PERHAPS you don’t like whisky or late nights. Maybe your coal supply is dwindling and first footing is looking unlikely. Are increasingly hectic ceilidhs not your cup of Irn Bru? Fear not, for we have the alternatives.
Despite many of Scotland’s major cities toning down their New Year festivities, there are still several events worth a mention. So many, in fact, that we’ve cut it down to the pick of the bunch.
Swimming in icy cold waters, watching dogs racing, taking part in a mass game of football lasting for hours - it’s all here. So without further ado, we bring you scotsman.com’s pick of New Year’s Day events.
The Loony Dook; South Queensferry
Now in its 25th year, the Loony Dook has become a well-kent symbol of Scotland’s New Year celebrations. According to the official website, thousands of people aged between 8 and 80 plunge into the icy Firth of Forth at South Queensferry to celebrate the arrival of a new year.
Conceived during a chat at a bar in 1986 between the late founder Andy Kerr and his friend Jim Kilcullen, the latter suggested jumping into the Forth on New Year’s Day to clear the Hogmanay hangover. Andy’s response of ‘If you will, I will’ has started an annual trend of people donning costumes and taking the icy plunge by the iconic Forth Rail Bridge. It has become so popular that stewardship was handed over to the official Edinburgh Hogmanay organisers.
This year’s event is, perhaps unsurprisingly, sold out, but you can blow away the cobwebs of the old year, and welcome in the new one by cheering on the participants.
The Ba’; Orkney
Shades of school playground football this - 200 people contest the Ba’ every New Year’s Day in the streets of Kirkwall in Orkney, with little in the way of rules and regulations to hold them back. Believed to date back to 1850, there is evidence that this annual free-for-all has roots far older than the mid-nineteenth century - records suggest that mass ball games appear to have been played in Roman-occupied Britain.
Street football in Scotland was, at a time, very popular, and mostly played on Shrove Tuesday, but the appeal of the game is dwindling, and survives only as a much-evolved version in a few towns throughout the UK, and only two in Scotland - Kirkwall and Jedburgh.
Two sides compete in the Ba’ - the Uppies (Up-the-Gates) and the Doonies (Doon-the-Gates), deriving from the Old Norse word ‘Gata’ for a path or a road. The team names refer to how an individual chose sides, based on whether they were born ‘up or doon the gate’. Naturally, recent housing developments have rendered this largely hopeless and the teams are now based on family ties.
The Ba’ itself is thrown up at 1pm on the Kirk Green, by the Mercat Cross, with the ball disappearing into the assembled scrum for several minutes, on the town’s Broad Street. Each team tries to get the ball into the other’s ‘goal’ - which, for the Doonies, is the Harbour Basin, and for the Uppies, the cirber at the Main Street junction opposite the Catholic Church. Lengthy arguments often arise whilst trying to determine a winner and games can go on for a few minutes or several hours and whilst taking part might not be for the faint of heart, spectating is surely exciting enough.
Five breeds take part in this event - the suitably wintry Alaskan Malamute, Canadian Eskimo Dog, Greenland Dog, Samoyed and of course, the Siberian Husky.
Involving a hectic afternoon of knockout racing, this event has been extremely popular in recent years, with hundreds flocking to Holyrood Park to cheer on the teams of dogs. Other events scheduled during the three hour window include Novelty Dog Shows (no, we’re not sure what constitutes a novelty dog either); a Canicross display (running with dogs); the presentation of the Good Citizen Bronze Certificate and awards for junior handling; the waggiest tail award and a prize for the dog most like their owner.
There’s also the chance to ‘snuggle’ a sled dog, and who can honestly say they’ve never wanted to do that?
For the dog owners out there, the Novelty Dog Show, made up of 1 Junior Handling Class and 4 Novelty Classes costing £2 per dog starts at 1.30pm with registration opening an hour earlier at 12.30pm. The Kennel Club’s Good Citizen Bronze Award costs £4 per dog, with registration open at 12.30pm on the day and has the following requirements for entry…
• The dog should be presentable and come with a brush so the owner can demonstrate grooming
• A collar and lead in good condition including the name of the owner, address and phone number
• Something to pick up dog poo!
This event is free to all spectators, and is held in the capital’s Holyrood Park from 12 until 3 on New Year’s Day and is ideal for those looking for something a bit different to enjoy. Find out more here
The Pitlochry Street Party; Perthshire
The Perthshire town of Pitlochry may well be attempting to cram as many Scottish traditions into the one event - celebrating New Year, with a ceilidh, in near-freezing temperatures outdoors - but this particular event has the makings of something quite special. Pitlochry’s main street Atholl Road is closed to traffic for four hours for the day’s events. Starting with the Vale of Atholl Pipe Band opening the ceilidh at 1pm, there is a raffle draw, clown performance by Silly McBee, and the customary singing of Auld Lang Syne.
And as if that wasn’t enough, there is also hot soup, sausage rolls, mulled wine and pies available throughout the day.
For more information, highlandperthshire.com has a full timetable for the day