Dive in to the New Year with a Loony Dook

12 December 2020

Loony Dook Chris Watt 600

Image by Chris Watt

After a busy night celebrating Hogmanay, do you ever wake up on New Year’s Day and think ‘I would really love to go and jump in the sea with all my clothes on’? No? Well, as you lie on the sofa nursing a hangover and watching re-runs on TV, you’re missing out on the Loony Dook - one of Scotland’s most bracing of traditions!  

Read on to find out more about this bonkers tradition. You never know, you might find yourself signed up for next year’s event. If that doesn’t beat the hangover, we don’t know what will! 

What is the Loony Dook?

The Loony (lunatic) Dook (Scottish word for swim or dip in the sea) is the New Year tradition of running into the baltic Firth of Forth on New Year’s Day. 

Hundreds of people sign up every year to take part - raising huge amounts of money in the process - and take part in a fancy dress parade before running en-masse into the sea. Yes it’s as bonkers, hilarious and joyous as it sounds. 

How the Loony Dook began

Like all crazy ideas, it began in the shadow of a rather boozy Hogmanay. Friends and locals living in South Queensferry cooked up the idea of running into the sea as a cure for their dreaded New Year’s Day hangover. 

Did it cure the hangover? We’ll never know - but it was such a hit with the Dookers, they repeated it the following year. And thirty-plus years later it’s now a firm part of the New Year festivities.

A much loved Scottish tradition?

What started as a very small, in-friend joke in the mid 80s grew year on year. As each New Year rolled around, the number of loony dookers grew, as did the crowds who came to wish them well (or marvel at their lunacy).

By the mid late 90s the event was included in every roundup of New Year events and activities in Edinburgh and beyond and more and more people flocked to South Queensferry to take part. 

Loony Dook South Queensferry By Visit Scotland

Image by Visit Scotland

What to wear for the Loony Dook 

The event really is as madcap as it sounds. Before making the mad dash into the sea, Dookers turn up in wild and wonderful fancy dress costumes. Past Dookers have dressed up as Irn Bru cans, Donald Trump and even the Forth Rail Bridge! The more bonkers the idea, the better! The event begins with a fancy dress parade to the soundtrack of bagpipes, drumming, singing and more than a little pre-dook shivering! 

Making waves around Scotland

As the South Queensferry Loony Dook continues to grow, smaller Loony Dooks have popped up in seaside communities on both sides of the Firth, with numbers of Dookers and onlookers growing at Edinburgh’s Portobello beach.  

Find other ways to celebrate Hogmanay in Edinburgh this year >

If you do choose to have a Dook with friends, don’t spend too long in the water (a minute is plenty if it’s near freezing) or go too far from the shore. Have someone in your party stay on dry land, just in case, and bring a full change of warm clothes, a hot water bottle each and a hot drink to warm you up again afterwards.