Hogmanay: Hangovers

The Loony Dook

All your money's been blown on cheap fizz, the morning after has hit you like a herd of stampeding rhinoceroses and it's freezing outside. What hope have you got, asks Anna Docherty, of beating the post New Year blues?

The Loony Dook
It's a new year and you wake up feeling anything but rejuvenated, with a tongue like sandpaper and a head thumping like last night's party. It calls for extreme action and you can't get much more extreme than throwing yourself into some ice-cold Scottish water.

The Loony Dook is the twisted brainchild of two Edinburgh friends, Andy Kerr and Jim Kilcullen, and involves dressing up in ridiculous outfits and jumping en-masse into the Firth of Forth. Event organiser David Steele explains: 'A loony is an old Scots word for someone daft and you certainly have to be daft to take part.' He tells the story of one woman who got married on New Year's Eve and then turned up for the Loony Dook the next morning in full wedding outfit. 'Utterly crazy' is how he sums up that particular participant.

This level of lunacy has caught on. Since it began in 1987, its popularity has steadily grown, with over 500 'dookers' now taking part in this act of New Year invigoration. Watching from the sidelines will be around 3000 spectators, who have travelled from all over the world. It's amazing the distance people will go, just to see some maniacs in fancy dress doing something loony.

Strathpuffer Race
Any takers for the 24-hour bike race? At times it might seem like the Strathpuffer has been designed to test your ability to think up new swear words. It's in a spooky forest by the lake. It's likely to be dark, bitterly cold and the ground will be a gooey mass of churned mud. For many people this would be an invitation to head straight back indoors.

But, where most events get bigger and more ostentatious as the years pass, the nice thing about the Strathpuffer is that this year they are downsizing and having a 'smaller, cosier event', organiser Katy Boocock tells me. 'You'll be able to do a whole lap during the night without seeing a soul', she says wistfully.

Sound scary? Not a bit of it. You may never feel more alive than when doing the midnight stretch of the race, with the moon lighting your way and the stars twinkling you onwards.

After she's added in a mention of the heated marquee offering warm home-made food, and the romping party atmosphere going on within, I am close to seeing why this race is so popular. But then I speak to Phil, a participant from last year, and he tells me: 'My lasting memory is of lying in my tent and having chunks of ice fall on my face from the condensation freezing above me.' Perhaps this race is for hardier souls than me.

The Loony Dook
1 Jan, Firth of Forth, South Queensferry, Edinburgh, www.theloonydook.co.uk

Strathpuffer Race
17 Jan, Loch Kinellan, Strathpeffer, www.strathpuffer.co.uk

Smaller Picks

Bloc Party
25 & 26 Jan, Carling Academy, 121 Eglinton Street, Glasgow, 0141 418 3000, for tickets see www.ticketweb.uk, £23.
The only way to well and truly waken up your sleepy head is with a full-on pop rock gig. Bloc Party are notorious for their furious live performances and sometimes that relentless, shake the floorboards, kind of noise is just exactly what the soul requires.

Great Winter Run
Sat 10 Jan, Holyrood Park, Edinburgh, www.greatrun.org, £19 entry fee.
Many a person has made that fatal New Year resolution to do more exercise. The Great Winter Run is as good a boot up the bum as any – and perhaps it will encourage you to start the year as you mean to go on. But how long will it last?

Black Isle Brewery tour
Black Isle Brewery, Old Allangrange, Munlochy, Ross-shire, 01463 811 871, www.blackislebrewery.com, Mon-Sat 10am-5pm, tours are free.
If you prefer to face the Hogmanay hangover head on – like a true Scotsman – then this tour is ideal. Banish those blues with some Black Isle brew, superior organic beers made in a wee bespoke brewery just outside Inverness.

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