Monday, 28 December 2015

Why is Hogmanay so important in Scotland?

Ever wondered why Hogmanay is so important in Scotland? Or why there are so many rituals and traditions associated with it?  Well so did we, so we thought we’d have a look into the history.

The Date - As with lots of traditions at this time of the year, many have their roots in Pagan and Norse customs.  Long before the arrival of Christianity, the inhabitants of Scotland were celebrating the arrival of the New Year around the time of the winter solstice (the shortest day)….we celebrate that on the 21st/22nd December here in Scotland.  Logically this is when we should still be celebrating the New Year, but the subsequent arrival of the Romans with their own calendars led to changes in the date.  The date changed several times over 100’s of years until the matter was finally settled when the Gregorian calendar was adopted by Britain in 1752. 

Throughout this time Scotland also experienced the arrival of Christianity in its various forms as well as the first celebrations of Christmas……which were subsequently banned in the Middle Ages.  Christmas and was not made a public holiday until as recently as 1958!  This meant that the biggest celebration of the year in Scotland was New Year, or Hogmanay!

Customs….in the order you should perform them!

Redding the House – This is the act of cleaning out the house before the start of the New Year, particularly the act of cleaning out the ashes from the hearth which could be read to predict the year ahead.  The ‘redding’ refers to the readying of house for the coming year.  There may not be many hearths left now, but many people do still do observe the tradition of cleaning the house so they can start afresh in the New Year.

Hogmanay Bonfire in Biggar
Bonfires and Torches – Harking back to the influence the Vikings had over much of Scotland, the use of fire is prevalent throughout many Hogmanay celebrations.  It is thought that the fire would ward off evil spirits or ‘burn the old year out’.  In places like Stonehaven and Biggar the New Year’s celebrations are started with a torchlight procession which lights an enormous bonfire.  Quite a spectacle if you are lucky enough to experience it.  Mostly though you can expect to see lots of fireworks....from the huge display in Edinburgh, to the more local, yet still impressive displays in places such as Grantown on Spey.

Auld Lang Syne – On the stroke of midnight up and down the country….indeed, all around the world, everyone will join in singing Auld Lang Syne and wishing one another Happy New Year.  This poem was written by Scotlands most famous poet, Robert Burns and somehow has become the theme tune to New Years Eve parties everywhere.

First Footing – Possibly the most famous of all the Scottish Hogmanay traditions is the ‘first footing’.  This is where a stranger is welcomed after midnight, bearing gifts of coal or shortbread and is repaid with a dram of whisky.  The arrival of a tall dark stranger on your doorstep was thought to bring especially good luck for the following year. Apparently this was due to most Vikings being fair haired and therefore not a welcome knock on the door....but then the same theory decreed that the a knock from a strange woman, a redhead or someone with cross eyes or flat feet would also be bad luck! Nowadays it is more likely that the neighbours will be calling.  Whoever it is, they must not already be in the house on the stroke of midnight or live in the house.

Steak Pie, Neeps and Tatties – Quite when this tradition started we do not know, but if you are in Scotland before New Year you will see the butchers and supermarkets piled high with Steak Pies.  Families the length and breadth of the country will be tucking in to Steak Pie, neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatos) on New Years Day. The best pies are home made of course, but if you go to the butchers, you buy your pie by weight! ie. the amount of steak in the pie!

An extra Bank Holiday – Unlike the rest of the UK, Scotland enjoys an extra Bank Holiday on the 2nd January…..possibly to recover from all the revelry of the days before!  Until recent years everything was closed, but gradually shops and supermarkets have started to open.  So far, everything remains steadfastly closed on the 1st of January. 

You don’t have to be in Scotland to enjoy a great New Years Eve…..although that would be the best way!  With good friends and all the best bits of our traditions you can have an authentic Hogmanay of your very own.  
Wherever you are in the world we hope you have a Happy New Year and wish you the very best of health and happiness for 2016.
From all of us at Scotland’s Best B&Bs

Visit our website to find your perfect B&B for your 2016 Scottish holiday

Friday, 11 December 2015

Our pick of great B&Bs for a perfect New Year in Scotland

When you think of going away for New Year, you must surely think of the home of Hogmanay when considering your options?  Nowhere embraces the start of a New Year more than the much so our most famous poet, Robert Burns, penned Auld Lang Syne just so you could all enjoy it with us!  

