COVID-19 update: Shetland is now reopen to visitors, as per Scottish government guidelines, but please read our guidance on travelling responsibly.

Folk Festival

The Shetland Folk Festival, which takes place at the beginning of May, is often regarded as the granddaddy of folk festivals. For 40 years, the festival has brought eclectic and innovative line ups of performers to the isles.

The UK's most northerly folk festival is an outstanding event, regularly earning ‘must-see’ recommendations in guide books and newspaper reviews. For performers, locals and visitors alike, the festival's "sessions" are amongst the best in the world. Visiting artistes are regularly dumbfounded by the quantity and quality of local musicians that these remote isles have to offer. They’re struck, too, by the warm welcome they receive, staying not in hotels but in the homes of Folk Festival supporters. The history of the festival makes interesting reading, with the list of visiting artistes reading like a ‘who’s who’ of roots music.

Concerts are held all over Shetland and, on the final night, audiences in three large venues are treated to a marathon concert in which everyone has a chance to see all the 15 or so visiting bands. Despite the complexities, it all runs like clockwork, and it’s all achieved entirely by a voluntary committee.

This is not like any kind of festival we've been used to playing at; it's just like playing at one long party

If you're tempted to make your way up to the most far-flung folk festival in the UK, you may be interested to know that the unofficial opening is on the Wednesday night, on the NorthLink ferry somewhere in the middle of the North Sea, which is an event in itself!

However, please bear in mind that tickets for many concerts are in heavy demand and it's essential to book as soon as they go on sale to avoid disappointment. We do not recommend making the trip purely to attend the festival if you have not already booked tickets, as you may find that very few (if any) tickets are available. Instead, plan ahead: keep an eye on the official Shetland Folk Festival website, where news about the visiting artists is posted from mid-January and information on membership and advance booking is available around the end of January. That way, you can have everything in place and you will, we’re sure, have a magical, memorable time.

This festival requires a government health warning - nobody sleeps!
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