Home Newsletter Locations Diary



The Fireball Festival

Stonehaven, Kincardineshire

Location Guide

"The Fireballs" is an annual festival, unique to Stonehaven, attracting thousands of spectators in festive mood. It is a ceremony not only for Stonehaven' to welcome in the New Year, but it also provides a gathering point for the town's people mingle with friends, family and  visitors from home and overseas who have come to enjoy the Scottish Hogmanay.


The spectacle takes place on 31st December each year and somewhere around 45 participants take part in the parade up and down the High Street in the Old Town, from the Mercat Cross at the east end of the street near the harbour to the Cannon embedded nose down at the west end (about 175 yards). They swing fireballs around their heads in the dark skies which become illuminated. It starts just before the Town House Bell chimes midnight, with a small pipe band and the fireballs being lit, the swingers then parade down to the harbour. At the end of the ceremony, around 12.25am, fireworks are set off from the road above the harbour, there is also a big party in the square afterwards.

The origins of the ceremony appears to have come from the Middle Ages, when processions of flaming torches and kindling of fires took place on particular days throughout the year, today it is purely a tourist spectacle. In Stonehaven it was originally performed by the hardy men of the town, who were primarily fishermen, but as their numbers dwindled the festival went into decline with a just a handful of people keeping it going, with prizes for the best fireball. The earliest documented record of the Stonehaven ceremony is from the local newspaper in 1908, but the report is written in such a way that the signifies that it was not a new custom to the reporter. There appear to have been many reports since that time almost on an annual basis except for the 6 years of WWII but returning again in 1946. During its history both the numbers of swingers taking part and the size of the crowd has fluctuated from small numbers to large. 1982 was a unique year with two ceremonies, the original but also a second one put on in the September of that year so that Channel 4 could pre-record a TV programme on the seasons rituals. By 1991 and its popularity it was decided to fix the number of swingers taking part to 45 and saw the introduction of barriers to help protect the swingers and the crowd. By 2008 following a number of  different TV coverage's and publicity,  the numbers had go to 47 swingers and a watching crowd of 12,000.

See Larger Image Throwing the Fireballs into the Sea

by Andy Cameron

Click on  image to see larger version

What is a fireball. Each swinger makes their own fireball so it is a bit of a secret, but they are normally made of things such as coal, wood, old jumpers, old newspapers, fir cones etc wrapped in a double skin of chicken wire, stitched together with steel wire and dowsed in paraffin. The handle is made of a double wrap of 4mm fencing wire however the length of the handle is dependent on the individual swinger, but the shorter the length the hotter it gets. They are all checked prior to the ceremony for safety reasons.

If you intend to visit then start to arrive around 10.30pm as other street entertainment, such as 'foi poi' (Fire dancing ) and street bands,  starts at 11pm, with crowds starting to gather around 11.15pm. Barriers are put down either side of the High Street to keep the spectators back from the swingers. It is said the best spots to be are at the lighting up area at the Shorehead/Slipway and at the Y junction between King Street and High Street. When the swingers start to become tired they tend to make their way to the slipway and throw their fireballs into the sea, eventually they all arrive here and then the 5 minute firework display starts.

Location: The Fireball Festival, Stonehaven, Kincardineshire

Grid Reference: NO874858 Ceremonial County: Kincardineshire

Map Link: Multimap

Aerial photo:

Getting there: Off the A90 onto the A92 towards Montrose take the A957 into the centre of Stonehaven.

Access: High Street to harbour area of town
Website: www.stonehavenfireballs.co.uk

Other Useful Websites: 2008 Pictures             Wiki             Wiki 2

Welcome to Scotland

Address: Stonehaven, Kincardineshire
Postcode: DD10 Telephone:
Opening Times: 11pm for street entertainment - fireballs lit just before midnight

Charges: None

Nearby Locations:
Other Location Pages: Fire Festivals

Notes: Do not wear your best clothes as sparks fly off the fireballs and it is normal to have little burn holes appear.





Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Grid(s) or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Topic or Section references from the Grid below. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.


By: Tracey Park Section: Fire Festival Key:
Page Ref: stonehaven_fireballs Topic: Activities and Educational  Last Updated: 11/2009

This page:

Link directly to this page, with text or the button on right.

Text linking: The Stonehaven Fireball Festival on Photographers Resource

Linking Instructions                            http://www.photographers-resource.co.uk/

Photographers Resource, all the information for the photographer