Top Festivals in Scotland

Advisor - Jessie West
Curated By

Jessie West

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  • Scotland

  • Off-the-Beaten-Path Travel

  • City Travel

  • Outdoors

  • Mountains

  • Countryside

A little house in the plains in Glencoe.
Curator’s statement

One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to attend local festivals. These events let you discover the culture of a place, meet locals and enrich your travel experience all while having a great time. Scotland is a destination with many unique festivals and events that are absolutely worth planning a trip around.

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Where to stay in Scotland

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Kimpton Charlotte Square Hotel

Perched on the edge of a picturesque private garden in the New Town, Kimpton Charlotte Square Hotel blends traditional glamor with the Scotland of today.

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  • $100 food / beverage credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

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The Fife Arms

Set in a restored 19th-century hunting lodge, this delightful luxury hotel in the Scottish Highlands offers gorgeously decorated rooms and a cozy fireplace lounge.

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  • $100 food / beverage credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Cameron House

Luxurious resort on Loch Lomond with 400 acres of countryside, a lavish spa and beautifully restored suites for a charming weekend in the Scottish wilderness.

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  • Breakfast daily.

  • Complimentary cruise on Loch Lomond on Celtic Warrior.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

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Things to do in Scotland

Skyline of Scotland.

Read on for some of my top recommended and requested Scottish festivals, as well as some that are truly only-in-Scotland experiences.

Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and the Fringe Festival

August in Edinburgh is like nowhere else in the world. You can spend the day watching the street performers and comedy shows of the International Fringe Festival and when the sun sets make your way to the gates of Edinburgh Castle for a truly exceptional experience — the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

The Edinburgh Fringe, with thousands of performances and shows across hundreds of venues, is the world’s largest performing arts festival. Comedians, musicians, plays, circus acts, opera and more are open to festival goers throughout August.

Running concurrently is the Tattoo, holding daily performances Monday – Saturday. With Edinburgh Castle as the stunning backdrop, watch pipe bands, dance troupes and performers from around the world put on the best show in Scotland.

Up Helly Aa

Celebrate Viking heritage in the Shetland Islands of Scotland with a unique fire festival known as Up Helly Aa held between January and March each year. During this event, a community-elected leader known as the “Guizer Jarl” portrays a legendary Viking and leads a costumed, torch-lit procession through the night to the grand finale where a Viking galley ship is set alight.

Highland Games

Many people have visions of Highland Games in mind when planning a trip to Scotland. The heavy athletic events like the caber toss, stone and hammer throw are exciting to watch, while competitive highland dancing and bagpiping events can draw you into the heritage of these cultural gatherings.

I recommend staying at the Fife Arms in Braemar to attend arguably the most famous of Highland Games - the Braemar Gathering, traditionally attended by members of the Royal Family. It is held annually on the first Saturday of September. However, Highland Games can be found almost any weekend in July or August somewhere in Scotland.

Stay at the Cameron House on beautiful Loch Lomond to attend the Luss Highland Games and explore the Trossachs National Park. Or base yourself in Inverness to spend a day at the Inverness Highland Games before visiting Loch Ness.

Whisky Festivals

You can’t visit Scotland without sampling a dram of whisky. But if you’re a true connoisseur of the "water of life" then time your visit to take part in a Whisky Festival. Whether you prefer Speyside or Islay, Highland or Lowland, you’ll be able to sample tastes from the best and most acclaimed distillers Scotland has to offer. The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival highlights distilleries in the region with tours, tastings and exhibitions, as do the Islay Festival, Hebridean Whisky Festival and Edinburgh Whisky Fringe which runs in August alongside the Fringe Festival.


You may think of Times Square when it comes to ringing in the new year, but Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is consistently ranked as one of the top ten NYE celebrations in the world. Live music and street parties culminate with fireworks over Edinburgh Castle and singing of Auld Lang Syne, the traditional New Year song written by Scotland’s own favorite son, Robert Burns.

Uniquely Scottish Festivals

North Ronaldsay Sheep Festival

On the Island of North Ronaldsay in Orkney lives a native flock of seaweed-eating sheep. Yes, seaweed-eating sheep. Obviously these animals need their own festival, and the residents of North Ronaldsay gladly welcome visitors for a week each year to learn about the island’s culture and take part in rebuilding the drystone SheepDyke which keeps the sheep contained to the shoreline for grazing.

Common Ridings

Summer in the Scottish Borders heralds the tradition of Common Ridings. These events date back to when the border between Scotland and England was subject to raids by border rivals. Familial clans would set off on horseback to ride the boundaries of their lands to deter these raiders. Today, Border communities hold equestrian-centered festivals complete with group ride-outs with hundreds of horses to commemorate their unique history.

Scottish Game Fair

If you love the great outdoors, head to Scone Palace for the GWCT Scottish Game Fair celebrating life in the countryside. Take part in demonstrations featuring fishing, archery, shooting, falconry, dog trials and even wild food foraging and game cooking. Combine your visit with a stay at nearby Gleneagles, where experienced guides can facilitate a hands-on experience at the country pursuit of your choice.

Bagpiping Festivals and Competitions

The sound of a bagpipe is instantly recognizable and undeniably Scottish. Chances are you won’t be able to visit Scotland without hearing at least one rendition of ‘Scotland the Brave.’ But if you want to hear some of the world’s best pipers, head to Glasgow for the World Pipe Band Championships or the Piping Live festival, both held in August.

Whatever your interests, there’s a place and event in Scotland just for you!

Places to eat & drink in Scotland

outdoor seating at a restaurant in an old stone city

In Edinburgh for the Fringe?

Howies: With locations on Victoria Street and at the foot of Calton Hill, this is a great choice for fresh, seasonal Scottish dishes, including traditional and vegetarian versions of haggis – a must try while in Scotland.

Visit the Sheep Heid Inn for a pub-style meal or a classic Sunday Roast.

Head to The Kitchin in Leith for a Michelin-starred celebratory dinner on the waterfront.

For late-night fun, head to Panda & Sons, a speakeasy ranked 6th of the UK’s top 50 cocktail bars

Around Scotland

If you’re staying near Loch Lomond for the Luss Highland Games, the Oak Tree Inn in Balmaha is a picturesque stop for coffee (they roast their own), ice cream (made in-house), lunch or dinner (they were voted 2022’s Gastropub of the Year).

On the Isle of Skye, The Three Chimneys is a perennial favorite for a chef-inspired lunch and dinner made with local ingredients.

Located on the banks of the River Ness, The Mustard Seed is a favorite in Inverness. Get a seat on the upstairs terrace of this former church building for river views with your lunch or dinner.

In Ballater, near the site of the Braemar Gathering, be sure to stop in for afternoon tea at the Rothesay Rooms, which was established as a pop-up eatery by Prince Charles before moving into Ballater station, which was restored by The Prince’s Foundation.

Need to Know

For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Kelly Hendrix’s guide, Culture & Adventure in Scotland: Edinburgh and Loch Lomond.

Advisor - Jessie West

Travel Advisor

Jessie West

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Edinburgh.