Benbecula to get its own music festival

A lone figure on the beach at Liniclate, Benbecula, where the festival will take place. 'Picture: P Tomkins / VisitScotland
A lone figure on the beach at Liniclate, Benbecula, where the festival will take place. 'Picture: P Tomkins / VisitScotland
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The dramatic and unspoiled scenery of Benbecula is to be the setting for a new music festival next summer.

It is hoped hundreds of music fans will descend on the Hebridean island, which boasts a host of beaches, sand dunes and lochs.

The scattered settlement of Liniclate will host the festival next July, the same month as 85,000 revellers a day are expected to flock to T in the Park.

Donnie Munro, former frontman of Runrig, will be among the headline acts at the first Eilean Dorcha Festival, along with Skipinnish and The Vatersay Boys, two of Scotland’s most popular traditional outfits.

Organisers have spent around two years planning the two-day event, which they hope will bring a substantial boost to the “fragile economy” of the Uists.

They hope to sell out the 1,200-capacity festival, which will be held under canvas on the machair at Liniclate, on the last weekend in July.

National tourism leaders say they expect the “spectacular backdrop” to the event to help inspire many more people to explore the Outer Hebrides in future.

The launch will coincide with the start of a new direct Caledonian Macbrayne ferry service between Mallaig, the port at the end of the West Highland Railway, and Lochboisdale, on South Uist.

The Benbecula event is the latest addition to Scotland’s booming calendar of island music festivals. Events have been launched on Eigg, Bute and Skye in recent years, while Mull and Arran have long-
running events.

Benbecula was where Jacobite heroine Flora Macdonald famously helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape from in 1746, with the fugitive disguised as an Irish spinning maid. The island is home to music students at the Benbecula campus of the University of the Highlands and Islands.

South Uist hosts an annual summer school exploring Gaelic music, song and dance which attracts students from all over the world.

Benbecula-based printer Roddy Mackay, one of the six-strong team behind the event, said email enquiries had been flooding in since the festival was announced on social media. He told Scotland on Sunday: “It’s already shaping up to be a really good festival.

“Festival-wise, this is really the first event of its kind anywhere around here.

“There was one held down in Barra for many years, but it is no longer running and the closest one to Benbecula is Hebcelt in Stornoway. We think there is a bit of gap there for an event like this.”

Although camping options will be available, Mackay expects many revellers to take advantage of local guest houses, hotels and even “glamping options”.

Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland, said: “The inaugural Eilean Dorcha Festival looks set to be a wonderful occasion taking place against a spectacular backdrop. It is sure to inspire many more people to explore the beauty of the Outer Hebrides.”