Portsoy Boat Festival

Written by Chris Thornton | 25th of June 2024
Portsoy Boat Festival

The Portsoy Boat Festival is always an event I've heard about and seen advertised frequently over the years. Despite living only 20 minutes away near Buckie, I had never been to the festival, but after reading that the Red Arrows would be in attendance, I knew I had to go this year!

Glenglassaugh Scottish Traditional Boat Festival

The festival is one of Scotland's largest maritime celebrations, featuring live music, food fayre, raft races, and, of course, many lovely boats, large and small.

I attended the event with my wife and two daughters, Ellie and Lauren. We arrived at the main car park on the west side of Portsoy, where volunteers were directing traffic to the field on the south side of the A98. A shuttle bus was available to take us to the festival site, but we opted to walk into town instead, which only took about ten minutes.

Portsoy Boat Festival parking at the west of Portsoy.
The parking is in a field on the west side of Portsoy, directly on the A98.

The PR team at the boat festival was kind enough to give me a media pass for the event, so we were lucky enough to get in for free and sail past the long queues of paying visitors. Running this website has its perks sometimes!

The Main Festival Site

Entering the festival site, this was my first time at Portsoy Harbour, let alone at the festival itself. The vibe was electric, with a bustle of people listening to music, buying food and checking out the craft stalls.

The way the harbour has been cordoned off and filled with attractions was brilliant; there was so much to see and do. The main stage was just at the harbour side at the main entrance and immediately grabbed my attention. As an old musician, I found it great to see bands playing onstage. The sound quality was excellent; I wouldn't have minded being up there and blasting out a few tunes!

As we followed the harbourside path, the Portsoy Pipe Band started playing. It was fantastic! Just a little further, there was yet more live music, with the "75 Club Choir" singing Sea Shanties. They were really good.

Portsoy Pipe Band
Portsoy Pipe Band

We arrived at about 11 am, and the crowds hadn't quite started to form at the food stalls, so we grabbed a quick cheeseburger while it was quiet. While we ate our food, we saw the arrival of the Buckie lifeboat in the harbour; it made for a great picture with the other tall-masted sailboats berthed nearby.

The ladies
The ladies with the harbour in the background.
Portsoy Harbourside
The busy harbourside
75 Club Choir at Portsoy Harbour
75 Club Choir.

Visiting the Historic Harbour

After our food, we made our way along the harbourside, checking out the stalls on the way. There was a currywurst stall; I wish I had seen this before my cheeseburger! This food stall was the busiest I had seen; it must have been good! My brother sent me this picture of his food.

Currywurst loaded fries
Currywurst loaded fries from one of the food vendors.

There were many small boats on the nearside of the harbour. Lauren liked the small red one the most, it was named "St Kilda". As we progressed onto the harbour wall, we saw larger leisure boats with people enjoying drinks in the nice weather. The star attractions were the sailboats and lifeboat at the far side. It was possible to board the ships for a little tour. We didn't go aboard on this occasion, but the boats were fascinating, and it was great to see them up close.

Sail boats
The Reaper's sail dominated the harbour.
Portsoy Harbour
The main section of the harbour with boats large and small.
Row boat
People rowing, I'm not sure if this was an activity on offer.
Rowers at Portsoy Harbour
More rowers!
The Reaper
The Reaper.
Drie Gebroeders
Drie Gebroeders.
The Swan in Portsoy Harbour
The Swan.
Buckie Life Boat front view
The frontal view of Buckie Life Boat.
Buckie Life Boat rear view
The rear view of Buckie Life Boat.

The sailboats I saw at the festival were:

  • The Reaper

  • The Swan

  • The White Wing

  • Raasay

  • Drie Gebroeders

From the harbour, we moved further along the main festival site. Lauren spotted the jumping elastic bands, a kid's attraction. She loved this and jumped as high as she could.

Lauren on the elastics
Lauren getting strapped in!
Lauren jumping on the elastics
She got stuck in mid-air a couple of times.

Craft Tents & Live Music

The next area was packed with craft tents and another live music tent. It was great listening to a mix of traditional folk songs and many covers of famous songs by some fantastic local artists. I got Lauren an ice cream from the Portsoy Ice Cream tent. There was a Red Arrows stall here, too, full of cool merchandise; Lauren purchased a small model aeroplane.

