Make it a New Year’s Day you won’t forget

The Loony Dook is a perennial New Year's Day favourite. Picture: Neil Hanna
The Loony Dook is a perennial New Year's Day favourite. Picture: Neil Hanna
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The head might have survived the party fun, the body may be willing, but once the fireworks have calmed down and the post-celebration party is over, what is there actually to DO on New Year’s Day?

Traditionally one of the most boring days of the year, January 1 tends to involve not much more than lying on the couch wondering when it’s appropriate to remove the rather grim-looking Christmas tree.

There may be a steak pie. Even some hair of the dog. But chances are New Year’s Day will drift into a dreary day of nothingness.


But in recent years, changes have been afoot. Shops which used to stay firmly closed 
on the day when Scotland 
normally nurses its biggest hangover have realised not everyone wants to get blotto the night before, and now it’s business as usual at many ­supermarkets.

Of course, internet shopping is permanently open, so there’s always the chance to spend even more money without leaving the comfort of your duvet.

But for those boasting a spirit of adventure and iron stomach who actually feel the need to venture outside, don’t fear, the Capital does have plenty to offer . . .

So, keep the heid, put down that dram and check out what you could be doing.


Cold, wet and slightly bonkers – it’s now a New Year tradition to immerse oneself in the chilly Forth and post a selfie of your frozen features on Twitter or Instagram.

However, you do need the services of at least someone who has kept off the sauce the night before to get you to South Queensferry Lifeboat Station in time for the early afternoon kick-off.

While the hundreds of dippers in fancy dress may exude an air of chaos, the event is actually tightly organised and is part of the Edinburgh’s Hogmanay programme organised by Unique Events.

That means booking your place via Edinburgh’s Hogmanay website, paying the £9 “registration and booking fee” and arriving for check in between 11.30am and 1pm. Don’t bother just turning up on the day – dookers must pre-book.

Dookers are due to parade along the waterfront at about 1.30pm before taking their dip in the Forth. The town’s pubs are open to ensure a warm, dry welcome afterwards.


No New Year’s Day holiday for the cuddies, jockeys and stable staff – it’s business as usual at Musselburgh races.

The jump race action gets under way from 12.30pm. Entry from £20 to £43. For details, see


Music, dance, song – sounds like the night before all over again.

Scot:Lands, however, is dubbed a “culture crawl” which means you hit a variety of venues where the hospitality comes with food for the soul and brain thrown in.

Launched last year, the event is now established as a cobweb-busting fun way to make the most of New Year’s Day – which means it’s advisable to pre-register free of charge to ensure you don’t miss out. Participants receive an allocated time slot to arrive at the National Museum of Scotland, to collect their Scot:Lands map, which directs them to a range of indoor and outdoor atmospheric venues.

Among the performances will be a film based on Scottish Screen archives, music inspired by Hebridean islands and Highland forests and a puppetry performance which draws on the work of Sir Walter Scott and poet Robert ­Fergusson.


What better way to clear the head than sticking on a pair of running shoes and going hell for leather along what’s normally a racecourse?

Of course, the chance of £4000 prize money could put some spring in your step along with the coveted title of winner of the annual New Year Sprint.

Originally the Powderhall Sprint, the New Year’s Day race began in 1870. Since then athletes from around the world – some who went on to Olympic glory – have taken part.

The race is an open 110-metre dash at Musselburgh Racecourse which is open to professional and amateur sprinters. The handicap start means spectators are guaranteed an exciting romp to the finishing line as competitors battle for the big money prize.

Heats and supporting events are run on Hogmanay, with the Sprint itself at around 1.45pm on New Year’s Day during a break in the planned horse-
racing programme. There is also a series of open, women’s and youth races from 60 metres up to 800 metres.

To make it even more interesting, there’s a £20,000 bonus for any scratch runner who beats the World Professional Record of 11.14 seconds over 120 yards (approximately 110 metres) set by George McNeill in 1970. For further details, go to


Hangover? What hangover? Hopefully none if you’re one of the tough nuts planning to greet 2015 by pushing your body through the first triathlon of the year.

