Scotland's Music Festivals in 2019

With the summer festival season well and truly within tickling distance, we take a look at the rich musical tapestry that makes up Scotland's thriving and ever-evolving festival circuit

Feature by Tallah Brash | 01 Apr 2019

Long gone are the days of Connect, Indian Summer, Hinterland, Haddowfest, Rock Ness, Wickerman, Brew at the Bog and T in the Park, but much as the world continues to evolve, so does the festival landscape of Scotland, with new events seemingly popping up year on year. The truth of it is, you don’t need to travel that far to have a great festival experience filled with music and good times; from outdoor festivals (with and without camping), including family friendly options, to city centre multi-venue festivals and indoor all-dayers, from the major cities to the tiny Islands, let us guide you through the glimmering jewels of what Scotland’s festivals have to offer music fans throughout the rest of 2019. Here we, here we, here we fucking go. Or being less uncouth, let’s be havin' it.

Music Festivals in Glasgow: Counterflows, Stag & Dagger, Sonica

Starting in the Central Belt seems to make the most sense. Glasgow kicks things off early this spring with Counterflows (various venues, Glasgow, 4-7 Apr), a festival of underground, experimental and international music in the city centre. Expect late night socials, film screenings and performances from the likes of Brazil’s MC Carol, cellist and composer Tomeka Reid and performance collective Katz Mulk. Tectonics Festival, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra’s festival of new and experimental music then returns across various venues from 4-5 May. On Sunday 5 May you can also treat yourself to multi-venue city festival Stag & Dagger who return with a line-up BBC 6 Music fans will surely be drooling over as Honeyblood, Dream Wife and Goat Girl all gear up to play.

Dream Wife at Hidden Door 2018; they play Stag & Dagger festival this May. Photo: Roosa Päivänsalo

West End Festival returns to Glasgow’s, um, West End from 30 May-30 June, with we’re hoping another music-focused all-dayer which last year brought an impressive line-up to Òran Mór. After their inaugural event in 2018, Moonstruck on Clydeside’s Flying Moon Music & Arts Festival returns to Flying Duck on 15 June with Heir of the Cursed, Super Inuit and Carla J. Easton. The complete antithesis to this then comes in the form of the very mainstream, radio friendly TRNSMT, which takes over Glasgow Green once again for a weekend of mostly-middle-of-the-road pop and indie. While their line-up is very similar to their first outing in 2017, the acts they have are undeniably some of the biggest around right now – Sigrid, Kobi Onyame and The Big Moon are our top tips for this one.

New on the Glasgow circuit this year is Playground Festival, taking place from 2-4 August in Rouken Glen Park, which, we have on good faith, used to be pretty well known for its zorbing potential and top notch garden centre, but in 2016 was named the UK’s best park. This year, Ms Lauryn Hill, Hot Chip, Anna Calvi, Little Dragon and Maribou State are all set to descend upon the East Renfrewshire park and needless to say we approve. Later in the year, Cryptic’s award-winning biennial festival Sonica returns to Glasgow for 11 days of live performances, installations and more from 31 October-10 November.

Music Festivals in Edinburgh: Wide Days, Hidden Door, EIF

In Edinburgh, the festival calendar kicks off with annual music convention Wide Days, with a bigger than ever music programme this year spread across three evenings from 11-13 April in the capital. Hidden Door returns for a 'weekender' from 30 May-2 June, once again at Leith Theatre, with Ray Blk, Let’s Eat Grandma, Kelly Lee Owens and Cigarettes After Sex announced to play. On the same weekend, Meadows Festival is back in – clue’s in the name – The Meadows with two stages set to be bursting with loads of local artists; Leith Late is set to return for a weekend of friendly vibes from 8-9 June, and later in the month Summerhall host their Southern Exposure festival (21-22 Jun) featuring Pictish Trail, Meursault and Be Charlotte.

Meursault play Southern Exposure festival at Summerhall this June. Photo: Kat Gollock

Running since 1978 as the Edinburgh Jazz Festival, the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival then returns for ten days from 12-21 July before the Edinburgh International Festival takes over the city from 2-26 August with Anna Calvi, Sharon van Etten and Amadou and Mariam among their first wave of announcements.

If you fancy a nostalgic weekend partying it up in some rather regal surroundings, Party at the Palace (Linlithgow Palace, West Lothian, 10-11 Aug) with Deacon Blue, KT Tunstall and Fun Lovin’ Criminals might just be the ticket. If you’re after something a bit more left-field, then get yourself to Jupiter Artland’s Jupiter Rising from 23-25 August with a bumper line-up including Cate Le Bon, The Comet is Coming and a late night stage curated by OH141.

