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Image: Time Out / Jamie Inglis

Village halls, ferries and Fred Again: the rise of the really remote club night

In distant corners of Scotland, tiny communities have been welcoming ravers with open arms. What makes these events worth travelling across land (and sea) for?

Amy Houghton
Written by
Amy Houghton

In the days leading up to November 4, a wave of excitement travelled through the tiny Highland village of Ullapool. Forecast: beautifully crisp, clear skies with a heavy downpour of house, jungle and techno expected from sundown. 

Four hours north of Edinburgh and home to just 1,500 locals, Ullapool is often hailed as one of the most serene spots on the British Isles. With that in mind, you’d think that it would sit in stark contrast to the sort of pill-popping, high-decibel party scenes typically found in cities. But it’s just one of several far-flung Scottish communities in the past year that have hosted nights out to rival the sort you’d find in London’s Drumsheds or Bristol’s Motion (albeit in much cosier spaces). Is this the beginning of a new era of nightlife tourism? 

From California to Caledonia 

In May, fresh from his headline set at Coachella in front of a crowd of 150,000, megastar producer Fred Again announced that he would be venturing on a mini tour of the Outer Hebrides. Across three dates in tiny community hubs like Talla Na Mara in Harris and Broadford Village Hall in Skye, the DJ was met by devoted fans – some of whom had journeyed five plus hours hoping to secure tickets on site – and baffled locals, oblivious to his meteoric rise to fame. One Isle of Harris local wrote in a Whatsapp chat: ‘He’s even bringing security and everyone is being frisked! Frisked on Harris?! Unheard of. How thrilling!’. 

After managing to win one of just 40 tickets available via an online draw (the rest could only be purchased on site), Simon Radose was one Fred superfan ready to make the 207 miles trek from his hometown on the outskirts of Glasgow to Broadford in Skye. 


These scotland shows have just been 😍😍😍😍

♬ original sound - Fredagainagain

It was Simon’s first time seeing the producer, but he has since been to two of his sets at Ally Pally in London. Over the phone, he recalls his experience at Broadford Hall among the energetic crowd of 180 others with effervescent enthusiasm: though compact, the ‘sound was amazing’ and the intimate, DIY aspect of it all added to its charm. After a minor delay to the sound check thanks to a school assembly, Simon confidently tells me that the show ‘surpassed anything [he] felt at Alexandra Palace.’

He adds that the five-and-a-half hour drive through the Scottish mountains and Fort William was as much a part of the whole experience as the gig itself. ‘Everything about getting [to Skye], staying over, meeting locals, even the amazing drive back home when you got to talk about that concert — it was just brilliant.’ 


That feeling of intimacy turns out to be a running theme across these uber-remote club nights. And that takes us back to Ullapool. Earlier this year, DJs Sigi Whittle (an Ullapool local) and Jemima Faskin organised baile/baile, a series of four community-centred club nights in Ullapool’s Ceilidh Place — a former boatshed that has been functioning as a bunkhouse, bookshop, cafe and a 100-capacity music venue for more than 50 years. 

A club night with green lights
Photograph: Celine Antal

The event brought high-tempo tunes and blood-pumping bass drops from Scottish talent to the tiny space in the heart of the village. According to the duo, locals across all ages couldn’t have been more enthusiastic about the whole thing. It was a member of the Ullapool Harbour Trust who suggested that Sigi and Jemima apply to it for funding — which they subsequently received, no problem — and the venue didn’t charge for hire so that profits could be distributed to all involved fairly. 

Following the sold-out event, played by Sigi and Jemima plus special DJ guests Moray Leisure Centre and SMIFF, dozens took to the Ullapool community Facebook page to congratulate them on the success of the event. ‘Well done for bringing such a fantastic thing to our tiny community,’ one wrote. ‘My mind was blown,’ exclaimed another. 

The city overwhelms us with nightlife options to the point that it almost numbs us

DJ Moray Leisure Centre (Clara Stadler-Kenny) describes the ‘pure joy’ of playing an event that felt ‘really natural, really homegrown’. She adds that the slower pace of towns such as Ullapool makes a night like baile/baile something ‘to be cherished’. The city overwhelms us with options, to the point, Clara suggests, that it almost numbs the way we enjoy nightlife. ‘Your energy levels and your lust for something is reduced greatly,’ she says. ‘Whereas in small towns, you’re really looking forward to it for like a month. The anticipation for these things makes it really really special.’

Chasing the rave

Obviously, getting to these remote spots in the first place isn’t the easiest of tasks. Jonny Ensall, travel writer, DJ and former Time Out staffer is the founder of Detour Discotheque, a pop-up nightclub bringing disco to the most remote and spectacular corners of the world. It first visited the tiny fishing village of Thingeyri in the Westfjords of Iceland (attended by Time Out) in 2022, then this summer arrived at the Isle of Coll — a Hebridean island home to just 220 permanent residents, one GP and zero police officers. It’s only accessible via a two and a half hour ferry trip.

