One of the best ways to immerse yourself in a foreign culture is to join in on a festival or event, and Scotland is no different. If you really want to see the Scots in all their revelrous glory, we highly recommend that you try to have your visit coincide with one of the following annual events:
Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival
The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is an annual celebration of the Scottish national drink that has been taking place since 1999. It encompasses 500+ whisky-related events that appeal to everyone from the seasoned connoisseur to the curious novice. Aside from meeting the makers of some of Scotland’s finest whiskies and sampling the drams themselves, visitors can look forward to five full days of distillery tours, guided walks, smuggling adventures (we know, right?!), railway tours, canoeing excursions, art and craft exhibitions, tumbler carving workshops, music and live performances, as well as plenty of tasty festival food by some of Scotland’s most innovative chefs and eateries. Best of all – it takes place in village halls, local pubs, historic castles, distilleries and in the great outdoors along the entire length of the River Spey, which lends a wonderful sense of place to the entire celebration.
Also take a look at the Inverness Whiskey & gin festival usually taking place in April. Hosted in different locations all over the Scottish Highlands it promises to be one of the very best festivals to sample Scotland’s malt Whisky and craft gin.
The Highland Games
May – September
The Scottish Highland Games are a series of community events that take place in 80+ towns, villages, cities and even on certain beautiful castle grounds between May and September each year – so no matter where your travels to Scotland take you during the summer, you should be able to join in on at least one of these exceptionally fun gatherings. Visitors can look forward to plenty of pomp and circumstance as each region comes together to celebrate their heritage by competing in traditional sports (e.g. tug-o-war, caber toss, track and field events), donning kilts and other traditional garb, playing the pipes and drums, and showing off their nimble footwork in Scottish dances, including the sword dance and fascinating Highland fling.
Royal Highland Show
The Royal Highland Show first started in 1822 and has steadily grown in stature ever since. The pinnacle of the agricultural calendar in the Scottish Highlands, this annual event provides farmers and livestock rearers with the opportunity to show off their finest produce and breeds. At the same time, the Highland Showground’s indoor exhibition halls becomes a bustling shopping arena and market, where visitors can taste wines, charcuterie, cheese and all sorts of other deliciousness from Scotland’s finest producers, and further afield. Entertainment is also provided in the form of bands and musical groups, including brass bands and school groups.
Edinburgh Art Festival
July – August
The illustrious Edinburgh Art Festival is the country’s foremost visual arts event and takes place throughout the city’s galleries, museums and studios. With more than 250 000 visitors each year, the festival has grown to include new public art commissions and an innovative programme of events that include exhibitions, performances, screenings, guided tours and artists talks. If the arts are your thing, you may also be interested in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (August) that features 2000+ contemporary and classic stage shows and theatre events; as well as the Edinburgh International Film Festival (June – July) that showcases the most exciting and original new films from the year before.
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
One of the most dramatic and visually spectacular events on the Scottish calendar, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is a spectacle like no other. The Military Tattoo is the largest outdoor event in Edinburgh, with a worldwide TV audience of 100 million+ and more than 200 000 visitors attending the show at the spellbinding Edinburgh Castle each year to witness massed pipe and drum displays and performances from groups that hail from over 30 countries, as well as all kinds of music, ceremony, theatre and dance. This is Scotland at its most epic.
Festivals on the Scots’ annual events calendar is a great way to get a true feel for the country’s joyous sense of community and learn more about the Scottish culture. Just remember, when in Scotland, do as the Scottish do and gie it laldy (give it your all)!