Ottery St Mary Tar Barrels are a fantastic experience for adults and older teens.
5 Nov 2018 Every year, for reasons lost in antiquity, the Flaming Tar Barrels are carried through the streets of Ottery St Mary surrounded by thousands of townsfolk and visitors. Ottery St. Mary is internationally famous for its Tar Barrels, this old custom is said to have started in the 17th century, and is held each year. Ottery's central pubs sponsors a single barrel each. The barrels are soaked with tar the in days before. The barrels are lit outside each of the pubs one at a time once the flames begin to pour out, they are carried onto local people's backs and shoulders. The streets and alleys around the pubs are packed tight with people, all trying to get close to the barrels flame. Seventeen Barrels are lit over the evening. A quieter version of the event is held earlier in the afternoon and evening with women's and boy's barrels, but as the evening goes on the barrels get larger and by midnight they weigh at least 30 kilos. 'There is a great sense of camaraderie between the 'Barrel Rollers', despite the fact that they tussle constantly for supremacy of the barrel. In most cases, generations of the same family carry the barrels and take great pride in doing so. It perpetuates Ottery St Mary's great sense of tradition, of time and of history.
Opinion differs as to the origin of this festival of fire, but the most widely accepted version is that it began as a pagan ritual that cleanses the streets of evil spirits. It is an incredible night to remember - one of the biggest bonfires in the South West is ignited on the banks of the River Otter and behind it are the flashing neon's of the annual fun fair.' (from visit south devon website)