Britain welcomes the New Year with fireworks on the London Eye

Fireworks explode around the London Eye wheel to mark the beginning of the New Year in London, Britain on Jan 1, 2016.
Fireworks explode around the London Eye wheel to mark the beginning of the New Year in London, Britain on Jan 1, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS
Fireworks exploding around the London Eye wheel, Big Ben clocktower and the Houses of Parliament to mark the beginning of the New Year in London, Britain, on Jan 1, 2016.
Fireworks exploding around the London Eye wheel, Big Ben clocktower and the Houses of Parliament to mark the beginning of the New Year in London, Britain, on Jan 1, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - Britain welcomed in 2016 on Friday (Jan 1) with giant fireworks shows in London and Edinburgh as hundreds of thousands of revellers hit the streets to see in the New Year.

Some 12,000 fireworks filled the clear night sky in London, watched by 113,000 ticket-holders lining the banks of the River Thames and thousands of others craning for a view from vantage points around the city.

As Big Ben in the Houses of Parliament's clock tower chimed in the New Year, fireworks exploded around the London Eye ferris wheel on the opposite side of the River Thames.

That kicked off an 11-minute salvo set to music from the likes of David Bowie and Lenny Kravitz.

The smoke from the fireworks drifted downstream, engulfing landmarks like Tower Bridge, Saint Paul's Cathedral, and The Shard, Western Europe's tallest tower.

Boats on the river honked their horns and smaller, back garden fireworks parties could be seen all across the city.

On the main BBC television channel, the fireworks show was bracketed by a live concert from Canadian rocker Bryan Adams, watched by millions at home.

Meanwhile in Edinburgh, 75,000 people saw in the New Year at the Scottish capital's Hogmanay street party, which draws revellers from around the world.

Fireworks lit up the skies at midnight over Edinburgh Castle, with rock bands like Biffy Clyro, Maximo Park and Idlewild entertaining the crowds, the culmination of three days of partying.

"This is a unique atmosphere and we like to say we invented not just Hogmanay but New Year celebrations," said Edinburgh Hogmanay director Pete Irvine.

"We have 'Auld Lang Syne', we have pipe bands, loads of people in kilts and fancy dress.

"It's the Scots at their friendliest and we are amazingly good company - so this is the right place to be."

British astronaut Tim Peake also sent a message to Britain from the International Space Station (ISS).

The ISS works on GMT, meaning New Year is celebrated at the same time as Britain.

"I'd like to wish everybody on our beautiful planet Earth a very fun New Year's Eve and a happy, healthy 2016. Happy New Year!" he said in front of a British flag, before spinning over backwards.

In his New Year message, Prime Minister David Cameron said 2016 could be a "game-changer" for Britain.

"It's a New Year, and Britain begins it with renewed strength," he said.

Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby urged people to welcome in the "poor and weak", citing the plight of refugees.

"Hospitality and love are our most formidable weapons against hatred and extremism," the leader of the world's Anglicans said in his New Year message.