A guide to 2016's best Scottish music festivals

RAIN may be an ever-present threat, but Scotland has still built a reputation for offering some of the best outdoor music festivals around. It's a challenge to decide which one to attend, writes Chris McCall

T in the Park will return for its 23rd year in July. Picture: Greg Macvean
T in the Park will return for its 23rd year in July. Picture: Greg Macvean

KNOCKENGORROCH, 26-29 May, Knockengorroch Farm, near Dalmellington, Galloway

Headliners: Black Uhuru, Freestylers, Krafty Kuts, Family Atlantica

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Knockengorroch may be small - it has a capacity of 3,000 - but it’s won a big reputation as one of the country’s leading alternative music events. Billed as a “world ceildh,” the line-up brings together some of the best performers in roots music from overseas and closer to home. It prides itself on an open and laid-back atmosphere in a remote but stunning location in the Galloway hills. The festival is held a full 10 miles from the nearest shop or public telephone, so it’s best to ensure you have everything you need before heading off.

Pyro Celtica perform at Knockengorroch in 2013. Picture: Douglas Robertson

BREW AT THE BOG, 3-4 June, Bogbain Farm, Inverness

Headliners: Idlewild, The LaFontaines, Blazin’ Fiddles, WHITE

While Brew At The Bog festival is sponsored by a brewery in the same way as T in the Park is, that’s where the similarities end. Brew at the Bog is endorsed by BrewDog and promotes craft beer alongside new music. A small-scale event a short distance from Inverness, there’s much to enjoy even if booze isn’t your thing. Scots folk-rock veterans Idlewild headline the two-dayer, but the rest of the line-up is a tasty mix of up-and-coming acts from across the UK and beyond.

FESTIVAL OF HOUSE, 10-11 June, Panmure estate, Pitlivie Farm, Angus

Pyro Celtica perform at Knockengorroch in 2013. Picture: Douglas Robertson

Headliners: Leftfield, Underworld, Rudimental, Erol Alkan

A new arrival for 2016, Fesival of House aims to attract dance music fans who may be turned off by guitar-heavy line-ups at other outdoor events. (Since the demise of RockNess festival, it’s also opened up a market in Scotland for a DJ-led weekender.) Its organisers have secured a line-up packed with electronic legends and promise a festival that will respect both attendees and the local landscape. Full weekend camping will be on offer at the site in rural Angus.

T IN THE PARK, 8-10 July, Strathallan Castle, Perthshire

Headliners: The Stone Roses, Calvin Harris, Red Hot Chili Peppers, LCD Soundsystem, Disclosure

The daddy of all Scottish music festivals, 2015 was nevertheless the most difficult year yet for TITP. Having long established itself at a former airfield in Balado, it was forced to find a new home in nearby Perthshire due to arcane health and safety laws concerning an underground pipeline. Its first year at Strathallan was marred by lengthy queues to enter the arena and transport chaos once the last bands had finished. The event remains a right-of-passage for many Scots youngsters and the sheer size and variety of its line-up should ensure its long-term survival.

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BELLADRUM, 4-6 August, Belladrum estate, Beauly, Inverness-shire

Headliners: Madness, Two Door Cinema Club, The Darkness, Circa Waves

Its official title is the Tartan Heart Festival but everyone knows it as Belladrum. First held in 2004, the event has steadily grown in popularity thanks to an enchanting location and a feel-good atmosphere. In addition to music, Tartan Heart offers a fringe programme of theatre, spoken word and comedy. Regular attendees will know fancy dress is very much part of the Belladrum experience - this year’s theme is superstition, so expect to see plenty of witches and warlocks on site.

DOUNE THE RABBIT HOLE, 19-21 August, Cardross estate, by Lake of Menteith, Stirlingshire

Headliners: Treacherous Orchestra, Admiral Fallow, Cate le Bon, Jeffrey Lewis

With an emphasis on sustainability and no corporate branding in sight, this intimate festival offers an insight into what Glastonbury must have been like back when it was one-tenth of the size and not a BBC live event. Doune the Rabbit Hole takes its name from the village it was first held in 2010. Since then, it’s upped sticks to an even more stunning rural location which is less than an hour from Glasgow. A family-friendly affair, its broad mix of leftfield performers, electronic wizards and folk-rock should please all tastes.

ELECTRIC FIELDS, 26-27 August, Drumlanrig Castle, Thornhill, Dumfriesshire

Headliners: Primal Scream, The Charlatans, Everything Everything, Wild Beasts

A new kid on the block, 2016 could be the year Electric Fields establishes itself as a firm fixture on the festival circuit. It has expanded to two days and secured a couple of heavyweight headliners in Primal Scream and The Charlatans. Given that Wickerman Festival is taking a year off, it also has the opportunity to tap in to the demand for a festival in the south of the country that’s still a relatively short distance from the Central Belt. While there’s big names a-plenty, Electric Fields also prides itself on offering a platform to some of the best up-and-coming groups around – check out Sweaty Palms and The Van T’s in particular.