What to Expect at Samhuinn

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. Samhuinn Fire Festival doesn’t happen in the same location every year so much of this information is specific to 2018’s festival. This page will be updated as appropriate to reflect any future change of venue.

You’ll find a link to timings and the location for the next festival in our essential info section.

Getting There

The event starts about 8pm 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 get a good spot on the Hill 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 the festival entrance at the foot of Calton Hill on Regent Road.

If you’re arriving by rail, Waverley station is the best place to get off the train. The festival’s entrance at the bottom of Calton Hill is a short walk away from the train station.

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 lasts 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.

Accessibility

Calton Hill involves a sloping ascent and the festival takes place in darkness with some areas becoming very crowded, so you may want to consider attending with a friend and arriving early to ensure your comfort. Care should be taken moving around the Hill, as the ground away from the paths is uneven and can get a bit slippery if it rains.

There will be loud noises, mostly from the 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 access[at]beltane[dot]org 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 little ones.

We are also hosting a Family Samhuinn event on the afternoon of Saturday 27th 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 about 8pm on top of Calton Hill. This is the first time that we have performed Samhuinn Fire Festival on the Hill in a number of years, which has given us a fantastic opportunity to play with the space and re-imagine how we perform the festival. We will update this section as the event starts to take shape over the coming weeks.

Some intrepid souls do try to follow the procession as it makes its way around the Hill, but things 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.

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.

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

About Samhuinn Fire Festival
Samhuinn 2017 Performance and Production Groups
Samhuinn 2017 Court (Cailleach, Summer King and Winter King)
Samhuinn 2017 Blues
Samhuinn 2017 Event Coordinator

The Samhuinn Fire Festival 2018 starts about 8pm on Wednesday 31st October on top of Calton Hill in Edinburgh, and will finish at roughly 11pm. If you have questions about the festival itself, please email festival[at]beltane[dot]org in advance. We look forward to celebrating with you!