Hogmanay: River of fire begins Edinburgh festivity

Crowds gathered at the City Chambers to mark the beginning of the Torchlight procession. Picture: Neil Hanna

Crowds gathered at the City Chambers to mark the beginning of the Torchlight procession. Picture: Neil Hanna

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UP to 40,000 revellers paraded through the historic heart of Edinburgh to herald the start of the capital’s Hogmanay festivities.

A river of fire was created through the city’s streets at the traditional torchlight procession curtain-raiser to the three-day festival.

Fireworks go off over Calton Hill. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Fireworks go off over Calton Hill. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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All 8000 torch-bearers snaked from George IV Bridge in the Old Town, along Princes Street and Waterloo Place, before a spectacular finale on Calton Hill and a fireworks display above the city.

The parade - which brought city centre traffic to a standstill - was led by 26 Vikings who take part in Shetland’s Up Helly Aa each year and a 100-strong pipes and drums ensemble. The vast crowd took more than an hour to make its way along the parade route.

Pete Irvine, artistic director of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay festival, said: “We have people from more than 70 countries represented in the audience of the event and all 8000 advance torches were snapped up weeks ago. The event is now the longest-running and biggest torchlight parade in Britain.”

Edinburgh’s Lord Provost Donald Wilson said: “There is just something about the torchlight procession which everybody loves. It is quite a sight and a very fitting launch to our three days of celebrations.”

Among the huge contingent of overseas revellers was Brazilian Renata Leite, whose visit to Edinburgh with her mother Rosemary rounded off a three-week tour of Europe.

The 20-year-old said: “I really wanted to come to Edinburgh as I’d heard it was such a big event. It is famous around the world.

“We nearly booked to go to Madeira in Portugal for the end of the trip, but decided to come here because it seemed like a very traditional celebration and there are several days of events, it’s not just about the one night.

“We are going to do everything when we are here, including watching everyone running into the sea on New Year’s Day.

“I really wanted to carry the torch in the parade as we don’t have anything at all like this in Brazil that anyone can come along and take part in. It’s very different for us.”

Adrian Murphy, 37, from Brisbane, who was in the parade with his partner Leyla, 36, said: “We’ve literally just arrived from Australia after 27 hours of travelling.

“Neither of us have been in Scotland before, but we were offered the chance of a house-swap with friends of ours who were coming out to Australia and just thought: ‘why not?’

“We were told Hogmanay was a great party and it just sounded like something we had to experience.”

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