When is Glasgow Fair 2021? Fair Fortnight explained, is Monday a public holiday - and date of Fair Friday

Glasgow’s famous Fair Fortnight would see the city’s families pack their bags and head to the Scottish coast for a much-needed two week jaunt

Glasgow Fair started as a market held in the surroundings of Glasgow Cathedral (Shutterstock)
Glasgow Fair started as a market held in the surroundings of Glasgow Cathedral (Shutterstock)

Summer has well and truly started, which means one thing for some Glaswegians - the famous Fair Fortnight.

Not so long ago, residents of Glasgow would excitedly pack their bags and head off on a well-deserved holiday for two weeks.

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The historic tradition, which dates back as far as the 12th century, has been enjoyed by generations, although the modern Glasgow Fair is very different to what it used to be.

So, when is Glasgow Fair 2021 - and how did the tradition begin?

Here’s what you need to know.

When is Glasgow Fair 2021?

Every summer, the Glasgow Fair Fortnight starts around the second half of July.

To this day, it’s still a public holiday which falls on the Monday in the middle of the month each year.

This year, the local public holiday is on Monday 19 July 2021.

It’s one of the oldest holidays in Scotland.

Traditionally, the fortnight break began on Fair Friday, which falls on 16 July this year.

But the two-week holiday is now a thing of the past for most people, thanks to the introduction of annual leave and 24 hour businesses.

However, some companies in the city still stick to tradition and take the Fair Weekend or the Monday off to recuperate.

Glasgow may seem a bit quieter over this weekend for that reason.

How did the tradition start?

It all began as a market held outside Glasgow Cathedral, where Glaswegians could trade horses and cattle to take home as well as produce.

Bishop Jocelin, who is remembered as Glasgow’s first town planner for commissioning the building of the city’s early infrastructure, was instrumental in ensuring an annual fair took place to attract visitors and trade.

He sought permission from King William the Lion to hold the festivities, with the fair’s first incarnation taking place in 1190.

The east end of Glasgow - originally the hub of the city - became the site of a weekly marketplace. The area is now where the famous Barras Market stands.

Fishermen would venture from the banks of the Clyde to the market to flog their fresh salmon and trout.

The marketplace was so successful that Glasgow was allowed to hold an annual fair.

It was originally an eight-day event, but a few centuries later, the fair evolved into more of a holiday, although the same market festivities continued to happen on Glasgow Green.

It would draw in massive crowds to see the travelling showmen and entertainers.

What does ‘doon the watter’ mean?

People then began to take a fortnight off work to go “doon the watter” - a phrase which gradually became synonymous with the Glasgow Fair.

It means “down the water” in the Glaswegian dialect, simply meaning to go and visit the sea.

It was coined in the 1950s, when families who had enough money would travel out of the city on Fair Friday via a very busy Central Station to the Scottish coast.

The holiday resort of Rothesay, on the island of Bute, was once a popular destination during the Fair Fortnight thanks to its sandy beaches and refreshing (but chilly) sea.

Up until the 1960s, most local businesses and factories closed on Fair Friday to allow workers to spend time at the coast.

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