Samhuinn Audience Experience: Information to help you celebrate and enjoy

As much as the mystery of Samhuinn is part of what makes it unique and special, some things shouldn’t be mysterious. These things include getting to the festival, finding a suitable place to watch from and having the best evening possible with your friends and family. This post is filled with information to help you have a great celebration with us so feel free to share it with anyone you know who is coming to witness Samhuinn 2016.

Samhuinn 2014 Procession


Getting There

The event starts at 9pm so city centre on-street parking will all be off-meter in plenty of time for you to get parked somewhere close by (close by is basically anywhere in the Old Town, or parts of the New Town for a slightly longer walk) and head to wherever you want to be for the start of the festival. There are also some multi-storey car parks around Edinburgh city centre, but please check closing times and tariffs before choosing one to use. A taxi will be able to drop you off near just about any point on the processional route before the festival starts. If you’re arriving by rail, Waverley station is the best place to get off the train. Any bus that takes you into the centre of Edinburgh will get you pretty close to where you need to be.

If you have mobility considerations, especially in relation to making your way up hills, we recommend checking out transport and/or parking information online in advance so you can be sure to get to the festival in the safest, most comfortable way for you.

In Samhuinn’s two decade history, rain has not yet stopped play so even if a wet winter makes an early appearance the festival will still be happening. The procession and stage performance last for approximately two hours total and October nights are chilly even when they’re dry, so please wrap up warmly and consider bringing an extra layer or two!

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in the city for the night, Visit Scotland‘s accommodation section is very helpful. Please be aware that Beltane Fire Society does not advise on specific travel or accommodation options and we are not affiliated with any organisations that do.



The processional route down the Royal Mile is on a cobbled incline with kerbed pavements. West Parliament Square, where the stage performance will be taking place, is also cobbled and paved, and there are some bollards towards the road side of the space. There will be loud noises, mostly in the form of drumming, and some flashing lights in the form of pyrotechnics and flash photography. Some costumed performers will be mingling, in character, with our witnesses throughout the evening. The festival is stewarded and complies with all relevant health and safety requirements but please be aware that it takes place in the dark with a mobile audience of thousands.

Witnesses with mobility considerations often prefer to head straight to the stage area at the beginning to find a great place to watch from. Our friendly stewards will be on hand to help you get situated and give you any information you might need. Look out for the painted people in orange hi-vis jackets. For accessibility-related questions, please email in advance.


Families With Kids

Families with children are welcome at the Samhuinn Fire Festival at parental discretion. Please familiarise yourself with the Accessibility section above and How To Watch section below before deciding whether or not you feel the event will be appropriate and enjoyable for your litle ones. We are also hosting a Family Samhuinn event on the afternoon of Saturday 29th October which is specially created and run for the younger members of our community and their grown-ups.


How To Watch

The procession itself will begin at 9pm at the top end of the Royal Mile near Edinburgh Castle and will then head down the Mile to West Parliament Square for the main stage performance. The whole route tends to get quite busy, so it’s up to you what you want to see most. If you find a good spot on the Royal Mile, you’ll get to see the whole procession as it passes by. If you’d rather see the stage performance, heading to West Parliament Square to get a place to stand with a good view will mean missing some of the procession but being able to see what happens on stage.

Some intrepid souls do try to follow the procession and then make their way into the Square, but things do tend to get really crowded so while that’s an adventurous option, it may mean being on the move a lot and not getting to see a huge amount. If you’re there for action and atmosphere and don’t mind losing a bit of the visual aspect, that can be really exciting. If you’d rather see more in one go without rushing about, being stationary may work better for you.

No matter where you stand or walk, you’ll definitely hear a lot of drums and see something fiery though. People who happen to be in pubs along the route tend to pour out the doors to see what’s going on, so if you do want to be somewhere on the Mile to see the procession go past, finding somewhere to stand that isn’t directly outside a pub is probably a good idea.

As with Beltane Fire Festival, it is highly unlikely that anyone will ever see every single part of the event. This is not a sit-down show. It is investigative outdoor theatre, an immersive experience in motion, and part of that experience is about the atmosphere of the city at night, the crowds of people celebrating together and your unique view, which will always be a little different from someone else’s.


Taking Pictures

Our witnesses are welcome to take pictures and video at Samhuinn but it is essential that your safety, and that of our performers, is prioritised. This means that audience members with cameras are treated in exactly the same way as audience members without cameras, do not get special access, should not attempt to enter performance spaces (including the procession) and should adhere to advice from our event stewards who are there to help everyone have a safe and happy night.

Our performers will be in character throughout the festival so while some may choose to interact with your and your camera in a manner befitting their performance, many will not. Please respect this and do not try to force performers to behave or react in a certain way so you can shoot a photo or video of them.


Making Donations

Samhuinn is not a ticketed event, it happens in a public place and there is no entrance fee. The festival, like everything else we do including year-round operation of our volunteer-run charity, is primarily funded by ticket sales from Beltane accompanied by donations at our busks and at Samhuinn. We literally couldn’t do what we do without your support, so on Samhuinn night our costumed bucketeers will be making their way through the audience so those of you who wish to make a donation in person can do so. If you don’t encounter a bucketeer (there are lots more of you than there are of them!) or would prefer to make a donation in advance, you can do so securely through PayPal.

Although not Samhuinn-specific, you can find lots of information about what your support enables us, as an organisation, to do in Why Beltane couldn’t happen without your ticket fee (or Why our audience are the best people ever).


Our People, Our City and You

We request that you treat BFS performers and production crew, as well as your fellow audience members and the festival site, with respect and consideration so that we can share our celebration together safely and happily. We are proud to be part of the year-round festival landscape of Edinburgh, keeping our incredible event in the heart of the city, but we do not want to negatively impact our environment or the residents and businesses who are kind enough to welcome us. Please help us by respecting each other and your surroundings.


More Information About Samhuinn 2016

About Samhuinn Fire Festival
Samhuinn 2016 Performance and Production Groups
Samhuinn 2016 Court (Cailleach, Summer King and Winter King)
Samhuinn 2016 Blues
Samhuinn 2016 Event Coordinator
The Samhuinn Fire Festival 2016 is at 9pm on Monday 31st October on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Find out all about it here. If you have questions about the festival itself, please email in advance. We look forward to celebrating with you!


Photo of Samhuinn 2014 by Mark Taylor

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