There is something very special about the Scottish festival scene. If you’re a regular music festival punter north of the border, then you’ll know the intimate community feeling that goes with that lifestyle. You start to recognise fellow festival go-ers as you wade through elaborate costumes and mud. The friend you made three weeks ago in Moffat is now serving you chai tea a ten-minute drive away from Largs. A makeshift festival family forms between May and September, with musicians and artists making staple appearances at their favourite events each year. If you can stand the inevitable rain and the midges, it is well worth joining Scotland’s festival circuit.
Kelburn Garden Party
You could not find a more perfect setting for a festival than Kelburn. Taking place in Lord Glasgow’s estate gardens, the annual Garden Party features a graffiti-decorated castle, a neverending glen, a waterfall pool with space for swimming, and even a boat party that takes festival go-ers on a tour around the Firth of Clyde. It’s a fantastic festival for exploring, with a different stage or activity tucked around every corner. The organisers know how to make the most of their surroundings too, throwing extra parties around the year like the Star Wars Psychedelic Party in May and the upcoming Psychedelic Forest Carnival in September. Previous acts include Gentlemen’s Dub Club, UNKLE, and DJ Vadim, and revellers at the festival have even made it into a music video produced by Colonel Mustard and the Dijon 5.
One of Scotland’s more musically diverse festivals, Audio Soup is a veritable concoction of different music tastes, boasting genres from indie to dub and techno to funk. This year the festival will play host to Bombskare, the Edinburgh-based ska ensemble that was recently voted the BBC’s Best Part Time Band, as well as electric swing duo The Correspondents and Bristol-based live dance music innovators The Inexplicables. Based in Cranshaws, not that far from Edinburgh in the South East of Scotland, Audio Soup is a budding festival that music enthusiasts everywhere are getting excited about.
2016 was Eden’s biggest year yet, with a sell-out of 8000 people descending on the Raehill Meadows near Dumfries. This wee boutique festival started as a side project at Wickerman Festival, known as the Eden Zone, and was marketed and curated by young people living in Dumfries & Galloway. Eden has come in leaps and bounds since its small beginnings, boasting notorious acts like Bristol-sound veterans Skye and Ross from Morcheeba, the 90s throwback Mr Motivator, and Radio 6 DJ Craig Charles. Its local community still plays an enormous part, with the young people who started it all having grown up to make the festival what it is today. Most of the stages are organised by locals, who give equal space for Scottish artists to showcase their work alongside the bigger acts.
Knockengorroch World Ceilidh
Another event set in Dumfries & Galloway, Knockengorroch showcases world and roots music to celebrate what it calls the “Celtic diaspora”. Dubbing itself a World Ceilidh, the festival combines its local Celtic identity with more far-flung genres. Reggae appears next to roots in an event that promotes multiculturalism and music’s tie to the land. At a 3000 people capacity, there is an intimate and family-friendly vibe, with performances from popular Scottish acts like The Peatbog Fairies, Young Fathers, and Mungo’s HiFi.
For fans of indie and alternative music, there’s Electric Fields at Drumlanrig Castle at the end of August. Headlining this year are Primal Scream and The Charlatans, with local favourites like Honeyblood and Admiral Fallow championing Scotland’s vibrant music scene. Now in its third year, Electric Fields has traditionally been a one-day festival, but 2016 will see it extend to two-days to give organisers even more time to show off the UK’s most exciting performers. One highlight for EDM fans will be the stage curated by Sneaky Pete’s, well-known in Edinburgh for their high calibre of electronic music nights. With such a top spread of acts on show, Electric Fields is rapidly pushing to the front of pioneering contemporary music events.