Ceilidhs and Festivals in the Highlands

Music is an important part of Scottish culture, with bagpipes and ceilidh dancing at its centre.  As well as the unmistakeable sound of bagpipes, another very ‘Scottish’ sound is the evocative combination of fiddles and drums.  From live music performances in local pubs and hotels to pipe band displays at  Highland Games there are a wide variety of ways you can experience some traditional Scottish music during your holiday in the Highlands.

Spend an evening learning to ceilidh dance, listen to local live music, visit a festival or take in a concert in the Highland capital Inverness.   Eden Court‘s programme of contemporary and traditional concerts includes jazz, folk, opera and classical music, as well as toe-tapping musicals.

Ceilidhs

A ceilidh is a traditional Scottish social gathering and an important part of Scottish culture, particularly weddings and other special occasions.   Ceilidh dancing is fun and fast, with lively Scottish music from a ceilidh band (which consists of fiddles, drums and accordions).

Usually a member of the band will ‘call’ the dances and go through the steps at the beginning of each dance so that even complete beginners can join in.  If you want to experience a ‘Strip the Willow’ or ‘Dashing White Sergeant’ for yourself, there are a number of places in the Highlands that host ceilidh evenings.

Scottish Showtime at Bogbain Farm, near Inverness, offers a unique Scottish experience (from April to October) with an evening of ceilidh dancing, live music, Gaelic singing, a two course meal, whisky tasting plus a chance to play the bagpipes.  In the Moray Speyside area, Dufftown – known as the ‘Malt Whisky Capital’ – hosts Ceilidh Evenings every Thursday evening from May to September, where you can have a dance with the locals and enjoy the traditional Scottish music.

Just north of Gairloch in the North West Highlands there are Ceilidh Nights throughout the summer in the lovely village of Poolewe.  There is a caller and volunteer on hand to help beginners with the steps.  You can also find Summer Ceilidh Nights at the Nevis Range near Fort William – so you can enjoy the traditional music and Scottish dancing, as well as the wonderful views.

The Skipinnish Ceilidh House in Oban is home to The Skippinish Ceilidh Show (running from June to September in Fort William and Oban).  This is a wonderful opportunity to experience traditional music and dance, with shows designed to take visitors on a journey into the history of the Highlands.  There are performances from award-winning Highland dancers and you can also try ceilidh dancing for yourself.

Festivals

The Scottish Highlands is home to a number of wonderful festivals, from country to rock to traditional Scottish music.  As you would expect from the name, RockNess takes place on the banks of Loch Ness, at Clune Farm – surely one of the most spectacular locations for a music festival.  It is held on the second weekend in June and features alternative and indie rock bands.

Speyfest is held in the Moray town of Fochabers every July and features three days of concerts and ceilidhs.  The line up each year includes some of the biggest names in traditional and contemporary Celtic music.

The Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, near Beauly, is popular with families (there is even a creche to keep little ones entertained) and has everything from music and comedy to art and a vintage market.

Loopallu is a small but hugely successful music festival held in the picturesque West Coast town of Ullapool at the end of September (and is ‘Ullapool’ spelt backwards).  Past festivals have seen the likes of Paulo Nutini, Mumford and Sons, and the Fratellis – as well as the Ullapool Pipe Band.

For traditional Blas Festival is a celebration of Gaelic language and traditional music, held in September in a number of venues right across the Highlands.

Loopallu Festival 2012 from Paul Campbell on Vimeo.