Everyone knows about the Edinburgh International Festival and all its brothers and sisters – the Fringe, the Military Tattoo and so on. But Scotland has plenty of other festivals on offer, right through the summer, many of them in wonderfully scenic locations with great campsites nearby. We’ve put together a list of great festivals happening in May and June – with something for all tastes. Scotland is a relatively small country with so much happening – why not hire a motorhome and see how many festivals you can fit in?
Scottish festivals in May
For music lovers, 10-13th May offers the Moniaive Folk Festival in Dumfries and Galloway. The same weekend also has Fifesing at Falkland in Fife and Gig in the Goil at Lochgoilhead in Argyll.
The end of the month gives you the world-famous Orkney Folk Festival (24-27th) and MoFest – the Montrose Music Festival in Angus, which showcases big names, local bands, ceilidhs and other musical fun on 25-27th. The same weekend, Knockengorroch, near Castle Douglas, holds its World Ceilidh, a gallimaufry of live and DJ music from all over the world. The festival has space to stay in your motorhome and campervan, just remember to purchase a vehicle pass in advance.
If outdoor exercise is more your thing, Newton Stewart Walking Festival (11-17th), Arran Mountain Festival (18-21st) and Ballater Walking Festival (19-25th) will all get you moving. Park your campervan or a motorhome nearby to relax in after a long day’s walking, and enjoy a leisurely drive on to the next walking route.
Off the mainland, the Coll Bird Festival (18-20th) offers a chance to hear the rare and elusive corncrake. If you’re heading for Coll, book your motorhome pitch early – there are only two on the island! The Edinburgh Marathon Festival (26-27th) and Angus Glens Walking Festival (31st May-3rd June) close out May in style.
For food and drink, you’ve plenty of choice. Perth Beer Festival (12th) purveys a heady mix of beer and rugby sevens – heaven for some! The Loch Fyne Oyster company celebrate their 40th Anniversary with a weekend festival (12-13th) of food and music.
Helensburgh Beer and Gin Festival (18-19th) is a little more hard-core; cider, food and music are also all on offer. You might like to recover just down the road at the Glasgow Coffee Festival (19-20th). Both of these are charity events, so you’ll be helping good causes as you enjoy yourself.
For a bit of everything, from its distinctive peaty whisky to Gaelic lessons and traditional fiddlers, Islay’s Festival of Music and Malt (25th May-2nd June) takes a lot of beating. You’ll get a good dash of island welcome thrown in, along with fabulous landscapes – and normally plenty of wind and rain, too; a good hangover cure! Accommodation is limited on Islay at festival time, so hiring a motorhome or campervan can be a great idea – and you can use it to tour the island’s many whisky distilleries.
Theatre, dance and design fans are not forgotten in May’s Scottish festival line-up. Ullapool holds a Book Festival 11-13th May, while Edinburgh hosts the International Magic Festival 11-19th and Glasgow responds with Southside Fringe 11-27th. Stirling (12-19th) and Dunbar (18-20th) go big on books: their literary festivals are Off the Page and Coastword respectively.
Perth Festival of the Arts (17-26th) showcases some very big names in music, comedy, theatre and dance, while Dundee’s Design Festival (21-28th) looks forward to the opening of the new V&A Museum of Dundee later this year.
On 26th May-3rd June, Edinburgh International Children’s Festival offers storytelling, puppets, dance and other theatre aimed at a younger audience. The same week, Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival is a family-friendly multi-arts jamboree with something for everyone, while the Spring Fling in the same region (26-28th) takes you into the studios of visual artists and crafters.
Scottish festivals in June
June’s music offering is even better than May’s, kicking off with Ceòlas (1st-6th) on South Uist: mainly a teaching event, there are also plenty of concerts, lectures and ceilidhs for everyone interested in Scottish traditional music and Gaelic song.
You can get more traditional music at the Arran Folk Festival, Oban Live and the TMSA Keith Festival, all on 8-10th; Killin Festival (15-17th) and Lairg Music Festival (16th); Midsummer Music at the Crannog Centre, Kenmore (21st), and the Isle of Gigha Music Festival (29-30th). If visiting the Isle of Gigha you might want to leave the motorhome on the mainland and get the ferry on foot. You can also take bikes with you – our motorhomes have quality bike racks, and we also offer bike hire – a great way to experience the island. Finally, there’s also the Newcastleton Traditional Music Festival and Arran Malt and Music Festival (both on 29th June-1st July).
