Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations were tonight declared a complete sell-out amid predictions that the city’s three-day festival would provide an antidote to global doom and gloom over events during 2016.
Tens of thousands of revellers from more than 80 countries shrugged off damp conditions and the prospect of heightened security measures to flood into the heart of the Scottish capital in the run-up to midnight.
As the first countdown fireworks painted the sky, the Old Town Ceilidh got underway.
Thousands covered the cobbled streets outside St Giles Cathedral dancing to the Gay Gordon’s and the Dashing White Sergeant as music blared down the Royal Mile.
Lorraine Brennan,56, and Julie Keegans, 60, travelled all the way from Leeds for the occasion.
Lorraine said: “We can’t believe we are actually here, we’ve always wanted to come to a Scottish ceilidh and we couldn’t have picked at better time to experience it than at Hogmanay.
“It’s fantastic seeing everyone dancing around in tartan and having a great time.
“It’s true what they say about Hogmanay in Edinburgh, it’s an experience you can’t get anywhere else.”
However, Douglas Sneddon,52, from Orlando in Florida wasn’t impressed with the queue at the bar.
He said: “The ceilidh is really good but the queue to get a beer is far too long.
“I used to live in Scotland, and it’s great to be back for New Year”.
Producers of the city’s three-day event, which is expected to attract upwards of 150,000, said they hoped dark memories of events which have unfolded over the last 12 months - including the deaths of a string of iconic cultural figures - would be “washed away to a distant memory” by the four-hour music, dancing and fireworks spectacular.
They pledged that “not a single silent firework” was being fired during four different displays, the last of which was planned to mark the 70th anniversary of the Edinburgh Festival with a special laser and light show accompanying the pyrotechnics.
Controversy was sparked in the run-up to the event when city councillors agreed to commission a report exploring whether quieter pyrotechnics could be used during major events in the city.
Performers including Paolo Nutini, The Charlatans and Salsa Celtica were appearing across seven stages in the event arena, which includes Princes Street, The Mound and part of the Royal Mile.
A heavy police presence was in place when the gates to the event officially opened at 7pm, after a security review over the city’s events was carried out in the wake of a deadly terror attack at a Christmas market in Berlin.
Organisers were earlier forced to warn ticketless revellers to steer clear of the city centre as the last remaining briefs for the 75,000 capacity street party were snapped up by 6pm.
Festival director Al Thomson said: “I think everybody has been feeling a little bit down about 2016, but that’s actually great for us because we’re such a joyous celebration.
“Everybody has come here for one reason and that’s to bring in the new year. No-one is thinking about Brexit or the Trump administration. They’re thinking about being in one of the most beautiful cities in the world at one of the best events. For Edinburgh to be able to provide the entertainment and give people that escape is something special.”
Edinburgh’s Lord Provost Donald Wilson, who will be leading around 1000 hardy revellers into the Firth of Forth at the New Year’s Day Loony Dook, said: “The jury is certainly out on 2016 - there has been good and there has been bad. But we look forward with hope and an exciting Hogmanay is a good start. Edinburgh is Scotland’s capital city so we have to make sure we do it properly.
“There is also a serious message behind the festivals which started in 1947 following the Second World War. They are international and they are about cultures coming together, celebrating their differences and using culture as an international language of communication.
"We take Hogmanay very seriously in Scotland and Edinburgh is the place to be. People come back to it here to celebrate year after year. Edinburgh’s Hogmanay has to be the most iconic New Year celebration on earth with stunning backdrops you just can’t beat.”
Lynn Yu, 27, from Shanghai, changed her plans at the last minute to come to Edinburgh for Hogmanay.
She said: “My friend and I were supposed to be going to the Highlands, but we hadn’t booked any accommodation.
“Our Airbnb host in Cambridge told that if we were heading north then we had to celebrate Hogmanay as it is so exciting and the people go so crazy - but in a good way.
“We had no idea what Hogmanay was before we got here, but we’ve heard that people from 80 countries are here, and it seems to be a unique event which is pretty much about what everybody can hope for from the new year.”
Glasgow University student Yan Liang, 25, also from China, said: “I really wanted to come to Edinburgh for Hogmanay as I knew there would be a lot of people here to celebrate the new year and it would be a big party. We decided to just drive through to Glasgow to join in with everything. Everybody seems to be enjoying themselves and is happy.”
Student Cody Moir, 20, from Surrey, said: “It’s my first ever time in Scotland. We were looking going to go to the Cotswolds for new year, but it didn’t seem that interesting, with not much going on.
“A few websites were saying Edinburgh was one of the top places to go for the new year and that Hogmanay was celebrated more than Christmas in Scotland. We also saw how beautiful Edinburgh looked.”
Ravi Kiran, 28, a software engineer from Durham, said: “I’ve never been to Edinburgh at all before - I’ve only ever been to the Scottish Highlands in the summer. But we decided to come after we were surfing online for the best place to go to celebrate the new year and Edinburgh kept coming up.”
Martin Valente, 29, from Argentina, who is currently studying at Dundee University, was at the celebrations in Edinburgh with family and friends who had flown in specially for the festivities.
He said: "I had heard so much about Hogmanay in Edinburgh, so really wanted to see it. I've been to Edinburgh before but you can really feel that there's something going on. There are so many people in the streets, but everyone is really friendly."
Scotland’s biggest free Hogmanay celebration was being staged at the Northern Meeting Park Inverness, where around 10,000 revellers gathered to watch acts like Skerryvore and The Elephant Sessions.
Live music was being laid on in the Schoolhill area of Aberdeen before a midnight fireworks display set against the backdrop of His Majesty’s Theatre.
Stonehaven’s harbour was playing host to its famous fireball swinging celebration while the long-running Biggar Bonfire saw an enormous pile of wood lit in the heart of the Lanarkshire town.