Possibly one of the very few times grown men and women can dance around naked without being arrested. The Beltane Fire Festival takes place on Tuesday, 30th April on Calton Hill in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Image by: #bladerunner
The event celebrates the birth of summer and the death of spring by celebrating the light on what is considered to be the most magical nights of the year.
The Importance of Fire in the Festival
Fire plays a very big part in the festivities. This symbolizes rebirth and purity and all the relevant character perform spellbinding fire displays.
The Fire Festival is very much a part of the Celtic tradition and people are encouraged to celebrate as they wish.
It is the only festival of its kind, with the story of rebirth, death and the battle of the seasons being re-enacted with fire, drums, a procession and loads of pyrotechnics.
Oh, and did we mention no clothes? The gates open at 8 pm and throughout the event, audiences learn about the Beltane, they meet the characters and get be a part of the magical and mystic.
Much to Anticipate for
Visitors to this year’s festival have so much more to look forward to with it being the 33rd anniversary of Beltane Fire Society’s celebrations. We suggest maybe packing even fewer clothes than normal.
While a few revelers lose all inhibitions, and cloths, most dress up warmly, with a few extra layers. After all, it’s Scotland and it’s still cold.
About Beltane Fire Festival
While the events vary from year to year, it still follows the basic journey of the May Queen as she begins her journey to end winter and welcome summer.
She is accompanied by her White Women and gathering all the elements, from earth, air, fire, and water.
Image by: Stefan Schäfer
The procession of Beltane Fire Fesitval
The procession starts at the National Monument and travels anti-clockwise, around the path, meeting different groups of people along the way. Driven by the beat of drums, the parade is urged towards summer, led by the May Queen and the Green Man, not to be mistaken with the Green Giant.
It is a sensory overload as you come face to face with the many colorful characters that are all intrinsically linked to the festival.
As part of the tradition, the procession’s destination is either hindered or helped by the different groups they meet along the way.
Everything about the Beltane Fire Festival is over the top and theatrical.
Image by: Stefan Schäfer
From the dramatic stage performance that signifies the beginning of Summer with the May Queen and the Green Man lighting the bonfire.
Once the formalities and performances, then all the inhibitions get shed. The lines between performers, volunteers and audiences fade away and everyone celebrates the light and promise of summer.
How much are Beltane Fire Festival tickets?
£11 in advanced purchase (per adult)
£15 on April 30th (per adult, and if there are any tickets left)
£5.50 (for children between the ages 2-16)
Under 2 years old the entrance is for free
Beltane Fire Festival Tips
1○ Activities For Kids
There are also activities for children and teens that won’t expose them to the more sexual side of the celebrations.
storytelling, face painting, and arts and crafts. They begin a week earlier on April 23, at the Royal Mile, from 1:30-4:30 pm.
2○ Dress Properly
A word of advice:
While there are lots of burning fires and naked people, it’s still Scotland, which means the temperatures can be bitterly cold.
If you happen to be one of the naked revelers you might feel Jack Frost nipping at more than just your nose. If you prefer to celebrate with your clothes, we recommend wearing something that’s not flammable
So Why Beltane Fire Festival?
If you do happen to be in Scotland around this time, we strongly recommend you join in the festivities.
The event is on 30th April 2021 on Calton Hill. The gates open at 8 pm and the celebrations start at sundown.
It’s all in good fun and has become an important event on their calendar, with more than 12,000 attending.
It’s important to mention the revelry can go from fair to mild, to plain wild. That is why it’s up to parents’ discretion as to whether they would like to bring their children along.
Edinburgh is a cultural hub and there is so much to do, over and above the Beltane Fire Festival so be sure to set time aside for serious sightseeing.
Edinburgh Old Town
Take a walk through the Old Town and visit the Royal Mile, a stretch of road with turrets, kirks, closes, nooks and crannies.
There’s also the medieval fortress of Edinburgh Castle which has everything a castle should have, except no queues and no ropes to cordon you off. It’s also apparently the only place where Mary Queen of Scots ever felt safe.
Mary King’s Close
One of our favorite places to visit is Mary King’s Close. It’s a guided tour underground where a guide describes the horrors of life in Edinburgh during the plague.
Where to Stay
There are loads of places to stay in Edinburgh and booking.com has a wide variety to choose from.
One of our favorite spots is the new the Albany Ballantrae Hotel, situated in the heart of the city. It has recently been refurbished and the stylish rooms have WiFi, with private bathrooms.
The hotel successfully combines old-world charm with modern comforts. Close by is St. James shopping center and the famous Edinburgh Castle is a quick journey by car.
Budget Accommodation in Edinburgh
Travel is costly, and for a lot of people, it’s a luxury, so we feel it’s only fair to include accommodation to suit all budgets.
Malt House Apartments have been converted from a whisky-bond building. The self-catering apartments have a washing machine, oven, and a dishwasher, for a self-sufficient getaway.
Even better, sofa beds can be added for extra guests. There’s a supermarket close by as well pubs, restaurants and it’s nice and close to the nightlight area of George Street.
What To Eat
You’ll find all the myth and mystery of years gone by, but like any modern day festival you’ll also find stalls with loads of diverse arts and crafts, clothes for sale, music from all around the world, and a wide range of food and drink stalls, including the best soup in all of Scotland.
If the idea of Beltane Bannocks, Caudle and Haggis doesn’t appeal to you, you’re allowed to bring your own food and drink, as long as there’s no glass and no BBQs. Organizers of the festival ask that you respect the site and take home whatever you arrived with.
How to Get There
Getting to Edinburgh isn’t difficult at all. There are direct flights all the time, from the UK and overseas that fly to Edinburgh Airpport.
From there, getting to the city center is as easy as caber tossing, with an express bus service that runs every ten minutes to Waverley Bridge.
The trips is around 25 minutes, traffic dependant and the tickets are reasonably priced.
If you’re traveling by bus or coach, Edinburgh is located on the motorway network and it’s linked to the majority of UK cities and towns.
Edinburgh really is a great destination because it’s so easy to travel to. There are rail links and most trips are around four hours or less, depending on where you’re traveling from.
How to Get to Calton Hill
Calton Hill is one of Edinburgh’s main hills, and very hard to miss. It takes five minutes or so to get to the top, using a staircase in Regent Road. You can also drive and park at the top of the hill, and you’ll be pleased to know there is wheelchair access.
Who is Beltane?
The word Beltane alludes to the sun god Belenus. In days gone by the townpeople would mark the arrival of summer with rituals, feasts, and celebrations to honor fertility, sowing and harvesting of crop and the protection of animals from the many diseases.
Thr Ritual Celebration
The ritual was practiced in Ireland in the 19th century and today Scotland and Ireland still celebrate it. The festival sees thousands of people from all over the world coming together to celebrate.
The celebrations are no longer steeped in religion but they are put together in such a way to evoke the ancient traditions.
Today there is dancing around the rather phallic maypole, while some people use the special day as an way of helping those less fortunate, or those who might be suffering in some way.