T in the Park is in retirement, Glastonbury is on sabbatical and here’s you thinking your welly boots weren’t going to get their annual outing. Well, I nearly didn’t want to write this but I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Hidden up on the hills of the Highlands on the Belladrum Estate is a majestic wee shindig for art lovers, food lovers, music lovers and (usually) mud lovers. This fabulous wee festival is known as Belladrum Tartan Heart and takes place every August – this year Thursday 2nd until Saturday 4th.
Excluding Christmas it is the only other time of year my entire family get together. Bella’s charm (and turkey) are the only thing that get us all in the same country at the same time and if I could return from Oz for it, I would. In celebration of what would have been my 10th year I’ve put together the ultimate guide for anyone considering joining the big Bella family.
So get the glue gun out, it’s time to make those fairy wings, practise the dad dancing and find the face glitter as Bella is an intimate affair that will make you fall head over heals.
So what’s the Craic?
Set over 7 stages Belladrum Tartan Heart showcases comedy, arts, music, dance and debates with family friendly as the focus. There’s not many other places on the planet you can learn to juggle, attend a ceilidh, mingle with steam punks, do karaoke with a ukelele band, watch Tom Jones and practise yoga all on the same night. Heck, all before tea time. For ten years we’ve been rocking up and Bella still never fails to blow our socks off.
Keeping in mind the family friendly theme, Bella kindly offer all children under 12 to attend for free! Yup, that’s right you’d pay more for a carrier bag than you do for 3 days of entertainment, arts and “accommodation” for your wee one!
Also note because of this some absolute numpties try and SELL children’s tickets. Please do not be fooled into buying one – all children under 12 go free.
Grown ups take up more space, so we’ve to pay. However, unlike some festivals that charge a month’s rent in exchange for an A4 sheet of grass to pitch on, Bella is not only affordable but also offer a payment plan because they understand we all unfortunately have to adult and pay bills and stuff.
EASY PAYMENT PLAN IS AS FOLLOWS:
Adult 3 Day Ticket (includes Thursday night main stage access as well as the crack it open ceilidh)
Pay £38 and the booking fee now.
Then pay £36 over 3 months with no further fees.
Total £146 + Booking fee and receive your ticket beginning of July
Adult 2 Day Ticket (Includes the Ceilidh but no main stage access )
Pay £32 and the booking fee now.
Then pay £30 over 3 months with no further fees.
Total £122 + Booking fee and receive your ticket beginning of July
Another tip to avoid the pesky booking fees you can purchase Belladrum tickets in store at one of these local retailers.
Belladrum is based approx 10 miles out of Inverness, near Beauly.The campsite opens 08:00am on Thursday. If you can, we recommend taking Thursday off work as the busiest times are 4pm-8pm on Thursday evening. Also means you can have your pick of the best camping spots and won’t miss a minute of entertainment.
Living Local: Hop on a train/bus/boat/plane to Inverness and from there Stagecoach buses leave regularly to the festival. For surrounding Highland areas Ross’s minibuses are the chariots of choice.
City Dwellers: All aboard a Bella bus! Share your journey with several other festival fans on-board a Tuned in Travel bus. Leaving from major towns around Scotland, not only will this option save you money, but help save the environment. From Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee, Stirling or heck order a private one for you and your pals – the options are endless! No need to tackle the mud in your wee Fiat 500 and you can enjoy that extra cider or two on the Saturday as you won’t be the one behind the wheel the next morning! Book a bus here.
Other: Every year we pack up our car like Noah’s ark and head to Bella. However, as it runs the same weekend as the Black Isle Show and there are several thousand other Corsa shaped Noah’s arks traffic can get a little crazy for those choosing to drive. To avoid this, take a peek at Lift Share. As it works via Facebook you can check if you’ve friends in common with lift sharers (that’s hoping Jane from accounts isn’t friends with someone who insists on a no radio rule whilst driving) so it’s a safer, greener, cheaper way to travel!
At times, sharing a 2 hour drive with complete strangers sounds far more appealing than sharing it with my family’s singing and their 9 tonne of camping equipment. Also don’t be a numpty and get caught over the limit on Sunday morning. If choosing to drive, leave extra early, opt out of the extra cider on Saturday and be prepared with the Bella playlist for the journey!
Parking Passes are required but the walk from car park to campsite (depending on your choice below, is approx. 15/20 minutes) – Parking Passes can be downloaded here.
There are a few options.
Included in the price of your ticket is the camping. However, here is a few insider’s tips to help you decide on which site sounds your cup of tea.
General Zone: Nicknamed by the over 30s as Armageddon. I camped in this zone back in the day when I too, was too cool to sleep and too cool to camp with the parents. Nowadays, I don’t think my hand sanitizer and M & S knitwear will be invited back. Basically, it is for the young ones. If you plan on attending dressed like a Love Island contestant, or if you even know what Love Island is, camp here.
Family Zone: If you want beautiful portaloos and bacon rolls in the morning then camp with the mums. Suitable for all ages (we’re not joking – my granny’s been!) and the best part is the deafening silence during the night. Just as much banter but it’s very much lights out at bedtime.
Quiet Zone: Although it’s a longer walk from the arena, the light sleepers or those bringing babbas might prefer the quiet zone as it does exactly what it says on the tin. Silence.
Campervans & Caravans
If you’re feeling fancy you best be quick as campervan & caravan tickets do sell out quick. These are an additional fee to your usual festival ticket.
