“ Stonehaven / Scotland „
Stonehaven is the best place in the world to see in Hogmany, the fireballs only part of it...
Start off in one of the 12 pubs that Stonehaven has to offer (not bad considering there's only 10,000 people), make your way to the Market square, where you'll see the dance floor and stage being set up for the party. Make sure you stop in at one of the local shops to pick up a wee something to keep the cold night out and then make your way to the harbour by about 11pm to make sure you get a good spot.
The route starts at the harbour, where the fireballs are lit (fireballs are made of old rags soaked in petrol, put in a wire ball and then lit) and go up the 'High Street' to the school and the police station, before turning back on themselves to the harbour once more.
Before this proud procession goes the Stonehaven pipe band, pipes skirling, drums beating the sound of the 'Auld Toon Clock' chiming in the New Year. It's truly a spectacular to behold, a catch in your throat moment for anyone lucky enough to witness it.
The real pride is the amount of 'laps' you can do before getting tired of swinging this ball of fire round your head. Not that it's easy... you can make the ball as light or as heavy as you want, so there's a bit of competition there too!
After the emotion and excitement of the bells and the balls, head down to the Market Square, to dance the rest of night away.
It's worth bearing in mind that Scotland generally closes at 6pm on the 31st and doesn't open again until 10am on the 2nd... That's just the way we like it!
Wherever you're from, everyone in Stonehaven that night is 'at home'
I first came across this festival when I was living in Edinburgh. I had gone to the infamous Edinburgh Street Party for Hogmanay and fancied something a bit different and more low key.
The Fire-throwing festival involves people marching up and down the High Street in the Old Town from the Mercat Cross at the east end of the street near the harbour, to the Cannon embedded nose down at the west end. They swing fireballs around their heads and are egged on by the crowd.
The verdict: The Fireball Festival is amazing and it was one of the best New Year's Eve's I have ever had. Stonehaven is a pretty village that is worth visiting in Summer or Winter but it was obviously bitter cold when we went to wrap up warm if you go.
Stonehaven is located on the main Edinburgh to Aberdeen train route and I reckon that is probably the easiest and most cost effective ways to get there. It takes just over 2 hours to get there and the scenery on the train journey makes it worth the while.
We arrived there around 2pm on New Years Eve and checked into our B&B. We went for a big meal and went back to get ready. When I say get ready for New Year, it wasn't so much put on the lippy and the nice girlie shoes. No, I mean put on the wooliest jumper, warmest boots, gloves, hat and scarf!!! There is no room for vanity at this festival, the weather dictates that!
There are a few pubs in Stonehaven and we spent the evening going around them. Then at about 11.40pm we went out onto the street to see the fire throwers. They start up at about 12.25am. It was amazing. They estimate that around 3000 watch the throwers but it seemed like way more to me. The atmosphere is really good and everyone is clapping and cheering. The fire really lights up the sky and it is magical.
After the fire throwers had marched away we danced around the main square where there is a stand and some music. There are also catering vans selling Aberdeen Angus burgers which are very tasty after a few beers.
So what if we were all dying with the flu a few days later. It was well worth it and I would go back in a heart beat!
The tradition ceremony commences at the stroke of midnight on Hogmanay (December the 31st). It's purpose was thought to have been to drive out the deil and ward of evil spirits that could potentially blight the prosperity or wellbeing of the town and its inhabitants.