Fri. Jun 21st, 2024

Scotland has a wonderfully rich culture developed over two thousand years of history. One of the best ways to experience true Scottish culture is to dive into one of the many, many festivals in Scotland. When you participate in the age-old traditions that have shaped the social fabric over the millennia, you’ll get to know – and love – the real Scotland.

One could be excused for thinking the Scots have gone a bit festival mad. Festivals are held to honor nature, Vikings, folk music, golf, rugby, boats, bagpiping, Highland dancing, storytelling, farming, and the list goes on. Here are some of the most famous and authentic festivals in Scotland that you don’t want to miss.

Burns Night

On or near January 25th each year, Scots celebrate the life and works of Robert Burns, Scotland’s esteemed native son, famous poet, and distinguished songwriter. Did you know that Robert Burns wrote Auld Lang Syne? For an authentic Scottish cultural experience, attend a Burns Night dinner and enjoy an evening filled with a ceilidh (traditional dancing), poetry readings, and a dinner of haggis. Travel Maestro tip: Expect the whisky to flow liberally at a Burns Night dinner.

The Highland Games

Festivals in Scotland
The Highland Games showcase athletes’ strength.

A fun way to learn about many of Scotland’s centuries-old traditions is by attending the annual Highland Games held all over the country from May to September. The Games date back over 1,000 years and today are a celebration of Scotland’s Celtic origins. Most heavyweight sporting contests measure the athletes’ strength or throwing abilities with such games as the caber toss (throwing a 20-foot log), the hammer throw (swinging a 22 -pound metal ball with a wooden handle), and good old tug o’war (with 15-man teams).

All competitors must wear kilts, and clans celebrate by wearing their specific tartan. You’ll hear drums, fiddles, clarsachs (Gaelic harps), and bagpipes playing traditional music, and the fast feet of the Highland dancers are sure to amaze. Travel Maestro tip: The Crieff Highland Games attracts some of Scotland’s strongest athletes and the Cowal Highland Gathering hosts the Scottish and World Highland Dancing Championships.

Whisky Festivals

whisky festivals in scotland
Whisky means “water of life” in Scottish Gaelic.

World Whisky Day is May 21, but in Scotland, you can find a whisky event or festival nearly every month of the year. After all, the word whisky derives from the Scottish Gaelic words for “water of life.” Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is one of the most famous because Speyside is known as Scotland’s whisky country. Distilleries are open to visitors for tours, tastings, and to meet the makers. Live music, food events, and a three-say whisky school unite whisky lovers from all over the world.

  • Fife Whisky Festival – March
  • Clackmannanshire’s Whisky Festival – April
  • Feis Ile Festival of Music and Malt – May/June
  • Edinburgh Whisky Festival – June
  • Dramathon – October
  • The Dornoch Whisky Festival – October
  • Glasgow Whisky Festival – November

Travel Maestro tip: ‘Whisky’ is only spelled with an ‘e’ when the name of the place in which it was made has the letter ‘e’ in it. Therefore, Scotland makes ‘whisky’ and Tennessee makes ‘whiskey.’

Festivals in Scotland
Photo credit: UK Ministry of Defense

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Since its first performance in 1950, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo has been a masterpiece of showmanship renowned throughout the world for its pageantry and precision. The tattoo is a ‘global gathering’ of 1,000 musicians and dancers from all over the world. They perform with pomp and ceremony in waves of color and movement culminating in a fireworks finale. Audiences also come from all corners of the globe to witness the Massed Pipes and Drums, the Massed Highland Dancers, and inspiring Massed Military Bands perform drills on the Edinburgh Castle Esplanade.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo happens in August (Aug 5 – 27, 2022) with two-hour performances beginning at 9:00 pm Mondays – Fridays and two evening performances on Saturdays and the last Friday. There are no performances on Sundays. Tickets are available from £30 – £95 in advance. All profits go to service and civilian charities. Travel Maestro tip: The only cancellation in its seven-decade history was in 2020 due to the pandemic, so be prepared to be wowed, regardless of the weather.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

For three weeks in August (August 5-29, 2022), the city of Edinburgh plays host to the world’s largest celebration of arts and culture. Artists and performers from around the globe share theatre, comedy, dance, physical theatre, circus, cabaret, children’s shows, musicals, opera, music, spoken word, and exhibitions. Hundreds of events take place on indoor and outdoor stages across the city; many are scheduled, and others are on-demand (online). Street events are open access and free for the public. Other shows require tickets which can be purchased at Travel Maestro tip: Edinburgh is very busy during the Fringe, so allow extra time to travel to your venue by car or even on foot.


Festivals in Scotland
It seems that all of Scotland turns out for the legendary street parties! Photo credit: This is Edinburgh (

Many Scotland cities celebrate New Year, most involving whisky and fire. Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebration is one of Scotland’s best-known festivals with fireworks, live music, and street parties. The torch-lit procession through the winding streets of Old Town on December 30 is something to behold as the river of fire marches down the historic Royal Mile to Holyrood Park. On New Year’s Eve, a massive street party at the foot of Edinburgh Castle has live music, entertainment, and outdoor bars.

Travel Maestro tip: If you’re up for one more festive Scottish tradition, don’t miss the Loony Dook on January 1! This entails dressing up in your wackiest outfit, parading through town with the rest of the Dookers, then throwing yourself into the very cold Firth of Forth. There is a registration fee, a portion of which goes toward UK lifesaving at sea.

Attending these Scottish festivals is not only great fun; they also give you insight into the traditions held dear by the country and its people. It’s an engaging way to experience the destination and learn about its culture. When you are ready to visit Scotland, pick a festival to attend and talk to a Covington vacation advisor to plan your trip.


By Lala