Not satisfied with an epic fireworks display, a massive street party and a torchlight procession to celebrate the new year (which they call Hogmanay), the folks of Scotland have also instituted an annual tradition known as the Loony Dook.
This involves getting yourself dressed up in the wackiest outfit you can find, marching through the streets of South Queensferry and then throwing yourself into the Firth of Forth.
Which connects to the North Sea. Which tends not to be very warm.
I have actually done this, and am delighted to have done so. Although I don’t feel the urge to do it again.
In today’s post I’m going to do two things. I’m going to share with you some photos of the madness that is the annual Loony Dook, and then I’m going to give you information should you wish to attend yourself – either as a spectator or as a participant.
Let’s start with the photos, because they’re so much fun!
Photos from the Edinburgh / South Queensferry Loony Dook
If you’re going to dress up as a bridge, make it the Forth Rail Bridge.
Because even when dooking, you’ve got to have your tub of porridge ready.
Dookers marching through South Queenferry, led by a drum band.
In they went…
The water is not as warm as this image makes out.
Farewell Captain Hook.
We woke the spirit of Scotland.
Hulk made an appearance.
As did Wonder Woman.
Up, up and away!
It was this cold.
These folks came as photographers.
Lovely day for it!
And that’s what the Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Loony Dook looks like! Now, to help you plan your own attendance at this fun event.
Information on attending the Loony Dook 2021 in Edinburgh, Scotland
Please note that the Loony Dook 2021 event has been cancelled. The below information should help you prepare and plan for future Loony Dook events.
How to Register for the Loony Dook
If you want to attend as a participant, you have to register in advance. Registration usually opens around September. There is a fee for registration, for the 2020 Loony Dook this was £12. An amount from every ticket goes to the RNLI. The RNLI, or Royal National Lifeboat Institution, is a charity that saves lives at sea around the UK.
Registration should open around September 2021 for the Loony Dook 2022, at which point you will be able to register and buy Loony Dook tickets online here.
When is the Loony Dook 2021?
The Loony Dook 2021 event has been cancelled.
As a general rule if you are planning for future years, the Loony Dook takes place every year on the first day of the year (1st January).
The time depends on the tide, but it usually takes place 2-3 hours before high tide when the tide is on it’s way in, which makes it a safer event.
Note that the start time is the time the parade starts, so attendees will want to arrive well in advance of this time to find parking and get registered, prior to lining up in the procession
Can I attend the Loony Dook without going in the water?
Absolutely! Hundreds of people attend each year as spectators. There is a very festive atmosphere and it is a lot of fun to watch and to cheer on the participants.
It’s also totally free to attend as a spectator, and you don’t need to register. Just make sure you arrive well in advance, as you might have to walk a fair bit from your car if you drive.
Do I need an outfit for the Loony Dook?
An outfit is not mandatory, but given how many people attend in fancy dress, you will probably enjoy your experience a lot more if you make a bit of effort.
In 2019 and 2020, a prize for the best outfit was awarded, with winners receiving £250 for a charity of their choice.
Is there an age limit for the Loony Dook?
There is no age limit for the Loony Dook, however attendees under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
How many people participate in the Loony Dook?
Normally around a thousand people take part in the actual “dook”, which starts off as a procession through the streets of South Queensferry led by a drum band, before ending in the frigid waters of the Forth of Firth.
Is the Loony Dook safe?
The Loony Dook organisers take safety very seriously, with on-site police and medical professionals. There are also a number of lifeboat members in the water, to help anyone who gets into difficulty.
Of course, you have to remember that you are walking across a slippery beach in freezing temperatures and into very cold waters. So you have to be careful of course.
How do I get to the Loony Dook?
South Queensferry is a few miles outside of Edinburgh, so you’ll need to plan your transport accordingly. The easiest way to get here is to drive, and there is free parking with marshals to help you get to a parking spot.
Note that it might be a bit of a walk down to the Dook depending on when you arrive. We advise planning for a 10 – 20 minute walk just in case.
There is also a train station here, Dalmeny, which serves South Queensferry. You can also take the bus, with service 43 departing from St. Andrews Square in Edinburgh for South Queensferry. You can see the timetable here.
There are also taxis and ride share services available. Many Dookers do it as part of a tour from Edinburgh, so transport is included.
Some tour operators include the Loony Dook as part of their Hogmanay themed tours, and this can be a great option as an overall Hogmanay Scottish adventure.
