Dancing and fireworks for new year revellers

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The Independent Online
If you're planning a New Year's Eve without a Celtic theme, think again. More than ever, write James Francken and Clare Garner, the best place to ring in the new year is Scotland.

If Robbie Williams forgot to reserve you a seat next to the Spice Girls on his table at Dublin's POD nightclub, and your invite to the Prodigy's mansion in southern Ireland is not forthcoming, there are countless - perhaps preferable - alternatives for tonight.

The Scots know how to remember their old acquaintances, and the hottest ticket is, once more, Edinburgh's Hogmanay. Now a four-day festival, from 29th to 1st, it has become so popular that for the first time this year numbers are limited. Last year, 300,000 revellers crammed into the Royal Mile and Princes Street. Crash barriers and street railings collapsed, and more than 300 injured saw in the new year in hospital.

In an effort to avoid a repeat performance, this year 180,000 passes were allocated on a first-come first-served basis. They were gone within a week but are now being sold for more than pounds 10 on the black market. Beyond the enclosed area, which will be sealed off from 8pm, there will be nightclubs, balls and concerts.

Glasgow's George Square and the adjacent Merchant City is hosting "Dancing in the Streets". There will be six dance stages, including a hip-hop event and Pink Stage for the thriving gay scene, as well as fireworks and bells at midnight.

In Northern Ireland, Belfast City Council is staging its first New Year's Eve Celebration Party at the City Hall, with assembled jugglers, firebreathers and an Eagles coverband, culminating in a "sound and light show spectacular".

Five thousand merrymakers will be at the Colors event at Manchester's Nynex Arena, where Radio One's Pete Tong will be beamed in live from the Ministry of Sound via computer link. In Durham, bellringers at the cathedral will be ringing in 1998 from 10.30pm to 12.30am.

In London, there is always Trafalgar Square - if you must. Most restaurants nearby will be booked up, but for those wishing to line their stomachs near the melee, there is always the West End Kitchen, where dinner for around a fiver is being served until 11.45pm.

The London Evening Standard is setting off two tons of fireworks from Tower Bridge. For those not wishing to brave the elements, there is always the television. The Standard's display will be broadcast live on Sky News and you can choose between Carol Smillie and Anthea Turner for live Hogmanay reports.

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