A guide to 2016’s best Scottish island festivals

The Red Hot Chilli Pipers will be performing at Hebcelt Festival. Pictire: Contributed
The Red Hot Chilli Pipers will be performing at Hebcelt Festival. Pictire: Contributed
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Most of Scotland’s major festivals take place in cities – or, like T in the Park, become cities in their own right – but some of the country’s best cultural gatherings happen well away from the hustle and bustle. Every year, Scotland’s islands welcome guests to sample the best of what they have to offer, with celebrations of everything from whisky to music throughout the year

Arran Folk Festival, 3rd – 5th June

Lamlash, Isle of Arran. Picture: Allan Milligan

Lamlash, Isle of Arran. Picture: Allan Milligan

Arran hosts two festivals this summer, the Arran Malt and Music Festival and the Arran Folk Festival. The Arran Folk Festival is one of the best soirees of its kind, with a range of trad music performers attracting musos and tourists to the island. Performances take place across the island, including in the main village of Brodick, a stone’s throw away from the ferry port.

Guests on this year’s lineup include local act Gillian Frame, inaugural winner of the Young Scottish Traditional Musician Award with an album, Pendulum, on the way. Joining her will be BBC Radio Two’s Musician of the Year 2012, Tim Edly. Edly and Frame are offering masterclasses for those looking to learn a thing or two, as well. http://www.arranevents.com/arranfolkfestival2016.php

READ MORE: A guide to 2016’s best Scottish music festivals

The Arran Malt and Music Festival, 1st – 3rd July

If you’re looking for another excuse to sample some of what the island has to offer, the Arran Malt and Music Festival, will be taking over the island in July. The £5 ticket price includes an Arran dram glass, a dram token and a guided tour. Their famous whisky will be being free-flowing and a mini tastings bar will be serving some local produce. Reachable in less than an hour by ferry from the Ayrshire coast, Arran is an accessible and desirable location for an island getaway at any time of the year, but for whisky lovers July is surely peak time. http://www.arranevents.com/malt&music2016.php

Hebcelt, 13th – 16th July

Returning for the 20th year, HebCelt Festival – or the Hebridean Celtic Festival – capitalises on its atmospheric backdrop of the Isle of Lewis. The wide-ranging programme taps into Gaelic culture with a mix of traditional, rock, indie-folk and world-influenced music. Held within the grounds of Stornoway’s Lews Castle, the line-up includes performances from Red Hot Chilli Pipers and Runrig, set to delight audiences with their hearty rock-folk sound. https://www.hebceltfest.com/

Islay Festival of of Music and Malt, 20th – 28th May

The scenic island of Islay will be hosting their own celebration of Scottish music and whisky. As well as enjoying some time on the island, also known as the Queen of the Hebrides, festival goers will be able to take part in a traditional ceilidh, golf and bowling. Laphroaig, Blowmore and Jura distilleries will be opening their doors to welcome people in for a dram throughout the week while musicians will be on hand to entertain in the evening. http://www.islayfestival.com/

READ MORE: Edinburgh International Festival: The Scotsman critics on landmark programme

Cantilena Festival, 3rd – 8th July

Cantilena Festival is another reason to visit Islay this summer. The festival brings together professional musicians and students of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland to showcase some of the best in classical music, with many of the concerts being held in the island’s various distilleries. Cantilena also prides itself on pairing professional musicians with up-and-comers, enhancing the festival’s sense of communal spirit.

http://www.cantilenafestival.co.uk/

Shetland Folk Festival, 28th April – 1st May

Shetland is home to the UK’s most northerly folk festival. Over its 32 years, the festival has become a highly anticipated event in folk music circles with volunteers scouring the island for talent. The weekender will see visiting acts including Celtic rockers Mànran and Finland’s “Nordic urban ethno” Tsuumi Sound System, and a variety of local acts take to the stage to entertain the crowds. A highlight of the festival is likely to be the Foy concerts on the Sunday night, where crowds will be able to experience seeing the majority of the visiting acts in one evening. The acts will be shuffled between halls by mini bus to perform across three different venues for 15 minutes each. https://www.shetlandfolkfestival.com/