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Travel topics > Cultural attractions > Music > Music in Britain and Ireland
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Britain and Ireland have a rich heritage of music, from folk songs, through classical music, to pop genres such as rock, grime, and electronic music.


The Beatles — possibly the single most popular and influential pop and rock group ever

Scotland has a thriving music scene. Outdoor popular music festivals attract vast crowds and attract internationally-renowned live music acts. Scottish bands and musicians are also prominent, particularly those originating from in and around Glasgow, the largest city in Scotland. This city is home to a fantastic music scene; must-visit destinations include King Tut's Wah Wah Hut (where Oasis were spotted and signed for their first record deal).

Scottish folk music is also flourishing, with traditional and modern folk music sung in both English, Scottish Gaelic (and sometimes Scots). Folk music often features instruments such as fiddle/violin, acoustic guitar, harp, accordion, piano, various sorts of bagpipes, and other traditional instruments as well as voice. You may also encounter Scottish forms of dance which are also popular. This may range from simple, as at a ceilidh (pronounced "kay-lee", a mix of dances performed to traditional music and descended from ballroom and country dancing), to more complex Scottish Country Dancing which is a form of social dancing descended from renaissance dance styles, to solo Highland Dancing (which has a military heritage) if you go to a Highland Games. These styles exist alongside other popular forms of music and dance also found in other modern countries.

Wales is often referred to as "the land of song", and is notable for its harpists, male voice choirs, and plethora of solo artists like Charlotte Church. Cardiff has a big rock scene and has produced some of the biggest acts in the UK today. The principal Welsh festival of music and poetry is the annual National Eisteddfod. The Llangollen International Eisteddfod echoes the National Eisteddfod but provides an opportunity for the singers and musicians of the world to perform. Traditional music and dance in Wales is supported by a myriad of societies. The Welsh Folk Song Society has published a number of collections of songs and tunes.

Although England's Classical music tradition lags somewhat behind it's continental counterparts France, Germany, Italy, Austria and Russia, it has nevertheless produced several world-renowned composers such as Henry Purcell and Edward Elgar. Despite the relative lack of famous native-born English composers besides the aforementioned Purcell and Elgar, London has for over two centuries been an important city in the classical music circuit, with famous foreign composers such as George Frideric Handel (Georg Friedrich Händel), Johann Christian Bach, Joseph Haydn and Felix Mendelssohn having lived there or spent a significant amount of time there on tour. The English choral tradition is particularly famous among classical music enthusiasts, with composers such as Purcell, Handel, Mendelssohn and Elgar having employed it to great effect in their sacred music.


Map of Music in Britain and Ireland
  • London; home to the Royal Albert Hall, and other world famous stages. Pretend to be one of the 'Fab Four' at the Abbey Road zebra crossing.
  • Liverpool; hometown of the Beatles, the Beatles Story, the Beatles museum, Hard Days Night hotel, the Philharmonic Hall and the Cavern club.
  • 1 British Music Experience, Canada Boulevard, Liverpool, +44 151 519 0915. The home since 2015 for the only permanent exhibition about British music. British Music Experience on Wikipedia
  • Dublin, home of world famous acts such as U2 and Westlife, and six-time host of the Eurovision Song Contest
  • The Hebrides shouldn't need Mendelssohn's help to get you there, but if that's what it takes, you'll thank Mendelssohn.
    • 2 National Concert Hall, Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin 2 (Dublin, Ireland), +353 1 417 0000. Offers classical concerts. Frequent performances by the resident orchestra, the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra.


  • 1 Bestival, Downend, southeast of Newport (Isle of Wight). Early September. Once considered a 'boutique' festival due to its smaller size, this festival has grown considerably. Holding the record as the world's largest costume party, dressing up is a must.
  • Edinburgh International Festival and Festival Fringe - Edinburgh wide variety of music styles can be heard as part of a three week collection of arts festivals in August.
  • Edinburgh Jazz Festival - Edinburgh week long festival in July.
  • 3 Glastonbury Festival, Glastonbury. June. Even if it sells out the year before do not despair because there are many tickets returned and they will be available in the April before the festival. Typically it runs 3 out of every 4 years.
  • 4 Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Lewes. An annual opera festival held in August
  • 5 The Great Escape, Brighton. An annual pop and dance extravaganza held late summer. Capacity 25,000.
  • 6 Leeds Festival, Leeds. Last weekend in August. Tickets: £180 for weekend (including camping & parking), or £75 for any day (no camping included) - rock and indie
  • 7 Loopallu, Ullapool. late September. An increasingly popular smaller rock music festival held by the beach in a small town in the Scottish Highlands.
  • Reading Festival, Reading - last weekend in August. Tickets: £180 for weekend (including camping & parking), or £75 for any day (no camping included) - rock and indie


