Goodness gracious great balls of fire!
by Simon Cruickshank, proprietor
It’s quite literally the hottest ticket in town…maybe event the hottest Hogmanay event in the land. The countdown to the Stonehaven Fireballs is well and truly underway and we are getting really fired up for the main event.
One of the most common questions we are asked about the event – to which we have a ringside seat – is why? Why on earth did someone decide that welcoming in the start of a new year by swinging balls of flame above their head was a good idea?
Like all good traditions, no one can be 100% certain as to how it all began over a century ago. There are a few different stories, but the most consistent one is that the ritual was instigated by the community, which at that time heavily depended on the fishing industry. It is thought that the fire was used to ward off evil and bad luck, ensuring that the fishing fleet would prosper – and not befall any tragedies – in the coming year.
Whatever the origins, what we do know is that the fireballs is one of the most spectacular and thrilling sights you’re ever like to witness. It all kicks off on the evening of December 31 – indeed many people choose to start their celebrations off at one of The Ship Inn’s mouthwatering Hogmanay dinners.
Visit Stoney and you’ll find lots of street entertainment, with a traditional pipe band to the fore. Just before midnight a lone piper will lead the fireball swingers to the Market Cross where, just after midnight, they will light their balls and swing them around and around over their heads, marching in procession to the harbour.
The fireballs are constructed from wire baskets, which are packed full of different flammable materials and then attached to long wire handles. Each swinger will have their own preference for the filling, but you can be sure that whatever they choose will stay lit and burn brightly until the end of the procession.
The procession ends when the swingers arrive at the harbour – and the dispose of the fireballs by throwing them in an arc into the sea. That’s not the end of the festivities, however. In more recent times, the end of the event has been marked with a spectacular fireworks display.
People travel from all over the world to witness the spectacle: many ex-pats who want to return to Stonehaven and others visiting the area after watching videos of the events online and deciding they must see it in real life.
And what a great way it is to enjoy a traditional Scottish Hogmanay celebration. where else could you spend new year surrounded by thousands of people cheering men in kilts – and several women too – as they keep an ancient tradition alive?
The party often continues into the wee small hours and many visitors choose to stay in Stonehaven rather than worry about getting public transport after the event. Accommodation usually gets booked up very quickly, but it’s always worth checking local hotels and guest houses in case of last-minute cancellations.
We currently have very limited availability for Hogmanay: stays over this period are for a minimum of three nights. If you’re interested in staying with us and taking in this most spectacular of new year celebrations, please contact us directly to make a reservation.