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Take the train … to Edinburgh for Beltane

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Head to Edinburgh by train on 30 April 2012 and celebrate spring at the spectacular Beltane Fire Festival.

Read on to find out more about how this traditional pagan event was revived in the Scottish capital. And don’t forget to check our journey planner for cheap train tickets before you travel – the savings you could make are sure to put a spring in your step.

The Beltane Fire Festival is a must-see event for anyone heading to Edinburgh at the end of April. And, as 2012 marks the 25th anniversary of the Scottish capital’s revival of this ancient tradition, this year’s celebrations are likely to be bigger and better than ever.

Origins of the Edinburgh Beltane Fire Festival

Beltane was a pre-Christian Irish and Gaelic festival celebrating spring, fertility and the land, one of eight festivals in the pagan year. Essentially, Beltane is the Celtic version of May Day, although it is believed that the celebrations would have taken place on the first full moon after May 1, rather than on a fixed date.

The most important aspect of the Beltane Festival was the ceremonial lighting of bonfires. All the fires in the country would be extinguished and the leader of each hamlet would light a sacred fire, known as the need-fire, or neid fire. This would then be used to light one or two additional bonfires.

The smoke and flames from these fires were believed to have purification powers and to be able to protect the land from evil forces. They were also believed to be able to prevent disease, particularly in cattle, so in many areas, the cattle would be driven between two bonfires in order to ensure their safety during the forthcoming year.

A number of folkloric figures, including the Green Man, the May Queen and the May King are also associated with pagan May Day celebrations, and feature in the current Edinburgh Beltane Fire Festival celebrations.

The event was revived in 1987 and, the following year, it was moved from its initial location to Calton Hill, in the centre of Edinburgh, where it still takes place today. Organised by the Beltane Fire Society, the Beltane Fire Festival attracts thousands of people to the city each year.

Highlights of the 2012 Beltane Fire Festival

Take the train to Edinburgh for the 2012 Beltane Fire Festival and you’ll be able to enjoy this stunning event for yourself.

Gates open at 8.00 p.m. and the action starts half an hour later, so make sure you get there on time, so you don’t miss anything.

Event highlights include:

• The lighting of the Neid Fire and the birth of the May Queen at 9.15 – 9.30p.m.
• The Beltane procession, which begins at 9.45 p.m. During the procession, the May Queen and her court try to persuade the Horned God to cast off winter by taking the Green Man on a dance through the spirit world.
• The midnight lighting of the bonfire.

If you’re planning to attend the 2012 Beltane Fire Festival, make sure you book your tickets in advance – you can find details of where you can get them on the Beltane Fire Society’s website. Some tickets are usually available on the gate, but they cost more and sell out quickly.

Beltane Family Day

If you like the sound of the Beltane Fire Festival, why not extend your visit to Edinburgh – book a hotel room and head to the city a few days earlier so you can enjoy everything that’s on offer at the Beltane Family Day on 28 April 2012 too.

Highlights of the Beltane Family Day include face painting, storytelling sessions, lantern-making workshops, dance workshops, a procession and the chance to meet the May Queen herself. So it’s a great day out for the kids too.

The event is free of charge – so pack up a picnic and celebrate spring in the heart of Edinburgh.

Getting to the Beltane Fire Festival by train

It’s easy to get to the Beltane Fire Festival when you travel by train. Calton Hill is just a few minutes’ walk away from Edinburgh’s Waverley Station.

Are you going to Beltane? Have you got any tips for where best to grab a spot to catch the best of the event? Please leave a comment and let us know?

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