The UK’s Most Unusual Festivals

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Vikings in Shetland

Britain has a long and enduring fascination with the weird and wonderful. We will celebrate just about anything – from scarecrows and nettles, to Vikings and Earls. If there’s even the most remote suggestion of a tradition, we will be there with music and booze, ready to make a festival out of it.

If you’re sick of the usual fare of pop music and overpriced cider, take a look at our list of the UK’s weirdest, oddest, strangest, most unusual festivals… Bog snorkeling, anyone?

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(Photo by Green Events)

Bog Snorkeling Championships

Location: Waen Rhydd peat bog, near Llanwrtyd Wells in mid Wales

Date: 30 August 2015

Link: http://www.green-events.co.uk/events.html?id=57

Bog snorkeling has the dubious honour of being so unusual that it has become world famous. Last year, Lonely Planet even named it as one of its top 50 ‘must do’ activities across the world.

The idea is simple – you don flippers and a snorkel and swim two full lengths of the Waen Rhydd peat bog as quickly as possible. The only catch is, well, it’s a peat bog. Visibility is 0% and the muddy water is freezing and filthy. Nevertheless, hundreds of international participants flock to compete in the snorkeling, and hundreds more opt sensibly to watch from the sidelines and enjoy the festival atmosphere in the nearby town of Llanwrtyd Wells.

The Hunting of the Earl of Rone

Location: Combe Martin, Devon

Date: Last bank holiday weekend in May

Link: http://www.earl-of-rone.org.uk

This four-day festival does exactly what it says on the tin – except there is no actual ‘Earl of Rone’. The tradition dates back more than 400 years, but nobody is quite sure how or why it began. Local historians believe that the Earl of Rone was actually the Earl of Tyrone, who fled Ireland in 1607 and was shipwrecked along the Combe Martin coast, where he was hunted by the Grenadiers.

Whatever the reason, it has become an unmissable Devon event, which features four days of music, dance, drinking and, yes, hunting.

One unfortunate man is chosen to represent the Earl, and dressed in sackcloth and a mask. For four days and four nights he is hunted by ‘Grenadiers’, the villagers, a Fool and a Hobby Horse, before he is eventually found on the Monday night, mounted backwards on a donkey, and thrown into the sea.

Nettle Eating Contest

Location: Marsham, Dorset

Date: June 20 2015, June 18 2016

Link: http://calendarcustoms.com/articles/world-stinging-nettle-eating-championship

It’s somewhat inevitable that a nettle eating contest would eventually balloon into a full-blown festival. Who doesn’t want to watch grown men and women stuff their faces with stinging weeds, all in the name of, erm, pride?

The tradition began in The Bottle Inn in the 1980s, when two local farmers drunkenly argued about who had the tallest stinging nettles in their fields.

Now, the nettle eating contest forms the highlight of a two-day beer festival at the village of Marshwood, and people come from all over the world to compete.

Participants have one hour to eat as many nettle leaves as possible, offering up the bare stalks as proof. A new record was set in 2014, when a local man ate 80 feet of nettles (washed down with a good few pints, of course).

Up Helly Aa

Location: Lerwick, Shetland

Date: Last Tuesday of January

Link: http://www.uphellyaa.org

It is billed as the biggest fire festival in Europe, and Up Helly Aa doesn’t disappoint. The day-long festival is a celebration of all things Viking, and involves local men wearing horned helmets and armour (painstakingly created months in advance) before marching through the town.

When night falls, the men light hundreds of flaming torches, which are marched to the harbour and flung into a replica Viking long ship, to cheers from the crowds. As the boat burns, the dancing begins and the ceilidhs have been known to last all through the night.

The Tichbourne Dole in 1671 (Pic by Historic UK)

The Tichbourne Dole in 1671 (Pic by Historic UK)

The Tichborne Dole

Location: Tichborne, Hampshire

Date: 25 March

Link: http://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/The-Tichborne-Dole/

The Tichborne Dole started with an act of charity in the 13th century, and has now become a fully-fledged local festival which attracts thousands of curious tourists.

It all began 800 years ago when a dying Lady Mabella Tichborne asked her husband to promise that he would donate some of his crops each year to the poor. He agreed, but said he would only donate produce from any land that she could crawl over in her dying state. She managed to cover 23 acres before she died, and every year the townspeople are given a handout (or ‘dole’) of free flour in remembrance of her kindness.

The bread is blessed in a religious ceremony, and Lady Mabella is praised, before free flour is distributed among the streets of Tichborne – one gallon per adult and half a gallon per child. Locals collect their flour in plastic bags, boxes, sacks and even pillowcases – the odder, the better!

The Padstow ‘Obby ‘Oss

Location: Padstow, Cornwall

Date: May Day

Link: http://www.padstowlive.com/events/padstow-may-day

Forget Creamfields, Glastonbury and Ibiza – the Padstow ‘Obby ‘Oss is the oldest established dance festival in the UK. And probably the only one to feature all-singing, all-dancing horses.

