This is the second part of our blog series on the very best Summer festivals going on in Scotland in 2018. If you haven’t already, why not check out or previous article on Scottish Summer festivals happening in May and June? Featured image credit: Ian Woodhead
The summer holiday months of July and August are packed with festival activities, from Shetland to Galloway and the Outer Hebrides to Aberdeenshire. Whether you’re interested in bikes or traditional music, beer or film, you’ll find a festival for it somewhere. We’re so lucky to have so many wonderful events happening in Scotland – and if you hire a campervan or a motorhome, you can create your own little festival tour!
The Skye Festival kicks off the month in style and covers pretty much everything: traditional music, visual arts, environmental days, island culture, theatre and ceilidhs. It’s not a one-weekend-wonder, either, lasting from 3rd July to 24th August.
July really is music month: every weekend provides a feast of opportunities to listen, and sometimes to take part, too. 5-8th July you could go to Stonehaven for folk, Edinburgh (Ingliston) for the Scotfest pop extravaganza, or Newton Stewart for traditional music and dance.
The Isle of Islay takes up the baton 8-13th July, with the Cantilena Festival of classical music. 11-15th July it’s Aberdeen’s turn: the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention covers music from Canada and the US, Scandinavia and every part of the UK. There’s an academic side to it, but plenty of live concerts, busking and workshops to listen to and join in.
13-15th July is the Tiree Music Festival, winner of the Best Small Festival award six years running. It’s an eclectic mix of folk, roots, trad and soul on one of the sunniest and prettiest islands of Scotland, and audience numbers are limited to 2000 – so if you want to go, book now! The festival has some pitches for campervans, and it is also worth being aware of the “wild camping” vehicle restrictions on Tiree, which have been put in place to protect the fragile grass areas (Machair) and dunes: http://www.isleoftiree.com/out-about/camping-and-campervans/
The period 13-22nd July offers you the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival; chamber music at Paxton House, near Berwick-upon-Tweed; UnstFest on Britain’s most northerly island (worth the trip both for the place and for the multi-faceted festival); HebCelt at Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis; Rewind Scotland at Scone Palace, near Perth; and Lossiemouth Folk Club Festival. Sadly, you can’t do them all!
Callander & Trossachs Summerfest and the Crail Festival both cover more than music and go on ‘til nearly the end of the month. The last weekend in July has Speyfest, one of the best Celtic and Scottish music festivals; Strathaven Folk Festival; and Butefest, featuring folk, rock, roots and dance music.
The 46th Aberdeen International Youth Festival (27th July-4th August), showcases every type of music, dance and theatre, performed by youngsters from all over the world; a One World Day Mela adds to the fun.
Non-musical July festivals
You needn’t feel left out if music’s not your thing, though – there’s plenty other action to join in.
MCN Scottish Festival (21-22nd July) is a major draw for bikers, with stalls, stunts and hundreds of motorbikes to make your mouth water. Mugstock Festival at Milngavie, near Glasgow, on 27-30th July offers an interesting mix of music, food, drink, art, theatre, and cabaret.
Edinburgh starts warming up for the big one with a Food Festival (25-29th July) and Art Festival (26th July-26th August), while Loch Ness offers a Film Festival covering shorts, documentaries, features and mainstream film (27-28th July) at various venues – the emphasis is on story-telling rather than blockbusters.
Food is centre-stage at Tarbert Seafood Festival on Loch Fyne and Bowhouse Food Weekend at St Monan’s in Fife (both 7-8th July), and at Anstruther Harbour Festival, also in Fife, on 28-29th July.
The Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Festival Fringe dominate August, running right through the month (3-27th). The Just Festival runs alongside, offering a more spiritual take on life, art and politics, while the Military Tattoo takes a more muscular approach, with pipe bands, dancing and other displays making good use of Edinburgh Castle.
The Edinburgh International Book Festival starts a bit later (11-27th August) as does the Whisky Fringe (11-12th), and the Television Festival is later still (22-24th). A less well known part of the show is the Turing Festival, which deals with technology and all things digital, and runs on the first two days of August at venues across Edinburgh. If STEM subject are your thing, Techfest in Aberdeen (25th August-22nd September) has the space and time to cover science, technology, engineering and mathematics, aiming at both children and adults.
For something completely different, Truckfest Scotland, at Ingliston (near Edinburgh Airport) on 4-5th August, is the UK’s largest truck festival, offering plenty of thrills and entertainment for all ages.
Always rivalling Edinburgh, Glasgow has its own festivals running in August. The Merchant City Festival (2-12th) has a bit of everything: comedy, theatre, music, art and street performers. The city is hosting the European Championships of a variety of sports (the rest are taking place in Berlin) and a multi-arts festival is running alongside, often in the same venues as the sports, on 2-12th August.
