Creative Scotland Insider Tips

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Kathleen MacInnes - Gaelic Singer

Kathleen splits her time between her family and performing at lively festivals and concerts, particularly in the Highlands and Islands where Gaelic is still widely spoken. Kathleen never tires of the stunning scenery as she travels from gig to gig and she enjoys the balance of Glasgow life and the North Highlands and Islands which inspire her work. “I have the best of both worlds”, she says.

Kathleen MacInnes
Gaelic music
Ceolas Gaelic music

Kathleen’s passion is music, and Gaelic music in particular. Ever summer on south Uist, there is a music and dance school called Ceolas, visitors can take part or simply enjoy the atmosphere and many concerts taking place during the festival.

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Faith Liddell - Director, Edinburgh’s Festivals

Faith loves nothing better than the buzz of Scotland’s many cultural events and has been working with the festivals in one way or another since her student days. She feels blessed to have the opportunity to work alongside some of the most creative and imaginative people in the world, and no two days are the same! In August Edinburgh comes alive with artists, comedians, writers, and musicians who have come to take part one of the many festivals taking place across the city. When she is taking a break from the excitement of the festivals, she likes to pull on her walking shoes and go for a hike along the Fife Coastal path or get stuck in to a good book. Edinburgh is a UNESCO City of Literature, so there is no better place!

Faith Liddell
Edinburgh’s Festivals
Edinburgh's Festivals

If you’re wondering where to start when it comes to choosing what to see and do, Faith recommends: “It’s a good idea to do a mix of pre-planning and also time to explore and discover new things. Speak to people handing out flyers on the Royal Mile; talk to people queuing for shows; ask in local cafes – what are the great shows and performances they’ve seen? Word of mouth is often the best way to navigate your way through the vast programmes.”

Hazel Campbell - Painter

Hazel finds inspiration on her doorstep since her favourite subject is the landscape of Dumfries and Galloway. "Look around you, art is already there, all you have to do is to get it onto canvas!" Southwest Scotland has inspired many renowned artists - for example, Hornel, one of the Scottish Colourists, who helped establish the town of Kircudbrigh's reputation as "The Artists' Town". As with the works of her predecessors, Hazel's paintings reflect a fascination with the variety of colours through the changing seasons, the play of light and the unique atmosphere of her home region. Hazel is an enthusiastic participant at the annual Spring Fling Arts Festival, where studios and art workshops open their doors to inquisitive visitors.

Hazel Campbell
Balnakeil Craft Village

You definitely shouldn't miss Balnakeil Craft Village, located less thana mile west of Durness. It houses artists and craftsmen, many galleries, studios and shops, and even a chocolate factory!

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Art in Mull
An Tobar Mull

An Tobar in a converted former Victorian school building in the upper part of Tobermory is the most important art centre in Mull. Its attractions include art exhibitions, live music and ceilidh evenings. In the cafe you can sit on comfortable sofas by the fireplace and enjoy the daily menu with fresh soup, a light lunch and homemade baked goods. The shop sells typical arts and crafts.

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Traces of Orwell on the island of Jura
Isle of Jura

Commemorate the literary genius George Orwell with a pilgrimage to the Scottish island of Jura, where he finished his novel "1984". The remote farmhouse Barnhill, in which he created his masterpiece, can even be rented. The island has changed only slightly since his arrival from London in May 1946, when he was looking for a quiet and peaceful place.

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Howie Nicholsby - Contemporary kilt designer

Howie always wears a kilt, rides a bike year round and is always smiling. The secret to his good mood is a typically Scottish attitude: "You have to have a good backbone, enjoy everyday life and not let things stress you out too much!" Over 10 years ago, Howie began to approach kilt design differently and opened his shop "21st Century Kilts". Today, his creations adorn the legs of men worldwide.

Howie Nicholsby
Edinburgh in festival mood
Edinburgh Festival

If there is one month when you absolutely shouldn't miss Edinburgh, it's August. "We have the Edinburgh International Festival, the Art Festival, the International Book Festival, the Jazz and Blues Festival and the Military Tattoo. Have I forgotten anything? Ah, the Fringe Festival, of course!" enthuses Howie. The Fringe Festival delights the entire city each August, with performances of every imaginable (and unimaginable!) type at hundreds of different venues.

Donald John Mackay - Harris Tweed weaver

From small weaving huts on the white sandy beach of Luskentyre, Donald John supplies top designers in London and sportswear companies such as Nike. He's a one man global business, producing his native island's most famous export - Harris Tweed. Donald John's greatest asset is the quality of wool that comes from Harris' sheep combined with creative inspiration he draws from the colours of the pristine natural landscapes. Although born, raised and living on one of the most northwesterly outposts of Europe, Donald John's work has led to New York and even meeting the Queen. But not even Buckingham Palace could replace his small, idyllic Isle of Harris. "I love the beach, the ocean, the air... I wouldn't want to trade places with Her Majesty."

Donald John Mackay
The Isle of Harris and Harris Tweed
Harris Tweed

If you believe John Donald, then seeing his home island of Harris is an absolute must. "Harris is unique. The island inspires me and it shows in my material". Let yourself be enchanted by its landscape and experience how its beauty inspires Harris Tweed.

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Finlay MacDonald - Head of Piping Studies

Finlay's world revolves around the bagpipes. Or rather, he travels the world with them. He has already played at the Barbados Highland Games and on the Great Wall of China and Finlay loves to represent Scottish culture worldwide. In his home city of Glasgow, he is Head of Piping Studies at the National Piping Centre, a role he undertakes with the same passion as his own music. "Working with creative people, inspiring them and helping them to develop further is just great." Finlay also organises the Piping Live Festival in Glasgow.

