Planning a visit to Scotland? Here are all of the amazing annual Scottish festivals and events you should add to your calendar!
The Scottish festivals and events that you really shouldn’t miss!
Events? Crowds? Festivals? We’ve all had to park the idea of any those things for a really l-o-n-g time.
We’ve limited social gatherings to small numbers for so long that the thought of being in a crowd probably feels pretty unfamiliar. Right? However, I’m hopeful that change is coming and we can soon get back to normal. Ish.
The good news is that there’s a whole host of Scottish festivals to entertain you throughout the every month of the year. There are film festivals, food festivals, and even that little known event, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
You can celebrate Scottish festivals at home, in cities such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Dundee, or you can also take yourself off to soak them up in style at some of the most remote islands in Scotland. Shetland, anyone?
While not everything will be happening this year, they’re definitely worth adding into the mix if you’re planning a trip to Scotland any time soon. As with most things, Scottish festivals are definitely something us Scots do in style!
Want to read some more posts on my adventures in Scotland? Check these out:
- The Jacobite steam train: your complete guide
- My 5-star stay at a fairytale Scottish castle
- 25 things you should do in Dundee
Now let’s get started with my comprehensive list of the best Scottish festivals…
Scottish festivals and events: my complete guide
The Loony Dook
What is that thing where people in Scotland dress up in fancy dress and dunk themselves in the sea again? Oh yes, it’s the Loony Dook, which is up there as one of the more bizarre Scottish festivals.
As if the wild Hogmanay celebrations in Scotland weren’t energetic enough (which I’ll be talking about more later) you’re then supposed to drag yourself out of bed to take a dip in the freezing cold sea the following day. I know!
There are loony dooks held in various locations around Scotland. However, the original one is located just outside of Edinburgh in South Queensferry. So the good news is that you can do your freezing cold dip with the backdrop of the stunning Forth Bridge behind you.
There are other Loony Dook locations too – there’s a loony dook in Broughty Ferry near me and I’ve also seen one advertised way up north in Dornoch, which is north of Inverness. Whichever one you choose to go to though, you can guarantee it’ll be cold!
One thing to note is that you have to register for the Loony Dook ahead of time and pay an entry fee. Basically, you can’t just wake up on the day and rock up.
What does the Loony Dook mean?
Loony means ‘crazy’ and ‘dook’ means to take a dip, so it’s a pretty literal meaning. A crazy dip in the sea sums it up pretty nicely.
Why is the Loony Dook celebrated?
The first ever loony dook actually occurred in 1986 following a jokey conversation between three locals about New Year’s Day hangover cures. What a legacy for that conversation!
What time is the Loony Dook?
The original Loony Dook in South Queensferry begins at 2.15pm. Time for a lie in first then!
Robert Burns Night
It’s one of the most famous of all the Scottish festivals, but how should you celebrate it?
I always look forward to Rabbie Burns night on the 25th of January. Often, if you’ve been hibernating at home for a few weeks after all the festivities and new year celebrations. Burns night is the first big opportunity to gather all your friends for some traditional Scottish food.
So what exactly do you do on Robert Burns night in Scotland then? The event celebrates the life of renowned Scottish poet Robert Burns. It centres around eating haggis, neeps, and tatties and reciting one of Burns’ most famous poems, To A Haggis. Dubious about haggis? Don’t be, it really is delicious – even if it’s not much of a looker.
In terms of the event itself, there are no hard or fast rules. Your Burns Night celebration could be a relaxed dinner at home with friends or it could be a fancy dinner with lots of pomp and ceremony. It’s entirely up to you.
I much prefer eating at home. That’s mostly because my partner has been known to make what we term a McWellington on Burns night before. That’s a beef wellington with the pate replaced with haggis. I don’t even know if it’s a thing outside of our house but I do know is that it’s absolutely delicious!
Want to read about some more interesting Scottish foods? Check out my post here
Like folk music? Then Celtic Connections may be right up your street. It’s a celebration of Scottish folk music that has been held every year since 1994. Held in Glasgow, there are usually over 300 concerts, ceilidhs, talks, and workshops over the course of the festival. It’s a pretty big deal, with over 130,000 people usually attending.
