How to Celebrate Hogmanay in the Highlands

The Highlands of Scotland are undoubtedly the spiritual home of Hogmanay, with many of its traits and traditions originating in the area.

Which is why, every year, people travel from across the world to enjoy a Hogmanay break on Loch Ness or in Inverness.

But just what can visitors expect from a true Highland Hogmanay? How can the best enjoy a New Year break in the Scottish Highlands? We’ve come up with a pocket guide to Highland Hogmanay, what to do, where to go and what to expect!

The Bells

If you are spending Hogmanay in the Highlands don’t expect to necessarily hear any bells on the stroke of midnight – since the term is used simply to describe the moment when the year switches from one to the next, whether or not you are within earshot of any ringing!

If you are choosing to pass New Year near Loch Ness then people may well ask you where you will be for “The Bells” – what they want to know is what venue you have chosen to celebrate the stroke of midnight!


Red Hot Highland Fling

Crowds gather at Inverness Hogmanay Celebration

Particular to Inverness, the Red Hot Highland Fling is the Highlands flagship New Year event, and a great place to be for “The Bells” With a great mix of traditional music and an amazing atmosphere, it’s no surprise that Scotland’s biggest FREE outdoor Hogmanay concert attracts huge crowds to the city’s northern meeting park every year.

Auld Lang Syne

Traditional Hogmanay Song "Auld Lang Syne" is sung in the Highlands at New Year

This Scottish favourite has been adopted the world over as the theme tune of New Year, and you can’t truly celebrate a Highland Hogmanay without taking part in a rendition – usually someone will start one as soon as the midnight kisses have been doled out.

To get the full effect, party goers should cross and link arms with those on either side and shake their hands to the rhythm of the music.

First Footing

A brass door knocker

First Footing is a tradition that we Highlander share with the rest of Scotland and our country’s neighbours in the North of England and Isle of Man.

The “first foot” belongs to the first visitor that crosses the threshold of your home after the bells, and it is customary to go calling on neighbours as “first footers” once the stroke of midnight has passed.

However, first footers should not show up empty handed, and definitely not empty walleted as the wealth borne into the home at Hogmanay by a first footer is beleived to herald the type of year the household can expect – so be sure to have cash on you when entering a home at Hogmanay – you don’t have to hand it over, but your hosts may wish to see it to prove you’ve not cursed them with a lean year!

First footers may also come bearing gifts such as whisky to be shared or a lump of coal to signify a year of warmth and comfort.

Hogmany Celebrations in Inverness and Loch Ness

Fancy celebrating #Hogmanay on Loch Ness or in Inverness? Check out our events calendar to see what’s on, although visitors are advised that booking is necessary for some venues – please check in advance to avoid diappointment.