Is the Loony Dook accessible?
The parade part of the Loony Dook is accessible as this is along a flat, if partly cobbled, surface. Access to the water is via a series of steep steps, and I am not aware of any special accessibility provisions. If you do have accessibility needs and wish to participate in the actual Dook, I would suggest contacting the Loony Dook organisers for information.
For watching the Dook rather than participating, the main issue will be around access and parking. From speaking to folks with accessibility needs, there are no specific accessible parking spaces in South Queensferry for the Loony Dook.
However, blue badge holders can park on double yellow lines in South Queensferry, so you should be able to park close to the viewing areas and parade. We would advise arriving early and talking to the on-site parking marshals who will be able to direct you. Spots can go quickly and there is no reservation system in place.
How Long Does the Loony Dook Last?
The Loony Dook parade starts on the edge of South Queensferry (here on Google Maps), and the parade of 1,000 people is usually led by a band of musicians. It parades through the town for around 10-15 minutes, and then enters the water around half-way through the town. Most dookers have a quick splash, although some seem braver than others and stay in the water for longer.
The parade is fairly long as it has 1,000 people in, so it takes around 20 – 30 minutes for everyone to get in the water and out again. However, the first wave is the most fun to watch going in in my opinion.
Where to Watch the Loony Dook from?
If you’re going as a spectator, one of the best places to watch the Loony Dook from in South Queensferry is the South Queensferry harbour, on the pier. You can see this here on Google Maps.
Dookers enter the water down the steps by the Boat House here and spread out along the beach area between the steps and the harbour, and then go into the water.
If you want to watch the parade, you can see this from along the B924, the main road through South Queensferry. A good vantage point can be found opposite the Queensferry Museum, where there’s a higher pedestrian area on the south side of the street. Once the parade has passed, you can then head over the street to the car parking area where you can see the beach area and watch the dookers getting wet.
Here’s a map image to help you visualise this, which you can also see on Google Maps here. The red line is the parade route, the yellow line is a good viewing area for the parade, and the green line is a good viewing area for the Dook itself.
Any tips for taking part in the Loony Dook 2021?
Based on my experience taking part in the dook, I have some tips for taking part in the Loony Dook. First, I suggest having someone else handle your transport – either a tour company like this, or a friend.
Next, you’ll want to bring a nice big towel and a bag of dry clothes that someone can give to you shortly after getting out of the water (that friend will come in handy at this point).
You’ll also absolutely want to wear some form of footwear, like sandals or old trainers. I did it bare foot, which was a big mistake – the ground in January is very very cold!
For more advice on what to bring, check out my guide to what to pack and wear for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, which has a section on the Loony Dook.
Other than that, just go planning to have fun! The water is cold, but just throw yourself in without hesitating, splash around a bit, and then find that big fluffy towel. You’ll survive.
Further Reading on Visiting Scotland
Before we leave you, we just wanted to share some more resources to help you plan your trip to Scotland, both for Hogmanay, and during the rest of the year.
- We have a guide to attending Edinburgh’s Hogmanay to help you get the most out of this epic New Year’s Eve Party
- My guide to what to pack and wear to Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, which include the Loony Dook
- The official Edinburgh Festival City website which will give you information on attending all of Edinburgh’s festivals throughout the year
- We have a guide to everything to do in Edinburgh in Winter, to help you plan more fun whilst you visit
- We also have a guide to visiting Scotland in winter in general
- Our series of posts on Edinburgh, including a two day Edinburgh itinerary, 21 Highlights in Edinburgh & Getting off the beaten path in Edinburgh, as well as a guide to visiting Edinburgh for the Festivals
- A detailed guide to the highlights of the epic North Coast 500 road trip, as well as accommodation options along the route, photography highlights of the NC500, and the ultimate NC500 planning guide
- A two day Glasgow and Loch Lomond Itinerary, our guide to Glasgow, as well as ten things to do in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
- A Guide to Touring the Scottish Borders, as well as a 5 Day Isle of Skye and Highlands itinerary
- Our guide to the best photography locations in Edinburgh and on the Isle of Skye to make sure you get the best photos from your trip to Scotland
- This Rick Steves Scotland guide, should you want a guidebook to help you plan
Well, that sums up our guide to attending the Loony Dook in Scotland! Something you want to try for next year perhaps? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!