In 2021 it was a digital-only affair, but the beating heart of the event was still firmly in place even if the crowds couldn’t be there. If you’d like to enjoy the best of what the folk music scene in Scotland has to offer, then consider adding Celtic Connections into your travel itinerary for next year!
You can find out more about Celtic Connections here
Up Helly Aa
In terms of Scottish festivals, Up Helly Aa is up there with the big ones. What’s more mesmerising than a torchlit procession and the burning of a Viking boats on a remote Scottish island?
Held on the last Tuesday in January each year, the event is steeped in history. On the day, 1000 costumed men in groups – known as squads – take to the streets of Lerwick for the procession under the cloak of darkness.
They’re led by the Guizer Jarl and his squad, who are dressed in Viking attire. The rest of the squads in the procession are dressed in a wide variety of colourful costumes. Once the torches are lit the men proceed through the streets before the boat is lit and goes up in a flurry of flames.
My partner is from Shetland and has regaled me with all the tales of Up Helly Aa.
My one grievance with the event is the fact that currently, only men are permitted to take part in the torchlit procession. I’d love for Up Helly Aa to move with the times and for women to be able to visibly participate in the festival. Some say it’s just tradition, but that’s why I’m not a big fan of tradition in general!
If you’d like to find out more you can do so here
Glasgow Film Festival
A confession: I’ve been to Edinburgh Film Festival a few times… but I’ve never made it to Glasgow Film Festival. I’m pretty disappointed about that because it sounds awesome. I mean, last year they had Caitlin Moran and Simon Bird there. They also had their biggest ever year with over 43,000 admissions over the course of the event.
If you like independent cinema, filmmaking, or you just love sitting down to enjoy a good movie then there’s sure to be something for you on the programme.
Hebridean Dark Skies Festival
Like stargazing? Always itching to get out of the city and somewhere more remote so that you can get a clear look at all the stars in the sky without the glare of the city lights?
Then you’re in luck, and the Hebridean Dark Skies Festival could really be a bit of you. Located on the Isle of Lewis in the Western Isles, the event combines two big hitters, art and astrology, to create an experience that’s both intriguing and unique. You can expect a weekend programme of events including everything from theatre, visual arts, live music, astrology talks and stargazing. It sounds like a winning combination to me.
As they say on their website, the event organisers wanted to create a Scottish festival for people to be able to look forward to during the dark winter months. I think this is a great answer to that.
Find out more here
Six Nations Championship
You may think that Scotland’s national sport is golf. I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong. Well, maybe not wrong exactly, but I’m much more of a fan of its second national sport: rugby.
My parents are actually bigger rugby fans than I am. It’s mostly because of them that I’ve attended the Six Nations a few times. However, I am a convert. Rugby fan or not, you can’t not get caught up in the atmosphere – which is electric by the way. And the best part about rugby is that it’s all very good natured.
Murrayfield comes alive when all the rugby fans are there. From the lone piper playing on the rooftop of the stadium to everyone singing their hearts out to Flower of Scotland, it’s a real magical event to be a part of.
A word of warning: it’s February in Scotland and you will get cold sitting in the stands. My advice is to wrap up warm and make sure you go for a walkabout at half time to get the blood flowing. You could also grab a hot snack or even a drink to warm you up. Unlike a football you can drink at rugby matches. There’s nothing a wee tipple won’t fix, right?
Want more details on going to a rugby match in Scotland? Read my complete guide here.
Beltane Fire Festival
Out of all the Scottish festivals, this is one of the most unique. Keep reading as to why…
My biggest memory of the Beltane Fire Festival is a performer licking my face as they danced past several years ago. Saying that out loud sounds very weird and it’s not really not representative of what the festival is all about. But still, it happened!
So what can you expect when you attend the Beltane Fire Festival in Edinburgh? Inspired by the ancient Gaelic festival of Beltane, the festival marks the birth of summer through the ceremonial lighting of the bonfire on top Calton Hill, just to the right of Princes Street.