‘Ferries are a huge part of life on the island and you can’t walk down the street without someone stopping you to talk about them — when the ferry is going, which captain is in charge that day,’ Ensall says. ‘So for a lot of [the weekend] I was stressed that people weren’t actually going to get there and that they wouldn’t be able to leave afterwards.’ 

Yet that is the risk you take when you commit to a night with Detour Discotheque. The inconvenient distance and anxiety over catching an infrequent ferry may sound like insane obstacles to tackle purely for a party, but as Jonny points out, it meant that everyone who reached the island arrived with something already in common: ‘When you do get there you’re already part of the community because you are warmly embraced by the people who live there, often who are just very happy to see visitors coming to celebrate the place where they live.’

A club night in a church
Photograph: Glynn Parkinson-Short

Like baile/baile, Detour strips partying back to its bare bones and puts the focus back on the basic pleasure of dancing as a collective, knowing that you and every other person on the dancefloor share the common goal of simply having a damn good time.  

‘You can have big name acts, fancy toilets,’ Jonny says. ‘But really what everyone’s looking for is to feel part of something that is special and unique and share that closely with people who are like minded.’

With sets from Auntie Flo, Jonny himself and the Coll Cosmic Ceilidh Band offering a blend of karaoke classics and edgier disco deep cuts, Detour brought in folks from Australia and the States as well as the UK, who filled up the island’s small but mighty flock of hostels, hotels and B and Bs.

An ode to the village hall

Another crucial factor that has made all of these events so successful? Community halls make for genuinely great music venues. These aren’t echoey school assembly halls but multi-purpose spaces built to support touring Scottish folk bands and traditional ceilidh nights — and as such are well-kitted out with sturdy performance areas and surprisingly impressive sound systems. 

Ullapool’s Ceilidh Place has won prizes for its dedication to championing traditional Celtic music. Sigi shares a quick aside during our call to delightedly tell Jemima that Gary Craig, the venue’s technician, has just been nominated for techie of the year at the Scots Trad Music Awards. I speak to Gary a couple weeks later. ‘I hope they were pleasantly surprised,’ he laughs, explaining that the space benefits from being so ‘self contained’. ‘People come here with preconceptions of what it’s like to live in a fishing village but we’ve got everything here that they’ve got in a city.’

It’s unusual to have all these places that geographically are so interesting and on every single one of them is a hall – it’s the perfect tour to go around them

Detour was held in Coll’s An Cridhe: a clean-cut, modern looking village hall with high ceilings that create brilliant acoustics. ‘People are realising now just how special those Highland halls are,’ Jonny says. ‘It is really unusual that you have all these places that geographically are so interesting and so beautiful and on every single one of them is a hall. And it is the perfect tour to go around all of them, as Fred Again proved.’

The morning after 

The appeal of these shindigs is not just the intimate crowds and DJ sets. It’s the magic of partying under the embrace of dramatic landscapes and night skies. ‘You can kill two birds with one stone,’ Sigi says as he describes the heavenly hangover cure of walking along the shores of Loch Broom and gaze up at the rocky peak of Stac Pollaidh – an entire world away from a morning after, miserably curled up in a small, groggy city flat. 

‘It’s sunrise sea swimming, fresh seafood right off the boat, nature trails stomping across forgotten heartland, meeting crofters who have lived on the island their entire life, looking up and seeing the cosmos spread out before you,’ says Jonny. ‘It’s feeling like you’re a million miles away from everything else.’

There is, of course, a level of privilege to being able to travel such long distances for a single night. But it’s obvious that these events are as much, if not more, for locals than they are for tourists who have a couple hundred pounds to spend – for those who don’t have the privilege of endless choice of or exposure to sounds that ‘stray beyond the traditional’, as Sigi puts it. 

stac pollaidh
Photograph: ShutterstockStac Pollaidh

These kind of dance-fueled gatherings off the beaten track aren’t a new concept — Jonny gives a lot of credit to Johnny Lynch, founder of Lost Map Records, for paving the way in bringing urban beats to pastoral corners of Scotland — but they certainly seem to be gaining traction. In 2024, baile/baile has two more nights in the calendar, featuring Glasgow DJ Miss Cabbage and Feena of Edinburgh’s Miss World. There’s talk among Isle of Coll residents of making the summer disco a regular fixture and popular Scottish producer Ewan McVicar is heading off on his own ‘Wee Toon Tour’, stopping off in the likes of Oban and Skye. 

Jonny’s ferry concern was justified, by the way — an Atlantic storm was indeed due to arrive post-party. But to his relief (and that of all the sleep-deprived, mascara smudged faces awaiting updates on the dock) the ferry made it to Coll and escorted the discoers back to reality. 

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