Every May Day, residents of Padstow raise the Maypole, and signal the start of the ‘Obby ‘Oss festivities. This involves paying tribute to a terrifying horse mask set inside a 6-ft wide wooden circle, which is worn by a local dancer and paraded around the streets while traditional music is played. A ‘Teazer’ leads the way, carrying a colourful leather pad which is used in a variety of dance moves, and helps the black horse (or ‘Oss’) to capture young women by throwing a black cape over their heads.

Troupes of dancers fill the streets, until the dance ends with the horse in its ‘stable’ – a local pub.

World Toe-Wrestling Championships

Location: Bentley Brook Inn, Fenny Bentley, Derbyshire

Date: 15 June 2015

Link: http://bentleybrookinn.co.uk/toe-wrestling

Another barmy British tradition, toe wrestling has a proud heritage dating back almost forty years. In fact, it is now a registered international sport, and was once optioned for inclusion in the Olympics!

The World Championship is an extremely popular event, bringing professional toe-wrestlers from all over the world, to compete on the ‘toedium’ at the Bentley Brook Inn.

Food trucks, beer brands and local musicians are all keen to get in on the action, bringing a festival atmosphere to this tiny Derbyshire village.

Scarecrow Festival

Location: Kettlewell, Yorks

Date: 8-16 August 2015

Link: http://www.kettlewellscarecrowfestival.co.uk/

If you need a bit of nightmare fuel, arrive in Kettlewell on the first night of the annual Scarecrow Festival. You will be greeted by hordes of life-size scarecrows pinned across the village, just…watching…you…

The Kettlewell Scarecrow Festival sees locals battling it out to produce the most realistic or humorous models, which form the basis of this week-long festival. Follow the scarecrow trail to reveal clues and win prizes.

Tour de France – Gear up and see France from the saddle

Become King of the Mountains in France

Believe it or not, it’s Tour de France season again! That means now’s the perfect time to think about bikes, France, and combining the two in the perfect holiday.

A quick look at how seriously the French take the Tour de France proves that cycling really is a national passion here. And why wouldn’t it be, what with varied scenery, a great climate, and charming towns and villages all conveniently linked by thousands of miles of quiet roads?

Better by bike

The brilliant thing about France is that there’s cycling here for everyone, whether you’re an avid racer tackling infamous Alpine climbs or a total novice hoping to coast along from café to café.  Better still, cycling isn’t just a good way to keep fit, it’s also a lovely way to meet the locals and see a country close up, and you’ll find yourself in out-of-the-way places many tourists never really see.  One thing is for sure: whatever your interests and level of fitness, France is a country made for experiencing on two wheels – the only problem is deciding which bit to explore!

Later on we’ll help you get to grips with some of the practicalities of cycling in France, but let’s start with a quick rundown of some of the country’s best regions for a two-wheeled adventure of your own.  Remember, with more than half a million miles of roads to choose from (and that’s excluding motorways!) there’s a huge network of cycle-friendly routes covering every corner of the country.  Look out for so-called ‘voies verte’ routes too, as these ‘greenway’ routes are a particularly good option for families because they’re generally flat and completely free from motor vehicles.  Some even follow scenic disused railways or canal towpaths.

Normandy, beach and rock formation in Etretat

Normandy, beach and rock formation in Etretat

The way to go…

There’s enjoyable cycling to be had all over France, and with thousands of holiday properties located throughout the country, it’s easy to find the perfect base from which to explore by bike.

The famous Loire Valley is ideal for beginners, with easy terrain, a user-friendly cycle trail and plenty of great sightseeing, including iconic châteaux.  Normandy and Brittany make good bases too, although Brittany’s intricate coastline makes cycling inland an easier option here.   If it’s big mountain scenery and a serious cycling challenge you’re after, head for the French Alps and enjoy (or endure!) some of the world’s legendary road and off-road routes.

France’s Atlantic coast offers the best coastal cycling in the country, and it includes islands you can reach from the mainland situated between the Gulf of Morbihan and the Gironde.  So long as you avoid some of the main roads – especially in peak season – the areas around rivers like the Dordogne, Lot and Aveyron also make ideal cycling country.  Watch out for some steep but rewarding climbs as you leave the valley bottoms.

Aquitaine, Languedoc and the Midi-Pyrénées offer good opportunities for cyclists too, and it’s worth checking out the huge area of pine forest at Landes as well as St Emilion and its surrounding area.  Burgundy has plenty of interest to offer cyclists, including scenic canals through undulating terrain.   In pretty Alsace, the foothills of the Vosges are home to beautiful traditional villages well worth a visit, or pedal to Comar for a day in this wonderfully preserved historic town, often considered the capital of Alsatian wine.

