Your complete guide to one of Scotland’s strangest traditions…
Scotland has a lot of New Year traditions. First footing. Eating black bun. Belting out Auld Lang Syne at the top of our lungs. However, one of the Scottish traditions that you may not have heard of is what I’m going to talk about today, and that’s the loony dook.
What is the loony dook?
The loony dook is an annual tradition in Scotland that takes place on New Year’s Day. People come together at Scotland’s beaches to jump into the icy cold water together.
When is the loony dook?
The loony dook is held on the 1st of January each year.
What does the loony dook mean?
You may be reading this thinking, OK, all very well and good, but what does the phrase ‘loony dook’ actually mean? Well, here is the literal translation below:
‘Loony’ Scottish meaning: loony is short for lunatic
‘Dook’ Scottish meaning: dook means dip in Scotland
Why is the loony dook celebrated?
The origins of the loony dook are pretty interesting. The first-ever loony dook took place in 1986 in South Queensferry. It came about following a jokey conversation about hangover cures between three friends. They decided to go for a dip in the sea and the following year they did the same again – although this time it was to raise money for charity.
It’s continued ever since, growing bigger over the years to become the loony dook we all know. This is why North Queensferry is the OG loony dook. But the rest are still great!
When did the loony dook start?
It started in 1986 so it’s been going strong for over 35 years now!
Where to do the loony dook?
There are a number of places where you can do the loony dook. The original loony dook is in South Queensferry. I’ve never been to this one but the pictures are usually all over the press the next day – it looks amazing with the stunning Forth Rail Bridge in the background.
However, there are events in multiple locations around the country. In my neck of the woods in Fife, there’s usually one in Kinghorn. I did the loony dook in Kirkcaldy.
What time does it start?
It varies. The one I did in Kirkcaldy kicks off at 12 noon and the one in South Queensferry reportedly starts at 12.15 pm. The best answer is to double-check the starting time for whichever loony dook you’re at – you don’t want to miss anything!
Why do the dook?
You might be thinking: erm, why would you ever want to do the loony dook?
Well, I’ve thought about doing it for years, but there’s never been a good time. There was always a big New Year’s party the night before which made the prospect of getting up at a reasonable hour to throw yourself in the sea not that appealing.
However, I distinctly remember reading about it during the dark days of 2020 when everything was cancelled and vowing to myself that I would do it when everything opened up again. Despite the fact that a few of the loony dook events around Scotland were still cancelled this year, I made it to the dook in my hometown of Kirkcaldy.
This is a run-down of my experience and what you can expect from the loony dook!
What do you need for the loony dook?
OK, so what should you bring when you’re doing the dook? Here is my run-through of the essential items you should wear or pack – and a few extra ones, too!
- Swimming costume
- Beach shoes or old trainers
- Fancy dress costume
- Waterproof phone holder
That final one was an excellent tip that came courtesy of my sister. We had holders that went over your head so we were able to charge into the sea and then take all of those magical in-the-moment photos that really captured the moment.
I think we were all a bit hysterical from the shock of the cold water – you can definitely see that in our ridiculous grins! We wouldn’t have captured those without the phone holders.
My final-final tip is to have someone to drive you home. Luckily we were only a two-minute drive from my parent’s house so we were able to rush home quickly after the dook to jump in the shower and get warm. A hot shower has never felt so good, trust me!
Do you have to pay to do it?
This is another one where the answer is: it depends.
Kirkcaldy Loony Dook
The Kirkcaldy event is held to raise money for the local rugby club. You don’t have to pay a specified fee to do it. You can either collect sponsorship money or drop cash into the buckets that members of the club are carrying around during the event, which is what I did.
Kinghorn Loony Dook
The Kinghorn event runs is a similar operation to the Kirkcaldy dook. You can either raise sponsorship money or donate on the day. All funds raised go to the RNLI.
South Queensferry Loony Dook
This loony dook is on a larger scale than the other local dooks in Fife. For this reason, it’s more of an organised event with an external events company (Underbelly) coordinating it. For all of these reasons there’s a ticket price, which is £12.50. More information here.
The Loony Dook, Kirkcaldy
What was my experience like?
Honestly, it was so much fun. I was so delighted that it was happening after some of the other cancellations. I wasn’t actually hungover from Hogmanay but it was a great thing to do to blow away the cobwebs. There’s nothing a blast of icy cold water to help you reset!
What did we dress up as?
The theme in Kirkcaldy was Disney characters. I wanted to do something that was fairly low-key and affordable. Actually, that’s a lie. My initial idea was to go as Maleficent as that’s because I wanted to have the amazing horns and a cloak. However, the whole thing would’ve been pretty expensive so I decided to leave that for Halloween.
As you’ll have seen from the pictures throughout this post, we both went as Minnie Mouse. It was a fairly cheap and simple costume – all we needed to buy wear the mouse ears and a polka dot tutu from Amazon. I don’t think it cost more than a fiver in total.
Who was there?
I did the dook with my twin sister and my boyfriend. The dream team!
My parents came down to watch along with my uncle. It was great to have someone extra there because it meant that we could leave our bags with them while we were in the sea.
My friend was also supposed to come and watch but drove to the wrong event by mistake – for some reason he just didn’t realise it was all happening in Kirkcaldy and drove to South Queensferry!
What was the temperature of the water like?
Well, we actually lucked out with the weather. It was a balmy 11°C or so on the day that we did the loony dook. It actually felt warm outside – there was no breeze and the sun even came out for a bit, which is why I included sunglasses on my list of essential items.
While the water was cold it certainly didn’t feel as bad to me as I expected. In fact, it was quite refreshing. We lucked out so much! I’ve had this with music festivals where it’s been such gorgeous weather that I haven’t wanted to go again because you can never be that lucky twice, right?
However, I think I probably will push my luck again and do it again.
Would I recommend it?
I absolutely would recommend it. In fact, I can’t wait to do it again next year!
Like this post? You may also like this post on things to do in Kirkcaldy