At first glance, Virginia may not seem to be the most likely location to host numerous prominent Celtic festivals. It is located across the ocean from Ireland and Scotland and has a notably more temperate (and sunny!) climate than those more northerly countries.
However, there are many reasons why Celtic festivals are such a perfect fit for Virginia. For one, the state boasts a very diverse population, particularly around the very international hub of Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia, which includes many people who can trace their roots back to Celtic ancestries.
In addition, the Virginia landscape, particularly in the western Shenandoah Mountains, bears at least some resemblance to the lush green hills of Ireland and Scotland.
All of these characteristics make Virginia a great place to host many excellent Celtic Festivals throughout the year.
What is a Celtic Festival?
Celtic Festivals are celebrations of Celtic culture, which is generally defined as the culture of certain European tribes or clans dating back to the Late Bronze Age (potentially as early as 1200 BC!)
These groups of people shared a similar language, religion, culture, and beliefs. For many centuries they lived throughout Europe.
The Celts are thought to have arrived in present-day Ireland around 500 BC. Today, Celtic culture is most closely associated with present-day Ireland, Scotland, Wales, parts of England, and parts of northern France.
Celtic Festivals are marked by cultural events celebrating Celtic heritage and traditions, such as Heavy Athletics (which includes events such as the Open/Braemar Stones – a pre-cursor to the shotput), Scottish Hammers, and the Caber Toss.
The festivals also celebrate Celtic art and crafts, most notably Celtic music and dance. The festivals also include traditional Celtic food and drink such as haggis, bridies (Scottish meat pastries), and whisky.
Below are some of the best Celtic Festivals in Virginia, plus details on where and when they’re taking place.
Some of the festivals and events are part of larger world cultural festivals that celebrate heritages from all over America and the world.
Virginia Scottish Games
5089 Old Tavern Rd, The Plains, VA 20198
September 3 to September 4, 2022
The Virginia Scottish Games features numerous competitions, including piping and drumming, fiddling, athletics, and highland dance. There are also numerous Scottish music performances as part of the festival.
As you’d expect, there are many Scottish foods to try at the festival, including haggis, meat pies, bridies, fish and chips, and shortbread. There are even whisky tastings!
Saturday or Sunday tickets (1-Day) = $20
Saturday and Sunday Tickets (2-Day) = $30
Children (5-12 years old) = $5
Central Virginia Celtic Festival and Highland Games
Richmond, VA (exact location TBA)
Tentatively scheduled for October 2022 (exact dates TBA)
The Central Virginia Celtic Festival and Highland Games (Richmond Highland Games) feature live entertainment, including a Harp, Fiddle, and Gaelic Harp tent; piping and drumming competition; Highland dancing, Heavy Athletics, and whisky tastings.
The whisky tasting even includes a one-hour tutorial to learn about the nuances of single malt scotch.
Ticket prices TBA
Virginia Highlands Festival
July 22 – July 31, 2022
The Virginia Highlands Festival had over 200 events, including an Antiques & Vintage Market; arts and crafts; a tour to a nearby vineyard; and weekend concerts of rock, county, and bluegrass music. It had been voted “Best Art Event in the Region.”
You can find more information on Live Music Events on the festival website.
Ticket prices vary by event:
Antiques & Vintage Market = $25
Art and Crafts = free admission
Live Music = prices vary
Richmond Folk Festival
500 Tredeger Street, Richmond, VA 23219
October 7 – 9, 2022
The Richmond Folk Festival is a major event that attracts large crowds each year. It takes place on Richmond’s Waterfront. The festival spans three days and features many cultural events, artists, music, dance, crafts, storytelling, and more.
Some of the music events for 2022 include performances by the Celtic group Beòlach, the Zimbabwean quintet Black Umfolosi, the Moroccan group Bnat el Houariyat, as well as sacred steel guitar, Korean music, and bluegrass.
The festival also features a wide variety of food vendors, ranging from Greek, African, Cajun, Italian, Thai, Filipino, and much more.
Winchester Celtic Fest
Takes place in Old Town Winchester businesses and along the Loudoun Street Mall.
Mar 12, 2022, 12pm to 9pm
The Winchester Celtic Festival takes place around St. Patrick’s Day in March, and celebrates Scottish and Irish culture and heritage.
Festival events include traditional Irish music performances at local breweries like the 50/50 Taphouse, traditional Irish dance performances, and pipe band music.
You can learn more about the 50/50 Taphouse and my other favorite breweries in Winchester.
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