Finlay MacDonald
Live music at the Ferry Boat Inn

The Ferry Boat Inn is a lively pub in Ullapool that offers live Scottish music and has been nicknamed "The FBI"! The restaurant is right on the water and there is always a good atmosphere. A fantastic place to mingle with the locals.

The Loopallu Festival

A visit to Ullapool is especially worthwhile in September, when the Loopallu music festival takes place, with fringe theatre, street entertainment and of course, traditional food and drink. In early October, the Ullapool Guitar Festival attracts visitors with concerts, music sessions and workshops by artists from around the world.

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Experience Celtic music in January
Celtic Connections, Glasgow

Glasgow is a UNESCO City of Music and Finlay's favourite event in January is the Celtic Connections festival, which showcases the best of traditional, folk and world music. "The festival lasts for two weeks and I go out every day, some evenings to play myself, some to listen to others, and always to meet new and old friends from all over the world."

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A versatile ceilidh hall in Ullapool
Ullapool, Highland

Ullapool is a lively village where traditional music is an important part of social life. If you like live music, Ceilidh Place is just right for you - a charming cafe with a large open fireplace and heavy wood furniture, serving delicious dishes such as braised venison cutlets, pan-fried crab from Loch Broom and seafood dishes. The cafe is also a pub, a bookstore and a popular venue for art and music events!

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Lady Claire Macdonald - Scottish food ambassador

Lady Claire has a very busy schedule. She is the author of several best-selling cookbooks and holds lectures around the world. She appears in numerous television and radio broadcasts, delivers cooking courses and is also the chef at the award-winning Michelin-star Kinloch Hotel on the Isle of Skye, which she runs with her family. Despite all this success, the mother of four has kept her feet firmly on the ground. "With all the fabulous Scottish natural produce, it doesn't really take much to prepare some delicious dishes and I want to share the experience with people."

Lady Claire
Famous weaving on Islay

Islay Woollen Mill is a historic family mill. Inside is a wonderland of machines and craft gifts. Some of the machines are unique and historic; with many still in use today. Braveheart's tartans and Forrest Gump's tweed jacket were made there! After you have viewed the factory, follow the small road behind the mill to discover one of the most beautiful waterfalls on the island.

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Robert Ballantyne - Battle re-enactor

Robert is a proud Scot, passionate about Scottish history and heritage, and it is this passion that brought him to his profession today as a living history presenter. Robert has been involved in battle re-enactments for many years, bringing to life the most important events in Scotland’s rich and fascinating history. He also runs educational programmes for visitors and schools; he takes great pride in donning his medieval tabard and chainmail and sharing his extensive knowledge, as well as explaining the historical significance of the various aspects of his costumes. Many of his fascinating and elaborate costumes, ranging from medieval battle armour to Jacobean costume were made by his own hands.

Robert Ballantyne
Falkirk Wheel
The Falkirk Wheel

For something quirky, pay a visit to the Falkirk Wheel, the world’s only rotating boatlift. “It carries on the spirit of Scottish ingenuity and engineering excellence by connecting the Forth and Clyde, and Union Canal by means of a massive rotating wheel using little more power than that used to boil a handful of electric kettles!”

Adrian Shine - Loch Ness expert

Adrian is a man on a mission: to unlock the secrets of the depths of Loch Ness. As head of the Loch Ness Project, he has published books on the scientific, biological and archaeological importance of the famous loch. He has collaborated with researchers from over 20 universities and developed new, innovative research tools and techniques. After visiting the award-winning Loch Ness Exhibition, designed by Adrian, everyone is excited about what is probably hidden down there in the depths of the lake. Solving this mystery has become Adrian's life's work. "I came to conquer its secrets, but the place has captured me instead."

Adrian Shine
Inverness music festival
Inverness Music Festival

Inverness is the lively Highland capital. One of Adrian's favourite events is the city's annual music festival in March, a competition involving over 4000 artists. "Pipers, dancers, violinists, accordionists, singers, bands, choirs and soloists - the Music Festival is the perfect opportunity to experience the diversity of Scottish music," suggests Adrian.

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Duke of Argyll - Chief of Clan Campbell

The relatives of the Duke and Duchess could easily populate a small country. There are estimated to be around 5 million members of Clan Campbell worldwide and the 13th Duke of Argyll is the Clan Chief. He is also a whisky ambassador and owner of Inveraray Castle, on Scotland's west coast. During the summer, the estate employs a staff of 150 employees. Despite their busy schedule the Duke and Duchess enjoy their work: "For us, our work is both a gift and a responsibility."

The Duke of Argyll
Eccentric Kinloch Castle

The main attraction on the Isle of Rum is Kinloch Castle, an eccentric and crazy construction, which was completed at immense cost in 1900. Its original Edwardian grandeur and decadent appearance impress even today. Among the many unique attractions of the castle is its Orchestrion, one of the few still-functioning mechanical organs that are operated with perforated paper rolls - a sound that has to be heard!

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The Enchanted Forest in Pitlochry
Enchanted Forest Pitlochry

Let yourself be enchanted by the outdoor event, The Enchanted Forest, an award-winning sound and light show that takes place in Faskally Wood near Pitlochry in October. "Every year there's a specific theme, for example, Scotland's mythical past, or the universe," says Duke.

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