Grounded in ritual, you can expect to see a kaleidoscope of performers in brightly coloured costumes. You’ll see the procession around the hill as well as interpretative dance and incredible fire performances on stage. Everything moves to the beat of the drum rhythmically sounding into the night, which gives it an almost other-worldly feel.
It’s a trip. My advice is to immerse yourself in the experience, soak up the atmosphere, and enjoy what is a completely unique experience right in the heart of Edinburgh.
Oh, and if this sounds like your idea of fun then I should also mention the Samhuinn Festival. It marks the passing of summer into winter and takes place in October. I talk more about it in my post on things to do at Halloween in Edinburgh right here.
Links Market Kirkcaldy
I’m sneaking this one in here because I actually grew up in Kirkcaldy, which is a commuter town in the region of Fife. That said, the Links Market is well worth a mention on this list.
The Links Market is a travelling fairground that arrives on Kirkcaldy esplanade in an explosion of flashing lights, loud music, and delicious wafts of fried food each year. It’s here for a total of six days before it moves on, and it always makes its presence felt in the town.
Its history is also really interesting. I already knew that it was the longest street fair in Europe and the oldest in Scotland, but I didn’t know that it had been first established all the way back in 1304. Isn’t that wild? I’m sure what it looked like back then doesn’t really resemble how it looks now in any way. Nowadays it’s all big wheels, bungees, dodgems, ghost trains and lots more. That’s not to mention all the delicious-smelling food stalls! Just make sure you do the rides first and then the food, not the other way around!
My recommendation is always going to be taking a spin on the waltzers if you go. They spin you HARD but it’s so much fun – they’re definitely my favourite ride at the Links Market.
The Links Market is in Kirkcaldy in April each year – like their Facebook page for more info!
Shetland Folk Festival
April 29-May 2 2021
Think Up Helly Aa is the only event that happens in Shetland each year? Nope! Shetland is up there when it comes to Scottish festivals and the Shetland Folk Festival is another big draw for tourists and locals alike.
Billed as Scotland’s most northerly folk festival, it also prides itself on holding its events in numerous locations around the isles, not just Lerwick. That means it does get pretty remote pretty quickly! However, as far I can tell that’s all part of the fun. Having an excuse to visit some of the most far flung locations in Shetland in one trip? Sounds good to me.
The event first started all the way back in 1981 as a way of celebrating Shetland’s rich musical heritage and traditions. It’s grown exponentially ever since. Over 350 local musicians now take part, as well as numerous more from further afield, and the event is attended by around 7000 people each year. They also warn that there’s so much on that nobody sleeps. Not to worry, you can sleep when you catch the boat home, right?
Find out more here
Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design Degree Show
Scottish festivals are all about creativity, and this couldn’t be truer than at a degree show.
Dundee used to be known for the three ‘Js’ – jam, jute and journalism. These days, however, it’s recognised for its creative sector and, in particular, its contribution to the design industry. We don’t have design museum the V&A Dundee for nothing, right?
I used to work for the art school at the University of Dundee, which is known as Duncan of Jordanstone School of Art & Design. I also live directly opposite the building. That means I’ve always been able to ‘experience’ the Degree Show even when I haven’t attended the actual event. That’s because it spills out onto the street with live music, fiddlers, and crowds of interesting creative types milling around.
The show is a showcase for the graduating fourth year students. You can see work from a wide range of disciplines, including Fine Art, Jewellery & Metal Design, Textile Design, Product Design and more. It’s free to attend and open to all for the ten days that it’s on. You can go on opening night where it’s a cacophony of music, crowds, and free wine… although you might have to push past three layers of people just to get to the art. It does get very busy! If you’re looking for a more sedate experience then go on the Saturday or later in the week.
One final thing – the Matthew Building, which is the more modern building, is a great example of brutalist architecture. So if you’re into that then it’s another reason to visit.
Find out more about the DJCAD Degree Show here
If you like your Scottish festivals with a side helping of sweat then this one is for you.
