As the clock strikes midnight and the fireworks light up the sky over Edinburgh Castle this Hogmanay, it is not only the beginning of another New Year, it is also the beginning of Scotland’s Year of Homecoming, a celebration of what makes Scotland great.
Since the first year of Homecoming in 2009, which was an overwhelming success, there have been four themed years: Food and Drink, Natural, Creative and Active. Homecoming Scotland 2014 will celebrate each of those themes, with an additional focus on the theme of ancestry.
"Homecoming Scotland 2014 is a fantastic opportunity for us to celebrate everything that is great about our country and put a spotlight on our best assets and icons," explains Director of Homecoming Scotland 2014, Caroline Packman. "It's a chance for locals to celebrate their home and for those with links to Scotland, it is a chance for them to explore their heritage."
"Homecoming Scotland 2014 is a fantastic opportunity for us to celebrate everything that is great about our country and put a spotlight on our best assets and icons."
Alongside the 40th Ryder Cup and the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, there will be an eclectic mix of both new and established events as part of Homecoming Scotland 2014. First time events include the John Muir Festival across central Scotland, the Forth Bridges Festival and the Findhorn Bay Arts Festival in Moray. Many existing events, including Hogmanay, the Edinburgh Festivals and the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, will add new and exciting Homecoming additions to their planned programmes for 2014. The events will have tangible benefits, expected to generate an additional £44 million for the economy and bring an extra 70,000 visitors to the country.
"We have such a strong programme with hundreds of events happening in all corners of the country," says Caroline. "We want to encourage people to go out-and-about and enjoy what is on their doorstep. Homecoming is also about welcoming visitors from across the world to see what our country has to offer. The celebrations are also about developing Scotland’s events portfolio, not only for 2014, but for the future, to create a legacy for Scotland."
The 40th Ryder Cup returns to Scotland, the home of golf
In September, the countdown to the 40th Ryder Cup at Gleneagles began in earnest. Along with golfing royalty, politicians and celebrity ambassadors, the Ryder Cup made a very special journey on a specially commissioned steam train from Edinburgh’s Waverley station to Gleneagles, the birthplace of the competition.
Scotland boasts a rich golfing heritage: the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers is credited with being the first to establish the official rules of the game in 1744 in Leith. And it was at Gleneagles that the Ryder Cup, the most prestigious team event in the golfing calendar, came into being when American and British teams competed in an international challenge match in 1921. It planted the seed of a great idea and the first official Ryder Cup was played six years later.
From 23-28 September, captains Paul McGinley and Tom Watson will lead their teams in what is already shaping up to be a fiercely fought and memorable competition. After success in 2012, Team Europe is looking to retain the title for a third successive win. Surprisingly, 2014 will only be the second time the competition has been played in Scotland.
To celebrate the beginning of the tournament a spectacular concert featuring a star-studded line-up of musicians from both sides of the pond will be held in Glasgow at the Hydro. Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti is one star who is rumoured to be part of the entertainment.
"Next year is going to be an amazing year for sport in Scotland, culminating with the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles. As a resort, we have been preparing and planning for this event for many years – in fact, we first talked about staging a bid in 1989 – so it’s gratifying and hugely exciting that it’s now just months away. We’re looking forward to welcoming the world, and showcasing the very best of Scottish hospitality."Gleneagles' Chairman
Watch sporting history unfold at the XX Commonwealth Games
All eyes will be on Edinburgh’s neighbour, Glasgow, next summer as it prepares to host one of the world’s most exciting sporting events for the first time. Edinburgh has hosted the Games twice before (in 1970 and 1986) and it is now Glasgow’s turn for a spot in the limelight.
From 23 July to 3 August, the XX Commonwealth Games will see 4,500 athletes going for gold in 17 sports across 14 venues, which include the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome, a fitting tribute to Britain’s most successful Olympian, and the custom built Emirates Arena, which will be the setting for the badminton competition.
Stars from the London 2012 Olympics, including track and field athlete Jessica Ennis-Hill, long-distance runner Mo Farah and long-jumper Greg Rutherford, are expected to appear at the Games. Usain Bolt, who has never previously participated in a Commonwealth Games, has also said he may travel to Glasgow to compete.
Scotland's medal hopes rest firmly on the very capable shoulders of the country’s swimmers. Hannah Miley will be defending her 400m Commonwealth title and Robbie Renwick will defend his 200m freestyle gold medal, which he won at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
The Queen's Baton, which is currently travelling across 70 nations and territories within the Commonwealth, will arrive in Edinburgh next June before touring the rest of the home nation. It arrives in Glasgow for the Opening Ceremony on 23 July at Celtic Park, which will officially kick-start 11 days of elite sport.
And the best of the rest… a year of anniversaries to celebrate
John Muir is regarded by many as the father of modern conservation. As the founder of America’s national parks and the Sierra Club, he is also a Scot who was hugely influential globally. From 17 to 26 April, the John Muir Festival will celebrate the life of this extraordinary man with artist-led events and large-scale public performances along the John Muir Way. A new pathway from Dunbar in the East to Helensburgh in the West will be officially opened during the Festival, which also coincides with the 100th anniversary of John Muir’s death.
Opened in 1890 and 1964 respectively, to this day the Forth Rail Bridge and the Forth Road Bridge remain remarkable feats of engineering. This new festival honours two of Scotland’s most iconic landmarks as the Forth Road Bridge celebrates its 50th birthday. The Festival also recognises the impact the Forth Bridges has had on the communities of North and South Queensferry, which lie on either side of the bridges. Running from 04 to 13 September, the festival is expected to bring over 10,000 people to the area. Visitors can enjoy a flotilla, in which the Firth of Forth will become awash with boats of all shapes and sizes, they can also participate in a world record attempt for the biggest sixties-themed outdoor lunch and they can attend a torch-light procession over the Bridge.
2014 marks 700 years since the Battle of Bannockburn. Billed as 'A feast of food, music and history', Bannockburn Live, a three-day event from 28-30 June, will commemorate Scotland’s most legendary battle and bring the events and people of the past to life. Alongside the biggest ever re-enactment of the battle, an array of themed villages will showcase the sights, sounds and atmosphere of medieval and modern Scotland.
For a full list of events, please go to VisitScotland’s website at www.homecomingscotland.com