Are you ready for Ottery St. Mary’s fiery tradition? Taking place on Saturday 4th November, the town becomes a hive of activity to celebrate the unique Tar Barrels! Whether you’re a local or a visitor, make sure to pop by and see this spectacular showing. 

The history of the Tar Barrels dates back to the 17th century, with its origins rooted in folklore and historical accounts. One of the most prevalent legends suggests that the tradition began as a way to ward off evil spirits. The townspeople believed that by lighting barrels filled with tar, they could purify the air and protect their community from malevolent forces. This early association with fire and purification continues to be a central theme of the event.

The Tar Barrels themselves are the focus of the celebration. Each of the four main pubs in Ottery has its own barrel, and they are mounted on large wooden carts that are carried through the town by enthusiastic participants. These barrels can weigh up to 30 kilograms and are filled with blazing hot tar, a highly flammable substance. Brave individuals, formally known as "barrel rollers," hoist these fiery giants onto their shoulders and race through the streets, dodging crowds and obstacles, and releasing the barrels at key points.

Participating in the Tar Barrels is not for the faint of heart. The tradition demands a mix of athleticism and fearlessness. The barrel rollers, usually local volunteers, are required to wear protective clothing, including gloves and overalls, to minimise the risk of burns. Safety measures have been instituted over the years, but the underlying spirit of the Tar Barrels remains —a testament to the bravery of the participants.

The town of Ottery St. Mary has earned a reputation for its sense of community and the inclusivity of the Tar Barrels. While it's an event rooted in tradition, it has evolved to be more than just a remnant of the past. The town's pubs and streets are adorned with fairy lights, and the air is filled with the sounds of laughter and live music. Families come together, and the event has a warm and inviting atmosphere, in stark contrast to the blazing barrels.

The Tar Barrels have drawn curiosity and admiration from people worldwide, making Ottery St. Mary a must-visit destination for tourists seeking a unique experience. Each year, thousands of visitors descend on the town, eager to witness the spectacle of Tar Barrels up close, share in the local culture, and immerse themselves in the heartwarming sense of community.

The Ottery St. Mary Tar Barrels have remained a cherished tradition for centuries, connecting past and present generations through the shared experience of embracing the fire and spirit of Bonfire Night. It's a testament to the resilience, courage, and sense of unity of the townspeople. This fiery spectacle exemplifies the enduring power of traditions to unite communities and captivate the hearts of those fortunate enough to witness it.