Fire parade, music, and visual arts at Uisneach

This May bank holiday weekend will see Ireland’s oldest Bealtaine celebration on the Hill of Uisneach on Saturday, May 2 from 2-11.30pm. The Uisneach Fire Festival’s unique ceremonial fire parade at dusk will be the centrepiece of the day-long celebration which will feature artisan foods and crafts, holistic healing, a heritage talks tent, re-enactments, and guided heritage walks. The main stage area will feature a full music programme including the Máirtín O’Connor Band and Mary Coughlan. A special Clarke’s Bar Tent will also feature a traditional music programme throughout the day.

The family-friendly theme is being developed through the recreation of a traditional children’s Uisneach Games and a wide visual arts programme. The impressive Celtic Warriors will be a constant visual motif as they ride the periphery of the festival site.

The hill has been occupied for over 5,000 years and was traditionally known as the centre of Ireland, providing the portal to the fifth province, Mide. On Bealtaine (May time ), our ancestors lit a fire on the hill to mark the coming of summer. The lighting of the Uisneach fire was the signal for igniting fires on many hills across the whole island, creating a unique fire eye with Uisneach being the pupil. Local man Simon Taylor has over 20 years of experience in designing, constructing, and setting fire to large fire sculptures, and is happiest when sitting back and watching weeks of hard work go up in flames as planned. The day’s activities will culminate in the ceremonial lighting of an enormous Signal Fire that will send visitors’ wishes, thoughts, and intentions skyward.

Uisneach, the mythological and sacred centre of Ireland, is one of the five Irish royal sites seeking UNESCO World Heritage Status recognition. Guided public and private tours are available during the spring and summer months with full information on www.uisneach.ie For this year’s festival there will be a special tour of the site free to festival-goers, taking in features such as the world famous Catstone and the ancient palace site of the Clann Cólman.

The Uisneach celebration is built on the ‘Leave No Trace’ environmental principle. Due to the special heritage nature of the site, tickets are limited and only available through www.uisneach.ie at €33 (under 12 years go free ). There will be no camping facilities available on site as this is a one-day festival. Early booking is recommended as tickets are selling fast.

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