New Year’s Eve. It’s supposed to be the biggest and best party of the year. But all too often it ends up being a bit of a let-down. Too many choices, too expensive, too difficult to arrange; it’ so easy to end up doing the same thing as last year, playing it safe and waking up on the first day of the New Year with a headache and a feeling of slight disappointment. To avoid that, take a look at these quirky ways to spend New Year.
One of the UK’s favourite summer destinations is also very popular for unusual New Year breaks. In Newquay, Central Square is the heart of a fancy dress party like no other. Everyone, locals and visitors alike, dress up. Don’t think that you’ll get away with jeans and a shirt; you’ll stick out a mile. Pubs and bars (and there are plenty) stay open to supply hungry and thirsty revellers, and after the chimes of midnight, there’s a spectacular firework display over the harbour. Newquay is Cornwall’s premier surfing spot and has earned a reputation as an easy-going town with a laid-back party atmosphere. As well as its bars and clubs for New Year’s Eve, it has great beaches for a New Year’s Day walk too, ideal to clear your head if you party a little too hard the night before!
Elsewhere in Cornwall, other towns can offer a great New Year’s Eve experience. In St Ives, thousands will welcome in 2018 in fancy dress, gathering around the harbour and the town centre where the roads are closed to traffic. It’s a family-friendly affair, where partying locals and visitors, families and friends, throng the streets. Outdoor music stages and food stalls complement the parties being held in pubs, bars and restaurants and it all culminates with a huge firework display over the pier to mark the change of year. The Tregony Guesthouse is centrally located and has comfortable rooms and great views.
The delightful harbour town of Looe on the south coast is another beautiful spot to welcome the New Year. Again, fancy dress is de rigueur, and the streets are full of thousands of partying revellers enjoying the atmosphere. Here there are two firework displays to enjoy, one at 6pm before children’s bedtimes, and another for the grown-ups at midnight. The morning after, take a walk from Looe towards idyllic Polperro and the charmingly named Crumplehorn. The views from the cliffs on this part of the South West Coastal Path are breath-taking and make a memorable start to the year.
In Devon, the residents of the north coast town of Bideford take to the streets for their outdoor New Year celebrations. The town centre streets are closed off and thousands of locals and visitors don their best fancy dress for an evening of family fun. There are children’s activities such as face painting and magic show, a fun fair and street entertainers through the afternoon and early evening. Later, the main event gets underway, with performances on the main stage on the Quay. Local bands build the party atmosphere in the run-up to midnight and the countdown to 2018, when fireworks will light up the sky with a stunning display. After the action in the town centre, head to Yeoldon House Hotel, a stately retreat on the banks of the River Torridge, to recuperate in style.
Close to Bideford, the North Devon Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is the perfect place for a crisp winter walk on New Year’s Day. Drop into the seaside village of Westward Ho!, whose unusual name comes from the title of a book by Charles Kingsley which was set in Bideford.
In the largely undiscovered North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the village of Allendale celebrates New Year with a parade of burning tar barrels, known as the Bah’l or Bar’l. With seemingly scant regard for health and safety regulations, dozens of local men walk through the streets of this normally quiet village with half barrels of burning tar-soaked rags on their heads. Shortly before midnight, the ‘guisers’ (from disguise) light their barrels and lift them aloft, to carry them around the village. The village square is full of dancing merrymakers, spilling from the local pubs, and the air is filled with the sound of drums and trumpets. As the clock strikes, the blazing contents of the 45 barrels are hurled on to a huge bonfire in the village square where the flames leap into the sky (and frighteningly close to surrounding buildings, including The Golden Lion Hotel!) It’s an unmissable spectacle and one that is a world away from a ‘quiet one’ in front of the telly with a couple of party poppers.
While you are in the area, the unspoiled countryside of the North Pennines is a must to explore. Head to the National Trust’s Allen Banks and Staward Gorge for a wonderful riverside walk or take the South Tyne Trail from Haltwhistle, across the lofty Lambley Viaduct to Slaggyford and back.
New Year’s Eve in Edinburgh is undoubtedly the first thing you’d think of when looking for ways to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Scotland. Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is widely recognised as one of the best places in the world for a New Year party. With a concert in Princes Street Gardens featuring Rag ‘n’ Bone Man, a massive street party with The Human League and Huey Morgan, a ‘Ceilidh under the Castle’ and an incredible firework display, this year is sure not to disappoint.
Travel further north, however, to Stonehaven, near Aberdeen, and you’ll find another of our more quirky ways to celebrate New Year’s Eve. From around 10:30pm, crowds start to line the town’s streets, keen to find a good spot to watch the annual Fireball Festival. At midnight, around 40 of the town’s men and women parade along the High Street swinging blazing balls of fire around their heads. The fireballs are bundles of wood, rags, and other flammable material soaked in paraffin and wrapped in a wire cage. They weight 2-7kgs, can measure almost a metre across and are attached (very securely!) to a wire rope. It’s no mean feat for the participants to keep their fireball swinging for the 20 minutes the ceremony takes. The parade finishes at the harbour and the fireballs are hurled into the sea.
Stay overnight in the Victorian splendour of five-bedroom Arduthie House and the following day, take a walk to view the ruins of Dunnottar Castle. Although the site itself is closed on New Year’s Day, the views of the clifftop fortress, one of the most spectacular in Scotland, are more than enough reward for the hour’s walk from Stonehaven.
In Comrie, a Scottish village between Perth and the Loch Lomond National Park, another fiery celebration takes place every New Year’s Eve. At midnight the Flambeaux Procession sets off around the village, with a group of locals carrying flaming wooden birch poles up to 3 metres high. The poles have paraffin or tar soaked rags tied to them and are carried through the village streets until they are thrown from the bridge over the River Earn into the water below. The parade is accompanied by the village’s pipe band and crowds of people from far and wide gather to watch. Music and dancing create a wonderful party atmosphere into the wee small hours. For younger party-goers, a children’s fancy dress parade entertains the younger participants earlier in the evening and there’s also a great firework display to enjoy.
As well as being renowned for the Flambeaux Procession, Comrie (otherwise known as Shaky Toun) is also famous for earth tremors! In the 18th and 19th centuries tremors were commonplace and resulted in the first earthquake observation centre in the world being sited there in 1869. It’s still standing on a rocky outcrop outside the village. In nearby Crieff, the Tower Gastropub and Apartments make an ideal base from which to kick off your New Year exploration of the area.