Samhuinn brings touch of horror to Edinburgh

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IT was this week named the world’s most gothic city outside of Transylvania by a top travel guide and last night there was nowhere more fitting than Edinburgh for a parade of the living dead.

Witches, skeleton horses and blue ghouls resembling characters from blockbuster film Avatar invaded the Royal Mile to mark the ancient “night of the dead” known as Samhuinn.

Witches, ghouls and vikings carrying torches take to the Royal Mile. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Witches, ghouls and vikings carrying torches take to the Royal Mile. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Drums, chanting and flaming torches were the backdrop to the festival, which was being organised by the Beltane Fire Society for a 26th successive year.

The event celebrates the Celtic New Year, the death of summer and the approach of winter.

The story of the Green Man who starts to decay as the seasons grow colder is central to the pageantry, with a ghostly procession starting from Parliament Square and an epic battle between the Summer and Winter kings played out on stage in the shadows of St Giles’ Cathedral.

Among the Hallowe’en revellers was 30-year-old Amanda McShannon from the Isle of Lewis, who said she was surprised to discover that thousands had turned out for the eclectic festival despite the threat of rain.

She said: “Hallowe’en was never a big thing when I was growing up. It just seems to have gone mental. It is fun – it’s just another excuse to have a party and it involves everyone, young and old.” Mark and Joanne Simms, who were visiting the Capital from Blackpool, had just finished one of the Royal Mile’s ghost tours when they “stumbled” on the ghoulish parade.

Mr Simms, 40, who lifted eight-year-old son, Hugo, on to his shoulders to get a better look at the out-of-this-world costumes, said it was a great family-friendly experience.

He said: “We’ll definitely come back now. The whole atmosphere is incredible.

“We’ve done York and we’ve done places in Shropshire for Hallowe’en, but this tops it.”

Mechanical engineering student Fut Tres, 26, said he was experiencing Hallowe’en, let alone the Samhuinn festival, for the first time.

Neither date is celebrated in his home country of Turkey.

“It’s very interesting,” he said. “I’m happy to experience the show.”