If you happen to be in Stonehaven’s High Street on December 31, you might witness a scene right out of a fairytale. A marching band of pipers and drummers, men and women swinging great balls of fire suspended by chains and a crowd of more than ten thousand spectators eager to watch the show are just some of the things you might witness. This event is called ‘The Stonehaven Fireballs’ and is the most spectacular Hogmanay fire festival in Scotland.
What Can You Expect to See?
At 10 pm, the crowd starts gathering along the High Street, looking for a good spot to watch the festivities from. The events and street entertainment start at around 11 pm, with the marching bands of pipers and drummers beginning their march at the opposite ends of the street.
At midnight, the main event starts when 40 to 60 fireball walkers led by a lone piper begin their march down the street and toward the harbour, swinging the fireballs over their heads and sending the sparks into the crowd. The event lasts anywhere from 20 minutes to a full hour and, when the marchers get tired, they throw the fireballs into the sea. When the last one gets extinguished, a fireworks display begins.
Other Things You Should Know About
Admission is free and, although the festival begins at 11 pm, spectators are advised not to arrive at the last moment since the access to the High Street is closed when it reaches the full spectator capacity. If you arrive by car, make sure to get to Stonehaven even earlier, since parking might become a problem later on.
Train and bus services do not run until 6:30 am, so if you intend to get accommodation in Stonehaven, book your room on time. Have in mind that prices increase four or five times on the New Year’s eve.
Although the safety during the festival is at an admirable level, make sure to wear older clothes over your party clothes if you plan on getting close to fireball swingers, since sparks do fly.
So, How Did It All Begin?
First of all, let’s talk about Hogmanay. Hogmanay is the Scottish New Year’s celebration festival that lasts three to five days and involves a lot of ancient traditions. It gained importance after the ban on Christmas in the 16th and 17th century.
There are a few different interpretations of the meaning of fireballs, but the most common one is that they are meant to cleanse the world by destroying evil and keeping evil spirits and witches away. In the end, fireballs are thrown into the sea, and this act represents letting go of the past worries, problems and other bad things that happened during the past year and going into the new year with a fresh start.
What If You Cannot Travel to Stonehaven?
Don’t worry, the clever men and women organizing the event mounted a camera on the Stonehaven clocktower so you can view the entire event online, from the comfort of your own home. The bird’s eye view of the festival covers the entirety of High Street, and the live feed lets you follow the event in real time.
Let’s face it though, nothing can ever beat the live experience and the memories you get from attending the festival, so if you are a type of person who has a bucket list, The Stonehaven Fireballs is a worthy addition to it.