Ahoy, me hearties! It’s time to hoist the sails and drop anchor at the annual Portsoy Boat Festival, writes Susan Welsh
The countdown has begun to one of the biggest and best-loved family festivals in the north-east of Scotland, the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Traditional Boat Festival, a celebration of maritime heritage, traditional skills and crafts, music and dance, which takes place on the first weekend in July at Portsoy.
Festivalgoers across the country are getting ready to “seas” the day at this vibrant two-day festival, taking place for the 22nd time in the picturesque village of Portsoy on July 4 and 5. It celebrates Scotland’s maritime and cultural heritage by offering visitors the chance to experience an array of land and sea activities, as well as showcasing the best in crafts, food, drink, music and dance in the country.
Traditional wooden boats from across the UK and beyond will make their way to the historic 17th-century harbour to take part in the festival, and organisers are expecting to see the largest fleet of historic vessels for many years, which is bound to make a wonderful, colourful spectacle, so visitors should remember to bring along their cameras to capture the memories.
Visitors, expected to descend on the village in their thousands, will have the opportunity to try their hand at building and restoring traditional vessels, learn how to sail a coracle and watch the exhilarating skiff racing as the St Ayles Skiffs go head to head for the highly competitive open-seas regatta. Look out, too, for Portsoy’s own skiffs, the Soy Quine and Soy Loon, which are competing in the challenges.
But this traditional festival is not just about boats. There’s plenty to keep landlubbers entertained, too, as the event features a selection of highly acclaimed international and national musicians, set to perform during the two-day event. The Friday showcase concert will be headlined by popular Scottish folk song band Malinky, with support from Shepherd & Watson and The Cast’s Mairi Campbell.
By popular demand, Dutch musicians De Kinkels will be back once more, playing on the main stage throughout the weekend, and will rock the Wally Green Marquee on Saturday night. There’s also a chance for budding performers to showcase their talents at the open-mic night at the Station Hotel, which will be hosted by The Folk at the Salmon Bothy.
This year has been dedicated Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink, and the good folk of Portsoy are keen to show what their area has to offer. The popular Food Fayre, a key event in the Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire FoodFest 15 calendar, will be as big as ever, offering visitors numerous opportunities to sample and buy local produce from land and sea.
There is an extensive selection of cookery demonstrations held at the Wally Green on the Saturday and Sunday, also known as the Scot’s Kitchen. It’s a fishy morning on Saturday as local chefs Alan Downie, Alan Stewart and Liz Ashworth look at all aspects of fresh fish – from freshness and filleting to cooking. In the afternoon, Jamie Hutcheon, from Cocoa Ooze, provides a delicious chocolate-making masterclass for all.
Sunday begins with a traditional Banffshire breakfast from local land and sea: local oats, local baking and local fish. Charles Raeburn will then deliver a butchery demonstration of lamb, looking at how to cook and store for optimum flavour. And finally, Tim Comber and the team will cook simple quick recipes with ingredients from the Food Fayre to take part in the festival’s answer to Ready, Steady Cook.
At the old harbour, the festival will look at the contrasts and similarities of fisher folk’s food frae the north-east and our neighbours in Norway, and Fishermen’s Fare – Ship’s Biscuits and Butteries for Boats. From a culinary battle between Cullen skink and Norwegian Fiske Suppe to Scottish and Norwegian fishing family food, this is one not to miss.
The festival has a reputation for being creative and this year is no different. As the festival attracts more historic vessels, craft exhibitors, artists, performers and musicians than ever before, visitors will be involved, inspired and engaged throughout the event. From toe-tapping folk music and distinctive handmade products to Arbroath smokies and seasonal treats, the celebration offers something for all the family.
WHAT: The Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Traditional Boat Festival
WHEN: Saturday, July 4, and Sunday, July 5.
TICKETS: Day tickets, adult £9/child age 5-16 and over 60s, £5; Weekend tickets £14/£8; Family tickets day, £25: weekend tickets £35. 10% discount if bought online.