Where to find traditional music nights in Edinburgh
The venues full of traditional live Scottish music every night of the week
Every night of the week, the walls of the Royal Oak bar reverberate to the sound of live music, most of it with a Scottish, folk and traditional flavour. Long a focal point for folk music in the city, this cosy little bar also attracts other acoustic players and has a great atmosphere, with regulars often getting up to sing. On Sunday nights, head downstairs, where the Wee Folk Club’s special guests, often including some of the country’s best musicians, take the floor.
Another pub with a great reputation for live traditional music is Sandy Bell’s, on Forrest Road. Not only is it relaxed and friendly with great beer and spirits, but you can take along your guitar or fiddle and join in the nightly (and twice on Sunday) music sessions.
The Edinburgh Folk Club has a programme of traditional music not just from Scotland but from around the world. Check out its website for upcoming gigs. It’s also worth heading down to Leith, to the Village bar, which hosts the popular Leith Folk Club every Tuesday.
It’s impossible to listen to traditional music while sitting still, whether you just tap a foot and nod in time to the beat, or give in and throw your head back, clap your hands and abandon yourself to the Eightsome Reel. If you really want to dance, you can’t beat a ceilidh, and Edinburgh Ceilidhs organises some of the best.
Every Tuesday its Ceilidh Club meets at the Lot, a former church in the Grassmarket. This arts venue and bistro has a performance space whose wooden floor bounces to a country dance beat, aided by the excellent acoustics and up to 80 dancers. Beginners are as welcome as hardcore experts, as callers teach the dances and direct guests in the necessary moves. Musicians include Heeliegoleerie, The Jimi Shandrix Experience, An Taliban, Norman McKay’s Ceilidh Experience, The Belle Star Band, Minnow, Deoch’n’Dorus and Andrew Warren Band, some of the country’s best ceilidh bands.
Also run by Edinburgh Ceilidhs are Teannaich ceilidhs, held monthly on Fridays in Pollock Halls. The dance floor has room for up to 300 people, allowing you to really strip that willow.
In the heart of the West End, meanwhile, is Ghillie Dhu, a lavish venue that aims to give a twist to a traditional Scottish bar. It has a hall for ceilidhs on Friday nights, while folk music can be enjoyed in the main bar most evenings. Its ceilidhs include a three-course set dinner menu and ceilidh followed by a DJ until 3am.