#blogmanay – TorchLight Procession – The start of Edinburgh Hogmanay

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In years gone by Scotland  had the tradition of gathering in a public square to see in the New Year, followed by “first footing” – visiting friends and family. First person over the threshold was preferably tall and dark – the dark hair signifying they were unlikely to be a Viking and “up to no good”.  And the traditional thing to bring along was a lump of coal for the fire  as well as perhaps, some shortbread, whisky or a dense fruit cake called Black Bun).

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Edinburgh’s Hogmanay has come a long way since then, when the crowds gathered round the Tron Kirk on the Royal Mile for the Bells and then faded away. This was largely down to the vision of Peter Irvine, the man behind the Scotland the Best guide book.

By 2014 the event has grown to three days of activities and illuminations to brighten up this darkest time of the year.

The event that heralds the New Year is the torchlight procession. I’ve watched it snake through the town in the past , but have never walked along with it before, as I did this time. It’s an impressive sight, all those thousands of folk with their torches. And despite the fire and the crowds everything passes off safely and with good humour.

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The final destination is the top of Calton hill where a huge bonfire was lit. Gazing at it, and in the presence of “Vikings” down from Shetland, I couldn’t help think of those people down the centuries who must have been captivated by similar fires. At that moment I felt aware of some kind of common thread linking us all – right back to those who might have been gathered around huge fires at sites like the mysterious settlement at the Ness of Brodgar on Orkney. It was just magical – no other word for it.

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The spectacular finale was a son et lumiere that danced around the whole of the hilltop – from the skies above the bonfire, to the National Monument and the Nelson Monument. To the sound of Skyfall the stars blazed around us , glittered and exploded. A fitting way to say goodbye to a year if ever there was one.

#blogmanay is brought to you by Edinburgh’s Hogmanay and is supported by ETAG, Event Scotland, Visit Scotland, Year of Food and Drink Scotland and co -creators Haggis Adventures. Created and produced by Unique Events . As always , all opinions expressed here are my own.

Sparkling Edinburgh

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In winter Edinburgh can get pretty dark and gloomy. So its just as well that there are so many reasons to festoon the city with as many lights as possible. In recent years there seem to be ever more, and that is just fine by me. The more lights in the darkness the better.

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lights

From the end of November onwards there are more and more lights added until by the time New Year comes the city is a riot of lights.

The Christmas market , ice skating and high flying rides are still in full swing if you fancy a wee whirl into Edinburgh in the next couple of days.

Seaside Treasures

Sea Glass

I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for sea glass , but used to hunt high and low and find very little. Now I find myself living near some spots where I can find it easily and it is very hard to resist. I especially like all the pale aqua shades and this time also found a few pieces of broken porcelain. I am sure this colour palette is going to show up in a design or painting sometime soon.

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The bridges have also been looking wonderful during the last few days – mostly lovely summer weather and some very low tides which make for interesting images.

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If you are visiting Edinburgh this summer South Queensferry makes a very pleasant wee jaunt out of the city, especially during the crazy festival period. You can even take a boat to Inchcolm island and have a go at spotting seals or even a puffin if you are lucky. Get yourself an Orkney Ice cream and stroll along the prom to the High Street.

August Break Day 20 – Spiegel Tent

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The Spiegel Tents are back in town. This one is at the Edinburgh Book Festival, but there are several others dotted around town. I think they are fabulous structures and straight away create an interesting atmosphere. But really, they come into their own when used for dancing – the wooden floors make a great surface.

Day 28 – My Edinburgh – Bees Flower Shops

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Another post in my series of favourite Edinburgh places for you to discover.

When I got back from Holland I was delighted to discover that in the meantime a florists had opened in South Queensferry, and not only that, it is the very closest shop to me ! That made up a little for no longer being able to shop for flowers at the Leiden Saturday market which was a real highlight of the week for me.

Bees is run by Elaine who tries to select flowers that you might not find everywhere and also makes up bouquets that have a bit of individual flair. Over the last few months I have had some stunning flowers from her shop.

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Now, in case you don’t make it out to the coastal delights of South Queensferry very often she has opened a second branch in Hanover Street ( close to the Queen Street end ). A beautiful space with sweeping arched windows. She is also planning to hold workshops as the space lends itself to that, for adults but also for children. Mothers can sit on comfy sofas sipping a coffee while their offspring have fun creating with flowers.

Of course she also does wedding flowers or can organise a weekly arrangement for your office.

Day 23 – My Edinburgh – Lovecrumbs Cafe

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I thought it would be nice to add a weekly post with a bit of a local theme. Where once we used guide books , now the internet helps us uncover unusual spots. I know Edinburgh is a city that lots of people are drawn to so once a week I will post a little bit of insider info. I have discovered many interesting cafes, shops and exhibitions in other cities,through reading blogs, so now I’m going to do my bit too ! (Although I’m not working as a tourist guide any more, I do still have that instinct for spotting places and passing them on ! )

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This week’s spotlight is on Lovecrumbs , which is a cafe that popped up while I was in Holland, and in the meantime has gathered quite a following. That does mean it can get quite busy and you might have to hunt around for a seat. You might end up using an old piano as a table, or you might sit on one of the two low chairs in the window. There are also a few large tables with lots of chairs round them so that helps in finding a wee spot.

But either way , you’ll have your work cut out to choose from the very inventive range of cakes on offer. Yesterday, amongst others there was a lavender cake, a rose and cherry cake and another one containing beetroot which I’ve had in the past. I went for the less exotic banana cake which was also delicious. On a previous visit an American friend couldn’t resist the peanut butter and jelly cake. There are ususally some gluten free options and things like brownies too, with a selection that seems to change quite regularly.

If you are visiting Edinburgh it won’t be on the main tourist routes so you’ll need to hunt it out – but it is well worth it. ( And if you are in Edinburgh for the Film Festival which is just coming up, then it is only a few minutes walk from the Filmhouse .)
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Lovecrumbs
155 Westport Edinburgh,
Edinburgh EH3 9DP

Day 8 – My Windowsill Laboratory.

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In every place I’ve lived there is usually one spot that becomes my favourite place to shoot. And in the South Queensferry house it is this windowsill. Quite often I work at a table right alongside, which I like because I can see the comings and goings in the street outside while I am working on the computer.

The sill is nice and broad and so can cope with quite a big vase of flowers and the painted wooden surface adds a nice element to many photographs. Every week I choose some new flowers, often from the really lovely little florists ( Bees Flower Shop – drop in if you are passing ! ) just along the street and then arrange a still life for the windowsill.
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Before leaving Holland I did a bit of a mad shop of all kinds of little vases and props , which seemed a bit excessive at the time ( not to me, but you know, to some other folks ! ). Now I’m very glad that I did build up this stash as I’ve been able to make a lot of different colour combinations , and so far no bunch of flowers has failed to fit in with one or two pieces.
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Of course these images show up in my Instagram feed quite often, but I’ve also been shooting with other cameras and some images will be appearing as prints before long.