Getting to, from and around France

Whether you’re driving to France or flying and picking up a hire car, it’s possible to take your own bikes with you.  Choosing this option won’t just save you the time and expense of hiring bikes when you arrive at your destination, it means you’ll get to ride a bike you’re already familiar with.  If you decide to fly, check with your airline about the additional costs of taking your bike, and make sure you know how to pack it and whether or not it needs to be booked on the flight in advance.  Airline websites usually have all this information available under their ‘Baggage’ section.

Of course, if you’re a really keen cyclist you may even decide to ride to France!  A journey like this turns your holiday into an adventure, but be sure to plan and pack carefully.  Ferry companies will allow you to take your bike on board and, if you time it right, you might even be able to benefit from special offers aimed at cyclists.

Eurostar and the French rail network both allow bikes on trains, although you should check and book in advance by contacting either http://www.eurostar.co.uk or http://www.voyages-sncf.com.  It might be necessary to pay for transporting your bike, and not all high-speed TGV trains will carry bicycles.

If you prefer to hire bikes when you arrive at your destination, check carefully to make sure the bikes fit properly and are in good working order.  If you’re hiring for a few days, it’s even worth thinking about taking basic tools along too, like a puncture repair kit and a pump.

Points to remember

Just like at home, to stay safe and avoid breaking the law you need to know the rules of the road if you’re cycling on French highways, even the quiet ones.  Make sure you check for the latest laws and regulations covering traffic, safety equipment and bicycle set-up.  As a general rule, you must obey all traffic signs just as you would in a car.

  • The law doesn’t require you to wear a helmet in France, but it’s definitely strongly advised. If you’re riding in the dark away from urban areas, you’ll need to wear a high-visibility jacket too.
  • In towns and cities you must cycle in the marked cycle lanes wherever they are provided.
  • Don’t forget to check the latest law on alcohol limits and driving, because the same limits apply to cyclists as well. Ignoring these laws could lead to a major fine and the confiscation of your bike, and you could even have your car licence withdrawn.
  • In France, to be ‘roadworthy’ bikes need to have a bell as well as brakes that work properly. If you ride after dark, you’ll need to make sure your bike is also fitted with reflectors together with lights front and rear.
  • While it’s fine during the daylight hours, don’t ride side by side at night, no matter how tempting it is.
  • Always make sure that your holiday insurance covers you for the type of riding you’ll be doing. If you’re mountain biking in the Alps or road racing in a competition, you might need specialist insurance to cover any medical costs arising from an accident.  Never be tempted to skimp on this – medical and repatriation bills can quickly run into tens of thousands of pounds, or even more!

Last but not least, it’s worth doing a bit of research before your trip.  We’ve tried to give you a few of the basics here, but there’s a wealth of more detailed information available online.  Look at the tourism websites for the particular area of France you’d like to visit, and start your adventure with a visit to the official site for cycle tourism in France at www.francevelotourisme.com

Take a look at holiday cottages in France to find your perfect for cycling holiday accommodation.

Cottage of the Week – Villa Franeli, Cote-d’Azur

A beautiful, contemporary retreat, Villa Franeli (ref. FCA342) has been stylishly designed and beautifully furnished. All rooms benefit from south-facing patio doors, with views over the pool area and overlooking the quaint Provençal village of Le Rouret. Sleeps 8. More info on our website.

Dream Festivals for Foodies

Generally speaking, festival food is nothing to write home about. OK, so a soggy kebab might taste amazing in a field at 3am after six hours of energetic dancing, but it’s no Michelin-starred experience.

Some of the more bohemian festivals have started to catch on to the foodie trend, and the likes of Wilderness, Festival No.6 and Bestival now proudly offer gourmet meals and appearances by celebrity chefs. But for true food lovers, you really can’t beat a festival where the food takes top billing and the music comes second. Here are our pick of the top eight foodie festivals happening this summer.

The Big Feastival

Location: Alex James’ Farm, The Cotswolds

Date: 28-30 August

Link: http://www.jamieoliver.com/thebigfeastival/

If you love cheese, Alex James will already be on your radar. The Blur bassist famously packed in his rock star life a few years back and bought a farm in The Cotswolds where he began making award-winning cheeses.

A few years back he teamed up with Jamie Oliver to launch The Big Feastival – a weekend of music, food and nature, right there on Alex’s own farm.

This year, acts include Dizzee Rascal, Grandmaster Flash, Ella Eyre and Groove Armada, as well as a whole host of old and new favourites. Meanwhile, world famous chefs such as Raymond Blanc, Monica Galetti and, of course, Jamie Oliver will be sharing their top tips and handing out delicious food samples.

Keep your eyes peeled for celebrity spotting – past attendees include Kate Moss, Daisy Lowe and, erm, David Cameron.