OK, it’s maybe not quite a festival, but it is a big deal. The Edinburgh Marathon is the biggest marathon in Scotland and the second biggest in the UK. Only the London Marathon being more popular. The circuit itself is described as “fast and flat” which sounds pretty good as far as marathons go, right? That means it’s probably a good one to do if it’s your first one or if you’re looking to come away with a PB.
It’s also a really scenic route which will enable you to take in some of the most beautiful sights in the city as well as the surrounding area. You start off at Potterow (which I know as the student union from my time as a student at Edinburgh University) in the heart of the old town. You’ll run down the Mound and through Princes Street Gardens, along the Royal Mile, and then past Scottish Parliament and the Salisbury Crags.
Next, you’ll head into East Lothian along the coast, passing the oldest golf course in the world, a neo classical mansion, and back along the coast a little bit more. What did I say? It’s very, very scenic. If you’e feeling energetic and fancy it you can find out more here!
Black Rock Race
More stamina will be required for this Scottish event, the Black Rock Race.
This one holds a special place in my heart because it’s in the motherland, the region of Fife. The Black Rock Race is held in a sleepy fishing village called Kinghorn, which is just along the road from the town I grew up in, Kirkcaldy.
The aforementioned Black Rock is a massive heft of rock out in the shoreline. You can only access it during low tide – which I guess is always an incentive to keep the pace up. Jokes aside, the race is around a 7km distance and has taken place since 1987.
The race starts in the centre of the village, loops around the Black Rock, and then finishes back in town. And if you thought that running on sand wasn’t hard enough then there’s also a massive hill to climb at the end. With all that said I would love to do the Black Rock Race one year – the only year I tried it had already sold out!
If you do visit Kinghorn to do the race I would absolutely recommend visiting The Ship afterwards. I’ve had many a delicious dinner there in the past!
Find out more about the Black Rock Race here
Crail Food Festival
Cooking demos + fresh seafood + cute fishing village vibes = the Crail Food Festival.
As far as Scottish festivals go, this one ticks a lot of boxes. If you haven’t heard of Crail I would certainly recommend visiting. It’s located in the East Neuk of Fife and is cute as a button.
The last time I was in Crail I remember sitting on the beach in the late afternoon sunshine and wondering why I could hear what sounded like gunfire. Why on earth would I be hearing that in this charming fishing village?
It turns out it was actually the sound of the pebbles and rocks being turned over by the waves on the shore! It was such an intriguing sound that really made me appreciate how unique a place it is.
I guess the point I’m making is that Crail has bags of charm, even before you add a food festival into the mix. Once you soak up the picturesque harbour, cute pastel-hued cottages, and winding streets you’ll know what I mean.
But what does the food festival in Crail actually entail? Well, the harbour comes to life with live cooking demonstrations, talks, and a chance to meet local fishermen to talk about their catch. They’ve even had Michelin-starred chefs taking part in the past, which definitely makes my ears prick up. If you’re a foodie – and you particularly like fresh Scottish food – then I would definitely recommend checking it out.
Just writing about it has made me really want to go, so see you there next year!
Edinburgh Film Festival
As far as Scottish festivals go, this is the one to come to for red carpets and Hollywood glamour.
If you’re bored of the endless succession of blockbuster movies and prefer your films independent then – ding, ding, ding – this is the event for you. Running since 1947, the film festival in Edinburgh is the world’s longest running film festival. Over the years it’s hosted the UK premieres for a whole number of brilliant movies, such as Billy Elliot, Amelie, Back to the Future, and the Edge of Love starring Sienna Miller and Keira Knightly.
It’s also renowned (at least to me) for its gravitas when it comes to its red-carpet guests. Everyone from Jennifer Lawrence to Cate Blanchett to Clint Eastwood has appeared at the event over the years.
On a personal level, I’ve also seen some incredible films over the years – including the Killing of John Lennon and Zidane, which featured the music of Mogwai on the soundtrack. I still remember watching the latter in old-fashioned cinema The Cameo in Edinburgh a few years ago and just soaking up experience.
Find out more about the Edinburgh Film Festival here
Royal Highland Show
Want to experience a taste of the Scottish countryside from the comfort of the central belt? Then get on your waxed jacket and head along to the Royal Highland Show.
