The Bealtaine Fire Festival, which will take place on Saturday, May 6, is set to be hosted at the Hill of Uisneach heritage site in Co. Westmeath, which is part of managing director of cows.ie, David Clarke’s farm. Discover Ireland describes the Hill of Uisneach as a sacred and ancient ceremonial site comprising a series of monuments nestled into the townland of Rathconrath. The Hill of Uisneach is known as the mythological and sacred centre of Ireland and the site of the great Bealtaine fire. It is currently on the list for UNESCO World Heritage Site status. This is the second year for the festival to sell out.
David Clarke, who bought the farm in 1998, set up cows.ie which imports and exports dairy stock in 1991. “We introduced the festival in 2009 to promote the heritage site and tourism. A lot of people wanted to visit the Hill of Uisneach which is a protected national monument going back 5,000 years, but we needed to ensure that they were safe,” he explained. “Now we have it to a stage where we have about 10,000 visitors a year, with 5,000 attending the festival. Access to the site is only available with a guide. We have a full-time manager and five guides who people can organise private tours with, and everything is booked online.”
The Bealtaine Fire Festival celebrates Irish heritage and continues the ancient tradition of lighting a great fire on the summit of the Hill of Uisneach at Bealtaine. The event is traditionally seen as marking the arrival of summer in Ireland. In ancient times, a great assembly gathered on the hill to witness the fire being lit by the High King of Ireland. The revived event has become a key event in the country’s cultural calendar as well as a family and community event.
The programme includes traditional crafts, live demonstrations, storytelling and poetry delivered on the Tir na nÓg stage, music, traditional Irish games, mindfulness spaces, wood and wool working. President Michael D. Higgins lit the fire in 2017. The Clarke family has plans to develop the site at different stages such as around mid-summer and mid-winter. “It is an ongoing project,” David said.
The Hill of Uisneach is a site of great historical and cultural significance in Ireland, and the Bealtaine Fire Festival is a wonderful way to celebrate and honour this heritage. The event has grown in popularity in recent years, and it is heartening to see so many people taking an interest in Ireland’s rich history and traditions. The festival is not only a great opportunity for visitors to learn about the Hill of Uisneach, but it also provides a platform for local craftspeople and artists to showcase their talents. Overall, the Bealtaine Fire Festival is a fantastic event that brings together people from all walks of life to celebrate Ireland’s unique and fascinating culture.