You can get details of specific events at many of the festivals below by going to https://edinburgh.org/discover/edinburgh-festivals/.
Celtic Connections, Glasgow. Beginning with a torchlight parade that lights up the wintry streets, the city comes to life with two weeks of concerts celebrating Celtic music and dance. There are venues throughout the city, but most notably the Old Fruit Market, on Albion Street. For tickets and details, go to www.celticconnections.com. Mid-January to early February.
Burns Night, Ayr (near his birthplace) and Dumfries, where he died, and elsewhere. During Burns Night suppers to honor the poet and lyricist, there’s much toasting with whisky and eating of haggis. Go to www.visitscotland.com for information. January 25.
Up Helly Aa, Lerwick, in the Shetland Islands. The most northerly town in Great Britain stages an ancient Norse fire festival, the aim of which is to encourage the return of the sun after the pitch-dark days of winter. The highlight is the burning of a replica of a Norse longboat. See www.uphellyaa.org. Last Tuesday in January.
Six Nations Rugby Championship (aka NatWest 6 Nations), Edinburgh. Sixty-seven thousand fans cram into the Murrayfield stadium for Scotland’s home matches. Visit www.scottishrugby.org. Early February.
Fort William Mountain Festival. Films, lectures, music, and exhibitions are staged at the foot of Ben Nevis. See www.mountainfilmfestival.co.uk. Late-February.
Whuppity Scourie, Lanark.Residents of the Strathclyde get so tired of winter that they stage this traditional ceremony with processions and bell ringing, to chase it away. Find more information at www.lanark.co.uk. Mid-March.
Glasgow Comedy Festival. Glaswegians are certainly not shy in heckling some of comedy’s biggest names. See www.glasgowcomedyfestival.com. Two weeks in Mid-March.
Kate Kennedy Procession & Pageant, St Andrews. A historic pageant with pipe bands and cross-dressed historical characters is staged annually at this ancient university. See www.calendarcustoms.com. Second Saturday in April.
Beltane Fire Festival, Edinburgh. Join the costumed revelers as they dance around the Calton hill, accompanied by drummers and musicians in this modern take on an ancient Celtic fertility ceremony. It’s also a good excuse for a party. See www.beltane.org. End of April.
Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival. Special tours and tastings are presented at various Speyside distilleries. See www.spiritofspeyside.com. Late April and early May.
Scottish Motorcycle Trials, Fort William. The trials run for 6 days in the first part of the month, drawing enthusiasts from all over Europe. Visit www.ssdt.org. Early May.
Royal Scottish Academy Annual Exhibition, Edinburgh. Showcase of the best of the academicians’ painting, sculpture, photography, and architecture. See www.royalscottishacademy.org. Early May to early June.
Pitlochry Festival Theatre, Pitlochry. Scotland’s “theatre in the hills” launches its season in mid-May. Visit www.pitlochry.org.uk or call tel. 01796/484-626. Mid-May to October.
Gay Pride, Edinburgh. The annual gay-pride celebration includes a massive march through the city center. Contact Pride Edinburgh, www.prideedinburgh.org.uk. One Saturday in May or June.
Lanimer Day, Lanark. A week of festivities features a procession around the town’s boundaries, the election of a Lanimer Queen and a Cornet King, a parade with floats, and Highland dances and bagpipe playing. Visit www.lanarklanimers.co.uk. The Thursday between June 6 and 12.
Royal Highland Show, at the Ingliston Showground, outskirts of Edinburgh. This show is devoted to agriculture and country pursuits, with livestock displays and shows and more. Visit www.royalhighlandshow.org. Mid- to late June.
Selkirk Common Riding, Selkirk. Commemorating Selkirk’s losses in the 1513 Battle of Flodden—only one Selkirk soldier returned alive from the battle to warn the town before dropping dead in the marketplace—some 400 horses and riders parade through the streets, and a young unmarried male is crowned at the sound of the cornet, representing the soldier who sounded the alarm. Visit www.returntotheridings.co.uk. Mid-June.
