Music festival season is upon us! My diary is looking rather busy between now and September; most weekends you will find me in a field, wearing both wellies and sunglasses, and a plastic cup of something cold and delicious in hand. Best of all, these events are taking place in some fantastic locations across Scotland. From the grounds of historic castles to magical islands, it’s an unbeatable way to enjoy Scotland’s great outdoors.
And what are they all about, I hear you ask? Well, first we have the music. Lots and lots of it. Jangly guitars, soulful singing, soaring strings, guttural vocals, euphoric synths and frantic percussion are just some of the sounds which bellow out from giant PA systems.
Plenty of international stars and household names headline the line-ups, but you’ll find a splendid balance of up-and-coming musicians and local talent to discover too – there’s nothing like the thrill of finding the next big thing before anyone else!
These days, the music is really just the tip of the iceberg, and you can basically expect anything to happen. Fringe events, arts and crafts, street performers, wrestlers, fairground rides, pedal-powered stages, spas, weddings, yoga, talks, spoken word, and comedy are some of the things which come part and parcel. Enchanting woodlands come to life – it might just feel like you’ve stepped into a fairy tale – and there’s usually a good dose of the weird and wonderful. Not to mention the lashings of tasty local and exotic food and craft beers too, from oysters to ostrich burgers.
30 June – 3 July
Kelburn Castle and Estate, Fairlie, near Largs, Ayrshire
With a tagline of ‘music, art, adventure’ you can tell that the Kelburn Garden Party is going to be a lot of fun. With the fittingly wacky backdrop of graffiti-covered Kelburn Castle, get set for some mind-expanding music across several bespoke stages. Be ready to enter an enchanting trail through the woods inside the Secret Forest Project, watch some late night cabaret, cleanse in the waterfall pool and sip on herbal tea in the tea cave.
Festival tip: Embark on a mystical adventure along the Never Ending Glen Trail to see some wonderful site specific art installations.
14 – 16 July
Isle of Tiree
An Inner Hebridean gem, the Isle of Tiree is a windsurfer’s paradise and its chilled out, laidback attitude is contagious – so much so, people call it the ‘the Hawaii of the north’ and every year it hosts one of our favourite small music festivals! When you’re not walking along white sandy beaches and admiring dramatic seascapes, over the course of the weekend you’ll be rocking out to Scouting for Girls, Skipinnish, Dougie Maclean and many more musical delights.
Festival tip: Catch some rays! The island is one of the sunniest places in the UK, thanks to the warm Gulf Stream which means (fingers crossed) you can enjoy balmy festival evenings.
19 – 22 July
Lews Castle, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides
Take the ferry or fly to Lewis and you’ll discover that islanders have perfected the art of putting on a festival. Celebrating 22 years on the go, the Hebridean Celtic Festival is once again packed with incredible Scottish, Celtic and grassroots artists, including the Waterboys, Imelda May, Dougie Maclean, Lucy Spraggan, Skerryvore and more.
Festival tip: Catch the annual shinty match and see this traditional Highland sport in action – the Hebridean Celtic Festival Shinty Challenge Cup takes place nearby the festival on the Saturday afternoon.
28 – 30 July
King George’s Park, Rothesay, Isle of Bute
One of the most accessible island festies in Scotland, the brilliant ButeFest can be reached by ferry from Wemyss Bay which is just a 40-minute drive from Glasgow. Keep an eye out for porpoises or seals as you sail into the weekend and get ready for fab musical treats such as We Are Scientists, The Wedding Present and The Chair, as well as delicious food and drink offerings. One thing’s for certain- you’ll find it very hard to leave this musical island bubble behind!
Festival tip: Stay a wee bit longer and do a spot of beachcombing along some of the Bute-i-ful beaches around the isle.
3 – 5 August
Belladrum Estate, Beauly, Highlands
This well-loved festival has been a huge highlight on the Scottish culture scene since 2004, famous for its family-friendly vibes and massive variety of musical genres. You’ll find yourself unwinding to the acoustic hums of the Grassroots Stage, dancing to toe-tapping tunes on the Free Range Folk Stage, and discovering new music over on The Seedlings stage over the weekend.
Festival tip: This festival even has its very own ‘Bella’ tartan, if you fancy putting on a kilt for the festivities!
19 – 20 August
For a unique celebration of traditional and contemporary Scottish music, head to this year’s first-ever Argyll Gathering. With performances from Runrig’s Donnie Munro and the bagpiping legends Red Hot Chilli Pipers (pictured), you’ll be swept up in a cultural whirlwind all weekend long. Don’t miss a visit to the community workshop tent, try delicious local produce and beers, and there’s plenty of things to do for wee ones too.
Festival tip: The festival is non-camping, so be sure to book a place to stay nearby. Find out more on the Argyll Gathering website.
18 – 20 August
Cardross Estate, Stirlingshire
Like your festivals small and quirky? This ambient small festival has a capacity of just 1,000 and is a feast of colour and sound, where families are welcomed with open arms. Diverse artists, from Mali’s desert punk Songhoy Blues to Ayrshire’s own Roddy Woomble, will please the discerning musical tastes of festival-goers. You can even make your own music by joining a tribal drumming circle!
Festival tip: This festival welcomes pooches too, so feel free to bring your canine companion!
1 -2 September
Drumlanrig Castle, near Thornhill, Dumfries & Galloway
Electric Fields will once again return to the stunning grounds of Drumlanrig Castle. This small but growing festival takes pride in showcasing Scottish talent, with Selkirk’s Frightened Rabbit and East Kilbride’s The Jesus & Mary Chain being amongst this year’s highlights. Cleverly, the music never stops throughout the day, with the two main stages positioned side by side – there’s never a dull moment!
Don’t miss: Have a foodie journey whilst in the region and head to Scotland’s official Food Town, Castle Douglas, or sample incredible flavours of fresh ice cream at Cream o’ Galloway in Gatehouse of Fleet.
29 – 30 September
Now in its 13th year, Loopallu (that’s Ullapool spelt back to front!) is one of Scotland’s remotest festivals – it’s 60 miles west of Inverness. This year’s line-up is still TBC, but in previous years Paolo Nutini, Mumford & Sons, Twin Atlantic, Shed Seven and Franz Ferdinand have all played for thrilled crowds. Could there be a better place for the final fling of summer? We think not.
Why not: Take a road trip! Follow the North Coast 500, a driving route taking in the stunning scenery of the North Highlands.
Share your festival highlights with us on social media channels, using #ScotSpirit. Happy festival-going!