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Issue 39 - 10 of the best Scottish Festivals

Scotland Magazine Issue 39
June 2008


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10 of the best Scottish Festivals

With so many annual festivals happening around Scotland, it's hard to know which ones to choose. Here are some of our favourites.

Burns an’ a’ That May annually, Ayrshire The festivities for Burns an’ a’ That take place in a variety of venues around Burns’ birthplace in Ayrshire.

For authentic Burns-related activities, attend a debate on some of the more controversial aspects of the poet’s life and work. Or enjoy the Brig O’Doon Summer Burns Supper at the Brig O’Doon Hotel, with entertainment and guest speakers in attendance.

But there is a lot more to Burns an’ a’ That – headline acts for this year included Status Quo at Burns Rock at the Racecourse, and Amy MacDonald at the more intimate venue, Dean Castle at Kilmarnock.

From late night comedy to theatre, wine-tasting, orchestra and the new Festival Club, Burns an’ a’ That just gets bigger and better with every passing year. World Ceilidh May annually, Galloway Bringing Celtic music home, the World Ceilidh is held over four days each year at Knockengorroch Farm in the unspoiled upland west corner of Scotland.

The festival not only puts traditional Celtic music in its original setting, but also celebrates fusion, world and contemporary Scottish music as a universal human communicator.

Music from all continents is booked alongside to showcase Celtic and World music in both traditional and contemporary fields.

There are shows for the kids, fire displays, cabaret and dance workshops, and don’t forget the music. This year’s line-up included Capercaillie, Dreadzone, the Peat Boy Faeries and more. Expect 2009 to be a great event. Three Harbours Art Festival June annually, Prestonpans, Cockenzie and Port Seton, East Lothian The quantity and diversity of art on display at the Three Harbours Art Festival will astonish anyone who hasn’t seen it before.

Spread across Prestonpans, Cockenzie and Port Seton in East Lothian, the festival celebrates the arts in the broadest sense, with the sea as this year’s theme.

There is plenty here to entertain the whole family, including the Prestonpans Infant School’s Summer Fayre, Mermaid’s Cave art workshop for young children and the John Muir Art Trail. Many of the local houses are open to the public as temporary galleries. In addition to the huge number of installations, exhibitions and demonstrations on offer, there are also workshops and classes for the more hands-on sort of visitor. RockNess June annually, Dores, near Inverness Anewcomer to the mainstream Scottish music festival, RockNess has exploded onto the festival scene as one of the best places to see the big bands.

With the superb backdrop of Loch Ness, the festival is naturally onto a winner, but this year it is diversifying to include a marquee to showcase the best seasonal produce of Argyll, and a promise that ice-cold beer will be supplied at every bar across the site.

The 2008 musical line-up included Fat Boy Slim, Razorlight, Underworld and many more.

For those who are discouraged by the idea of camping, you might be interested in the Boutique Camping Village at RockNess, where you have your own yurt or tipi in a secure area with superior toilet and shower facilities. And it doesn’t end there. An eco-friendly ‘podpad’ can be booked in advance. Or for the more conventionally inclined, you can arrange for a tent to be put up and furnished ahead of your arrival. Scottish Traditional Boat Festival June annually, Portsoy, Aberdeenshire An enormously entertaining event for all the family, go to the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival if you want a hands-on experience of traditional boats, crafts, music, dance and drama, in a beautiful part of Scotland.

You can register as a skipper or just go along on the day to learn about the eighty or so boats lined up along the harbour. Then sample the best food that the region has to offer, watch a local blacksmith, potter or fish smoker at work, or take part in the 2K Fun Run.

Portsoy has a long maritime history and rich local culture, much of which is on display at the festival, with exhibits and demonstrations on seafaring and the maritime industry. All against a fabulous backdrop of concerts, dancing, busking and the Setterday Nicht Ceilidh, this is a festival in a class of its own. Hebridean Celtic Festival 16th-19th July 2008, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis If you are planning to visit the Isle of Lewis, be sure to time your visit to catch the Hebridean Celtic Festival. It is a multi-venue event with a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

Visitors from all over the world return again and again to ‘Hebcelt’, seduced by its fantastic natural setting and of course the Celtic music that includes up and coming Scottish talent as well as the wellknown names.

The 2008 festival features Seth Lakeman and the ever popular Red Hot Chilli Pipers, as well as live bands playing into the wee hours in the Stornoway pubs. There are comedy acts and street art, and even a chance to pick up a few words of Gaelic before the festival is over. Speyfest 31st July-3rd August 2008, Fochabers, Moray With its focus firmly on Celtic music, both traditional and contemporary, Speyfest is an irresistible opportunity for people to get together and dance their socks off.

Celtic artists come from the United States and Canada to join their Scottish counterparts at this great celebration of pan-Celtic music at Fochabers in Moray.

Based in a tented village just two minutes walk from the town, the site has two stages, a beer tent and everything else visitors need.

Before Speyfest officially starts, a series of ‘In session’ nights are held at The Grant Arms in Fochabers, offering a more intimate experience of the festival’s music. Booking is essential due to the small size of the venue, but there is plenty of space at Speyfest itself, including an all day ‘Survivor’s Ceilidh’ held at the end of the festival for those who still haven’t danced enough. Dundee Flower and Food Festival 5th-7th September 2008, Camperdown As its name suggests, this is a festival that showcases the best of Scottish horticulture and cookery, and boasts an attendance of more than 26,000 people. This is no surprise, given the magnificent setting of the festival in the grounds of Camperdown Country Park, and the wealth of festival activities to be seen.

With cookery demonstrations by celebrity chefs, garden displays, fashion shows and craft stalls, Dundee Flower and Food Festival is an outstanding three day outdoor event that bids a fond farewell to a long Scottish summer. Scottish International Storytelling Festival 24th October – 2nd November 2008, Edinburgh The ancient Celtic tradition of storytelling in Scotland evolved at home and at Ceilidhs, feasts and public ceremonies, to be a vital part of Scottish culture.

The Scottish International Storytelling Festival celebrates oral storytelling traditions across the world, this year focusing on the Northlands and Sagalands, from Greenland to Finland.

The festival is a 10 day event packed full of live storytelling, music, film, song, workshops and talks by international guest speakers. Each year different themes are explored – this year including the light and the dark in northern mythologies, the creatures of the north in children’s literature and migration in threatened minority cultures.

There is something for adults and children alike, where the twoway communication between the storyteller and the audience can be enjoyed by all, and is remade with every retelling. Whisky Live 31st October – 1st November 2008, Glasgow Whether you are a novice or a seasoned whisky enthusiast, there is always something new to be found at Whisky Live.

The Glasgow event is just one of many Whisky Lives to be held around the world, bringing together the best of international whisky and offering visitors the chance to taste and learn about this favourite Scottish drink.

Attend a masterclass for a tutored lesson in a particular brand or expression, or discover matching whisky with food at one of the many food stalls.

Packed with live music, games and demonstrations as well as a few parties that continue well into the night, this is a whisky extravaganza not to be missed.