Don’t Miss – Raymond Blanc. The ludicrously charming French chef will be hosting a live cooking demo followed by a Q&A.

Grillstock, Bristol

Location: Bristol, Harbourside

Date: 11-12 July

Link: http://grillstock.co.uk/bristol-festival

Bristol has quietly built up a reputation as one of England’s best foodie cities, so it is no surprise that Grillstock has chosen it as its latest location. Following on from the success of Grillstock London and Grillstock Manchester, the Americana-loving, BBQ-obsessed weekend is hitting Bristol, in all its flame-licked glory.

Musical acts include De La Soul, Goldie Lookin Chain, and The Heavy, as well as a clutch of bluegrass bands from America’s Deep South. Vintage jeans and flannel shirts are non-negotiable.

Don’t Miss – The Chilli Eating Competition. They start off mild and get hotter and hotter until you are eating some of the hottest chilli peppers on the planet. The last one standing is the winner.

International Cheese Awards

Location: Dorfold Hall, Nantwich

Date:  28-29 July

Link: http://www.internationalcheeseawards.co.uk

This is not your typical awards ceremony. The International Cheese Awards stretches across two full days and features more than 4,000 different cheeses from 24 countries across the world. At the end of the festival, one cheese is chosen as the Supreme Champion – last year’s winner was the now-ubiquitous Colston Basset Stilton.

While the judges do their thing, guests can wander from tent to tent, sampling cheeses and picking up cookery tips from celebrity chefs such as James Martin, Will Holland and Jonathan Harrison.

Don’t Miss – the 80,500 sq ft Cheese Marquee, the largest in the world. On Show Day (29 July), it will be filled with all the cheeses you can imagine…and a few you cannot. Doors open at 8am, so arrive early to get your pick of the samples.

Port Eliot Festival

Location: St Germains, Cornwall

Date: 30 July – 2 August

Link: http://www.porteliotfestival.com/

This is the ultimate foodie retreat. Featuring the likes of Thomasina Miers, Rick Stein and Tom Parker Bowles, it is a celebration of all things fresh and organic, with an emphasis on Cornish cuisine. Grab a pasty at the Cornish Picnic, or try a classic cream tea at the Orangery.

There is music by Stornoway, The Unthanks and many more, plus comedy from Dom Joly and Shappi Khorsandi, but the busiest area is always the Flower and Fodder Stage, where the chefs hang out.

Don’t Miss – Hix’s Fish Dogs – a Port Eliot institution. Think hot breaded fish fingers, served in a fresh bap, with minted mushy peas and homemade tartar sauce. Unmissable.

Newlyn Fish Festival

Location: Newlyn Harbour, Cornwall

Date: 31 August

Link: http://www.newlynfishfestival.org.uk

This is without a doubt the fishiest fish festival in the whole of the UK. The entire event began with a humble fish auction, but it has grown to include a huge series of fish-related events, from the kid-friendly Fishy Trail; to the Great Cornish Fish Off; cooking demonstrations; and punting around the harbour. The highlight is the Lugger Rowing Championship, where competitors race traditional wooden boats along the coasts. Only the winners can claim the coveted Golden Pilchard award.

Don’t Miss – the fish auction. Which is exactly what you imagine it’s going to be like, except louder.

Ludlow Food Festival

Location: Ludlow Castle, Ludlow

Date: 11-13 September

Link: http://www.foodfestival.co.uk

The Ludlow Food Festival is one of the best kept secrets among dedicated foodies. It has been held on the magnificent grounds of Ludlow Castle for the past 20 years, and the organisers are as passionate about food as they are about drink – as long as it is all produced locally, of course.

More than 180 vendors will be there this year, doling out local produce, and offering tastings and demonstrations. Masterclasses take place throughout the weekend, teaching essential life skills such as ‘how to fillet a fish’, and the ominously-titled ‘knife skills’.

Don’t Miss – the Real Ale Trail. Not so much a trail, as a nice sit down in a country pub while bar staff pass you 12 different pints of various local brews. The last one’s always the nicest.

Edinburgh Vegan Festival

Location: The Roxburghe Hotel, Edinburgh

Date: 8 August

Link: http://veganfestival.co.uk/

Once upon a time, vegan cuisine consisted of lentils, beans, rice and little else. But today, vegans are at the forefront of the food revolution, introducing exotic new ingredients (quinoa; tempeh; miso) into British kitchens. Even Beyonce has embraced the joys of veganism!

The first ever Edinburgh Vegan Festival is being organized by the same people who launched the Newcastle Vegan Festival last year, so you can expect plenty of TED-style talks on organic farming, animal cruelty and cooking tips, as well as dozens of food stalls and the odd cookery demonstration.

Get in on the ground floor so you can say you were there when veganism really started to take off.

