In Scotland, we love our music – whether bigger events attracting thousands, to smaller, more intimite gathers.
With the future of Scotland’s largest festival, T in the Park still uncertain and potential replacement TRNSMT standing as the countries only major event, perhaps it is time to consider some of the smaller and more unique gatherings taking place across the country. Ranging in sizes and located all over the place; from the remote beauty of Tiree to the historic backdrop of Linlithgow palace, here are some of the best small festival experiences Scotland has to offer.
1. Hebridean Celtic Festival – Stornoway, Isle of Lewis – 18–21 July.
Like many Grassroots festivals, HebCelts beginnings are humble, having started in 1996 with a crowd of 1,000 locals showing up. Now over two decades later it is arguably the largest annual event held on the Isle of Lewis as it attracts around 15,000 people, increasing Stornoway’s population by half over the weekend.
Hebcelt continues to be wildly popular despite its remote location with 2017 being the biggest year, even winning awards for best event from both the Scottish Event Awards and the Scottish Traditional Music Awards. Over the years the festival has attracted plenty of big names with the likes of Van Morrison, Runrig and Dougie Maclean all being previous headliners.
This year’s line up includes Deacon Blue, The Fratellis and traditional music outfit Skipinnish with more acts still to be announced. Tickets are available on their website: https://www.hebceltfest.com/index.php
2. Loopalu Festival – Ullapool, Ross-shire, 28–29 September.
Located on Ullapool pier, right on the waters of Loch Broom Loopalu provides one of the most unique and beautiful locations for a festival in possibly all of Scotland. Beginning in 2005, the festival regularly pulls in crowds of 2,500, which more than doubles Ullapool’s tiny population. The organisers feared last year’s iteration would be the last due to issues over guest accommodation but fans of the festival proved them wrong, with many having booked accommodation for this year before it was even announced!
Loopalu, which is Ullapool backwards, takes place quite late in the festival calendar, running from the 28–29 September. This year features the likes of The View, Glasvegas and The Rezillos. http://www.loopallu.co.uk/homepage.aspx
3. Eden Festival – Moffat, Dumfries and Galloway, 7-10 June.
Eden began life as a section of the now defunct Wickerman festival in 2002 before becoming a festival in its own right in 2009. Eden bills itself as ‘Scotland’s boutique festival’ and has a decidedly more bohemian and psychedelic feel than most other festivals around the country. With this more hippy vibe comes an incredibly friendly and welcoming atmosphere which is what helps it appeal to many festival goers as it recreates the feel of festivals from decades past.
The festival features 12 stages in total with plenty of variety between them. Everything from Dance Music, Reggae, Celtic Folk and Children’s Entertainment can be found throughout. The festival is celebrating its 10 year anniversary this year and has booked their line up accordingly which features acts such as: Groove Armada (DJ set), Super Hans (Matt King from Peep Show), The Turbans and Colonel Mustard and The Dijon Five. For tickets and information visit http://edenfestival.co.uk/SITE/
4. Party at the Palace – Linlithgow, West Lothian, 11 August.
The highly acclaimed West Lothian festival is turning five following another successful year in 2017. Located just across the loch from Linlithgow Palace, the festival boasts an incredibly family friendly atmosphere with plenty of activities for all as well as plenty of local food and drink to enjoy.
The past performers are nothing short of eclectic with headliners ranging from Chic and Nile Rodgers to Scots star Amy McDonald. The Scottish Sun Breakout stage has also played host to some of the most exciting new acts in Scottish Music, including local favourites Altinak. This year’s line up is also shaping up to be a memorable one with Glasgow legends Texas and Manchester rockers James being announced as headliners.
5. Butefest – Rothesay, Isle of Bute, 27-29 July.
Dubbed as Scotland’s most accessible island festival, being located only 33 miles from Glasgow, Butefest features a mix of live music and entertainment as well as a range of Scottish food and drink, including plenty of the country’s best craft beer and cider. The Isle of Bute provides a unique location for small but friendly and family oriented festival, which also features walkabout entertainers providing amusement throughout the day. The festival takes place between 27 to 29 July and as of yet no line up has been announced but past performers include names such as We Are Scientists, folk group Elephant Sessions and Ska Rockers The Begbies.