It kicks off at the Royal Commonwealth Pool at 11am with a 400-metre swim (eight lengths of the Commonwealth Pool). Contestants then jump on their bikes for an 11-mile cycle which takes them three times around Arthur’s Seat.

Then all that remains is a 3.5-mile run around Arthur’s Seat.

For parents who want to detach their kids from the Xbox, there is a kids’ duathlon for eight to 15-year-olds, which involves a short run, a 2k bike ride and another run, all on traffic-free roads.

The youngsters set off at 11am, followed by the triathlon participants at noon.

Entries for the triathlon are available at


Kids not showing enough appreciation for their electronic gadgets over the Christmas holidays? Show them how it was in the “olden days” at Game Masters, a touring exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland which explores the history of computer gaming.

There are more than 125 games to play, including arcade games and PC versions, the great grandfathers of today’s glossy productions. There are also displays of concept art and interactive displays.

Open from noon until 5pm, it costs £10 (children £6.30; under-5s free; family £23-£28; students £5 on Tuesdays) 0300 123 6789.


So it’s New Year’s Day . . . who says the party has to stop?

For those who have forgotten to engage the “off” switch, the fun simply goes on and on.

Days when even pubs closed for the day are long gone – most now open up to keep the New Year spirits flowing.

Later, dance through the New Year’s Day “bells” at the Liquid Room, for the Taste New Year’s Day Party.

For some traditional-style toe-tapping, head to Captain’s Bar at 8pm for a music and song session. Bring along your instruments, songs or just ­listen.

If your tastes are more genteel, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra presents New Year on the Danube, a selection of customary seasonal favourites conducted by Gergely Madras and featuring selections from operetta sung by soprano Lucy Crowe. At the Usher Hall at 7pm. £10-£31, 0131-228 1155.

Or try the Jazz Bar, where Henry Ibbs is booked to provide some electro-acoustic sounds. From 6.30pm.

And if you fancy a laugh, head to The Stand for a night of comedy from 8.30pm. Check venue for details.


It’s business as usual at the nation’s art galleries and New Year’s Day could be the perfect time to catch that exhibition you always fancied seeing but never got around to.

If your youngsters are fans of the Katie series of books, head to the Scottish National Gallery for an exhibition of work by Katie illustrator James Mayhew. The exhibition celebrates 25 years of the popular children’s ­character.

Or visit the Scottish National Portrait Gallery for Out of the Shadow, an exploration of how women were depicted in the visual arts between the 18th and 20th centuries, from Newhaven fishwife Elizabeth Hall to Queen Victoria.

For some Italian culture, Castiglione: Lost Genius explores 90 of his drawings and prints from the Royal Collection at The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Or wander around the Royal Scottish Academy Open 2014 exhibition of contemporary drawings, sculptures, paintings and ­photography.


The big day may be just a memory but Edinburgh’s Christmas is still going strong. The winter wonderland that transformed Princes Street into a fairground, with the German market and stomach-churning sky high rides is still open for business. Fall on your face while ice skating, negotiate the Christmas tree maze, climb an ice wall or just laugh at the punters with the green faces as they alight from the Star Flyer ride.

For grown-ups with an open mind there’s Briefs: The Second Coming, an all-male 
“boy-lesque” troupe at St Andrew Square. Times vary, tickets £13 to £41, private booth for ten people £109-£176.50.

However, younger ones will definitely prefer Stick Man, Julia Donaldson’s creation brought to life by Scamp Theatre at St Andrew Square. Times vary, tickets £15-£18.50 (£13-£15.50; family £46-£56), 0844 545 8252.


Use the day to reflect on the impact of the First World War on Scotland’s families. Next of Kin at the National War Museum in Edinburgh Castle looks at how the conflict affected those at home. Open from 11am.