Don’t Miss – Yaoh manager Tim Barford’s Hemp Smoothie Demo. Guaranteed to get messy, but in a good way.

Somersault Festival

Location: Castle Hill, North Devon

Date: 23-27 July

Link: http://somersaultfestival.com/

Every year, the Somersault Festival presents an eclectic array of stellar performers, new artists, outdoor pursuits and edgy comedy. But year after year, all anyone wants to talk about is the food.

Each evening, a different celebrity chef prepares an enormous feast for festival-goers, which is served by a giant bonfire and includes only the finest locally sourced ingredients. This year, the organisers have signed up Jamie Oliver and his team at Fifteen Cornwall, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s River Cottage chefs, Valentine Warner and multi-award-winning The Ethicurean. This is probably the only time it will ever be appropriate to eat Michelin-starred food with a plastic fork.

If you’re stuck for something to do while you wait for your evening meal, check out headliners such as Laura Marling, Bombay Bicycle Club, Passenger and Crystal Fighters, or try your hand at a spot of coasteering or mountain biking in the surrounding countryside.

Don’t Miss – Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Sunday. This year’s feast includes Cornish Crab on toasted sourdough with barbecued lettuce, mint, spring onions, parsley and chervil.

10 Summer Music Festivals for Under £100

Festivals are rarely cheap. In fact, a recent survey by MSN found that the average cost of attending a music festival is £423.01, while Glastonbury charges upwards of £210 for the ticket alone. That might be enough to put most people off the idea of booking a festival this summer – but there some good budget-friendly options about if you look for them. And we’re not talking about dodgy wristbands here…

For a start, you can actually save a lot of money if you eschew the camping tickets and source your own accommodation with mates. By the time you’ve paid for your camping ticket, your tent, your equipment, your food and access to basic amenities (because you WILL need a hot shower at some point), you may as well have pre-booked a cottage or villa nearby.

Whatever you are looking for from your summer festival, we’ve tracked down ten great options that won’t empty your bank balance, including a few freebie options…

Tramlines Festival

Location: All over Sheffield

Date: 24-26 July

Link: http://www.tramlines.org.uk

Cost: From £20 for a weekend ticket

Tramlines is perfect for anyone who has an aversion to muddy fields and unexpected downpours. Most of the gigs take place indoors, at a different location across Sheffield city centre. Simply choose the acts you most want to see (e.g. Wu Tang Clan, Billy Bragg, The Charlatans, Slaves) and track them down at their given location. You could find yourself dancing like a maniac in City Hall, at Sheffield Cathedral or at Queens Social Club – there’s no better introduction to Sheffield’s nightlife.

farmfest

(Photo by Farmfest)

Farmfest

Location: Gilcombe Farm, Somerset

Date: 31 July – 1 August

Link: http://www.farmfestival.co.uk

Cost: £49 for a weekend pass

Since it launched 10 years ago, Farmfest has styled itself as an ethical festival, where tickets are affordable to all, and any on-site profits go to charity (this year’s charity is Send a Cow). Given the quality of its live acts and entertainment, it could really be charging a lot more by now, yet Farmfest has stuck to its roots and still offers full weekend tickets for £49.

Some of this year’s acts include Lamb, Portico and Stealing Sheep, while activities include a graffiti workshop, a pop up cinema and something called ‘sound bath relaxation’.

Perfect for families and couples looking for a stimulating yet chilled out weekend.

Kaya Festival

Location: Margam Country Park, South Wales

Date: 7-9 August

Link: http://kayafestival.com/

Cost: From £30 per day

This little-known festival has a dedicated following. Now in its fourth year, it is able to attract an impressive line-up of musicians from across the world – this year’s highlights include The Turbans, Norman Jay MBE, The Brand New Heavies, and Lionstar, plus more than 100 other established names and emerging acts. A giant kids’ area features numerous bouncy castles, a Fairy and Elf Workshop, and West African drumming lessons.

(Photo by Hebceltfest)

(Photo by HebCeltFest)

HebCelt

Location: The Hebrides, Scotland

Date: 15-18 July

Link: https://www.hebceltfest.com/

Cost: From £64

HebCelt is celebrating 20 years of traditional folk music with its biggest line up yet. This year the Scottish islands play host to Afro Celt Sound System, Idlewild, and a whole host of traditional performers. The perfect place to discover Celtic music and dance up a storm.

Godiva Festival

Location: War Memorial Park, Coventry

Date: 3-5 July

Link: http://www.godivafestival.com/

Cost: Free

Godiva Festival is probably the UK’s only ticket-free, cost-free festival…that actually has some good bands. This year they’ve got music from the Fun Lovin’ Criminals, The Wombats and Embrace, as well as scores of other bands playing across the festival’s four stages.

Craft stalls, a vintage fair, and an actual bungee experience are also in attendance, plus bar, food stalls and plenty of family-friendly activities.

