It’s time for us to wrap up warm and take to the streets to fight the darkness with spectacular winter fire festivals in Scotland! Flickering flames are fascinating when they dance in the dark, perhaps because they have the ability to both support life through their warmth, but also the power to devastate it. Whatever the draw, Scotland has a long history of brightening dark winter nights with great displays of fire, and the season approaches with much excitement.
In addition to spectacular events from Shetland down to the Scottish Borders, these magnificent fire festivals are a fantastic way to end the Year of Young People 2018.
See below to find out what’s burning, and when:
1. Samhuinn Fire Festival
Calton Hill, Edinburgh
31 October 2018, 8pm
Edinburgh will celebrate the Celtic New Year on Halloween with Samhuinn (Beltane’s sister event), welcoming the onset of winter with dramatic outdoor theatre and a rousing procession of fire-dancing, acrobatics, drumming and immersive performances, as volunteers act out the battles between the seasons.
2. Comrie Flambeaux
31 December 2018, midnight
When the clock strikes midnight, the villagers of Comrie set alight the Flambeaux – long thin birch tree poles wrapped in hessian and soaked in flammable liquid. They parade around the village fending of evil spirits. Come early so you can get a good view of this atmospheric spectacle, which is accompanied by pipe bands and a fancy dress parade. Keep an eye on Comrie’s website for more details about the 2018 event.
3. Stonehaven Fireballs
31 December 2018, arrive from 10pm
Bringing in the New Year with flames from the old, Stonehaven Fireballs Ceremony is a rather unique occasion which has been held for at least 100 years. Just before the bells toll at midnight the pipe band heralds in the procession, who walk down the street swinging great balls of fire above their heads in a hot display of bravery. Followed by a firework display and much jubilation, there is also entertainment before the parade from 11pm. Be warned – this is a popular free event, so make sure to arrive early for the ideal viewing points!
4. Biggar Bonfire
Biggar, South Lanarkshire
31 December 2018, 9.30pm
Biggar is already preparing for what promises to be one huge fiery celebration – the annual Biggar Bonfire. The wood is beginning to pile up and will be lit at 9.30pm on New Year’s Eve, creating an immense, warming welcome to 2019.
5. Burning of the Clavie
Burghead, Moray, The Highlands
11 January 2019
Back in the 1750s, the old Julian calendar was reformed and the Gregorian calendar was brought in, but the residents of Burghead have continued to celebrate the ‘old Hogmanay’ on the 11th January to this very day with the Burning of the Clavie. The clavie, traditionally a wooden barrel filled with staves, is paraded through the town and up to the top of a local hill where it will burn well in to the next day.
6. Up Helly Aa
29 January 2019, 7:30pm
What could be better to end the season than with Europe’s largest fire festival? Every year the historic event of Up Helly Aa takes place on the last Tuesday in January and attracts visitors from both near and far and marks the end of Yuletide. Join the thousand-strong torchlight procession, which ends with the iconic burning of a replica Viking Longship.
Dates and times are subject to change.