Beltane Fire Society

What to expect at Samhuinn 2017

Copyright Martin McCarthy for Beltane Fire Society. All Rights Reserved. /

You might have caught us parading in our black cloaks down the Royal Mile yesterday, or heard a crescendo of drums coming from the Tollcross Community Centre. With two days to go until Samhuinn Fire Festival, our volunteers came together for the two final walkthroughs. The energy was high and the performances look amazing – we can’t wait to show them off to you on Tuesday.

But first, we have some tips and vital information to share that will help you make the most of your evening. If you’re wondering when to arrive, what to expect, and how to get a good view, we’ve got you covered.

Where/when is it?

The festival takes place on 31st October from about 9PM to 11PM on the Royal Mile. Please note that we are NOT on Calton Hill (where Beltane Fire Festival takes place in April).

The procession starts at the top of the Royal Mile at the Castle Esplanade, and then makes its way down the road to a stage outside the Edinburgh Festival Fringe office. If you have been to the festival before, you will notice that our stage has moved from its usual location on West Parliament Square.

What can I expect to see?

Our performers are notorious for putting on elaborate displays, and this year is no exception. We’ll be retelling the traditional story of the battle between the Summer King and Winter King with drumming, physical theatre, song, and a whole lot of fire. You’ll see human pyramids, body paint, dance, fireplay, and a grand final battle performed by different groups, who each represent a different aspect of the changing seasons.

If you want to know more about the characters in the festival, we’ve created some pages and posts about some of the different people involved. Read more by choosing from the list below:

How do I get a good view?

The Royal Mile gets quite crowded on the night, so it can be hard to follow the procession. We recommend finding a good spot and letting our volunteers come to you. You might not be able to see everything over the crowd, but groups will be pausing to perform along the road so there are plenty of opportunities to get a good look at the action.

How much does it cost?

Attendance is unticketed and by donation. If you would like to make a donation on the night, keep a look out for our friendly Bucketeers who will be moving through the crowd in costume. You can also donate online to our Paypal if you prefer. Our society is completely run by volunteers, and so anything that you can spare helps us keep on bringing our unique festivals to Edinburgh every year.

Is it accessible?

The processional route down the Royal Mile is on a cobbled incline with kerbed pavements.

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.

BFS cannot advise on parking or accommodation in, or travel to or within, Edinburgh.

For accessibility-related questions, please email in advance.

Where can I hear more about it?

We have an incredibly hardworking team of photographers who will be capturing the night, and we’ll upload some of their photos to Facebook in the wee hours of the morning. Hundreds of photos will then be added to social media over the next couple of weeks, so you can keep reliving the Celtic New Year for days afterwards.

We’ll be sharing photos on the night using the hashtag #samhuinn2017, and you can join in too to send us your own pictures and videos. Tag @beltanefs on Twitter or @beltanefiresociety on Instagram to let us know that you were at the festival.

You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more updates and head to this page to read more essential information about the festival.

Photo copyright Martin McCarthy for Beltane Fire Society.