Ahoy Portsoy Goes Global

The unique heritage and coastline of Portsoy have been celebrated around the world with the Aberdeenshire town’s first ever digital boat festival gaining an international following.

The Ahoy Portsoy virtual collection of the best of the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival has been a hit with audiences across Scotland and the UK and also further afield in the USA, Australia, Norway, Canada, Germany, France, Spain, Estonia and Ireland.

The online festival launched on 26 June and includes a collection of 40 clips representing key strands of the coastal community’s annual showcase – heritage boats, crafts, food and drink, music and dance, boatbuilding, chat and displays. The virtual festival is still available to view for free at stbfportsoy.org

Festival chairman David Urquhart said that the online offering has generated a real buzz in Portsoy at a time when the pandemic put paid to the town being able to safely stage its popular festival for the second year running.

Mr Urquhart said: “Our free festival is a wonderful celebration of what makes our coastal community unique. Through interviews, demonstrations, displays and chat viewers see how Portsoy and our boat festival really packs a punch.

“We’ve got an incredible coast, stunning locations, remarkable people, and great stories that celebrate our town and its nautical past and present. Packaged together it shows just why Portsoy is such an incredible place and, importantly, gives a flavour of what’s to come next year when we look forward to welcoming people back.

“We’d like to thank EventScotland for supporting us as part of the Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21 and our other sponsors who supported us in turning our virtual vision into a reality.

“If you haven’t had a chance to view our online festival, catch it while you can and  then come and join us to savour the Portsoy experience for real in 2022.”

The festival stream features Celtic rock band Skerryvore and Portsoy-born Aberdeen FC legend Eoin Jess alongside the stories of Scotland’s remarkable traditional boats.

There’s a virtual blessing of the fleet by Portsoy minister the Rev John Gow, an insight into buttery making at Donald’s Bakery and the story of Little Rowater Farm, star of BBC’s This Farming Life. Culinary demonstrations show how to create Cullen Skink, smoked haddock fishcakes and crunchy oat biscuits.

Skerryvore, supported by Fife singer-songwriter Cody Feechan, will headline the music stage at next year’s festival, which runs from June 17-19, 2022.

The shift to a digital festival came in response to the organising committee’s uncertainty as to whether they would be able to deliver a physical event due to Covid-19, with public safety and protecting the local community utmost in their minds.

This virtual event has enabled audiences at home and abroad to join in the celebration of Scotland’s hugely varied coastline.

The two-day boat festival began back in 1993, initially as a one-off event to mark the 300th anniversary of the historic Portsoy harbour. Since then, it has become a mainstay of the Scottish events calendar, regularly attracting around 16000 visitors a year.

2020 was a challenging year for Portsoy Community Enterprise. In addition to cancelling the boat festival, its Salmon Bothy Museum which annually attracts 3,000 visitors remained closed. Popular cultural festivals normally held in the Bothy’s upstairs meeting space were also called off due to restrictions. Its Sail Loft 25 self-catering accommodation and Portsoy Links Caravan Park shut down for part of the season.

This summer has brought a renewed wave of optimism to the area. Not only has the Ahoy Portsoy digital festival put Portsoy on the map, but the Portsoy Salmon Bothy Museum reopened to the public on June 24 and Portsoy Links Caravan Park is busy with summer visitors. The Sail Loft self catering accommodation fully reopens on August 9

View Ahoy Portsoy, from the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival, online here