Kelburn Garden Party, Doune the Rabbit Hole, Eden Festival

Elsewhere, Shuffle Down returns to Dobbie Hall in Larbert, near Falkirk from 26-27 April; SpringFest metal festival takes place at Church in Dundee on 11 May; Perth Festival of the Arts is back at various venues across Perth from 16-25 May and Solas Festival moves to a brand new location, Errol Park in Perthshire, from 21-23 June. Kelburn Garden Party celebrates its 10th birthday at the stunning Kelburn Castle, near Largs in North Ayrshire, from 5-8 July with a Leftfield DJ set, Ugly Duckling’s Andy Cooper performing live and Bossy Love headlining The Skinny’s Pyramid Stage takeover on the Saturday, and Doune the Rabbit Hole, at the Cardross Estate in Stirling, also celebrates ten years from 19-21 July with John Grant, Battles and Free Love all set to play.

Kobi Onyame at Kelburn Garden Party 2018. Photo: Stevie Powers

Sticking to weekend camping festivals that are also family friendly like Solas, Kelburn and Doune, setting our sights a little further south to the rolling countryside of Dumfries & Galloway you’ll find three more of Scotland’s finest. Knockengorroch World Ceilidh is the first to take place across the late May bank holiday weekend (23-26 May) in Kircudbrightshire’s Casphairn Hills. Known by most as just Knockengorroch, or lovingly as simply Knock, the festival features a mix of traditional, contemporary and world music artists with Elephant Sessions, Yoko Pwno and Moonlight Benjamin among this year’s line-up. Eden Festival, which started as an area of the Wickerman festival in 2002, has been running in its own right since 2009, and in the beautiful Raehills Meadows near Moffat since 2010. The festival takes place from 6-9 June and this year’s line-up features This is the Kit, Optimo (Espacio), John Cooper Clark, Flamingods and more.

Rounding out our summer in the south is Electric Fields, set in the glorious grounds of Drumlanrig Castle in Thornhill. The festival, which celebrated its 5th birthday last year, has previously run at the more precarious end of the summer months, but this year sees it taking place from 4-6 July. Metronomy, Fat White Family and The Spook School were among its first announcement earlier in the year – a pretty good start if you ask us!

[Since publishing this article, Electric Fields have announced that this year's festival is moving from Drumlanrig to SWG3 in Glasgow – details here

Music Festivals in the Scottish Highlands and Islands

If you’re looking to venture further afield, and see even more of what this beautiful country has to offer in terms of scenery, then there’s plenty going on in the Highlands and Islands too. Oban Live kicks things off at Mossfield Stadium from 7-8 June with the Red Hot Chilli Pipers and Lucy Spraggan before creative industries festival XpoNorth returns to Inverness once again from 3-4 July, with panel discussions, workshops and music showcases. Then from 1-3 August, at the nearby Belladrum Estate in Beauly, Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival welcomes CHVRCHES, Elbow and Lewis Capaldi to its stages; True North returns to Aberdeen (19-22 Sep), and Loopallu returns to Ullapool (yes, Loopallu is Ullapool backwards) from 27-28 September.

Meanwhile, island life can be your dream come true with plenty of options to choose from including Shetland Folk Festival (Lerwick, 2-5 May), St Magnus International Festival (Orkney, 21-27 Jun), Tiree Music Festival (Tiree, 12-14 Jul), Hebridean Celtic Festival (Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, 17-20 Jul), ButeFest (Rothesay, Isle of Bute, 26-28 Jul), Eilean Dorcha Festival (Liniclate Machair, Isle of Benbecula, 26-28 Jul) and Jura Music Festival (Jura, 27-29 Sept).

CHVRCHES at the SSE Hydro; they play Belladrum this August. Photo: Allan Lewis

Our top Island picks, however, would have to be Lost Map Records’ Howlin’ Fling (31 May-1 Jun) on the Inner Hebridean Isle of Eigg, which, given its diminutive population of just over 100, has in the past seen some outrageously big names come to the island including Jon Hopkins, Beth Orton, KT Tunstall, Slow Club and Alexis Taylor, to name a few, and Skye Live (5-7 Sep) at Portree on the Isle of Skye, which this year is set to feature The Waterboys, Niteworks, Martha Ffion and Erol Alkan.

As you can see there's a lot going on – whether you’re looking to do a bit of networking, want to take the kids to do something different, or just want to get well and truly festivalled oot yer nut this summer, Scotland has got you well and truly covered. Here we, here we, here we fucking go indeed!