Britain’s best traditional New Year’s Eve celebrations

Say goodbye to 2017 in style with our pick of traditional New Year’s Eve events across the UK


Hogmanay Fireball Procession, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire

Hogmanay fireball swingers illuminate the streets of Stonehaven carrying on the tradition of welcoming the new year/Credit: Getty

The Ancient Fireballs ceremony takes place in the Scottish fishing village of Stonehaven. This unique festival sees 60 fireball swingers dressed in costume parade down the High Street swinging their lit 2ft round cages filled with paraffin soaked rags in a spectacular display to celebrate Hogmanay. Spectators generally start to gather at 10:30pm with the Stovehaven Fireball swingers taking place at midnight.


Allendale Tar Barrels, Allendale, Northumbria 

Villagers carry burning barrels and stakes as they take part in the Allendale Tar Barrel festival/Credit: Getty

Taking place on 31 December since the Dark Ages, is the Allendale Baa1 Fire, which sees 45 barrel carriers parade flaming tar filled whiskey barrels through the streets of Allendale in Northumbria.  The barrel carriers are known as Guisers and some have taken part in the ritual for half a century; the procession is thought to be an ancient pagan tradition of fire worship. The parade culminates in the centre of the town as the barrels are thrown onto a bonfire with the cry of “be damned to he who throws last!”. The barrels are lit at 11.30pm but celebrations begin earlier on in the evening.

Mari Lwyd and New Year walk from Neuadd, Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales

An ancient midwinter tradition to celebrate the New Year/Credit: Alamy

Traditionally, Mari Lwyd or Grey Mare in English is an ancient Welsh tradition celebrating the end of the Christmas season and the start of the New Year. A group of singers would go house to house with the Mari Lywd and try to gain entry by taking part in a verbal singing contest. 

Celebrate Mari Lwyd by taking part in a free torchlit walk, which includes the traditional New Year Mari Lwyd – a mare’s skull dressed in a sheet and ribbons – and makes for a wholly different way to bring in the New Year in the small but exciting town of Llanwrtyd Wells. The walk begins at 11pm from the town square but people gather at 10pm.

New Year’s Eve celebrations at St. Ives, Cornwall

See a different side to Cornwall during the winter festivities/credit: Getty

The town of St. Ives in Cornwall offers a unique party atmosphere during the New Year. The streets are closed for traffic around the harbour front and if the tide goes out then everyone spills on to the beach for a unique beach party. Fancy dress and party atmosphere play a large part of the festivities and after the countdown, the bells ring and the fireworks commence, providing a dramatic display over the beaches and town of St. Ives. The festivities begin at around 8pm and last long into the night.

New Year’s Eve Winter Carnival, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Celebrate Norse mythology and folklore at East of the Sun, West of the Moon/Credit: NewcastleGateshead

Enjoy a beastly shaped bonfire and firework display with folk music and carnival performers on the Town Moor in Newcastle this New Year’s Eve. East of the Sun, West of the Moon takes inspiration from Norse mythology and local folklore, with the bonfire resembling a giant beast’s lair.  East of the Sun, West of the Moon is a free event but will be ticketed. Tickets are allocated using a ballot system, and have now closed for this year’s event, however fireworks can still be enjoyed for free.

Nos Galan Races, Cynon Valley, South Wales

The Nos Galan Race is a 5km fun run around the town to celebrate the Welsh runner Guto Nyth Bran and his legendary athletic powers. The Mountain Ash event in the Cyon Valley in South Wales begins at 5.15pm with street entertainment and a fire act. The children’s races kick off the event after which a mystery sports celebrity arrives to light the beacon. After a firework display the adult races begin and then prizes are presented.

Later in the New Year…

Up Helly Aa, Lerwick, the Shetland Islands

Up Helly Aa celebrates the influence of the Scandinavian Vikings in the Shetland Islands/Credit: Getty

Up Helly Aa is known as Europe’s largest fire festival; preparations for outfits and parades begin in February the year before each celebration and the next day is a public day of holiday in Lerwick to allow recovery. There are many different things to do and see at the event but perhaps the most dramatic are the Viking squads, the torches and the procession. The days activities begin with the Guizer Jarl and Jarl Squad march in Lerwick town centre.