Trinidad and Tobago had representatives in the crowd last night. Ian Anthony, a lawyer, had come from the Caribbean with his family to brave the wintry Scottish weather.
“I’m not sure if it’s going to be quite like carnival in Trinidad and Tobago,” he said.
“The most important thing to make it a party is that people are allowed to join in the music and dance in the street – otherwise it’s a church procession.”
His son, Christopher, nine, was excited to be in Scotland – despite the weather. “I almost got blown over today,” he said.
Andrew Hutton, 23, a member of this year’s Viking Jarl Squad, cut an impressive figure in full Viking regalia.
He endured a rough ferry crossing from Lerwick to be part of the celebration.
“It was well worth it to be here though,” he said.
“I joined this squad at 14, so it’s been nine years. It will be another 15 years before this squad gets to do it again.”
A spokeswoman for organisers Edinburgh Hogmanay said: “Huge numbers of people turned out, the weather held out for us and, although it was cold up their on the hill, the view of the fireworks was tremendous.”