Jan Patience

"Give it up for this amazing marsupial!" bellows "Colonel" John McMustard from the Belladrum Garden Stage on a blistering hot Saturday afternoon. The Colonel and his band, The Dijon 5, are performing their crowd-pleasing Gay Icon in front of a 15,000 strong crowd. The Belladrum Festival crowd goes wild as if they are one person.

Meanwhile, two giant "kangaroos" bounce manically in a sea of yellow. Hundreds of people have taken The Yellow Movement to their heart by acquiring yellow Colonel Mustard t-shirts. Others are dressed as bananas. I fear the oversized kangaroo-men will get sun-stroke, but they carry on regardless. A giant whale floats serenely near the front of the stage as a couple of spaceships bob around above a sea of heads; a nod to this year's festival theme of sci-fi.

The Glasgow-based band's frontman calls on all the men in the audience – even those in possession of "daddy bellies" – to take their "taps aff" and "get some natural air con" going. The band launches into signature song, Peace, Love and Mustard. A sweaty jet stream of air billows around the natural amphitheater of the Garden Stage. Welcome to the Belladrum Festival Bubble; a three-day extravaganza of family-friendly entertainment which takes place on the Belladrum Estate outside Beauly every summer.

Since it started in 2004, The Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival has evolved from a small one-day event with 2000 music fans, to a three-day affair attended by 20,000 people of all ages, from babes in arms (kids under 12 go free) to grannies and grandpas.

This year, the festival ran from Thursday, August 1 to Saturday, August 3. Headliners included; Elbow, Johnny Marr, Chvrches, Lewis Capaldi and Jess Glynne. The rumour mill was in full swing speculating whether Glynne would appear on the Saturday night. The 29-year-old singer has pulled out of a couple of festivals this summer, including The Isle of Wight Festival, citing "vocal issues". In the end, she gave it laldy on the Garden Stage, delivering a crowd-pleasing set to a chilled-out audience who had enjoyed record temperatures over the course of the weekend.

Taking in over 1000 acres of rolling farmland, the site is transformed into a mini-Glastonbury, with several campsites springing up around its borders, 14 separate music stages, a spoken word tent, a dance tent, food and drink pop-ups galore, clothing stands, fairground attractions and much more.

You'll find all kinds of ways to adorn your face and body, a circus skills school, a mobile massage team, a yoga tent, zorbing and charities like Trees for Life, which educates us on saving planet Earth. There's even a small chapel, in which couples can get married during the festival.

After three days padding around the Belladrum site, I checked the heart-shaped app on my phone, and saw that from the time I arrived at the festival's Glamping site on the Thursday evening to the end of Saturday night, I had walked more than 27km, took around 40,000 steps and climbed 28 flights.

I even worked out that the walk to and from the toilet block to our rented tent in the Pitch Village took in 600 steps. If ever there was an incentive not to overdo it on the alcohol front, this was it. The bar tokens were pricey too at £5 per token, so that helped.

This was our second Belladrum and our second time staying in The Pitch Village, which cuts down on the hassle-factor when it comes to camping by providing a tent all set up and ready to go, complete with sleeping bags and mattresses.

In this area, you'll find chemical toilets, with attendants keeping them relatively fresh and clean, showers, a freshen-up portacabin with hairdryers and hair-straighteners, free valuables storage, free phone charging and tea and coffee on tap.

My husband, 15-year-old-daughter, Mia, and her friend Lauren, joined some 14,000 happy campers for the duration of the festival. We brought snacks and soft drinks but many of our fellow villagers – especially the ones in large groups – brought everything but the kitchen sink. But no glass. By strict order of the organisers. Bags were checked by security guards as you came and went from the campsite to the festival site.

There is music to suit the most catholic of tastes at Belladrum; particularly on the smaller stages. Headliners aside, it's not over-commercialised and you can everything from traditional music to folk to pop to rock to big band sounds to blue grass. This year saw the festival under new management after the Kilimanjaro Group bought the event last year from Belladrum Estate owner and festival founder, Joe Gibbs with the aim of extending its reach well beyond the Highland Line. Gibbs is still involved with Belladrum alongside many of the original team.

Belladrum has always provided a showcase for Highlands-based musicians and this continues with homegrown acts such as neo-trad quintet, Elephant Sessions, rocking the socks off festival-goers on the main stage. As man-of the-moment, Lewis Capaldi, was packing out the Garden Stage on Saturday night, down at the tiny Ice House Stage, we had a great time swinging our middle-aged hips in time to the music of Kyle of the Lochalsh-based Big Field Blues Band.

The XpoNorth Seedlings stage also gives a platform to emerging local talent and we caught the end of a set by Lossiemouth-based quartet The Roov, a banging mix of crowd-pleasing disco, soul and rock. Stumbling across wee gems like this is one of the joys of Belladrum.

Belladrum feels safe and we didn't feel too worried about Mia and Lauren having their own Bella experience away from our gaze. They made their way to the front of the crowd for various sets; including Elbow, Chvrches, Lewis Capaldi, Dodi and Maisie Peters.

There was plenty of mum and dad dancing to embarrass the kids, particularly during Smiths guitar legend Johnny Marr's set with his band. Clearly enjoying the vibe of the festival, Marr was on top form as he battered out the old familiar hits such as This Charming Man and What Difference Does it Make.

Other "vintage" acts such as Hawkwind and the Rezillos gave many the chance to embarrass the kids by dancing like it was 1984.

A personal highlight was seeing Elbow on the opening night on the Garden Stage; a more perfect setting you could not imagine. Frontman, Guy Garvey, seemed charmed by his first visit to the area. "You’ve been keeping this a secret," he told the crowd. "I want to be Scottish… how can I be Scottish? Is it too late?"

Just as the words left his lips, I was clipped in the eye by the edge of a Saltire being brandished by a wee old man shouting: "FREEDOM!" You couldn't make it up.

There was so much to see and hear at Belladrum, but I gravitated to the Verb tent, with its inviting old squashy sofas. Here, I came across author Sara Sheridan in here talking about her book, Where Are The Women?, which tackles the historical anomaly of Scotland's significant women being sidelined by history in terms of our built environment. "I don’t think in terms of dates any more," she said, "I think in terms of mothers [...] the Jacobite women were 12 mothers ago and the Suffragettes two mothers ago.”

The Verb tent also held the fourth Belladrum Poetry Slam which saw spoken word artists strut their verbal stuff. The anarchic Angie Strachan ("I'm a 43-year-old mum at her first festival") won my vote with her riff on the joys of eradicating slugs. Her follow-up, The Ayrshire Seagull Massacre, was a show-stopper.

Scotland's weather played a doozy at this year's Belladrum. I was armed with a bag full of all-weather kit, including wellies, jeans, anoraks, midge-repellent and – in hope rather than expectation – sunscreen. Boy, did we need the sunscreen. The famous Highland midges even stayed away. They didn't know what they were missing.


Jan Patience and her family were guests of Belladrum Festival and Pitch Village. For more details see: http://tartanheartfestival.co.uk/tickets/ and http://pitchvillage.com/festivals/belladrum-tartan-heart

Next year's Belladrum takes place from Thursday July 30 until Sunday August 2