  • 1 Elgar's Birthplace Museum, Lower Broadheath, WR2 6RH. The house where the great composer was born, a modern visitor centre and lovely cottage garden in beautiful countryside just outside Worcester City Elgar Birthplace Museum (Q5359960) on Wikidata Elgar Birthplace Museum on Wikipedia
  • 2 Handel & Hendrix in London, 25 Brook St W1K 4HB (London Mayfair). Home to the baroque composer George Frideric Handel from 1723 until his death in 1759. Some of the greatest classical music ever composed was done so at this address. The museum charts Handel's life and works and offers recitals of music in the magnificent setting of the period rooms. By contrast, next door was home to Jimi Hendrix when he lived in London in 1969, and entry to this top floor flat is included. Handel & Hendrix in London (Q2920095) on Wikidata Handel House Museum on Wikipedia
  • 3 Holst Birthplace Museum, 4 Clarence Rd, Cheltenham GL52 2AY. The Regency terrace house where Gustav Holst, composer of The Planets was born in 1874. Interesting both for the building and for the musical history.
  • 4 Royal College of Music, Prince Consort Rd, South Kensington, LondonSW7 2BS (tube: South Kensington), +44 20 7591-4300, . Museum: Tu–F 11:30AM–4:30PM; performances: varies. Victorian school of music created on a suggestion by Prince Albert. It is still an active school but visitors may be more interested in its museum and performances. The free museum houses instruments dating back to the 15th century with several unusual pieces. Performances—by students, professors or visitors—are often free as well. Museum: free. Performances: varies but many are free (although tickets may be required).
  • 5 The Musical Museum, 399 High St, Brentford, West London TW8 0DU (near Kew Bridge station), +44 20 8560-8108, fax: +44 20 8847-9383. Tu-Su 11AM-5:30PM. Something of an undiscovered gem. The museum houses a vast collection of working automatic musical instruments, from barrel organs to player pianos and beyond. Tours with knowledgeable and highly enthusiastic guides are highly recommended, as is the opportunity to listen to the Mighty Wurlitzer (which rises from the floor in the main auditorium). In addition to its function as a museum, the venue also hosts occasional cinema screenings of classic films (preceded by music from the Mighty Wurlitzer, or - in the case of silent film - accompanied by it) and houses a popular cafe with Thames views. Among the unusual (and hard-to-find) items usually available in the gift shop are clocks made from 78 rpm shellac discs, and original player piano rolls. £10, concessions £7.50, children under 16 £4.
  • 6 St Cecilia's Hall - Concert Room and Music Museum, Edinburgh Old Town. Tu-F 10AM-5PM, Sa noon-5PM. St Cecilia's Hall is Scotland's oldest purpose-built concert hall and opened in 1763 which contains the University of Edinburgh collection of historic musical instruments (16th to 20th century) that focuses mostly on instruments no longer in use today. Concerts and other events take place in the concert room. St Cecilia's Hall (Q7592777) on Wikidata St Cecilia's Hall on Wikipedia
  • 7 The Museum of Piping, National Piping Centre, 30-34 McPhater Street, Glasgow. M-Th 9AM - 7PM, F 9AM - 5PM, Sa 9AM - noon. The home of the bagpipes is in the former Cowcaddens Free Church. The museum shows 300 years of piping history, mainly showing Scottish bagpipes, but also showing Northumbrian pipes and some from Poland, Hungary, Italy and Spain. The piping centre also has a restaurant, an 8-room hotel and teaches piping. National Piping Centre (Q6974920) on Wikidata National Piping Centre on Wikipedia

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