Up and down the country preparations are being made....the party has started early in Edinburgh with the streets alight and visitors already enjoying the fair....bonfires are being built in towns ready for the Hogmanay torchlight processions and dances are being practiced for the biggest ceilidh of the year. 

But it's not all partying.  Lots of people come to Scotland to get away from the excesses of the holiday season and just want to find somewhere to relax.  The winter is a magical time of year to be in any part of the country, especially with the first dustings of snow on the mountain tops.

Whether you are wanting to join in the party or just get away from it all, we have something for everyone.  Here are our pick of just some of the great B&Bs that you could be staying in this New Year.  Just click the links to visit the B&Bs listing on our website where you can find out more.

Binnilidh Mhor - Nr Loch Ness, The Highlands

For those that really want to get away from it all, this B&B in the heart of the Highlands is the perfect place to be.  Wouldn't you rather be looking at this on your New Years Day walk?  3 Nights from £260, 2 Nights from £182 View Listing

Brae House - Aberfeldy, Perthshire

Brae House is a beautiful property overlooking the River Tay in the centre of Perthshire. Walking, Mountains and beautiful scenery are right on the doorstep for that perfect New Year getaway.  Head to Pitlochry to bring in the New Year.  3 Nights from £335, 2 Nights from £250 View Listing

Waters Edge Cottage - Loch Lomond

What could be better than waking up on the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond on the first day of 2016?  Waters Edge Cottage is in the wonderfuly named 'Duck Bay' in Alexandria on the banks of the Loch. 3 Nights from £270, 2 Nights from £180 View Listing

Spean Lodge Country House, Spean Bridge

In the very heart of the Highlands you can find Spean Lodge.  It's just what you imagine when you think of a New Year break in a country house in the Highlands. 3 Nights from £405, 2 Nights from £270 View Listing

Newton Farm - Angus

How about spending time on a working farm for the new year?  Newton Farm provides a great getaway where you can visit all the animals and take a tour of the farm...a real antidote to the Christmas excess.  2 Nights from £200 View Listing

Highland View - Nr Glencoe, The Highlands

How would you like to wake up next to this wonderful view on New Years Day?  The appropriately named Highland View offers one of the most stunning vistas of any of our B&Bs looking out over mountains and Loch Linnhe  3 Nights from £250. 2 Nights from £170 View Listing

Leanach Farm - Culloden

A new year break at Leanach Farm offers the best of both worlds, a quiet country break on a working sheep farm, but, you can also get to Inverness in 6 miles and attend a super New Years party  in the city centre! 3 Nights from £270, 2 Nights from £180 View Listing

Sunnyside B&B - Nr Alloway

Where better to celebrate the New Year than in the birthplace of the man who wrote the soundtrack for New Year, Robert Burns.  Sadly the museum is closed over New Year, but you can enjoy a pleasant walk on the beach on New Years Day as it is only a short distance from Sunnyside 2 Nights from £153 Visit Listing

Tips for a Good New Year in Scotland

  • Be sure to speak to your B&B host before you arrive to see what is happening in their area.  Some events might be ticket only and it would be a shame if you arrived and could not attend something you have set your heart on 
  • Many shops, museums and restaurants in Scotland close on the 1st AND 2nd of January.  Speak to your host who will be able to help you find places to eat and things to do.
  • If relying on public transport, make sure you check times and availability on the two bank holidays (1st and 2nd January)
  • Make sure to book as soon as you can as these B&Bs won't be available for much longer!
  • Whatever you do, be sure to wish everyone a Happy New Year!
To find more great places to stay, or to start researching your 2016 holiday, visit our Website
* Availability and prices correct at time of publishing.  Please check with the B&Bs or our website for up to the minute prices and dates.