Torchlight Procession starts Edinburgh’s Hogmanay

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THOUSANDS of marches have taken to the streets for the curtain-raiser to Edinburgh’s world-famous Hogmanay celebrations.

Led by six pipe bands and a squad of Vikings, the Torchlight Procession paraded from George IV Bridge to Calton Hill, where illuminated landmarks gleamed against the night’s sky providing the ideal backdrop to a fireworks spectacular.

Up Helly Aa vikings on Calton Hill.  Pic: Ian Rutherford.

Up Helly Aa vikings on Calton Hill. Pic: Ian Rutherford.

The procession was led by 26 battle-ready members of the Jarl Squad, the group responsible for Shetland’s renowned Up Helly Aa’ festival in Lerwick.

Crowds began assembling two hours before the march set off, with many foreign visitors among the early birds hoping to secure a spot at the head of the procession.

To the skirl of 100 pipes, the huge crowd began their march watched by 35,000 spectators who lined the streets.

As a hail of fireworks blasted into the air at the procession’s climax on Calton Hill.

JP License'Edinburgh Hogmanay 2014'Crowds gathered at the City Chambers to mark the beginning of the Torchlight procession from George IV Bridge to Calton Hill.'' Neil Hanna Photography'www.neilhannaphotography.co.uk'07702 246823

JP License'Edinburgh Hogmanay 2014'Crowds gathered at the City Chambers to mark the beginning of the Torchlight procession from George IV Bridge to Calton Hill.'' Neil Hanna Photography'www.neilhannaphotography.co.uk'07702 246823

The opener to Edinburgh’s three-day Hogmanay celebrations experienced record pre-sales of torches this year, and 8500 torches were all sold out before the start of the procession.

Lord Provost Donald Wilson said the Torchlight Procession “blazes the way” for the Capital’s New Year bonanza.

“This year’s procession has supported Erskine, a charity that has been caring for Scotland’s servicemen and women since 1916,” he said.

“As we wave goodbye to 2014, the 100th year since the First World War, this seems to me a very fitting charity partner.”