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Igniting passions of young and old

I don't generally do camping.

I need the solid assurance of a proper wall between the sleeping me and the world outside, the comfort of a proper bed between my ageing bones and the ground beneath. Yet here I was, on a Thursday evening, driving down through Dumfries and Galloway, fully aware that I had not one, not two, but three nights in a tent ahead of me. I also had my wife and six-year-old daughter in tow.

I'd been told by several sources, however, that the Wickerman Festival was probably the most family-friendly music event on Scotland's summer calendar. Still, I was wary: I'd endured years of frontline experience at other festivals, up to my knees in stinking mud as pints of lager (or worse) spilled their contents on their overhead flight while wide-eyed loons crashed blindly through the crowds. But as soon as I'd turned off the highway into one of the fields at East Kirkcarswell, near Dundrennan, I had a feeling that all would be well.

First up: being shown to our tented accommodation, which proved to be a very smooth process. We were up the top corner of the site, in the Luxury Camping Field, in a furnished Boutique Belle Tent that fitted the three of us on two inflatable double mattresses. We'd brought our own sleeping bags and pillows, as fittings supplied under this option are minimal: groundsheet, table, light, sheepskin rug, that's pretty much it.

I can't vouch for the main camping area, but a camaraderie seemed evident from the moment the gates had opened, and the quiet area was patrolled.

My daughter was eager to embrace the adventure, although I think she had one envious eye on the tipis that formed a Pocahontas village nearby and the other on the brightly coloured yurts - half-way between a circus and a Hobbit village - just up the hill. From a dad's perspective, it was a clear bonus that the car park for our area was only a few hundred metres away in a field just over a boundary stone wall.

Once we'd picked up the wristbands that would allow us entry to the main site, we decided to get the lie of the land before the music element kicked in the next day. One of Wickerman's great advantages is the incline that forms a natural rake from the front of the main Summerisle stage back up towards the other performance tents: there is no problem securing a decent eyeline for the acts, and crowds are never so congested (even in 2013's sell-out year) that you can't scurry from here to elsewhere if there is something else that takes your musical fancy.

We were spoiled for choice over the weekend, which was admittedly the sunniest I've ever enjoyed at a Scottish festival. I'm lucky enough to have a kid who'll happily walk to school toting a One Direction bag but who also nods her approval when The Flaming Lips come on BBC Radio 6 Music in our kitchen. She had her own wish list of bands, with Admiral Fallow and Honeyblood at the top, and came away a fan of Woodenbox and Chic, humming tunes by KT Tunstall and Amy Macdonald too.

A bit of parental indulgence foisted Stiff Little Fingers upon her, but a word of warning: although there's no real sense of threat at Wickerman, nor is there the mass drunkenness of other festivals, it can get boisterous in the punk-and-ska Scooter Tent towards the end of the night. That said, any excitable teens you encounter across the arena have very likely been coming to the festival since they were toddlers. There is real loyalty to Wickerman and everything I'd heard about the vibe proved to be true.

Given that the young ones will want to stay up late for the headline acts, the fact that Wickerman forms such a compact site is a godsend. It was at most a 10- or 15-minute walk from the arena to our tent, so an afternoon nap was easily slotted into my daughter's daily itinerary.

There is also an excellent children's activities area, where the small fee (£3 to go in and out each day) goes towards the education of an African orphan. Face-painting, a storytelling session plus a shot on the stilts and a tightrope provided a welcome diversion. Elsewhere on site, grass sledging and mountain biking offer another alternative for older kids.

Of course, from a child's point of view, what Wickerman offers that other festivals don't is the end-of-Saturday bonfire, when the giant sculpture goes up in flames. Given that 2013's beast had stood guard over us for the weekend, it was actually quite moving to see him consumed by fire.

Will we return this summer? Dizzee Rascal, headlining the party on the Summerisle Stage on Friday, is beckoning us, as are The Zombies and Martha Reeves for nostalgia value, and Model Aeroplanes and Finding Albert who'll fly the flag for the future of the Scottish scene - and there's plenty more to be announced. The wee one has got her bag packed already.

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