Travel: National celebrations make domestic breaks even more of a must

A SPARKLING programme of events in Scotland is making domestic breaks ever more appealing this year, writes Robin McKelvie

That Scotland has always been a prolifically creative country is not in doubt. This, after all, is the birthplace not just of such literary luminaries as Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns and Irvine Welsh, but also of innovators such as Alexander Graham Bell, John Logie Baird and Alexander Fleming. This year has been designated the official Year Of Creative Scotland in celebration of this ingenuity and artistic spirit. A string of one-off events are being conjured up to stand beside existing festivals and annual events, which together provide yet more reasons for taking a holiday in Scotland.

This country-wide initiative kicked off on Hogmanay and will run right through to 31 December this year. A total of £6.5 million of National Lottery funding is the engine behind a Scottish Government programme led in partnership by EventScotland, VisitScotland, Creative Scotland and VOCAL. The focus is two-fold – celebrating and reinvigorating established cultural events, such as the Edinburgh Festival and Glasgow’s Merchant City Festival; and working on dedicated Year Of Creative Scotland happenings.

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Events are being added to the programme throughout the year, with one of the most dramatic, the City of Literature Trust’s enLIGHTen project, which will from 1 March, to illuminate Edinburgh with spectacular dynamic projections on buildings in Rose Street and George Street. The idea is to draw attention to the seminal achievements of the Scottish Enlightenment. It will be time to get out your smartphones as site specific downloadable “micro fiction” will help users interact with the buildings.

Also on a light theme, another ambitious project is the rallying of thousands of illuminated people to literally light up Arthur’s Seat from 9 August through to 1 September. Speed of Light will see runners animating the extinct volcano with trails of patterned light. Anyone with the stamina to complete a 3km-5km hill run can take part in what will be the brightest thing to hit Edinburgh since the Enlightenment itself.

Moving south into the Borders, Traquair House is set to host a Celebration of Contemporary Scottish Printmaking between the months of July and September. Held in conjunction with Edinburgh Printmakers, there will be an array of specially commissioned Traquair House themed work on display. Then there is the Traquair Shakespeare Festival, from 26-27 May, which will bring the works of England’s bard to the Borders with drama, music and workshops.

The most northerly event coming under the Year Of Creative Scotland banner is the Shetland Folk Festival. Now in its 32nd year, fresh impetus should help make this year’s the best festival yet, and the perfect reason to head for the Northern Isles from 3-6 May.

While Shetlanders enjoy their “simmer dim” midsummer twilight, midsummer also sees internationally acclaimed conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the highly regarded Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela perform against the dramatic backdrop of Stirling Castle in one of the Year Of Creative Scotland highlights.

In the sphere of popular culture, perhaps the most fun event will be the RockNess Express. This bespoke train will run from King’s Cross station up to the RockNess festival on the banks of Loch Ness, with on-board music to get the party started and catering with a distinct Scottish slant. You don’t have to traipse to London, because the train will stop in the Midlands and in the north of England too. As a rapidly growing Scottish music success story, RockNess is another key event that comes under the auspices of the Year Of Creative Scotland.

The biggest event in the UK this year is, of course, the London Olympics, and the games don’t escape the remit of the Year of Creative Scotland either. Scotland will join the Cultural Olympiad with a string of events in the run-up to the opening ceremony. The aim is to intertwine sport and culture and imbue them with the Olympic spirit. One of the most high profile events is likely to be when the UK’s three national dance companies perform together for the first time in Glasgow, before moving on to Cardiff and London.

Other events to look out for that are part of the Year of Creative Scotland include the East Neuk Festival from 27 June to 1 July, the Tiree Music Festival on 21-22 July, Piping Live! in Glasgow from 6 to 12 August, the Callander Jazz and Blues Festival from 28 to 30 September and the Wigtown Book Festival, which ripples through Dumfries and Galloway from 28 September to 7 October. The list of Year of Creative Scotland events continues to grow, adding more and more reasons to holiday at home in one of the world’s most creative countries.

• For further enlightenment, see the websites www.visitscotland.com/creative and www.visitscotland.com/surprise