On the 4th August, also in Glasgow, Coloursfest brings together clubbers and DJs for Scotland’s longest-running dance festival. Somewhat different music takes over the city on 13-19th August, when Piping Live fills it with contemporary and traditional music including the World Pipe Band Championships.
Glasgow’s not all about loud music, though. The Thomas Muir Festival, which runs from 24th August to 24th November at Bishopbriggs, on the northern outskirts of the city, covers music and politics in equal measure, as well as treasure hunts and events for children.
Outside the cities
If you’re looking for festivals outside the big cities, breezy North Berwick, just along the coast from Edinburgh, lays on its own Fringe By The Sea festival (3-12th August), covering much the same ground as the Edinburgh version but on a smaller, less frenetic scale.
Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, near Beauly (2-4th August), is a more determinedly Scottish and family-oriented event with music, theatre, interactive performers, ceilidhs, arts and crafts workshops and even fancy dress, all in a beautiful country-house setting.
If you’ve always wondered what life in prehistoric Scotland was like, you can find out at the Scottish Crannog Centre’s Celts are Coming festival on Loch Tay on 4-5th August. Taste the food, watch leatherworkers, weavers and blacksmiths at work, and try your hand at the Iron Age Olympics (including fish-throwing!).
The tiny fishing village if Pittenweem, on the Fife coast, provides the background for an art festival running 4-12th August. Artworks by over 100 artists are displayed in all sorts of venues, from garages to shops. Finding them is part of the fun.
Ballater Victoria Week is the second week of August (this year, 5-12th). The programme includes a parade of pipers and vintage vehicles, Ballater Highland Games and a day of Duck-based Mayhem to end the proceedings with a bang. Definitely family-friendly fun.
There’s more family fun on offer at the Stranraer RNLI Park Fest, 17-18th August, a fund-raising event with funfair rides and a pirate ship as well as music and crafts. Marymass Festival at Irvine is a more traditional affair, including the crowning of the Marymass Queen and a folk festival; the event dates right back to the 17th century.
Strathaven Balloon Festival (24-26th August) is a big international gathering, with plenty of colour and “wow” moments as well as a funfair, classic vehicle show and other family fun offerings.
Food and drink are well represented in August, starting with the Foodies Festival in Inverleith Park, Edinburgh (3-5th). Elgin Food and Drink Festival, on 18th August, hosts 80 exhibitors, with live cookery demonstrations, tastings and plenty of activities for adults and children alike.
Larbert has a Whisky Social, also on 18th August, with whiskies from across Scotland and the rest of the world, providing plenty of opportunities to taste the whiskies and chat to the makers. To close the month, the Trossachs Beer Festival (24th August-9th September) has over 160 Scottish real ales to sample, great food, and live folk music at weekends.
If you want to work off some of the excess, the Eliminator Mountain Bike Festival at Newburgh in Fife (31st August-2nd September) will help. Even if you’re not taking part in or watching the racing there’s plenty to get your blood pumping, from circus workshops and a climbing wall to a mega water slide. Not to mention a trade village, craft fair and live music.
And speaking of music…
August is stuffed with music festivals, too. The Mull of Kintyre Festival in Campbeltown (8-12th August) covers traditional Scottish and Irish music. There’s music all over town, in pubs and clubs, on the streets, in music tuition workshops, sessions, street parades, concerts… And if you want a break from music for a bit there’s a funfair and family entertainment.
Mary Queen of Scots’ childhood home, Linlithgow, is the background for Party at the Palace (11-12th August), with a great line-up of bands. Innerleithen Music Festival (17-19th) concentrates on Celtic music, featuring both local and international talent, with a mixture of performances, sessions and workshops.
Groove Loch Ness (18th August) is a one-day dance-fest on – you’ve guessed it – the shores of Loch Ness. Does Nessie dance? There’s only one way to find out!
The weekend of 31st August-2nd September offers four different music festivals to choose from. Midstock Festival at Dalkeith can’t offer deep-loch monsters, but in every other way it’s a great family-friendly event. Electric Fields at Drumlanrig focuses on Scottish bands. Kelso Folk Festival offers concerts, sessions, workshops and open mic events, so if you want to be discovered as a folk musician, that’s the place to go. Finally, Heavy Scotland, at Edinburgh’s Corn Exchange, features heavy metal bands such as Carcass and Gama Bomb.
From engineering to water-colours, bikes to hot-air balloons and chamber music to heavy metal, August in Scotland runs the gamut of festivals: everything from the Iron Age to the future is at your fingertips at some point in the month somewhere in this small but vibrant country. We’re a bit biased, but we think a luxury motorhome is the perfect vehicle to discover it all!