2000 Trees Festival

Location: Cotswold Hills

Date: 9-11 July

Link: http://www.twothousandtreesfestival.co.uk/

Cost: From £72

This award-winning independent festival is still limited to just 5,000 people, but in every other way it has gotten bigger. This year, headliners include The Subways, Alkaline Trio, Idlewild and Deaf Havana, all playing some of their tiniest gigs of the season. As always, there is always a great selection of locally-sourced food and drink to choose from.

(Photo by NozStock)

(Photo by NozStock)

Nozstock

Location: Bromyard, Hertfordshire

Date: 24-26 July

Link: http://www.nozstock.com

Cost: From £80

Nozstock is one of the quirkier festivals on the summer calendar. It features huge acts such as the Wu Tang Clan, as well as quaint traditions such as the annual ‘Celebritree’ tree planting ceremony. Plus there’s comedy from the likes of Andrew Maxwell, a dance arena in a former bullpen, swing classes, interactive theatre and a ‘Tent of Temporary Thought’.

 

AND A FEW FREEBIES….

Eastbourne Lammas Fair

Location: Eastbourne

Date: 25-26 July

Link: http://www.lammasfest.org/

Cost: Free

Expect Morris dancing, live music, storytelling and an open air ceilidh. The high point is the Open Air Lammas ritual, which takes place at 5.30pm sharp on Saturday 25 July, and features the symbolic cutting of the Lammas loaf, and even more Morris dancing…

Rochdale Feel Good Festival

Location: Rochdale, Greater Manchester

Date: 4-5 September

Link: https://www.facebook.com/feelgoodfestival

Cost: Free

It’s hard to believe this critically-acclaimed festival is still free. This year the festival has managed to bag a rare appearance by The South (a recently reformed version of The Beautiful South, who are not averse to singing a few of the band’s hits), as well as headlining performances by indie legends Toploader and local ska group The Uplifters. The festival focuses on food as well as music, and this year guests can take part in cooking demonstrations with the likes of Rachel Khoo, Andrew Nutter and Kevin Woodford.

Notting Hill Carnival

Location: Notting Hill, London

Date: 30-31 August

Link: http://thenottinghillcarnival.com/

Cost: Free

OK, so it’s not technically a ‘festival’, but the Notting Hill Carnival is a British institution. Every year, West London shuts down while Reggae music blasts from every street corner, sequined women shimmy down the roads, and Red Stripe is consumed by the gallon.

Dance til you drop to sets by D Riddim Tribe, Bajan Revellers and Cocoyea, while you eat your body weight in jerk chicken and curried goat.

The UK’s Most Scenic Music Festivals, Summer 2015

festival number 6

(Photo: Festival No 6)

Empty beer cans, broken sunglasses, soggy tents and a million miles of mud….the UKs festivals don’t exactly have a reputation for cleanliness and beauty. But this is all changing… The UK is home to some of the most stunning natural scenery in the world – from the sandy coves of Cornwall up to the wild Scottish countryside – the perfect backdrop for a summer of festivals.

If you want to find festival that you can enjoy during the day as well as the night, look no further. We’ve assembled eight of the most scenic festivals across the country for nature-lovers and music fans alike.

Green Man Festival

Date: 20-23 August

Location: Brecon Beacons, Wales

Link: http://www.greenman.net/

Its Wales’ answer to Burning Man…a huge wooden giant is assembled (both before and during the festival), then ceremonially set on fire on the Sunday evening in a blaze of fireworks and coloured lights.

But before you get to all that, there’s just the small matter of a festival to attend to. Green Man is set in the stunning Brecon Beacons in South Wales, and it really makes the most of its natural environment. This is one of the cleanest, greenest festivals you will ever see.

TIP: Arrive as the doors are opening on Thursday morning and enjoy a full day of exploring the pristine site and the surrounding Brecon Beacons before the festival kicks off.

End of the Road Festival

Date: 4-6 September

Location: Larmer Tree Gardens, Dorset

Link: http://endoftheroadfestival.com/

Larmer Tree Gardens have been lauded for their beauty since they were first opened to the public in 1880 by the impressively-named General Augustus Lane Fox Pitt Rivers. Thomas Hardy himself was a regular visitor during the late 19th century and described them as “quite the prettiest sight I ever saw in my life.”

The Gardens are still officially owned by the Pitt Rivers family, who have maintained the stunning lily ponds, Victorian outhouses, vintage bandstands and glorious floral displays.  Each September, the End of the Road Festival takes over to combine the naturally tranquil setting with ambient folk music, to create a one-of-a-kind festival experience.

This year, the big draw is Sufjan Stevens, who is playing his first ever UK festival to mark the 10th anniversary of EOTR.

TIP: Look out for your favourite acts in the crowd – musicians will often stick around for the rest of the festival after they have performed.