Primarily an agricultural show, it’s all about farming, food, and full-on country life! You can expect to see everything from livestock competitions to sheep shearing, and lots more. There’s show jumping and you can also get up close and personal with some highland cows cuties!
As I alluded to, although you may think the show is held somewhere in the highlands of Scotland, but it’s not. It’s actually held at the Royal Highland Centre in Ingliston, which is just next to Edinburgh airport. Which just makes it even more convenient. You can get a taste of country life during the day and have dinner in the city.
Find out more about the Royal Highland Show here
The East Neuk Festival
I’m a big fan of the cute fishing village vibes of East Neuk and so the more excuses to visit there the better I say!
The East Neuk Festival is a great one. Held in the first week of July of July each year, it’s an award-winning festival that celebrate all things music, spanning across multiple genres including classical, jazz, contemporary and salsa music. You can go from enjoying a Mozart horn concerto to the lilt of a beautiful harpists, all in one place.
The quirky venues for the event are all part of the charm of the festival at East Neuk. During the event the musicians will play in caves, an ex-nuclear bunker, an RAF base, stately home gardens and more.
If that doesn’t tempt you into attendance then I’m not sure what will!
You can find out more about the festival here
With T in the Park and Rockness no longer in operation, TRNSMT has taken on the mantle as one of the biggest Scottish festivals for music fans. Held at Glasgow Green in Glasgow, it’s a pretty big deal.
There are tons of massive acts on the line up for this year’s event, including Liam Gallagher, Lewis Capaldi, Amy McDonald, Jimmy Eat World, and lots more. Sounds like a good day out to me!
If you get tired of dancing for hours on end then there are tons of bars to rehydrate yourself at, tempting street food options at one of the many food stands, and a real carnival atmosphere that you can simply soak up.
You can’t guarantee the weather (it is Scotland) but you can guarantee you’ll have a great time. If you’re not rocking one of those plastic ponchos by the end then who even are you?
Note – the event has been moved to September this year but it’s usually held in July.
Hebridean Celtic Festival
I’ve only been to the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides once, many years ago, and I would definitely love to go again. The Hebridean Celtic Festival is the perfect excuse to visit.
Held in Stornoway each year, the event is an international Scottish music festival which attracts both international artists and bands and the very best of the local talent. Previous headliners have included KT Tunstall, Van Morrison and Deacon Blue.
That’s not all that the event is about however. It also celebrates the rich history of the local area and is about bringing together the local community as well as those from further afield. The event is also set on a stunning location right on the waterfront of the island.
Find out more here
Edinburgh Art Festival
Fun fact: my first ever job after graduating was as an arts correspondent writing about the Edinburgh Art Festival. I still remember the highlight; which was reviewing a photography exhibition featuring the work of Diane Arbus held at the Botanical Gardens. But enough about me and my nostalgia!
What is the Edinburgh Art Festival exactly? Founded in 2004, the art festival is a collaboration between the numerous galleries in the city as well as numerous pop-up exhibitions and events.
The festival spans over 30 venues in total. As well as including blockbuster locations such as the Scottish National Galleries and the Portrait Gallery in the city it also incorporates contemporary art spaces than you might not have visited before. One example is the Fruitmarket Gallery, just outside Waverley Station.
If you’re looking for some quiet contemplative space away from the madness of the festival then I would highly recommend the art festival.
Find out more here
I may not have done the Dundee marathon before, but I have done the half before, which is also known as the Dundee Half Dram. Trust me, the half is hard enough!
The race route begins in Camperdown Park in the north west of the city and then finishes up all the way over in Broughty Ferry, a bustling port town just outside of Dundee. That’s only if you’re doing the Dundee half marathon though – if you’re doing the full marathon you have to run all the way back to Camperdown park.
I have heard that the Dundee marathon is a pretty good race if you want to get a decent time, due to it being at a slight decline. That may be the case but it sure didn’t feel that way to me – it was a slog!
However, it was also one of the best things I’ve done and I do feel proud of myself for it. So if there are any keen runners out there you might fancy it!
