It sometimes feels like St Andrew’s Day (30th November) is overshadowed by some other famous Scottish celebrations, particularly Hogmanay and Burns Night. But there are still plenty of events, not only in the town that bears the saint’s name but also across the country.
As for New Year celebrations, the Scots have strong claim that Hogmanay is the world’s biggest and best. Tens of thousands turn out for street parties, from Edinburgh to Glasgow to Aberdeen and the celebrations go on well into the first day or two of the New Year.
A few weeks later, on 25th January, is Burns Night - arguably Scotland’s flagship cultural event. The celebration of the nation’s iconic poet is built around a supper with the legendary haggis as its centrepiece. Bagpipes, whisky and ale are in copious supply at the events that are held around the country and indeed, around the world.
Highland Games events are another key focal point for traditional gatherings. There are many such events across the country but two can perhaps claim headline billing.
August’s Cowal Highland Gathering, 125 years old, is the largest and most spectacular Highland gathering in the world and attracts more than 3,500 competitors. The Braemar Gathering is equally celebrated and is the only one that guarantees the presence of a member of the royal family.
Two other aspects of Scottish life – whisky and agriculture - also feature prominently in annual events. Feis Ile, the Islay Festival of Malt and Music in May, is an example of the former and was founded over 30 years ago by local people to showcase the island’s heritage and culture. June brings the Royal Highland Show, a large agricultural show attracting 140,000 visitors over its four days. Highlights include displays of 5,000 animals, food and drink exhibitions, a flower show and craft goods.
Celtic music is also by no means neglected. The biggest event is Celtic Connections, held annually in the second half of January. The festival advertises itself as ‘The UK’s premier celebration of Celtic music’ and, with 2,100 artists performing at over 20 events and with 300 separate events spread over 18 days, it’s hard to argue.
Cowal Highland Gathering www.cowalgathering.co.uk
Braemar Gathering www.braemargathering.org
Royal Highland Show www.royalhighlandshow.org
Celtic Connections www.celticconnections.com