Your guide to the best (and most unusual) UK winter party celebrations
When it’s cold outside, there’s nothing better to do than go to an unforgettable UK winter party. England, Ireland and Scotland really are the best places to celebrate during the winter months. From fireworks exploding across the sky to torch-lit parades, feasting and traditional dancing – ain’t no party like a British Isles party.
Check out our top places to join the UK winter party celebrations this year, pre and post Christmas…
Guy Fawkes Night
When: 5 November
Remember remember the fifth of November… The UK celebrates Guy Fawkes Night (or Bonfire Night) as a tribute to political anarchist Guy Fawkes, who plotted to overthrow the king in 1605, using thirty six barrels of gunpowder to blow up the houses of parliament. Now, locals remember the rebel with elaborate bonfires and fireworks displays, lighting up the skies of London with a thousand popping colours.
When: 22 December
The northern hemisphere celebrates the winter solstice, which marks the 24-hour period with the fewest daylight hours of the year – the shortest day and longest night. Sounds a bit spooky, right? The actual moment of the solstice will be at 04:19am in the UK and comes from the Latin solstitium meaning ‘sun stands still’. Want in? Head to Stonehenge to catch the sunrise with local revellers.
When: 31 December
Hogmanay is what the Scots call New Year’s Eve, and it originates from the Vikings celebrating the winter solstice with wild parties in late December. The best place to celebrate Hogmanay is in Edinburgh, where the event begins with a torch-lit procession down the historic Royal Mile and ends with a fun street party with DJs and outdoor bars. Locals sing in the new year with renditions of Auld Lang Syne.
The Loony Dook
When: 1 January
Need to shake off the New Year’s Eve hangover? Take a leaf out of Scotland’s book and take a freezing plunge. The breathtaking Loony Dook is the country’s annual dip in the River Forth at South Queensferry starts with a Dookers parade through the streets, before splashing in the icy river in fancy dress – of course.
New Year’s Eve Fireworks London
Where: London, England
When: 31 December
Always a sellout event, London throws an epic New Year’s party. Think live music, famous presenters and an epic fireworks display bursting across the sky behind an illuminated London Eye. It’s unforgettable.
Temple Bar TradFest
Where: Dublin, Ireland
When: 22-26 January
What started from a small niche traditional music festival is now one of the most special post-Christmas winter events in the Irish calendar. Showcasing the next generation of Irish and international trad and folk artists, go to experience live music in some of Dublin’s most beautiful historic places – from the stunning Kilmainham Gaol to the grand City Hall.
Up Helly Aa Fire Festival
Where: Shetland, Scotland
When: 28 January
This unusual Viking-themed festival takes place in Lerwick, Shetland, on the last Tuesday in January each year. Up Helly Aa marks the end of the Yule season. Over 1,000 men, led by the Viking Jarl’s Squad, carry flaming torches in a procession around the town, turning the sky red with flames. The evening finishes with the men throwing their torches onto a Viking galley – it’s a beautiful, mesmerising sight!
When: 25 January
A night of whisky, poetry and laughter to fend off the January chill. Burns Night marks the anniversary of poet and activist Robert Burns’ birthday. To celebrate, the Scottish throw a hearty feast (including haggis, neeps and tatties – yum), recite a tribute speech and some even play the bagpipes in honour of the great Bard. Want to get involved? Book into a Scottish hotel or restaurant to join the celebrations! Just don’t forget your tartan.