You can find out more about the Dundee marathon here
Royal Military Tattoo
If we’re talking about Scottish festivals then it doesn’t get much more iconic that the Royal Military Tattoo. Right? With music, dance, marching, bagpipes, and fireworks, you know that your experience at the Edinburgh Tattoo will be nothing short of spectacular – and that’s before we talk about the fact that the show takes place with Edinburgh Castle as its backdrop. If you’re looking for an incredible display of military might, this is it.
What can you expect from the Edinburgh Tattoo? Well, before we go any further, a military tattoo is a performance of music or display of armed forces. At the Edinburgh Tattoo you can see performances by the British Armed Forces, Commonwealth, and international military bands. Expect Scottish country dancing, a lone piper, and a kaleidoscope of different coloured kilts – as well as a strong thread of multiculturalism woven through.
Here’s something I didn’t know – there’s a theme to the tattoo each year, which is usually pretty conceptual. Previous themes have included creativity, nature, and Scotland’s homecoming.
It’s an incredibly popular event with a real international reach, with an annual audience of around 220,000 and 10 million-strong global audience who watch it on TV.
How long does the Edinburgh Tattoo last?
The show lasts just shy of two hours in total, at around 100 minutes in total.
How much are tickets to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo?
You might expect an event of this standing to be ridiculously overpriced, right? Not the case. Standard tickets for the tattoo are actually pretty affordable for most budgets, with standard seats costing from £25 to £90. If you’re happy to spend a bit more, Premier Seats, Royal Gallery and Hospitality Packages start from £134.
What are the dates for the Edinburgh Military tattoo 2021?
The tattoo will run from Friday August 6 until Saturday August 28 2021
Find out more about the Edinburgh Tattoo here.
Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Out of all the Scottish festivals then this one really is the cream of the crop.
What can I say? August is a busy month for events in Edinburgh. You may have to pack in a lot into a short time but boy, will you have a great time. So what can I tell you about the Edinburgh Fringe Festival?
Well, it’s the biggest arts festival in the world for starters. When the festival is in town the city comes to life! Every street is covered in posters, every corner is crowded with tourists, and you can’t walk up the Royal Mile without being charmed by the incredible street performers. The Fringe will entertain, shock, charm and delight you.
My personal favourite at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival are the comedy shows – they’re edgy, tucked away into undiscovered corners of the city, and always leaning towards the unexpected. Remember, anyone can put on their own show at the festival, so the standard varies wildly. You’ve not done the festival right unless you’ve seen at least one terrible comedy show where the comedian dies on stage and literally no one laughs. So awkward!
I’ve actually written a more in-depth post about the Edinburgh Fringe right here but the main takeaway is this: go. The Edinburgh Fringe is a trip and you’ll have the best time!
Edinburgh International Festival
OK, let’s move onto the Edinburgh International Festival. Another Edinburgh Festival I hear you say? Indeed!
So what is the Edinburgh International Festival? It’s actually the original Edinburgh Festival and can be charted all the way back to 1947. It was originally intended to enrich people’s lives with European culture. All very fancy!
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival was created alongside it – literally on the fringes of town – and was a festival for all the performers that weren’t invited to be a part of the Edinburgh International Festival. It was all very grassroots, but it was immediately popular and has grown exponentially ever since.
So if the charm of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is that it’s a little chaotic, off-beat, and for everyone, the International Festival is a whole a different vibe. It’s definitely more highbrow. It brings in top class performers from the classical music world alongside performers from theatre, opera and dance. There’s also a focus on visual art, with exhibitions, talks, and workshops. If you want to dip into some culture then it’s for you!
The Edinburgh International Festival also has some of the coolest venues in the city as its disposal, including the Kings Theatre, the Usher Hall, the Edinburgh Playhouse and the Festival Theatre. Find out more here.
Edinburgh Book Festival
Held in a cute tented village in Charlotte Square gardens, the Edinburgh International Book Festival is another one with big credentials – it’s the largest festival dedicated to the written word in the world.
