Speyfest, best music festival in the North East

Written by Chris Thornton | 16th of February 2021
Fochabers Moray Music Festivals
Speyfest Traditional Scottish Music Festival

Speyfest is a traditional Scottish music festival based in Fochabers, Moray. Now in its 24th year, Speyfest is a fantastic showcase of traditional and contemporary Celtic music with a wealth of talent locally and all over Scotland.

Born in August 1996, Speyfest has matured into what is now a major event in the local calendar. The Speyfest weekend experience has become a magnet for locals and exiles alike and indeed is now attracting devotees from across the globe.

Speyfest Traditional Scottish Music Festival

Celtic music

Concerts, Ceilidhs and Stomps. Some of the biggest names from the world of traditional and contemporary Celtic music flock to Speyfest. International guests bring a touch of bluegrass and American roots - Hayseed Dixie and Tiller's Folly are particular favourites of mine. All in the beautiful village of Fochabers on the banks of the River Spey.

At the end of July, Speyfest transforms the playing fields on East Street into three days of the best in traditional and contemporary Celtic music.

Speyfest Traditional Scottish Music Festival

The Speyfest tented village hosts a variety of seated and standing events including the Friday and Saturday concerts and stomps, the marathon that is the Speyfest Family Sunday, a craft and food fair and an ecumenical Celtic Kirk service.

Speyfest is fully licensed and offers a wide range of hot foods and a variety of drinks from many onsite concessions. The last time I was at Speyfest there was a Windswept Brewery beer tasting table!

Past acts at Speyfest have included The Red Hot Chili Pipers, Hayseed Dixie, Tide Lines and Sandi Thom.

Speyfest is sponsored by a number of local businesses.

Speyfest Traditional Scottish Music Festival

Workshops and events

Over the festival weekend at Speyfest, there are several free events for visitors to enjoy around the village, including traditional music workshops where you can try your hand at some fiddling or bodhran. There are also "sing a song"sessions and a Saturday craft fair. Please take your kids to these events as they are brilliant.

The craft fair has become an important part of the Speyfest festival.  The main marquee is transformed into a marketplace for artists and craftsmen to display and sell their beautiful products.

Ewan McGregor had heads in a spin when he turned up with brother Colin and accompanied MSP Richard Lochhead to enjoy the festival in 2011.

Speyfest Traditional Scottish Music Festival
Beer tasting event at Speyfest.

Fochabers Fiddlers

One of the best acts to perform at the Speyfest festival are the Fochabers Fiddlers. Sourced from Milnes high school pupils aged 12 to 18, the band play their own traditional set at Speyfest every year. James Alexander established the group in 1980 to try and encourage young people to take an interest in traditional Scottish music. James Alexander usually gives a short speech before the band plays.

The group have toured America and Germany and played at the Royal Albert Hall in London for Cancer research. The fiddlers have also played at events at Buckingham Palace.

They have also recorded many CDs over the years, see their website here for the discography.

Fochabers Fiddlers
Fochabers Fiddlers in 2015.

Photography at Speyfest

I was asked to be the official photographer for a few years at Speyfest, it was hard work but a lot of fun. Trudging around covered in camera equipment for 3 days is hard on the shoulders but I got some excellent band shots, and with the stage lighting, it makes all the difference for a better photo. I think the committee is constantly on the lookout for photographers who can help cover the event... it is unpaid but you do get a food pass and a very unique perspective of the event.

Speyfest Traditional Scottish Music Festival

About Fochabers home of Speyfest

The town of Fochabers, with a population of around 2,000, lies on the banks of the River Spey about three miles from the coast in the county of Moray. Fochabers enjoys a rich musical and cultural heritage. In the past, it was home to the famous Scottish fiddler, William Marshall, and today, to a whole host of young (and not so young) fiddlers inspired by accomplished musician and composer James Alexander. Speyfest, now in its 24th year, attracts thousands of visitors to the town each summer.

Directions to Speyfest

By Road: Fochabers lies mid-way between Aberdeen and Inverness on the A96 trunk road. The driving time is around an hour from either city.

By Bus: There is a regular Stagecoach bus service that runs between Aberdeen and Inverness going through Fochabers.

By Rail: There are stations at Keith and Elgin which are both stops on the regular Aberdeen to Inverness Scotrail service. Both stations are approximately 10 miles from Fochabers.

By Air: There are airports at both Aberdeen and Inverness with easy access to the A96. The driving time from both is around an hour.


For more info please visit: www.speyfest.com, you can also contact them via email at info@speyfest.com.

If you are a fan of Celtic music you should definitely check out Speyfest.

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