Scotland's annual "Loony Dook"


Scotland's annual "Loony Dook"

The Loony Dook is an annual event held on New Years' Day in which people dive into the freezing waters of the Firth of Forth at South Queensferry (north of Edinburgh), often in fancy dress. It has spawned some other equally mad festive swims elsewhere,

The name "Loony Dook" is a combination of "Loony" (short for "lunatic") and "Dook", a Scottish version of "dip" or "bathe".

On New Year's Day, usually in the morning (but times vary according to tides), around 1,000 Dookers first take part in the so-called Dookers' Fancy Dress Parade. Over 4,000 spectators cheer on the participants at various vantage points.

The Dookers are then greeted by bagpipe pipers and warmed with bowls of "energising porridge", prior to plunging themselves into the freezing Firth of Forth.

The event was conceived in 1986 as a joking suggestion by three locals for a New Year's Day hangover cure. The following year it was decided to repeat the event for charity.

After a few years of only local significance, the event gradually grew in the 1990s, both in popularity and number of participants. The growth accelerated after the event was started to be mentioned in the official Edinburgh Hogmanay publicity material and got a boost when the Millennium edition was broadcast live by the BBC.

Originally organised by locals and starting from the Moorings pub (now the Inchcolm), factors such as increased crowds, safety issues and popularity necessitated a different handling. As a consequence, the events 2009 onwards were professionally handled by event managers Unique Events.

 Being the organisers of the Edinburgh Hogmanay Festival, they included the Loony Dook into the latter from 2011. In the same year a registration fee was introduced to cover the cost of organisation and stewarding. The fee of originally £6 was raised to £10 in 2016. This went up to £12 in 2020, attracting criticism from the event's founders, who described it as a "damned disgrace".

The proceeds benefit RNLI Queensferry and local charities.

Up to 2016, three of the original Dookers, James MacKenzie, Keith 'Rambo' Armstrong and Kenny Ross, have the distinction of taking part in every Loony Dook.

The Loony Dook appears now to have become a victim of officaldom and over-organisation, and has been cancelled for the 2023 New Year. It lives on as inspiration for other New Year's day Loony Dooks, however, such as in North Berwick, Dunbar in East Lothian, Portobello in Edinburgh, Kirkcaldy in Fife and Coldingham Sands in Berwickshire. 

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