Numerous authors, illustrators, poets and up and coming talent come to the festival each year to talk about their work. Everyone from JK Rowling to Zadie Smith to Yann Martell has appeared at the event in the past, and you may even get a couple of celebrity book writers popping up – McFly’s Tom Fletcher has been a guest in the past.
If you’re a book lover then this festival will definitely be a bit of you.
Pittenweem Arts Festival
Scottish festivals don’t come much more charming than this.
Pittenweem is a fishing village located in the East Neuk of Fife that’s pretty much as charming as it comes. Imagine a picturesque harbour crowded with bobbing boats, cute pastel coloured houses in shades of pink, blue, and green, and old-fashioned streets and lanes that steeply wind up from the shoreline. Sound nice, right?
So now onto the festival. What exactly happens during the Pittenweem Arts Festival?
Well, the village quite literally opens its doors to visitors during the festival. You can enjoy the work of over 100 local artists in numerous informal settings. Forget a stiff and formal gallery setting where you’re scared to breathe too heavily. Here, you can enjoy the art presented in homes, in open garages, in public halls and sheds, and chat to the artists as they mill around. Expect to see paintings, textile work, jewellery and lots more.
Find out more about the Pittenweem Arts Festival here
Cowal Highland Gathering
If you want an authentic Scottish experience then attending some highland games is an absolute essential.
The Cowal Highland Gathering is the largest highland games in the world – and possibly the most spectacular. Located in Dunoon, which is just 90 minutes on the train from Glasgow, the event attracts over 23,000 people attend each year – jings!
You’ll be able to experience the highlights of Scottish culture in one fell swoop – including highland dancing, a tossing the caber competition, and pipe bands. There’s even a ‘backhold’ wrestling competition – this is a traditional type of wrestling that’s been around since the eight century and the earliest highland games around. It might not be what you’re used to if you’re a WWE fan but I bet it’s pretty entertaining!
You can reenergise yourself at one of the multiple food stands and check out some live music at the Gig at the Gathering. And if you have enough energy after all of that there’s also a ceilidh tent for you to hurl and reel in all night – you’ve got to get your fix of Scottish country dancing while you’re here, right?
Find out more about the Cowal Highland Gathering right here
Isle of Jura Music Festival
First up, where is the Isle of Jura? Well, Jura is a Scottish island that is part of the Inner Hebrides. It’s mostly known for its wild Scottish landscapes, whirlpools, and whiskey… but it’s also known for its annual music festival which celebrates traditional Scottish music.
So what can you expect from the Isle of Jura music festival? Well, the festival brings together local talent along with established acts in the traditional Scottish music scene. The latter take part in workshops as part of the event in order to share their expertise with up-and-coming talent, as well as performing live at the event.
Along with all the live performances, there’s a ceilidh on the Friday night, great food and drink, and it’s all framed by rugged charm of the surrounding Scottish landscape. What could be better?!
You’ll either have to fly or get a ferry to the island from the mainland, which just makes it seem like even more of an adventure. You can explore travel options here
The Enchanted Forest
Scottish festivals also come with a sprinkle of magic, especially when it comes to the Enchanted Forest.
This is one of those events I’ve never been to, even though everyone else talks about how incredible an experience it is. In think in some ways I thought it was more of an activity for families with young kids. However, having talked to a few people about it in recent months I’m more than happy to report I’ve been convinced otherwise!
So what can you expect from the Enchanted Forest? In short, it’s a magical lightshow set in against the backdrop of an autumnal woodland. I love the idea of contrasting this sleepy natural setting with the bold visuals of a dazzling light show; it’s all strips of rainbow-hued light streaking across with sky dramatised by an original musical score.
They also don’t forget the fact that you’re outside in October, which can get pretty chilly in Scotland. There are food carts a plenty serving up everything from gourmet burgers and fries to woodfired pizzas and soups.
You can also buy hot chocolate and marshmallows and toast them around one of the many fire pits dotted around the woodland – there are some alcoholic tipples on offer too. It sounds heavenly! Why have I not been already?!