Boardmasters

Date: 5-9 August

Location: Cornwall

Link: http://www.boardmasters.co.uk/

The British Riviera may not be able to guarantee the sun, but it more than delivers when it comes to the setting. The Cornish coast is all jagged edges and secret beaches, with some of the most Insta-worthy views in England.

Boardmasters 2015 offers festival-goers a chance to see this stunning coastline in a totally different way – from the top of a wave in the English Channel

Curated by skateboarding legend Tony Hawk, the festival stretches across several Cornish beaches, and boasts surfing competitions as well as a stellar lineup featuring the likes of Rudimental and Bastille.

TIP: Make a week of it and arrive in Cornwall a few days early so you can squeeze in a few surfing lessons and find your sea legs before the professionals arrive!

Festival No. 6

Date: 3-6 September

Location: Portmeirion, Wales

Link: http://www.festivalnumber6.com/

Arguably the most beautiful boutique festival in the UK, Festival No.6 is set in the picturesque village of Portmeirion in Wales, the very same village where the iconic TV show The Prisoner was shot.

This year, headline acts include Grace Jones, Belle and Sebastian, Mark Ronson and James Bay, but the real gems are to be found further down the programme. Festival No. 6 has a knack for attracting some of the country’s most interesting alternative musicians, artists, poets and writers.

Once you’ve recovered from the sheer beauty of the location, schedule in some ‘wandering round’ time and discover your new favourite performer.

TIP: Bring swimming gear – if the huge outdoor pool doesn’t tempt you, the calm waters of the Afon Dwyryd will.

Groove Festival

Date: 22 August

Location: Loch Ness, Scotland

Link: http://www.groovefestival.co.uk/

Loch Ness has had a bad rep over the years thanks to a certain alleged monster. But there is no denying that it is one of Scotland’s most beautiful nature spots – regardless of what lurks beneath.

For years, the Rock Ness Festival capitalised on the stunning location to attract festival-goers from all over the world. But in its absence, Groove Festival is doing a fine job.

For one night only, the shores of Lock Ness will be filled with the sounds of Groove Armada, 2 Many DJs and many other dance acts, who have vowed to keep going until sunrise.

Raise a pint to Nessy as the sun goes down, then lose yourself in the magic of the festival until you can’t dance any more.

TIP: Bring a waterproof camera, because, well, you never know….

Kendal Calling

Date: 30 July-2 August

Location: Lake District, England

Link: http://www.kendalcalling.co.uk/

Converts will claim that the Lake District is the most beautiful part of England, and it’s not hard to see why. From the rolling hills, to the glassy lakes, and the postcard-perfect country villages – it is one of those rare parts of the country which looks idyllic even in the rain.

Kendal Calling is situated right in the middle of it all – at the sprawling Lowther Deer Park near Penrith. The festival is set up to feel like you’ve wandered into a small market town, where Flavor Flav just happens to be performing. Explore the woodlands, knock back a few craft ales and pretend that this is normal life.

TIP: Arrive by train so you can watch the scenery sweep past you in all its glory before you settle in.

Secret Garden Party

Date: 23-26 July

Location: Abbots Ripton, Cambridgeshire

Link: http://www.secretgardenparty.com/

The SGP people really know how to make a festival look gorgeous. Every year, The Secret Garden Party pulls out all the stops with zany themes (this year’s is Where the Wild Things Are), thousands of fairy lights and an ‘anything goes’ mentality that includes continuous dance-offs, enormous installation artworks, endless parades and a spectacular ‘paint fight’ on the final day.

All of this would look impressive in an abandoned parking lot, but The Secret Garden Party takes place on an old Georgian farmland, which comes complete with its own lake, river and forests.

TIP: When it comes to fancy dress, this is definitely a ‘go big or go home’ situation. Bring glitter; bring wigs; bring the craziest costumes you can find.

Loopallu

Date: 25-26 September

Location: Ullapool, Scotland

Link: http://www.loopallu.co.uk/

Ullapool is a beautiful location in its own right. The harbour village stretches along the North West coast of Scotland, all wild beaches and purple mountains. But add a festival into the mix and the place is transformed into a riotous rural paradise.

Now 11 years old, Loopallu tickets are usually sold out even before the line-up has been announced, but you can expect an enchanting mix of folk music, alternative bands and local musicians.

TIP: Wrap up warmly – the evenings can get a wee bit nippy!

Summer 2015’s Must-See Music Festivals

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Forget Glastonbury. Britain’s festival circuit is buzzing with a slew of young pretenders, all vying for the business of the festival-going public. There has never been so much choice, with festivals ranging from the very small (Boomtown Fair) to the absolutely massive (V Festival); from the serene (Womad), to the challenging (Wilderness); and from the kooky (Standon Calling), to the eclectic (Latitude).