Craft tent area
Craft tents and live music area.
Lauren with her ice cream
Lauren eating her Portsoy Ice Cream.

Kids Area

The area was outside the main festival site and seemed open to everyone. There were slides, live entertainment, balloon clowns, football games and even a bucking bronco. The great thing about this area was that most of the attractions were free to use. Other local events like Buckie Christmas Cracker or Buckie Car Show all charge £5 for a limited number of turns on slides, etc, so it was brilliant that Lauren could go down the slides or use the bouncy castles as much as she wanted for free!

Kids play area. A packed programme.
The kid's play area is open to everyone.

The Red Arrows Airshow

The Red Arrows were due to begin their show at 6 pm, so we returned to the main festival site and found a great spot up on the hill overlooking the harbour. While waiting for the airshow we spotted dolphins out in the Moray Firth -the first time I've seen them! I guess they wanted to watch the airshow too.

Dolphins seen from Portsoy Harbour
The dolphins came to say hello.

Looking out to sea, I couldn't see the Red Arrows anywhere. I had looked up their flight plan and thought they would arrive directly straight on with Portsoy from the sea, but it ended up the route was coming from the land, so it was a pleasant surprise when they suddenly roared overhead from behind us!

The Red Arrows performed a truly stunning display for 30 minutes, including chevron roles, tornadoes, opposition barrels, and even a large love heart in the sky. The crowd thoroughly enjoyed the thrilling experience.

Red Arrows spiral
I was lucky to get this shot dead straight with the planes spiralling around the main group.
The Red Arrows
The coloured smoke contrasted with the blue/grey sky.
Red Arrows flying close together. Their only Scottish display.
These close calls were one of the most exciting parts of the airshow.
Airshow spectators
Airshow spectators at the other side of the harbour.

This was the first time the Red Arrows have had a show at Portsoy, and it really added a special excitement to the end of our day. I was really pleased with the images I took. Please see my complete set on my Red Arrows Facebook post.

FAQs on Portsoy Boat Festival

Where is it best to park for the Portsoy Boat Festival?

The dedicated parking in the field on the west side of Portsoy is the best place to park, particularly if you are arriving from the west on the A98. Parking in the town will be very difficult.

Is the Portsoy Boat Festival suitable for kids?

Yes, it is very family-friendly. Outside the main festival area was a large kid's zone. Alcohol is for sale, but only in designated cordoned-off areas within the main site; people can't roam freely with drinks.

Are dogs allowed on site?

Dogs are allowed but must be kept on a leash.

Are there toilets at the festival?

Yes, public toilets were at the harbourside, and many portaloos were located all over the site.

Is the festival suitable for disabled visitors?

Yes, all of the main areas were accessible by wheelchair. However, I'm not sure that access to board the boats would be possible.

Portsoy Harbour
The smaller section of Portsoy Harbour.

Raft Race
We missed the raft race unfortunately but caught the end.

Life boat
RNLI Boat.

Key Information on the Portsoy Boat Festival

  • Glenglassaugh Scottish Traditional Boat Festival or "Portsoy Boat Festival" is a maritime culture event held in the town of Portsoy on the Moray Coast in northeast Scotland.

  • The event celebrates the north east's maritime heritage.

  • There is live music, the finest Scottish food and craft stalls and many different types of heritage boats to see.

  • First held in 1993, the festival is now in its 31st year.

  • On this occasion, the Red Arrows air display team graced the skies over the festival with their only Scottish public display in 2024 as part of their diamond anniversary campaign.

  • There are concerts in the evenings that require separate tickets.

  • The main sponsor is the Glenglassaugh Whisky Distillery, a short distance from Portsoy.

Janette and I at Portsoy Boat Festival
Janette and me at the festival.


We had an absolutely fantastic day at Portsoy's Boat Festival. The sunny weather, food, and live music created a fantastic atmosphere, which was made even better when the Red Arrows ended the Saturday festival day in true style. My only regret is not coming to the boat festival in the previous years. I would highly recommend you visit next year's festival.

All information was correct at the time of writing, please check things like entry costs and opening times before you arrive.

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