From an excellent lineup and affordable tickets to Bute's sandy beaches and glorious gardens, ButeFest Chair Hazel Mulholland gives us the lowdown
'ButeFest was imagined on the beach over a beer, and one of those "why do we not have one?" moments.' Hazel Mulholland explains when asked about the birth of the small but mighty island festival. 'Our first year was a huge learning curve for us all with the high winds which actually caused us to close early on the first night. It wasn't an easy decision to make, but the team all pulled together and we were able to re-open by lunchtime on the Saturday. That would've put most people off, not us. Here we are coming into year four!'
As the trend for boutique family-friendly festivals grows among promoters and organisers, so too does the popularity and demand for these smaller gatherings which often see big names occupying the stage in more intimate settings. ButeFest (Fri 27–Sun 29 Jul), located in Rothesay on the picturesque Isle of Bute is a prime example of a unique and well-organised summer event, with each iteration of the festival offering a bigger, better and more varied lineup of acts and activities. The 2018 festival is set to build on its past successes, bringing music lovers together while putting Bute firmly on the map as a must-visit location for arts, culture and entertainment. Read on to find out more about ButeFest and we can guarantee that you'll be booking your ticket as soon as possible.
There's a cracking lineup this year from trad bands to punk outfits
Last year's lineup saw over 100 acts including The Wedding Present, Samson Sounds, We Are Scientists, The Chair, We Came From Wolves and many others. It makes sense then for the 2018 lineup to follow suit with similarly impressive headliners alongside up-and-coming and local acts. The main headliners for 2018 are California ska punk band Mad Caddies, pop-rock duo The Hoosiers, and trad legends Skippinish, who will be joined by Dougie Maclean, Lucia, Roddy Woomble, Banshee, Talisk, Neville Staple Band, King Creosote, The Youth & Young, The Hannah Fisher Ceilidh Band, Rura and more to be announced.
Aside from the music, there are a load of family activities for all ages such as dance classes, face painting, workshops, crafts, discos and storytelling, plus toddler and teen tents and spaces for breastfeeding and nappy changing. As Hazel adds, 'It's family friendly, there's so much going on for everyone, we're overlooking the beach and it promises to be a fabulous weekend – you'd be mad to miss out! The Island is ready to welcome everyone with open arms and a huge hello.'
It's just a hop, skip and a jump away from the Central Belt
It may seem far with it being an island and all but the Isle of Bute is just 33 miles from Glasgow in the Firth of Clyde, which is around 90 minutes on public transport. You can drive and catch the ferry from Wemyss Bay, which will take you to Rothesay in 35 minutes. The ferry runs every 45 minutes to one hour depending on the time of day and you can just pay at the pierhead (£6.10 adult return, £21.90 car return).
The Isle of Bute is a truly magical location with plenty to see and do
'Bute is a fabulous location for a festival' Hazel says. 'It's a great island with so much to do, from a castle, museum, historic house to great walking in the West Island Way. A little something for everyone – and great accessibility too.'
It's only 15 miles long and four miles wide but you definitely won't be bored on the Isle of Bute. The beaches are stunning, providing a great escape away from the festival atmosphere as well as the chance to explore, relax or take a dip. Ettrick Bay on the west coast is ideal for swimming and paddling and also has a bird hide where you can spot seabirds. Also on the west coast, Scalpsie Bay is more secluded with two wonderful viewpoints and St Ninians Bay (Straad) is home to the early Christian site of St Ninian's Chapel.
The gardens of Bute are well worth a wander too. The Ardencraig Gardens on Canada Hill has a walled garden, glasshouses and aviaries which are home to some exotic bird species, while Mount Stuart has 300 acres of gardens, woodlands and walks alongside a glass house pavilion and visitor centre.
Other fun activities on the island include Bute Museum, Rothesay Castle, Dunagoil Fort, pony trekking, bird watching and watersports, all of which are bound to suit varying tastes. The Bute Brew Co also offer tours where you can enjoy free samples and learn more about the local beer (which happens to be served at ButeFest!).
It won't break the bank and you can even camp on-site
If you're wanting to stay on Bute, there are plenty of accessible options within walking distance ranging from guest houses and apartments to hotels and cottages. But for the real festival experience, ButeFest's on-site camping is highly recommended at just £30 for campervan tickets and a £5 camping fee per person, payable on the door. Camping opens around 5pm on Thu 27 Jul and if you're worried about bringing along the wee ones, there's a dedicated family camping area to make the whole experience as easy and comfortable as possible. Students with a valid Young Scot or NUS card are also offered camping free of charge and unlike many festivals, you're welcome to take food and drink with you to the campsite; just be sure to leave those BBQs and campfires at home.
'Being by the beach is a biggie.' Hazel continues. 'It brings another dimension to what is becoming a firm favourite on the festival calendar. Everyone having a great time, no matter the weather, and experiencing something different every time. That goes for the visitors, the volunteers and the volunteer organising committee. It's about new experiences, new food and drink, meeting new people – it's all so exciting!'
ButeFest, Ettrick Bay, Rothesay, Fri 27–Sun 29 Jul, £95 (family £230; children £40; under 14s £15). Tickets on sale now.