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Là Bealltainn : Beltane Fire Festival

Beltane Festival april events scotland
Image by Beltane Festival Organization

Traveling around Scotland in late April? Have you heard about the Beltane Fire Festival? Come to Edinburgh and experience one of Scotland’s largest fire festivals. Immerse yourself in Scotland’s ancient Gaelic festival celebrations to mark the birth of summer. Watch the artful procession lit by torches of fire start at the heart of city and be lead by performers enchanting the crowds through the beat of their drums to join the festivities at Calton Hill.

What is the Beltane Fire Festival

Origins of Là Bealltainn

In Scottish Gaelic Là Bealltainn (or Beltane) is the ancient Gaelic May Day festival. Beltane is one of the most important of the four Gaelic pagan festivals that was widely celebrated throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. The Beltane began on the evening before first of May between the spring equinox and the summer solstice to mark the beginning of summer. During the festival rituals were performed to protect the cattle, crops and people of the tribe. To encourage growth bonfires were lit, homes decorated with May flowers and there is much feasting to bless the coming summer.

Image by Ellen Duffy

Modern Beltane

Fast forward and today the modern version of Beltane Fire Festival combines ancient Celtic traditions with a modern twist. One of the most famous of these is the Edinburgh Beltane Fire Festival. While still deeply influenced by the ancient Gaelic festival of Beltane. The Edinburgh version infuses art and cultural events; with myth from various world cultures and literary origins. On this night, many gather on Calton Hill to mark the change of the seasons through fire performances, elaborate costumes and visual storytelling.

image by Gordon Veitch for Beltane Fire Society

Experience the Fire

Excited about the event?! We are! Here are our suggestions how you can fully experience this spectacular event! If you want to be in Edinburgh for the Beltane Fire Festival, we highly recommend to secure accommodation ahead of time. The city gets super full so we recommend staying at one of our Macbackpackers hostels in the city centre. Castle Rock, High Street and the Royal Mile are all conveniently located near Calton Hill. Each has their own unique vibe so its easy to choose one that best suits your needs.

Now to attend the bonfire of the festival you must buy a ticket. These generally sell out so get your entry ticket now. If tickets do not sell out before the festival, a limited amount are sold from a ticket office on Carriage Drive. If you manage to secure a ticket, Calton Hill will be a spectacle!

What Happens at Beltane?

Fire sculptures and torches will lead you towards the huge bonfire on the hill top. There will be loud drumming, pyrotechnics and costumed performers in the crowd. The bonfire ceremony officially kicks off by lighting the sacred Neid fire using an ancient Beltane custom. From there the torchbearers carrying the Neid fire light remaining torches and sculptures to symbolize the unification of the community. It’s followed by the ritual of warding off harm. With the pinnacle of the celebrations moving towards the Fire Arch to represent the moment May Queen and the Green Man must give up a part of themselves to enter the human realm for rebirth. After a vivid performance the bonfire is lit to mark the birth of summer.

Image by Stefan Schafer for Beltane Fire Society

So come to Edinburgh, stay with us and celebrate the coming of the summer season in unique style!

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