Winter is a time of warmth and welcome in Scotland, but it can also be a time of fierce storms and unforgiving landscapes.

Fire festivals have been a part of the local culture for millennia, and many of the modern celebrations have their roots in Celtic and Viking times.

Here's our guide to Scotland's winter fire festivals.

Image: Unsplash / Ella Peebles

Samhuinn Fire Festival

Samhuinn fire festival

31st of October (Halloween) - Calton Hill, Edinburgh

Since 1995, this celebration has taken place every year at Halloween in the centre of Edinburgh. The story follows the overthrowing of Summer by Winter, with a dramatic stand-off between the Summer and Winter Kings overseen by the Cailleach.

This celebration of the Celtic new year is somewhere between outdoor theatre, an immersive experience and a good old-fashioned fire procession. Part of the experience is about the incredible atmosphere of the city at night and your unique view.

Comrie Flambeaux

Midnight on the 31st of December - Comrie, Perthshire

When the Hogmanay clock strikes midnight, the Flambeaux are lit. These torches made up of long birch poles with tarred rags bound tightly to the tops. They are paraded around the village accompanied by a pipe band and followed by a fancy-dress parade.

Prizes are presented for the best fancy-dress costumes and then the torches are cast into the River Earn to symbolise the purging of evil spirits.

Stonehaven Fireballs

From 10 PM on the 31st of December - Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire

As the midnight chimes ring out in Stonehaven, locals parade up and down the High Street swinging flaming balls around their heads. This tradition is at least 100 years old and is followed by a firework display and a massive party.

Make sure you arrive early - once the High Street fills up, the entrances are closed off. This normally happens before 11 pm, even though the main festivities don't start until midnight.

If you can't make it to Stonehaven, check out the webcam on the clock tower to give you a bird's eye view!

Burning of the Clavie

11th of January - Burghead, Moray

The Burning of the Clavie is a unique fire festival with an excellent backstory.

Back in the 1750s, the old Julian calendar was reformed and the Gregorian calendar was brought in, but the residents of Burghead have continued to celebrate the old Hogmanay on the 11th January. This is, of course, mainly an excuse to celebrate new year twice over...

The Clavie (a burning barrel full of staves), is paraded through the town and up to the top of the Doorie Hill on the ramparts of an ancient fort, where it will burn well into the next day when the still-smouldering embers are gathered. Possession of a piece of the Clavie is thought to bring good luck for the coming year.

Up Helly Aa

Up Helly Aa

Image: Ella Peebles

The last Tuesday in January - Lerwick, Shetland

Up Helly Aa festivals are held across Shetland between January and March each year to celebrate the end of the Yule season.

The main event is in Lerwick, the capital of Shetland, and involves a procession of up to a thousand guizers, all carrying flaming torches, presided over by a Jarl.

The grand finale involves setting fire to a replica Viking longship and singing the traditional song The Norseman's Home. Visitors could be forgiven for thinking they've been transported back in time to party with the Vikings!

Related Articles

Scotland in Winter
Scotland in Winter

The main tourist season in Scotland is the summer (roughly May to September), but winter is becoming more and more popular with visitors.Winter is a time of warmth and welcome …