Scottie's Diary

- Edinburgh's Winter Wonderland

In Scotland, Edinburgh was probably the first city to really gear up with public events for the festive season as a result of their success with the Hogmanay celebrations in Princes Street. This quickly attracted around 100,000 people to bring in the New Year with a huge fireworks display with Edinburgh castle as the backdrop. I was working in Edinburgh at that time and recall seeing the aftermath of the celebrations in Princes Street. It wasn't just the litter that was so noticeable - it was the twisted metal of the crush barriers as the seething mass of people swarmed into the street to see the spectacle. It could so nearly have been a disaster and after that it became a ticket only event - which just built up an even greater demand for the scarce passes.

A few years back, a couple of years of cancellations in quick succession (due to adverse weather conditions) dampened the enthusiasm for the Hogmanay extravaganza a bit, but at the same time Edinburgh City Council has extended the attractions of the New Year's Eve event by introducing more events over the a longer Festive period.

Princes Street

The Capital benefits greatly of course from having Princes Street with its major shops on one side and the backdrop of the gardens and behind that Edinburgh Castle on top of its high volcanic rock. The old city of Edinburgh spills down from the castle and there are also imposing buildings such as the Royal Scottish Academy and the National Gallery of Scotland. In amongst all of that is superimposed the Christmas lights, a 60 foot high illuminated Ferris Wheel and the skating rink. It's a magical panorama!

Of course, many other buildings in the area add their own significance to the scene - there's the Scott Monument, for example, towering over even that Ferris Wheel and the imposing Balmoral Hotel is picked out in its own floodlights at night throughout the year and not just at Christmas.

Up on "The Mound", to the left of the castle, there is a contrast, in more ways than one, between the Christmas Tree and its lights in front of the Church of Scotland Assembly Hall (seen here), while further over is the imposing, floodlit former Head Office of the Bank of Scotland - the country's oldest bank which was almost brought to its knees by the recent crises in the financial world!

Skating Rink

With some justification, the organisers of the skating rink and fairground in Edinburgh's East Princes Street Gardens claim that it has the most beautiful surroundings of any outdoor rink in the UK. With its twinkling lights in the trees and the dramatic Edinburgh Castle and the illuminated Bank of Scotland building close by, Edinburgh’s Winter Wonderland transforms the area into an exciting world of ice and snow. And you can keep out the chill of winter with traditional food, hot chocolate, mulled wine and minced pies.

That Ferris Wheel is right next door and the music from the Carousel sounds out across the whole area. And there is a large Helter-Skelter to slide down - if you dare!

German Market Christmas markets have been a tradition since medieval times and Edinburgh’s German Christmas Market in Princes Street gardens is provided by stallholders based in Frankfurt. This year, the market celebrates its tenth anniversary of coming to Edinburgh. The stalls sell a mix of classic and contemporary gifts such as ornaments, candles, jewellery and toys as well as a range of German food and drink - ideal for warming up on a cold December night. Tasty delights include hearty sausages, fried potato cakes, cheeses, candied sweets, steaks and German beer, as well as the now famous "Glühwein" - usually prepared from red wine, heated and spiced with cinnamon sticks, vanilla pods, cloves, citrus and sugar.

Scottish produce is also on sale from a range of food manufacturers and retailers including venison burgers from Well Hung and Tender and Orkney steak burgers!

George Street

While Princes Street is the main shopping thoroughfare in Edinburgh, George Street also has some excellent shops and has managed to preserve most of its fine old buildings, including a number of premises that were once imposing banks. Although many have become bars and restaurants, the facades have been retained. Thus the "Dome" restaurant and bar still has its Grecian columns and Corinthian portico from its days as a branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland (and before that as the Head Office of Commercial Bank of Scotland). As you can see, its columns are entwined by lights. As I discovered on Friday, as I passed on my way to lunch (at the George Hotel opposite), the Dome further enters into the spirit of Christmas by spraying out dry ice which gives the impression of snow falling as you pass by!

Further Information
I took so many photographs of the Christmas decorations in central Edinburgh that I just had to create yet another Windows Media Video Slide Show with a selection of them. Why are you not surprised? If that link doesn't work for your browser, then go to the main Slide Show Index and right click on the link to download it to your own PC.

Since I try not to have any Glasgow/Edinburgh bias, there is an equivalent page to this one covering Glasgow's Winterfest.

For more information on Edinburgh's Winter Wonderland see Edinburgh's Hogmanay, Edinburgh Christmas and Winter Wonderland.

Where else would you like to go in Scotland?

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