The Allendale Tar Bar’l is a spectacular example of a fire festival. This incredible ceremony has been celebrated for at least 160 years, though some believe it began in the Middle Ages.
Forty-five local men (known as guisers) carry whiskey barrels filled with burning hot tar in a procession through the town. The men dress in colourful fancy dress and have soot-blackened faces.To become a guiser, each man must have been born in the Allen Valleys with many boasting hereditary status.
Locals and visitors alike flock to the town for this night of revelry as music and dancing fill the streets. From 11pm, the crowds gather in the town centre to see the guisers called upon to do their duty. At 11:30pm, the torches are lit and the barrels ignited. Each guiser lifts the flaming barrels up onto the top of their heads and marches behind the band.
At midnight, they arrive at the Bar’l fire in the town centre. The test of strength and courage ends in spectacular fashion as the guisers toss their barrels onto the ceremonial Bar'l bonfire to welcome in the new year as everyone shouts “Be damned to he who throws last!”