This year is a pretty special one for Scotland’s biggest music festival: 2015 sees T in the Park celebrating its 21st birthday (and 22nd festival) in its new home at Strathallan Castle, Perthshire.
The new site is only about 20 miles from Balado, where the festival had been based since 1997. But with a 19th century castle, acres of Scottish woodland and, yes, some inconvenient rare osprey as scenery, it could be a world away from the former RAF airfield.
I wouldn’t describe myself as a veteran of T in the Park – those who saw Pulp headline at the height of Britpop when the festival was still at Strathclyde Country Park get quite precious about it if you do – but I’ve spent most summers there since I got tickets for myself and my little brother as a 21st birthday present in 2003.
So here are a few lessons I’ve learned over the years.
- You don’t have to camp…
Scotland is, as we all know, the best small country in the world, so unless you’re planning to get off the beaten track, you’re never that far from anywhere.
Both Balado and Strathallan are only about an hour from Glasgow and Edinburgh by bus, and there will be regular shuttles from towns and cities across Scotland from the Thursday to the Monday of the festival.
While the campsite is a rite of passage in itself, there’s no reason why you can’t combine all the fun of the festival with a night in your own bed or a hotel. Travelodge has hotels in Perth too, which is only about 25 minutes’ by road from the festival.
- …but if you do, bring a costume!
Friday at T in the Park is ‘Fancy Dress Friday’ and there’s a pair of tickets for the next year’s festival on offer for the most creative costumes.
This year’s theme, in deference to the new surroundings, is ‘The Ultimate Fairytale’ so expect to see princesses, dragons, lords and ladies and more – and that’s just in the bar queue.
- You will be drinking the freshest Tennent’s you’ve ever had
I mean, come on – it’s in the name! But you can hardly get a fresher pint than at T in the Park.
All the lager consumed on site is brewed at Tennent’s Wellpark brewery in Glasgow a mere 36 hours before showtime.
Campers can order cans of Tennent’s or Magners cider in advance for collection at the site, which those who have ever done their best impression of a pack mule on their way from the car parks will recognise as the blessing that it is.
And once you’re on site, save up your empties – there’s 10p back on every one you bring back for recycling, and if you don’t do it I guarantee you’ll see somebody else picking up after you.
- You’re wasting your time if you check the weather
Mud and music festivals go together like chips and cheese, but Scottish summers are less predictable than most.
I’ve struggled to sleep in a leaking tent at T, and burned in the midsummer sun.
Your festival tote bag should contain the following: waterproof cagoule, sunscreen, hat, scarves for layering purposes, bin liners for sitting on.
And wellies are non-negotiable. You have been warned.
- You will make some of the best friends that you are never going to see again
There’s a reason that bands consistently rate Scottish crowds as the best they’ve ever played to.
T in the Park takes the friendliness, enthusiasm and up-for-a-laugh attitude of gig-goers across the country and dials it up a notch.
If you’re one of the 20% of non-Scots that travels to T in the Park every year, there’s no way you’ll be going home without some ridiculous, unforgettable memories.
- The music beats that at any other festival
No, I’m not talking about this year’s headliners – although I too loved the Libertines in 2002.
What I love about T in the Park is the festival’s shameless championing of new and underground Scottish music: local talent like The Twilight Sad, BDY_PRTS, Miaoux Miaoux and The LaFontaines pop up all over the bill, while the legendary T Break stage offers unsigned bands the chance to play to a festival audience.
It’s also launched the careers of the likes of Paolo Nutini, Snow Patrol and Biffy Clyro.
All this, plus it’s the only festival in the country to end with a lone piper and a sky full of fireworks.
Beat that, Glastonbury.