The ancient Gaelic festival of Beltane has been bought back to life in Scotland’s festival capital of Edinburgh where each year, a fire-filled dramatic performance delights thousands at the Beltane Fire Festival. As the performers navigate Edinburgh’s Calton Hill, they are driven by the beat of drums as they celebrate their Gaelic roots through reenacting tales of yesteryear and swinging big balls of fire about on ropes. Whether ye hail from Edinburgh or Adelaide, and identify as a borderline pyromaniac or not, a trip to the Beltane Fire Festival will have you celebrating alongside the locals in true Scots style.

Hot in herre!

Beltane Fire Festival is theatre set outdoors with no boundaries. The event begins with a procession that starts at the National Monument at Calton Hill. The May Queen and Green Man lead the procession and are followed by characters linked to them in ancient Gaelic history and tales. Drums beats are said to urge the procession towards summer and the use of fire is said to warn off harm. After the procession, a giant bonfire is lit and red-and-white painted performers congregate to perform at a place called the Bower. The demonstration by some 300 people attracts thousands of watchers from all over the world, who then join in on the dancing and fun. 

The modern-day version of Beltane was started in 1988 by a small group of enthusiasts who were keen to bring the festival back to life. Traditionally, Beltane was one of four Gaelic seasonal festivals and was held on April 30 to mark the beginning of the summer on May 1 or May Day. Back then, fire rituals were used around this time to protect people and their animals from everyday and supernatural harm. Today, the festival is more of a reenactment and usually lasts for around three hours before everyone heads to local bars and pubs to carry on the celebrations. If you’re planning a trip to Edinburgh, Student Flights can help tailor your itinerary to make sure you’re front and centre for Beltane Fire Festival – ask us how today.


When is it?

30th April 2015
30th April 2016

Tips and tricks

  • The popularity of Beltane Fire Festival continues to rise and the event is ticketed.

  • There are plenty of accommodation and transfer options to the festival if you plan in advance. Student Flights can help you get a great deal or package.

  • There’s no set time for the festival to begin other than ‘when the sun goes down’.

  • Unless you’re with the procession, Calton Hill can get very dark. Navigate your way by heading to the high ground and following the sound of the drums.

  • There’s no central point where everything is performed, but as the procession proceeds they awake other groups along the way. Keep your eyes peeled!

  • Beltane Fire Festival is three hours of fun with no breaks and limited light, so BYO drinks and snacks. And a torch in case you get lost!

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