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The Orkney Blues Festival: Scotland's Best Kept Secret in Music Festivals

Updated: Apr 6, 2023

Are you a music lover looking for a unique festival experience in Scotland? Look no further than the Orkney Blues Festival - the UK's most northerly blues festival. Held in the charming town of Stromness, the festival has been a hidden gem in Scotland's music scene for years. In this article, we'll take a closer look at the history, lineup, atmosphere, and travel options of the Orkney Blues Festival, as well as provide tips for attending and other music festivals to check out in Scotland.



The Orkney Blues Festival is a three-day festival held every September in Stromness, a small town on the Orkney Islands, off the north coast of Scotland. The festival has been running since 2005 and has grown in popularity over the years, attracting blues fans from across Scotland and beyond. The festival prides itself on its intimate atmosphere, with most of the venues located within walking distance of each other in the town center.


History of the Orkney Blues Festival

The first festival was held in 2005 and featured a mix of local and international artists. Over the years, the festival has grown in size and reputation, attracting bigger names and more fans each year. Despite its success, the festival has remained true to its roots, with a focus on showcasing local talent and providing an intimate and friendly atmosphere for fans and artists alike while also responding to demand by increasing venue capacity and ticketed events to attract bigger artists. The festival itself is non-profit, and operated by unpaid volunteers - every penny goes into the production of the festival, bringing unbelievable talent all the way to Orkney for the locals to enjoy, and growing the event as a destination for tourism in Scotland.


Rebecca Downes - Orkney Blues Festival
Rebecca Downes - Orkney Blues Festival 2022

Why the Orkney Blues Festival is considered Scotland's best kept secret

Despite its growing popularity, the Orkney Blues Festival remains somewhat of a hidden gem in Scotland's music scene. One reason for this is its unique location - the Orkney Islands are not the easiest place to get to. However, those who do make the journey are rewarded with a truly unique festival experience, unlike any other in Scotland. The festival's intimate atmosphere, stunning location, and focus on local talent make it a must-visit for any blues fan.


The unique location and atmosphere of the Orkney Blues Festival

One of the things that sets the Orkney Blues Festival apart from other music festivals in Scotland is its stunning location. The Orkney Islands are known for their rugged coastline, ancient history, and stunning natural beauty. The festival takes place in the charming town of Stromness, which is situated on a sheltered bay and surrounded by rolling hills. The town's narrow streets and historic buildings create a unique atmosphere, and the festival's venues are all within walking distance of each other, making it easy to explore and discover new artists.


Stromness - The home of Orkney Blues Festival
Stromness - The home of Orkney Blues Festival

The music lineup at the Orkney Blues Festival

The Orkney Blues Festival has a reputation for attracting a mix of local and international talent, with a focus on blues and blues-inspired music. This year's lineup includes artists such as Rob Tognoni, Kyla Brox, The Cinelli Brothers, and Animals & Friends. In addition to the main stage acts, there are also plenty of local and up-and-coming artists performing in smaller venues throughout the town. One of the unique aspects of the festival is the opportunity for fans to see big-name acts in such an intimate setting.


What to expect at the Orkney Blues Festival

If you're planning on attending the Orkney Blues Festival, here's what you can expect: a warm welcome from the locals, a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, and some of the best blues music around. The festival takes place over three days, with most of the venues located within walking distance of each other. There are plenty of food and drink options available, as well as local crafts and souvenirs for sale. The festival attracts a mix of locals and visitors, so you'll have the opportunity to meet people from all over the world who share your love of blues music.



Accommodation and travel options for the Orkney Blues Festival

Getting to the Orkney Islands can be a bit of a challenge, but it's definitely worth the effort. The most common way to get to the islands is by ferry from Scrabster or Aberdeen, although there are also flights available from Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Inverness. Once you arrive on the islands, there are plenty of accommodation options available, from hotels and B&Bs to self-catering cottages and campsites. If you want to be at the heart of the festival, there are several hotels located in Stromness including our ownvenue hotels; The Royal Hotel and The Ferry Inn.


Other music festivals in Scotland to check out

If you're a music lover and plan on visiting Scotland, there are plenty of other festivals to check out. Some of the most popular include the Edinburgh International Festival, the Glasgow Jazz Festival, and the Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival - and of course closer to home is the internationally renowned Orkney Folk Festival. Each of these festivals has its own unique atmosphere and lineup, and all are worth checking out if you have the time and opportunity.


Tips for attending the Orkney Blues Festival

If you're planning on attending the Orkney Blues Festival, here are a few tips to help you make the most of your experience:

  • Book your accommodation well in advance, as the festival attracts a lot of visitors and places can fill up quickly.

  • Be prepared for the weather - the Orkney Islands can be quite windy and rainy, so bring warm and waterproof clothing.

  • Explore the town of Stromness - there's more to the festival than just the music, so take the time to discover the town's history, culture, and natural beauty.

  • Try the local food and drink - the Orkney Islands are known for their cheese, seafood, whisky, and beer, so make sure to sample some of the local specialties.

  • Be respectful of the local community - the festival takes place in a small town, so be mindful of noise levels and litter.


Aerial view of Stromness, Orkney Islands
Aerial view of Stromness, Orkney Islands

22-24 September 2023

The Orkney Blues Festival may be Scotland's best kept secret in music festivals, but it's a secret that's definitely worth discovering. With its stunning location, intimate atmosphere, and focus on local talent, it's a must-visit for any blues fan. So why not make the journey to the Orkney Islands this September and experience the festival for yourself? You won't be disappointed!



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