June’s a brilliant month for other music lovers, too, whether classical, jazz or rock and metal. Kirkcudbright and Glasgow have Jazz Festivals on 14-17th and 20-24th June respectively, while the Wildfire Festival at Biggar (22-24th) is an award-winning rock and metal festival in the Borders.
TRNSMT Festival, on Glasgow Green, is a two-parter (29 June-1st July and 6-8th July) with a line-up that includes Jessie J, Franz Ferdinand, Stereophonics and Liam Gallagher. Youth Beatz, Dumfries (30th June-1 July), is Scotland’s biggest free youth music event.
Orkney’s St Magnus International Festival (22-27th) is an extraordinary week of orchestral concerts, recitals, theatrical performances and literature. Almost at the other end of the country, the East Neuk Festival on Fife’s coast (27th June-1st July) has chamber music at its heart but has broadened to include almost all art forms.
The Kelburn Garden Party (29th June-2nd July) covers the musical spectrum from avant-garde and experimental to the accessible, with six stages and other performance areas giving you plenty of chance to find something you enjoy. Finishing off the month, Mendelssohn on Mull (30th June-7th July) brings young and old musicians together for chamber music in venues on Mull and also on Iona and in Oban (so you can get a flavour of it without having to cross the sea).
Family festivals in Edinburgh (The Meadows) and Dundee (Westfest) on the weekend of 2-3rd offer everything from dog shows to bands, food and beer. For something a little more serious, Glasgow has a Science Festival (7-17th June), with workshops, films, discussions and hands-on experiments for budding scientists. Perth’s Horsecross hosts a Youth Arts Festival on 14- 17th, with theatre, music and dance for and by youngsters.
Hospitalfield, on the outskirts of Arbroath, has its child-friendly Summer Festival 18th June-7th July, with talks, tours, concerts and projects to keep younger family members happy. The Glasgow Mela (24th) is a one-day festival celebrating the city’s multi-cultural community through dance, music, activities and food.
Cyclists flock to the Edinburgh Festival of Cycling (7-24th), Tweedlove at Peebles (8-10th), and Cream o’ the Croft at Comrie (15-17th); the last two are specifically for mountain bikers, while the first covers the whole gamut of cycling. Walkers have the Moray Walking and Outdoor Festival (15-24th), where outdoor pursuits and whisky go hand in hand.
For sea-lovers, the St Kilda Challenge and Festival (14-16th) attracts yachtsmen for a race to the famous island and back, while there’s a programme of onshore events for landlubbers. Less competitive boaters may prefer the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival in Portsoy (3th June-1st July), where rowing and sailing, music, traditional crafts and art are the order of the day.
There are lashings of food and drink festivals all over the country in June, starting on 2nd with Whisky An’ A’ That at Ayr Town Hall. The same day, at Thainstone, near Inverurie, the Taste of Grampian is the largest food festival in the north of Scotland, showcasing local producers and entertainers at the same time.
Crail, in Fife’s East Neuk, holds a Food Festival (9-10th) with strong links to the local fishing community and farmers. There are cookery demonstrations and music to feed both body and soul.
The same weekend sees the Ballantrae Festival of Food and Drink, in Ayrshire, where you can go on foraging expeditions as well as watch chefs and buy from street food vendors and local producers. The 9th has been designated Gin Day at Ballantrae – Scotland’s farmers have taken to using excess potatoes to distil gin and vodka. The Juniper Festival, in Edinburgh (1-3rd) is also dedicated to them and their products.
Staying in Edinburgh, the 16th June sees the Edinburgh Whisky Festival at the Assembly Rooms, while other venues in the city host the Power of Food Festival on 16-17th, a celebration of community food gardens.
What have we missed? The Edinburgh International Film Festival runs from 20th June-1st July; the oldest continually-running film festival in the world, covering feature films, documentaries, shorts, retrospectives, panel discussions and everything else you’d expect. And finally, for some serious light relief, there’s Glasgow Comic Con (30th), a festival and celebration of comic books, films and other sequential art from around the globe.
Scotland has plenty to offer in the way of summer festivals, whatever your tastes and wherever you’re heading. We’ve only covered the first two months of the summer here – July and August have even more for your enjoyment and delectation (coming soon to a blog near you!).
Header image credit: Tom Orr