Sign up for updates about the Enchanted Forest here
Great Scottish Run
And if you haven’t exhausted yourself with all these activities by the time the last quarter of the year rolls around then you can sign up for the Great Scottish Run. The good news is that this isn’t a marathon – it’s a 10km or half marathon event, and there’s also a shorter event for children.
Held in the city of Glasgow each year, the Great Scottish Run attracts around 30,000 participants each time – which means there are a lot of energetic people around!
The race route weaves around the streets of Glasgow taking in all the sights of the city. You start at George Square and head up St Vincent Street, cross the River Clyde, run through Bellahouston Park and past the SECC – somewhere I have been many times. You finish the race at Glasgow Green.
Gosh, I feel exhausted just thinking about it!
You can find out more info here
Shetland Accordion and Fiddle Festival
Another big one in terms of Scottish festivals – and for Shetland – is the five-day Shetland Accordion and Fiddle Festival, which takes place in October each year. Comprising both local musicians and those from around the world, what it celebrates is traditional Scottish dance music.
The highlight is at the end of the festival, when a dozen or so traditional dance bands take it in turns to perform to an audience in the local sports hall… which is said to be like a folk music rave. The only thing you’ve got to decide is whether you’ve got the stamina for it.
Find out more here
St Andrews Day
St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland but St Andrews Day is a bit of a funny one in Scotland, as the celebrations don’t tend to be particularly big. It’s certainly not on the level of St Patrick’s Day in Ireland!
That’s not to say it’s not worth marking however. Held on the 30th of November, it’s one of the Scottish festivals you can celebrate whichever way you fancy. It could be a low-key meal of traditional Scottish food (I have some suggestions here) or some drinks and a ceilidh. We Scots do like reeling and burlin’ whenever we get a chance!
There are numerous organised events around St Andrews Day that you could attend. In Glasgow, for example, there’s a torchlight procession through the west end of the city. In Edinburgh there’s the Saltire Festival which comprises film screenings, a farmers’ market and even the Saltire Raceday at Musselburgh Racecourse.
In St Andrews, the town the bears the same name, you can attend The Big Hoolie, which sounds like a right hoot! Expect a ceilidh, a parade, fireworks over the famous West Sands beach, and lots more.
However you celebrate St Andrews Day you’ll be sure to have a great time!
Edinburgh Zoo’s Christmas nights
This is one of those Scottish festivals that I always get green eyes over.
Every year I see bloggers I follow posting photos of Edinburgh Zoo’s Christmas nights and every year I’m outrageously jealous and wish I could go. I am definitely pencilling this into the calendar for this year.
But what are the Christmas nights at Edinburgh Zoo exactly? Well, it’s that little bit of magic that you need and you want at this time of year. Picture twinkling fairy lights, candy canes, oversized nutcrackers, and fresh Christmas trees wafting their delicious scent in your direction and you get the idea.
Add into the mix enchanting projects, avenues of lights to walk through, and charming installations to pose up a storm next to and you’ll see why I want to go so much. While the animals are mostly tucked up in bed, this is a unique opportunity to experience the zoo in the moonlight.
You can find out more about Edinburgh Zoo’s Christmas nights here
And finally, you don’t get any Scottish festivals bigger than Hogmanay in Edinburgh.
Hogmanay in Scotland means one thing and one thing only… and that’s the world-famous Hogmanay street party in Edinburgh. Over 75,000 revellers attend the street party in Edinburgh each year, making it one of the biggest new year celebrations in the world. In fact, the 1996-97 event is actually in the Guinness Book of World Records for the biggest new year party in the world – with a mind-blowing 400,000 people in attendance.
These days, due to health and safety concerns, it’s not quite to that scale. But that’s not to say it isn’t great – it’s just that teensy bit more exclusive, right? So what makes the street party so good exactly?
Well, there are always brilliant headliners each year – everyone from Mark Ronson to Rag ‘n’ Bone Man to Paolo Nutini has played there before. You’ll also get to sing Auld Lang Syne in Scotland with lots and lots of ever so slightly merry Scottish people – which is always an experience.
The fireworks are also pretty spectacular and you can see them from all around the city, even if you’re at the street party or not. You can find out more here