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Line-up announced as island festival gears up for best ever year

AS top artists in their field descend on the Isle of Lewis, and music fans pitch their tents in the grounds of Lews Castle in Stornoway, hopes will be high attendance at the Hebridean Celtic Festival will beat last year's record numbers, which made it the most successful in its 18-year history.

This is no mean feat, given the logistical challenges thrown up by its distance. Ticket sales were 34 per cent up on 2012 as fans from across the world enjoyed the event during the hottest days of the year. An estimated 15,000 people - half of them from outside the Hebrides, some from as far away as North American, Australia and New Zealand - attended concerts and events in the castle grounds, An Lanntair arts centre in the town centre and other venues.

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Organisers also reported all festival merchandise sold out and bar sales in the main arena were up 50 per cent on 2012; passenger numbers on ferries back to the mainland from Lewis on Sunday and Monday were up by almost a fifth on the previous year, and numbers at the Laxdale Holiday Park in Lewis doubled.

This year's festival, which takes place during Homecoming Scotland 2014, offers a line-up that is once again geared to showcasing the distinctive Gaelic culture and heritage with a range of contemporary traditional, folk, indi-folk and world influences.

Festival-goers to what is regarded as one of the top Celtic music festivals in Europe are promised intimate concerts from a wide variety of local and international artists to compliment the main arena supershows.

Step forward, then, former Runrig frontman Donnie Munro, fresh from a sell-out Danish tour with his new eight-piece band, the young Shetland fiddle player Maggie Adamson and acoustic guitarist Eric Cloughley; folk noir balladeer Rachel Sermanni; Michael Cassidy, the singer-songwriter from Paisley; Big Country; the fabulous Irish folk singer Cara Dillon; Duncan Chisholm, one of Scotland's all-time great fiddle players; another undoubted highlight are the Campbells of Greepe, whose five voices of the same family in Skye make them one of the great dynasties of Gaelic song.

And in this year of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Boomerang - described as celebrating the "Indigenous Commonwealth" by exploring links between Scottish, Aboriginal and Maori cultures - will also have a major presence with ancient bagpipe pieces weaving with a newly written Haka pride chant, didgeridoo resonating through the stomp of a Gaelic waulking song, and several new emotive pieces.

It remains to be seen whether the village of tents around the castle will be made from the island's world-famous fabric, Harris Tweed.

• The Hebridean Celtic Festival 2014 runs from July 16-19 in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis. Visit hebceltfest.com

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