Craft Beer Rising, Foodies Festival, GastroFest and more fly the flag for Scotland in the official Year of Food and Drink
2015 is Scotland’s official Year of Food & Drink. Keith Smith finds celebrations of everything from tea to tatties as he takes a look
at some of the country’s finest festivals
Stick a pin in the map of Scotland, and chances are you won’t be far off finding one of the many food and drink festivals that take place across the nation. We’re rightly proud of our produce, and what better way to demonstrate that than by throwing a party?
Burns Night is a good start to the year, with events taking place throughout the country including The Big Burns Supper (Jan) and food events taking place as part of Alloway 1759 (Jan). Crail Food Festival (Jun) is a terrific way to delve deeper into life in this picturesque wee fishing village. As well as all the usual demonstrations, displays and markets, visitors can discover hidden delights on foraging walks and participate in the Crail Food Trail, a magical mystery-esque tour of its pubs, cafés and restaurants, with plenty of sustenance provided en route.
St Andrews Food and Drink Festival (Nov) is a series of events featuring the very best produce, chefs and suppliers from Fife. Restaurants, cafés and shops stage all manner of tastings, demos and talks, and you can expect an array of specially-created dishes, menus and dinners. A more far-flung festival – like Islay Festival of Music and Malt (May) is a good excuse to venture off the mainland, and take in a friendly festival that is big on paying homage to fine whiskies.
Scotland’s national drink is no stranger to having a shindig or six held in its honour with a heap of events across the year, including Spirit of Stirling (May) and Nip Festival (Apr), formerly Inverness Whisky Festival, with lots of local venues taking part in the celebrations. Inverness, Bogbain Farm specifically, is also home to Brew at the Bog (May), while other ale festivals to look out for include Craft Beer Rising (Sep) and The Greater Grampian Beer Festival (May), now in its 29th year.
If you’re after a festivals paying tribute to a single foodstuffs, look no further than Perth Festival of Chocolate (Nov) which usually coincides with the switch-on of Perth’s Christmas lights. There’s a number of other quirky food-inspired festivals too, none more so than the Edinburgh International Science Festival’s GastroFest (Apr), a fascinating insight into what we put into our bodies. New for 2015, Children’s Food Festival (Jun) allows kids (and big kids alike) to discover more about where our food comes from, how to eat healthily and to find out more about careers in the industry from a plethora of experts happy to share their knowledge.
With a history stretching back to 1822, the Royal Highland Show (Jun) is perhaps the biggest event on the food and drink calendar, a three-day celebration of food, farming and the countryside which attracts around 180,000 visitors each year to Ingliston.
Dundee Flower and Food Festival (Sep) first branched out into food in the mid-90s, and now has over 60 stalls, as well as a plethora of demonstrations, talks and interactive sessions on everything from food tech to growing your own veg.
Lastly, Foodies Festival (Aug) takes place at Inverleith Park in Edinburgh and is a weekend-long event which boasts top celebrity chefs, an impressive cooking theatre line-up and more street food stalls than you can shake a satay stick at. Tuck in.
The Islay Festival (or 'Fèis Ìle' as it's called in Gaelic) celebrates 36 years in 2020. The fest offers distillery tours, live music, a food fair, golf and bowling competitions and even Gaelic lessons for those who want to embrace the culture.
A day of great music and great beer with BrewDog, the coolest craft beer label on the block, and Bogbain Farm, which was voted Scotland's Best Unusual Venue at the Scottish Event Awards. 2016's line-up included Idlewild and C Duncan.
Formerly known as the Inverness Whisky Festival, this event now celebrates craft spirits including gin, vodka and whisky. Expect plenty of distilleries, talks, masterclasses, food, live music and demonstrations throughout the city.
Our Bard's birth is marked with a vast selection of dance, theatre, visual arts, live art and comedy, turning Burns Night into a festival of contemporary arts. With 150 shows featuring 300 artists over 11 days, it's not to be missed.
A weekend of food and drink events in the coastal village of Crail, with plenty of sampling as well as food demonstrations and talks from independent producers across Fife. There will also be music events, children's activities and markets both indoor and outdoor.
The festival returns with even more whiskies on offer for the nationwide Whisky Month celebration, offering drams from all the whisky regions along with masterclasses. In 2016 the festival returns by popular demand to the Albert Halls venue, and to celebrate its fifth birthday, tickets are at the original 2012 price.
Science and gastronomy converge at this foodie mini-fest organised by Edinburgh International Science Festival. Food producers, chefs and mixologists help sciencey types explore the experiences of taste, disgust, pleasure and other aspects of consumption through demos, workshops, exhibitions and discussions.
Beer festivals have come a long way in the last few years. Among the most progressive is the Craft Beer Rising outfit, who are based in London but have been travelling up to Scotland for a couple of years.