FINISH THE YEAR WITH A FLOURISH

Revelers bring in 2015 in Stonehaven. Photo by Colin Rennie
Revelers bring in 2015 in Stonehaven. Photo by Colin Rennie

While thoughts are focused currently on Christmas Day, there’s still plenty of red-letter days to come before 2015, writes Susan Welsh

 

To some, it may seem a strange way to work off the excesses of the festive season. But for hundreds of people up and down the country, throwing themselves into the chilly North Sea is a perfectly sensible thing to do. Signing up to take part in a fundraising dip has become a very popular tradition, with participants and spectators.

On Boxing Day, there are lots of dips and swims taking place, including several organised by CLIC Sargent. These include the ever-popular Scapa Bay Boxing Dip Wi’ a Nip in Orkney and the seventh annual New Year’s Day Dip at Stonehaven. Hundreds are also expected to turn out to watch brave volunteers dive into and swim from one side to the other of Burghead Harbour.
In Aberdeen, the local Lions Club is issuing an invitation to blow away the cobwebs with a nippy dip in the sea at Aberdeen Beach, opposite the Leisure Centre, starting at 10.30am.

If you’re looking for something refreshing to do on January 1, head for Cromarty in the Black Isle, where the annual Cromarty Splash and Dash is taking place. Last year, more than 200 participants and 600 spectators turned up to either take part in a 3km or 6km run or have a mad dash into the sea. All participants must register at The Royal Hotel from 11am-noon to take part, then there’s a fancy dress parade at noon, followed by a mass aerobic warm-up. At 12.30pm, splashers will be piped down to the beach, with both dashes starting at 12.50pm.

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Crowds gather for the annual Cromarty Splash and Dash

HOGMANAY

It might not be the news they wanted to hear in Auld Reekie, but Edinburgh is not the top place to see in the new year, according to a top tourist guide. Instead, Inverness, Stonehaven and Stirling are the cities you should head for if you want to have a blast as the bells ring in 2015.

Thousands are expected to converge on the Northern Meeting Park in Inverness, home of Scotland’s biggest free Hogmanay party. Comedian Craig Hill hosts the event and the line-up includes award-winning Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis, Scottish folk-rock band Manran and Red Hot
Chilli Pipers – all fab reasons to stay put until
the bells ring out at the stroke of midnight, while a mass fireworks display leaves you in no doubt that 2015 has arrived. Gates open at 8pm and admission is free.

Elsewhere in Inverness, one of the city’s best-loved music venues, Hootananny, will stage a Hogmanay Extravaganza featuring The Big Fat Electric Ceilidh and The Mystic Shoes.

Stonehaven has not one but two world-class events taking place. The Stonehaven Fireballs is a 105-year-old tradition that sees a select group of “swingers” make their way down the High Street in front of legions of spectators, whirling flaming balls of fire above their heads before throwing them into the harbour.

Just a few streets away and there’s the annual Open Air in the Square concert, this year starring 80s pop legends The Human League, Scots folk band the Peatbog Faeries, former X Factor contestant Emily Middlemas, Edinburgh singer/songwriter Carrie Mac and radio DJ Harry Butler. This year, there will be another major draw, a five-day fairground attraction at the town’s Leisure Centre car park running from December 28 through to New Year’s Day.

The Granite City is also set to swing its way into the new year with free celebrations based around Union Terrace in the city centre, from 9pm onwards. Visitors can go along and enjoy live music from local bands performing onstage, starting at 9.05pm with Flaxman. They are followed by The Jellyman’s Daughter at 9.50pm, with Funk Connection taking to the stage at 10.45pm and playing right through to the midnight bells.
An impressive fireworks display, launched from the rooftop of HM Theatre will follow. Keep an ear out, too, for the ships in the harbour sounding their horns.

Elsewhere, there are also plenty of events taking place to tempt you to get out and about. Stornoway Amenity Trust is staging a fireworks display in the town centre, while An Lanntair is hosting a Hogmanay ceilidh with Willie Campbell and Friends.

At Newtonmore, there’s a torchlight procession led by a piper, followed by a superb fireworks display, starting at 11.30pm. Nethybridge is also hosting a piper-led torchlight parade, followed by a fireworks display, this time starting at 6.30pm and ending at 9.30pm.

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