Scotland’s islands are not only beautiful, they offer an abundance of things to do throughout the year. Whether you long for the windswept shores of Orkney or a trip to the whisky mecca of Islay, it’s a great idea to plan your visit around a popular event.
Take a look at the cultural events below and take part in a unique experience around Scotland’s coast. Alternatively, start planning an island odyssey with our list of Ultimate Scottish Islands Holidays.
If you’re thinking of visiting a Scottish island, why not enter the Big Ferry Fortnight ballot that Discover Ferries are running from 27 February – 12 March 2020? Over 220 pairs of ferry travel tickets are up for grabs, helping you to explore more of Scotland’s Coasts and Waters.
Please note that due to the current COVID-19 advice, any large events are subject to cancellation. If you are planning to visit in 2020, please check the event website for the latest information.
January, February, March
Up Helly Aa 26 January 2021
Twelve fire festivals take place across the Shetland Islands between January and March each year. The main festival takes place in Lerwick on the last Tuesday in January and sees a procession of people carrying burning torches through the town, before a replica Viking longship is set alight. Unforgettable!
April, May, June
Shetland Folk Festival 29 April – 2 May 2021
Welcome to the UK’s most northerly folk festival, which celebrates its fortieth anniversary in 2021. The festival features an amazing line-up of local and visiting acts that will perform at venues across the Shetland Islands.
Isle of Arran Mountain Festival 15 – 18 May 2020
Featuring a packed programme of hill walks, scrambles, mountain running sessions and even night walks, this is the ideal festival for those that love the great outdoors, stunning views and a chance to catch up afterwards over coffee, tea and cake!
Hebridean Whisky Trail Festival 20 – 23 May 2020
Held at Torabhaig and Talisker distilleries on Skye, Isle of Harris Distillers and Isle of Raasay Distillery, this festival will return in 2020 with fabulous whisky tastings and local food and drink events. Events will also be held at the Sligachan Hotel, Cuillin Brewery and Aros Centre, all on Skye.
Féis Ile – The Islay Festival 22 – 30 May 2020
The malt will be flowing and the music will ring out across the magical isle of Islay as the island’s diverse festival returns. Held in the last week of May each year, this lively festival features ceilidhs, whisky tastings and even golf and is ideally timed for Whisky Month!
Arran Folk Festival 12 – 14 June 2020
Folk music aficionados will love this intimate island festival that offers concerts in multiple venues. Don’t miss the late night shows, which always draw a crowd.
St Magnus International Festival 19 – 25 June 2020
COVID-19 Update: Due to the ongoing and rapidly changing Covid-19 situation, the sale of tickets has been paused, for more information please visit: https://www.stmagnusfestival.com/
If the dramatic landscapes of Orkney aren’t enough to entice you north this summer, then maybe this popular arts festival will. Packed with theatre, music and visual arts, the St Magnus International Festival is one of Scotland’s leading summer events.
July, August, September
Orkney International Science Festival 3 – 9 September 2020 ONLINE
Join in with music, workshops, talks, performances, exhibitions and more with this set-to-be-magical virtual event. Learn more in this virtual 30th anniversary festival celebration with a special focus on the Year of Coasts & Water.
Féis an Eilein – Skye Festival 3 – 12 July 2020
Head for Eilean a’ Cheó – the Misty Isle – for a spectacular programme of music, theatre, dance, literature and children’s events, taking place in venues and public spaces around the magical Isle of Skye.
Shetland Nature Festival 4 – 25 July 2020
Shetland’s natural wonders range from some of Europe’s most spectacular seabird colonies to rare wild flowers. During this summer festival you can take a guided walk by day and listen to an expert give a talk in the evening. There’s something for everyone.
Hebridean Celtic Festival 15 – 18 July 2020
Set in the magnificent grounds of Lews Castle, overlooking Stornoway Harbour, this is one of the best family-friendly music festivals in Scotland.
Eilean Dorcha Festival 24 – 25 July 2020
Affectionately known as the friendly festival, Uist’s annual summer festival guarantees some great bands and amazing scenery. Various workshops are available too with local crafts, local produce and fun rides for children.
ButeFest 24 – 26 July 2020
Nestling idyllically in the Firth of Clyde, the Isle of Bute is easily accessed by CalMac ferry from Wemyss Bay and the ButeFest site is just 15 minutes walk from Rothesay Ferry Terminal. Expect a rollercoaster of music, food and fun at this family-friendly festival.
Lagavulin Islay Jazz Festival September 2020 – dates TBC
Scottish and international musicians join together to present a jam-packed festival in the unique location of Islay. The festival features a taste of Islay, so watch out for hand-dived scallops, crabs, chocolates, homebaking and of course, whisky.
Taste of Orkney Festival 25 – 27 September 2020
Orkney has an enviable reputation when it comes to growing, rearing, catching and producing some of the finest food and drink in the UK. Now’s your chance to visit the islands and sample some of the fayre that wins so many awards around the globe in this, their inaugural Taste of Orkney Festival.
October, November, December
Orkney Storytelling Festival 22 – 25 October 2020
Storytelling has been going on in Orkney for thousands of years and this annual event brings together local and invited storytellers from across the world. Warm yourself by the fire as experienced storytellers delve into imagined worlds.
Isle of Mull Car Rally 8 – 11 October 2020
If motor racing is your thing then you won’t want to miss the Beatson’s Building Supplies Isle of Mull Car Rally. This thrilling race will see a host of crews pit themselves against the Hebridean island’s legendary twisting roads.
Tiree Wave Classic 10 – 16 October 2020
This thrilling festival is the longest-running professional windsurfing event in the world, but there’s plenty for spectators to do too. Try surfing, paddle boarding or windsurfing, spend some time in the event village and the nightlife is brilliant.
Orkney Winter Solstice 20 December 2020
Orkney is a fascinating place to bring in the Winter Solstice. Taking place on the longest night of the year at the ancient Standing Stones of Stenness, this is a great introduction to Orcadian traditions and folklore.
If you want to find out more about visiting Scotland’s islands then take a look at our Islands & Island Hopping page.