What to Expect at Beltane

Beltane Fire Festival is presented as an immersive celebratory ritual/performance; set outdoors and with no physical curtains or barriers. We advertise a ‘doors open’ time along with an approximation of when the ritual performance will begin (when the sun goes down) and of course a set time for the public to leave Calton Hill too, but that is as much of a nod to traditional theatre/presentation as you’ll find.

There are very few barriers between the audience and performers which offers up opportunity for an immersive and sometimes interactive experience. It is one where you are likely to come face-to-face with one of our colourful characters, or can step back and marvel at the scale of a of production wrought in only two months by around three hundred volunteers. The presentation may leave you figuratively in the dark regarding what is being portrayed, but there is also a chance you may find yourself literally there too. One suggestion is to ‘head to the high ground and then follow the sound of drumming’.

Audience/Spectators/Witness/Ticket buyers, What are we!?

The origins of our modern Beltane celebrations were very much that of a free festival celebration of the start of summer. Where what our members were doing was of little concern to some of the revellers that crested the hill to join us in celebration. Since the early 2000s the relationship we have had with the public changed. There has been welcome changes in the law governing outdoor events which are to protect people’s safety, however this meant that the event became ticketed (in order to cover compliance costs) and the audience/attendees became ticket buyers and their expectations changed.

We invite you to Calton Hill, and ask that you forego any expectation of being spoon-fed entertainment as a passive audience member, but to join us in a collective celebration of the start of summer.

Watch the last dusk of winter and cheer as the May Queen emerges at twilight over the national monument, be effervescent with joy at the rebirth of the Green Man and once the Beltane Fire is burning high into the night’s sky, join us in our toast to nature, as we remember those who have gone before and look forward to what’s to come.

An account from one of our Photo point volunteers…
Andrea and I (we were photopoint buddies for the evening) were moving between two of our assigned locations (leaving Foxes at the Bower and joining the Reds at the top of the Charge Slope) and as we passed the Acropolis we could look down over the procession at Water Point and the sea of heads giving just a hint of the scale of what we were all involved with, and with the lights of the city echoing the lights of the Torchies it was just a bit of a magical moment. | Copyright Martin McCarthy for Beltane Fire Society.

If you haven’t experienced the Festival you’ll likely have deduced that there is no central point where everything is performed, rather there are multiple points of focus that are spread around the marvellous public parkland on Calton Hill. A large part of the story follows the Procession of the May Queen around the Hill, but there are also counter-performances and roaming groups which have evolved to bring balance to the darker parts of the park. (Again: follow the sound of the drums.) The Procession’s presence awakens one group after another, each then continuing to play a part throughout the evening; the Hill comes alive, mirroring the earth’s awakening through Spring.

In general we shy away from the use of actual staging as that presents an instant barrier between performance and witness. That’s not an exclusive rule however, as both of the major ‘set piece’ performances utilise staging to help balance their sheer scale. The first is during the spectacular opening sequence at the National Monument (known lovingly as The Acropolis) and the second during the penultimate event of the evening: The Death and Rebirth of the Green Man. In other words we attempt to match the tool to the job.

Finally, Beltane Fire Festival is a continuous performance lasting over three hours. Attendees have the opportunity to create their own breaks in which to step back and raise a toast to the onset of Summer.

practical information for those Coming to the event

Food & Drinks

You are welcome to bring your own food and drink to the event, and we only ask that you do not bring any glass bottles/containers. Also Security may refuse entry if you are bringing an excessive quantity of alcohol (e.g. a giant slab of lager).

We have a small range of food concessions run by local businesses and serving a selection of delectables to keep you going. There will be vegan options available.

Seating/Standing/Ground Conditions

We do not have any seating, but there are a few park benches dotted around the hill.

Attendees are welcome to bring camping chairs and picnic blankets, but please follow the instructions of the Stewards and Security, there are some areas which chairs/picnic blankets may not be appropriate at particular times in the evening. (full picnic and dining sets are not appropriate at this event. Please take your picnic equipment away with you.

The ground on Calton Hill is uneven and slopey (it is a hill). When its raining the grass becomes slippery

  • wear sensible shoes (good walking boots)
  • take your time moving around the site
  • bring a torch/flashlight
  • help others

For details of special access arrangements (including carer tickets and booking prearranged vehicle/taxi drop off to the top of the hill) please contact access [at] beltane [dot] org


We have a large number of portaloo toilets located on the hill (half way up) and we also have outdoor urinals (just next to the portaloos).

There is also a stewarded wheelchair accessible portaloo located in the welfare/first aid area on the flat paved area at the top of the hill.

Please use them considerately and leave them for the next person as you would wish to find them.

Do not urinate on trees/walls/bushes/doorways on the hill or in the city.


There will be additional waste bins on the hill for you to put in your waste. We have Dry Mixed recycling and general waste, and all waste is sorted, separated and and processed for recycling off site. Please help us minimize damage to the park by either binning your waste or taking it home with you.

Conditions of Entry:


  • Under 16s must be accompanied by an adult with a ticket
  • Parents and guardians please note – this event contains semi-nudity and uninhibited behaviour, your discretion is advised.
  • We will ask for the adults name and number at the box office, and children will be given a wristband to wear with your details on them.

Safer Spaces

  • Beltane Fire Society events operate within a culture of creating safer spaces built on mutual respect and consent. We expect all attendees to embrace this culture and to call out breaches – seek a steward if you see something which endangers our safer space.
  • BFS aims to provide a welcoming and celebratory atmosphere. Harassment of performers or other audience members will not be tolerated.

Being Around Fire at a Fire Festival

  • Help yourself by staying out of performance and production areas, which will be marked out with either ropes, barriers or fences with signs
  • The event does include a lot of fire, although there wont be any big fire works.
  • Follow the directions given by BFS Stewards and technical crew
  • Please avoid wearing synthetic clothes (but do wrap up for being on a hill in Scotland)
  • Please try to observe a 2 meter minimum distance from performers moving or performing with fire.
  • Familiarise yourself with where the medical assistance is (at the top car park).
  • Do not play with the fires, our volunteers have trained for months to be here this evening..

Use of Camera’s and Smart Phones

  • Flash photography can be very distracting for performers, we ask that you switch off the flash on your phone or camera.
  • Please do not hold your phone or camera in the faces of our participants, they are volunteers and do not enjoy close proximity interactions with phone and camera lenses.
  • Drone use is not permitted on site and the police will be called should a drone come into the airspace above the festival.
  • We would much prefer it if you kept your devices in your pockets and celebrated the festival with us with your hands free to clap and your eyes free to watch
  • Do not walk backwards holding a camera/camera phone, the ground is uneven and you wont be paying attention.

Prohibited items

We do not permit members of the public to bring or use the following items on our event site;

  • Large Bags/airport luggage please no bigger than an A3 piece of paper: we do not have a cloakroom/left luggage.
  • Glass
  • Drums
  • Loud instruments
  • Fire Props
  • BBQs, Fire Pits or Fire Wood
  • Flammable Liquids
  • Dogs (Except Guide Dogs)
  • Drones

Random Search Policy will be in effect; the event safety team reserve the right to refuse admission .

Featured image by Duncan Reddish for Beltane Fire Society. All rights reserved.