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27Dec/100

10 facts about Hogmanay

With new years eve fast approaching one of the most famous celibrations has got to be the Scottish Hogmany. Here are 10 interesting facts about Hogmanay;

1. Many Scots still use Hogmanay to practice the tradition of first footing, when it is customary to visit a friend or neighbour just after midnight to celebrate the New Year. While the traditional gift of a lump of coal for the host's fire may not be as common as it once was, it's still bad luck to show up empty handed, so be sure to take along your tipple of choice.

2. Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations were the site of the World Record for the largest country dance. 1914 people danced Strip The Willow at the 'Night Afore Fiesta' on 30 December 2000.

3. Mystery still surrounds the origin of the word 'Hogmanay', with old Gaelic, Flemish, and Norman Dutch all being sited as possible influences on the word.

4. A common misconception across the globe is that Auld Lang Syne should be sung with the participant's hands crossed from the start, but in Scotland it is still customary to join hands normally during the first verse before crossing them for the second.

5. Another common error is that Robert Burns wrote Auld Lang Syne in its entirety, but Burns himself based his version on an older song which was known to exist up to 70 years before his 1788 version.

6. Edinburgh's famous Hogmanay party has drawn thousands to Princes Street every year since 1992, with headlining music acts and a whole range of festivities. But before the official party was launched, revellers used to gather near the Tron kirk on the Royal Mile to celebrate the bells.

7. For almost 400 years Christmas wasn't celebrated in Scotland due to the Protestant Reformation. This meant that for many Christmas was just another day at work, and the big celebration would be at the Winter Solstice holiday which became Hogmanay.

8. For the braver souls among us South Queensferry offers the perfect Hogmanay hangover cure: The Loony Douk. On January 1st each year dozens of 'loonies' gather next to the First of Forth and take a quick dip in the icy waters.

9. Glasgow's George Square hosts a hogmanay concert, with upto 30,000 revellers drawn to the area to celebrate.

10. Another old Scottish custom is redding. This is the act of cleaning the house before the bells to get the New Year off to a fresh start. In years gone by it was particularly important to ensure that all fires were cleared of ashes so new ones could be started. Juniper was also burned to help ward off any evil spirits that had accumulated throughout the year

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Its not too late to book up some accomodation for this years festval. Just search Bargain Villas for cheap Scottish apartment.

21Nov/100

Top places to Ski in the UK

Glenshee

Glenshee sells itself as the most extensive skiing in Scotland, with 25 miles of downhill runs over four mountains.

Although it was open for business earlier in the season, all the lifts were closed yesterday, with conditions "pretty foggy". There is "plenty of snow for sledging", but not for skiing or boarding until things get colder. A day pass costs £25. For more information, visit ski-glenshee.co.uk or call 013397 41320.

Glencoe

Runs at Scotland's "original ski area" were closed although the access chair lift was "opening", according to updates on glencoemountain.com. The site also reported that, "Ski runs are filling up well. Good cover across the mountain. We are ready to open for snowsports when snow conditions are suitable." January day passes for adults start at £15.

Lecht

The Scottish resort is said to be great for beginners and is currently operating four runs with man-made snow. The plan is to open more lifts as conditions improve; at lunchtime, staff reported that an inch of snow had fallen in an hour. An adult day pass costs £25. Go to lecht.co.uk or call 01975 651440.

The Nevis range

The resort has 12 lifts and 20km of on-piste runs. There's no skiing at the moment, but the snow is expected to arrive soon. In the meantime lessons are available on the artificial slope. A full day pass is £26. Go to nevisrange.co.uk or call 01397 705825 for more information.

Cairn Gorm

The funicular railway and four lifts were open but, according to cairngormmountain.com, skiiing was for "experts only". "Visibility is 200 metres and temperature is -3C ... there are still a lot of icy areas around." A one-day ski ticket costs £29.

Raise, Helvellyn, Cumbria

Raise can hardly compete with the Alps, but it now boasts a permanent button lift. There was "insufficient snow for skiiing" yesterday. Contact 015395 35456, or go to ldscsnowski.co.uk. (Skiers must first join the Lake District Ski Club; adult membership costs £23. The daily tow fee is £7.)

Yad Moss, Cumbria

A recent lottery grant has funded two piste bashers and a new slope-side cafe at Yad Moss, which also has a permanent button tow, but as of yesterday there was not enough snow to ski. Day membership is £15. Go to yadmoss.co.uk or call 01228 561634 for for more information.

Harwood Common, County Durham

This south-facing slope has two parallel rope tows and operates at weekends, during school holidays, and whenever there is sufficient snow. There is a 500-metre run, and you can just turn up on the day and pay your £10. The slope was open for about five days earlier in the season, but there was no snow yesterday. Call the Harwood Ski Federation on 01748 850415 for updates.

Allenheads, Northumberland

The ski area is operated by the British Norwegian Ski Club, with two permanent tows. There was no up-to-date information on snow conditions available yesterday, but in good conditions there are around 500 metres of skiing. Annual membership is £25. Go to ski-allenheads.co.uk or 01670 715719 for more information.

Swinhope Moor, Weardale, County Durham

There was no skiing in the second half of December, but when the snow does arrive this is as close to alpine conditions as you're likely to get in England, with runs of more than 1km entirely possible. There are two linked button lifts operated by the Weardale Ski Club. Day membership is £15. Call 01388 527527 or 01388 527125 for more info.

So you have the top spots now all you need is somewhere to stay so why not have a quick search through Bargain Villas for your next cheap UK ski accomodation.

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