6. Tiree Music Festival – Isle of Tiree, 13–15 July.
The three times ‘Best Small Festival in Scotland’ according to the Scottish Event Awards is a distinctly different experience from most other festivals. Located on perhaps one of Scotland’s most picturesque island, with perfect white sand beaches – it is a truly idyllic location for a festival. The organisers of TMF have deliberately limited attendance of the event to 2,000 in order to maintain the small and intimate charm that the festival has become known for. Founded in 2010 by local Daniel Gillespie, most famous as a member of traditional group Skerryvore, the festival has won nine awards including the three for Best Small Festival and is well loved by those who attend for the great atmosphere, deserted beauty and fantastic music that the weekend provides. The music is mostly traditional Scots and Celtic fare, with legends such as Dougie Maclean, Skippinish and former Fort William Shinty hero turned accordion player Gary Innes. The festival promises to run between 13 – 15 July whatever the weather!
7. MidStock Festival – Dalkeith, Edinburgh, 31 August-1 September
MidStock describes itself as ‘Scotland’s biggest small festival’ and it is easy to see why. Born out of Dalkeith locals Wullie and Scott’s desire to create a home grown festival in the town, MidStock has attracted top acts to the two day event since 2014, which kicks off a week of arts and culture in the Midlothian town. As well as having past acts such as The View and The Skids, MidStock also features daytime activities and entertainment as well as a selection of the finest local food and a great range of Scottish Ale. Midfest, the weeklong celebration of arts that follows the festival also features live music, comedy and performance, a hidden gem of an event in the Edinburgh area. MidStock runs between 31 August and 1 September.
8. Rewind Festival Scotland – Scone Palace, 20-22 July.
Get ready for a weekend of nostalgia and great music as Rewind returns for its tenth year. This festival celebrates all things 80’s from the mad fashion hairstyles and most importantly, the music. Set in the beautiful grounds of Scone Palace in Perthshire, on the banks of the Tay which provides a perfect location for some amazing performances by legendary performers. The festival has previously played host to some of the biggest names of the decade such as The Human League and T’Pau. This year looks no different with Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Heaven 17, Bonnie Tyler and A Flock of Seagulls already confirmed. The festival takes place on the weekend of 20 -22 July.
9. Solas – Tibbermore, Perth, Perthshire, 22-24 June.
Solas is more of an arts festival than a pure music festival. Across its three days are a variety of performances and talks, ranging from poetry readings, Traditional African dance, Political talks and a truly eclectic range of musical acts, all sharing a stage. There is truly something for everything at this Perthshire festival which prides itself on creating a tolerant, inclusive atmosphere and encourages diversity. Solas is also one of the Countries socially aware festivals, working with organisations such as Christian Aid to help raise awareness on a variety of issues as well as having a no glass policy on site in order to look after it year round. This year’s festival features Deacon Blue’s Ricky Ross, Lau and Author James Kelman along with many other fascinating talks and performances. Solas runs from 22-24 June.
10. Tartan Heart Belladrum – Belladrum estate Inverness-shire, 2-4 August.
One of the most popular and fastest growing festivals in the UK, let alone Scotland, it may be soon that Tartan Heart or Belladrum can no longer be considered a small festival. However, the event has humble beginnings, sparking from a group of 2,00 gathering for a day of music on the beautiful Belladrum Estate in 2004 and now regularly attracts close to 20,000 people almost 15 years later. Incredibly the festival has sold out in advance for the last nine years so you’ll need to quick in getting tickets, though entry for Under 12s is free. The festival has given a platform to many British up and comers, many of whom are now huge names. Acts such as Ed Sheeran and Biffy Clyro have played Bella on their way to superstardom alongside established names such as Tom Jones and Jefferson Starship. Highlights for this year include Paloma Fath, Frightened Rabbit and Roseanne Cash. 2-4 August.