Peebles Beltane Festival. A town “Cornet” rides around to see if the boundaries are safe from the “invading” English, a young girl is elected Festival Queen, and her court is filled with courtiers, sword bearers, guards, and attendants. Children of the town dress in costumes for parade floats through the streets. Go to www.peebles-theroyalburgh.info. Mid-June.
Glasgow International Jazz Festival. Jazz musicians from all over the world come together to perform at various venues around the city. Visit www.jazzfest.co.uk. Late June to early July.
The Skye Festival/Fèis An Eilein, Isle of Skye. This series of concerts, ceilidhs, theatre performances, and children’s events helps to maintain the vibrancy of Skye’s culture. See www.isleofskye.com. Throughout July and August.
Hebridean Celtic Festival, Isles of Lewis and Harris. This music festival attracts the biggest names in the Scottish folk world. See www.hebceltfest.com. Mid-July.
Pride Glasgow, Glasgow. The city’s largest Gay Pride event is a huge gathering in Kelvingrove Park. Visit https://prideglasgow.com. Mid-July.
Lammas Fair, St Andrews. Ferris wheels and whirligigs are hauled in and street performers arrive in force for Scotland’s oldest surviving street fair. Visit www.event-standrews.co.uk. Five days in early August.
World Pipe Band Championships: Piping Live!, Glasgow. This weeklong festival of bagpiping takes place on Glasgow Green. Visit www.rspba.org or www.pipinglive.co.uk. Mid-August.
Edinburgh International Festival. Scotland’s best-known festival is held for 3 weeks (see chapter 5 for more information). More than 1,000 shows are hosted and 1,000,000 tickets sold. Numerous other festivals are also held in Edinburgh at this time, celebrating everything from books to jazz. Nothing tops the Military Tattoo against the backdrop of the floodlit Edinburgh Castle. For tickets, call tel. 0131/473-2000 or visit www.eif.co.uk. Three weeks in August.
Edinburgh Festival Fringe. For more than 70 years this alternative the city’s famous international festival has attracted comedians and all sorts of other performers, these days putting on 4,000 shows in 300 venues. Visit www.edfringe.com. Three weeks in August.
Ben Nevis Mountain Race, Fort William. A tradition since 1895, as many as 500 runners compete for the coveted MacFarlane Cup by running up the footpaths to the summit and back. Bagpipes rise in crescendos at the beginning and end of the race. See www.bennevisrace.co.uk. First Saturday in September.
Braemar Gathering. The Queen and other members of the royal family often show up for this annual event, with its massed bands, dancing competitions, and trials of great strength by a tribe of gigantic men. Visit www.braemargathering.org. First Saturday in September.
Camanachd Cup Final, different venue each year. The finale of the season’s games of shinty (a sometimes-brutal hockey variant) is an extraordinary spectacle. Visit www.shinty.com. Late September or early October.
Highland Autumn Cattle Show, Oban. Since the days of Rob Roy, Oban has been a marketplace for the distinctive Highland Cattle. Buyers and sellers descend on Oban to buy and sell at the industrial-looking Caledonian Auction Mart, 3 miles south of Oban. See www.highlandcattlesociety.com. Mid-October.
Sound Festival, Aberdeen. Performers from around the world and aficionados of avant-garde music gather at venues in and around the northern city. Visit www.sound-scotland.co.uk. Late October to early November.
Dundee Jazz Festival. Jazz musicians from around the world converge. See www.jazzdundee.co.uk. Throughout November.
Flambeaux Procession, Comrie, Tayside. This torchlight parade takes place on New Year’s Eve. For details, see www.gateway-to-the-scottish-highlands.com. December 31.
Hogmanay, Edinburgh. Hogmanay begins on New Year’s Eve and merges into New Year’s Day festivities. Events include a torchlight procession, a fire festival along Princes Street, a carnival, and a street-theatre spectacular. See www.edinburghshogmanay.com. December 31.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.