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Without a New Year party to go to? Don't despair...

Money may be tight in 2011, but Genevieve Roberts reveals the 10 best ways to let your hair down tonight without breaking the bank

"The only way to spend New Year's Eve is either quietly with friends or in a brothel. Otherwise when the evening ends and people pair off, someone is bound to be left in tears."

The poet W H Auden may have had extreme views on the annual night of revelry, but for those jaded by previous years of over-hype and disappointment, or who plan to celebrate austerity-style, there are still plenty of ticket-free options for 31 December.

Fireball whirling

Where? Stonehaven, Scotland

Not for the faint of heart the fireball whirling at Stonehaven is a spectacular way to celebrate Hogmanay.

As midnight beckons, up to 60 people from the town swing fireballs of different sizes above their heads, illuminating the high street. They parade down to the harbour, where they whirl their fireballs into the North Sea. Then the fireworks begin.

While strangers to fireball whirling may be foolhardy to take up the sport at such late notice, thousands gather in the Old Town to spectate.

No one is certain what the ritual originally signified, or when it began, but some locals say the fireballs were seen as charms to encourage the sun.



Where? Edinburgh

The Scottish capital holds one of the world's largest new year festivals, starting on 30 December and continuing to 2 January. The world-famous street party is no longer a free-for-all, but a ticket-only event with four stages of music. But as the city wishes in the new year, there will be plenty of cèilidh around town, and the fireworks at Edinburgh Castle can be enjoyed across the entire city for free.



Where? London Buddhist Centre

If a hedonistic new year is far from your thoughts, the London Buddhist Centre is holding a special evening meditation session for those who want an alternative way to see in 2011.



Where? Countrywide

It may be too cold for all but the hardiest folk to pitch a tent, but camper-vanning is still an option. People who'd like to join a group of other like-minded campers should look for meet-ups, such as the Portsmouth Arms Hotel in Devon.


Fancy dress

Where? Newquay, Looe and St Ives

If you like to dress up, the best parties are in Cornwall, where revellers feel out of place if they've made no effort with their costume. There are no official parades; instead, the streets, pubs and restaurants of St Ives, Looe and Newquay are filled with people dressed as octopuses, flowerpot men – or whatever takes their whim.

Looe and Newquay hold firework displays at midnight – head to Banjo Pier in Looe or the harbour in Newquay to celebrate with a bang.



Where? Crisis

We are all aware of the selflessness of people who volunteer their time on Christmas Day. But what happens afterwards? Homeless charity Crisis opens nine day-and-night centres across London over Christmas, and they need packing up and cleaning over the new year period.



Where? London

As Big Ben rings in the new year, join crowds lining the Thames to see the midnight sky light up with fireworks. This year, the display will be accompanied by music from BBC Radio 1 DJ Nihal. Revellers are advised to arrive early – viewing areas close when full, with some inaccessible by 9pm.

If crowds aren't your thing, go to one of the city's high points, such as Primrose Hill, where you can watch the fireworks without feeling like you're on an overcrowded commute. Or stay home and switch on the telly.



Where? An area with no light pollution

If you want to see the sky illuminated without pyrotechnics, go natural. On a clear night, far from the bright city lights, you can see more than 4,000 stars twinkling in the sky. If you squint a little, you may even make out the stripe of the Milky Way.

The National Trust recommends excellent stargazing spots in Sussex, Exmoor, and just outside Belfast.


Parlour games

Where? At home

Ring in the new year with a twist of the old, with an evening of Victorian parlour games. From charades to wink murder and blind man's bluff, delight in an evening of silliness with friends and family.


New Year's Eve Carnival and Parade

Where? Newcastle

For a family friendly way to see out 2010, head to Newcastle where the the city transforms into a carnival. The afternoon parade, with floats, dancers and steel drums, led by Newcastle's Ice Queen, draws the biggest crowds.

The carnival culminates in a fireworks display at 6pm but the party is expected to continue throughout the night.



Where? Cardiff

Celebrate the dawning of 2011 with Calennig celebrations, including the Calennig lantern parade through the city, fairground rides and a free gig. Eighties psychedelic rock band Doctor and the Medics will be among performers on stage, celebrating 25 years since their hit "Spirit in the Sky". The events culminate in midnight fireworks.


Sleep... so you're fresh to run. Or, maybe stroll

Where? In your bed

Scientists have confirmed what the sleep-deprived have known for years: missing out on your beauty sleep is bad for your health. And it makes you look terrible to boot. To enjoy the ultimate sense of smugness as others suffer on New Year's Day, join the Wicksteed New Year's Day Recovery Run Half-Marathon in Kettering, Northamptonshire.

If you are feeling a little less ambitious, the National Trust has many organised strolls on New Year's Day, while those seeking wildlife may wish to head to Norfolk to glimpse Icelandic pink-footed geese feeding on the sugar beet harvest.

www.ultramarathon.org.uk/wicky_ny.html; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-visits-walks/w-seabritain-coastal_walks.htm