For those that don’t do camping
If you’re still not convinced that Bella’s campsite is the cleanest, friendliest campsites we’ve ever stayed at and you cannot pry yourself from the hair dryer for even a day or two then these glamping options are for you.
Pitch Village: Not gonna lie, we have witnessed – and partaken in – some amazing family arguments putting up tents (think Monopoly times ten) so putting the calm back in camping is Bella’s pitch village. Imagine a campsite where all tents, equipment and bedding is there organised, ready for you. All you need to pack is your party pants and your ticket.
Cloudhouse Yurts & Squrts: We’ve joked if we ever get married (which you can do at Bella) then our honeymoon would be in a Bella yurt. They’re just that darn fabulous. Electricity, fluffy rugs, actual beds, I can picture the boho-esque Facebook snaps already.
Airstream: How much would you feel like a Rockstar sleeping in one of these bad boys. Luxury airstreams provide mini five star boutiques with central heating (it is the Highlands) cold fridge for the morning after’s orange juice and all the little luxuries such as towels, duvets and hot showers.
There’s no place like home: If you prefer your own fluffy duvet, bubble baths and your bacon roll not from a burger van then you can sleep in the comfort of your own home. Opt for a day ticket and nip home when you fancy.
Belladrum Line Up
My sisters first attended Bella at a baby 9 years old and last year their dream came true when they were lucky enough to be offered a slot on one of the stages. You can check them out here. This is one of the many beautiful things about Bella, they nurture not only home grown talent but help all newbies become somebodies. Ed Sheeran? He’s done Bella. Catfish & the Bottlemen? Bella got there first. Unlike the hugely commercialised festivals, Bella focus on talent instead of YouTube views so whether you’re a ukulele band, a bongo drummer or play both at the same time Bella offer the ears and the audience where others miss the beat.
That’s not to say they can’t pull out the big ones too – just when we thought last year’s line up would be hard to beat they announce this year’s headliners!
What to Pack
Waterproofs. One year at Bella we had to be rescued by a tractor. Yup, THAT wet. Now before you wince in horror at the idea of attending dressed in Regatta there are so many pretty ponchos and vibrant raincoats that you have no excuse for a soggy Saturday.
On the other hand, we’ve all been sunburned at Bella at some point. Believe it or not sunshine does pop up to Scotland now and again so pack sun cream “just in case”, as sleeping bags and sunburn create the perfect nightmare night’s sleep.
Fancy dress. Ever year Bella is themed. From under the sea to psychedelic 70s we’ve rocked up and dressed up each year for the Fancy Dress Parade. Unlike the sunshine, the costumes always last more than a day and the entire weekend is dedicated to outfits equally as outrageous as the dancing. This year’s theme is Bollywood so get the bindis out.
Picnic Blanket/chair. Some of my most favourite memories is chilling at the garden stage with my entire family on the Saturday afternoon. The delight of Bella’s garden stage is that you can take camping chairs and picnic blankets and stay put all afternoon enjoying act after act. Our usual routine is to buy a picnic from the arena’s CO-OP and a cider or two from Black Isle Brewery.
From our favourite powerpack that will charge your phone (and someone else’s) all weekend on one charge, to the best backpacks that will carry all you need, have a peek at our essentials list here for our packing list guide.
I found out my exam results en-route to Bella and even received a ticket as my 18th birthday present. One year we must’ve been on the nice list as Santa even delivered my family’s tickets. So when it was our parent’s 25th wedding anniversary we knew the one place to celebrate. From shout outs by bands to backstage access, mentions in the official programme to even my granny rocking up to surprise them it was an anniversary they’ll never forget. It is our family’s go-to place to celebrate and so many other families’ too. We’ve witnessed proposals, there’s an onsite church for weddings and who wouldn’t want to honeymoon in the Highlands? Let the organisers know and they couldn’t be more kind in going above and beyond to celebrate with you.
- Do not miss the crack it open ceilidh on Thursday night. Every single year it is our highlight. A few solid hours of bagpipes, beers and boogying. A definite baptism of fire of what Bella is all about.
- When Bella say it’s a family festival that is exactly what it is. From babies to grannies Bella welcomes them all with open arms. Don’t treat it like Magaluf’s strip and expect music until 3am.
- Do not be scared to dress up. There’s absolutely zero judgement when you’re part of the Bella family. This year is Bollywood – saltire printed sari’s ahoy!
- Alcohol is permitted within the campgrounds if you’re over 18. However the traffic is suffering enough on the Sunday without a hangover also. Take it easy on Saturday, no matter how good the Tomatin cocktails are, no cocktail is worth losing your license over.
- Did you know you can work at Bella? Spend a few hours waving cars in the right direction and you could end up waving your arms at your fave bands for free!
- Only buy official tickets from the Bella Website (or their listed retailers) to avoid fraud tickets. No matter if you think you’re getting a bargain, if it’s too good to be true or being sold by a third party it’s best to avoid!
- So many people miss the Spectacular Saturday night fireworks as they leave just as the last headliner finishes. Wait a couple more minutes as the fireworks and piper closing the weekend are a highlight not to be missed!
I hope I’ve inspired you enough to dig the welly boots out but left enough for you to create your own Bella and make a bijillion memories like we have over the past decade! Any questions just let us know and have the best time partying in our absence!
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