Experience the Clavie

On a cold, dark and sometimes wet night in Burghead, Scotland on the 11th of January each year you’ll find the unique fire festival known as the Burning of the Clavie. On first glance you could easily mistake this traditional event as a riot that sweeps the streets of the small fishing town…but you’d be wrong.

It’s origins are almost lost to time but this is the Burning of the Clavie and you can’t help but feel part of something special when you see it in person.

The fire of the Clavie lights up the night sky and if you manage to get close enough the heat from the flaming barrell may even help you fight off the wintery chill. As soon as you arrive on the high street of Burghead you’ll be struck by smoky scent that fills the air.

There is a feeling of jubilation as you join in with the massive crowd, made up of locals and visitors alike. You’ll be amazed by the veterans of the event who will walk the streets with their burning staves that will be taken home and take pride of place in homes across the region and further a field. These are said to bring good luck for the year ahead.

Any feeling of being cold will soon be forgotten about as you follow the Clavie on its exploration with the local Brochers.

Rejoice in the New Year with the Clavie as it takes its final stance on the Doorie Hill.

What is the Clavie?

The Clavie is a cask split in to two and ceremonially burned as part of an ancient Scottish custom still observed at Burghead. The still burning pieces are gradually dropped along the route for the townspeople and visitors to grab at their own peril and take home.

Possession of a piece of the Clavie is said to bring in luck for the coming year. Staves of wood are then sent around the world to exiled Brochers, former residents and family who couldn’t attend in person.

When was the first Burning of the Clavie event held?

It is unknown when the first Clavie was set ablaze, but the event can be traced back as far as the 1750’s. This was when the Julian calendar was reformed in Britain, the new Gregorian calendar was introduced, the people of UK demanded their 11 days back however this was not the case in Burghead. Brochers (people of Burghead) decided to have the best of both worlds and celebrate New Year twice.

When is the Burning of the Clavie held?

The Burning of the Clavie is an annual event that takes place on the 11th of January. The event takes place in evening around 6PM.

The event was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and had to be postponed in 2021. The event the returned to it’s traditional date of the 11th in 2022.

Who Organises the Clavie?

Locals pridefully organise and run the event. During the event you’ll find the Clavie King Dan Ralph who is in charge of organising the proceedings. The local Clavie crew build & carry the burning barrel.

This is Burghead’s main New Year celebration, and it is an important night in the family calendar.

How to Get to Burghead?

No matter where you are in Moray, it is not difficult to get to Burghead. Driving is the easist option but on a busy night parking can be difficult. So why not get the bus? The number 32 takes you to Burghead from Elgin’s bus stop in less than 30 minutes.

Where To Stay?

If you are looking to visit this unique and once a year tradition there are multiple accommodations spots in Burghead and the surrounding area. Check out some of the potential places you can stay while you visit the Clavie.

Article written in partnership with Andrew Quirie