We’ve hand-picked the eight UK festivals which have proven that they are capable of drawing in the best names in the business and putting on a great show for everyone involved. Whether your idea of a perfect festival is bouncing around a mosh pit, discovering new music, or chilling out in a hot tub under the stars, just read to find your must-see festival of 2015.

Latitude Festival

Date: 16-19 July

Location: Southwold, Suffolk

Link: http://www.latitudefestival.com/

No festival can lay claim to being ‘all things to all people’, but Latitude comes pretty close. Now in its tenth year, the Suffolk-based festival prides itself on a diverse collection of music, art, comedy, poetry, theatre and literature.

This is the sort of place where you can have a chat with Hanif Kureishi, chime in on a political debate with Andrew Marr and Kate Fox, then grab a kebab and catch a burlesque show before discovering your new favourite band at the Radio 6 Music Stage. And if this is all just too stimulating for you, simply cool off in the lake or make friends with the multi-coloured sheep.

MUST-SEE ACT: the surprise act…every year, the afternoon slot at the Obelisk Arena is occupied by a mystery performer who isn’t revealed until they come on stage. Past acts include Rudimental, Joanna Newsom and Thom Yorke.

Standon Calling

Date: 31 July-2 August

Location: Standon, Hertfordshire

Link: https://www.standon-calling.com/

Quirky is the name of the game at Standon Calling. This is the only festival where you can learn the lost art of taxidermy, bathe in an outdoor heated swimming pool, and embrace the Wild West theme at the on-site saloons and crazy nighttime antics. Oh, and there are some bands playing too.

DON’T MISS: The Dandy Warhols, in their only UK festival performance of the year (and their first one in a long time). Channel the Golden Age of Brit Pop with a rousing rendition of Bohemian Like You.

(Photo: Boomtown)

(Photo: Boomtown Fair)

Boomtown Fair

Date: 13-16 August

Location: Winchester, Hampshire

Link: http://www.boomtownfair.co.uk/

Boomtown Fair is not a festival, it’s a place – a temporary village which is only open for a few days every year, but certainly leaves an impression.

Attracting some of the world’s top names in reggae, punk, ska and gypsy music, it is a non-stop, 24-hour party town where everyone is welcome and anything goes.

When it first hit the scene in 2009, Boomtown was like nothing else on the festival circuit. It was wild, riotous, energetic and weird, with a rolling lineup rather than a set of headliners. Now that the secret is out, the Fair is attracting more and more big names artists (Stephen ‘Ragga’ Marley; Soja; and Flogging Molly, to name just a few), but that underground spirit is still very much there.

MUST SEE ACT: Gogol Bordello, who have the magical ability to get everyone dancing from the very start to the bitter end of their post-punk gypsy set.

If you glamping isn’t glamourous enough for you then take a look at our featured cottages for holiday homes all over the UK

V Festival

Date: 22-23 August

Location: Staffordshire and Chelmsford

Link: http://www.vfestival.com/

A monster of a festival; V is so big they’ve had to split it in two with venues in Staffordshire, West Midlands, and Chelmsford, Essex. The lineup is the same in both locations, as the performers play to one V crowd on Saturday night, then head to the other venue the next day (and vice versa). Rock out to festival favourites Kasabian, chill out to Hozier, emote to George Ezra, sing along with Tom Jones, and dance to Clean Bandit.

MUST-SEE ACT: the headlining set from Calvin Harris (Saturday in Chelmsford and Sunday in Staffordshire). Even if you’re not a fan you’ll find yourself singing along to at least one of his chart-topping anthems from the past few years. Eagle-eyed fans might even spot girlfriend Taylor Swift dancing by the side of the stage.

Wilderness Festival

Date: 6-9 August

Location: Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire

Link: http://www.wildernessfestival.com/

The Wilderness Festival pitches itself as one of the season’s most interesting artistic gatherings. Yes, there is great music, but the emphasis is on a multi-sensory experience which offers something a bit different from the usual festival experience. The best way to enjoy Wilderness is to throw away your schedule and see where you end up.

Wander into a talk on economics, walk over hot coals, get bench-pressed by the Mighty Moustache Sir Leopold Aleksander (the festival’s resident strongman), or learn basket-weaving at an outdoor workshop.

MUST-SEE ACT: Bjork. The Icelandic goddess always puts on a good show full of zany costumes, stage props and eccentric chit-chat.

Blissfields Festival

Date: 3-4 July

Location: Vicarage Farm, Hampshire

Link: http://www.blissfields.co.uk/

Blissfields is pulling out all the stops this year. To celebrate its 15th anniversary, the festival site is based around the idea of time-travel. That means futuristic light shows, emerging talent and the occasional wormhole hidden around the site.

You can expect to find more art installations here than ever before, as well as an all-new night time hot tub experience and a series of talks and debates covering fun topics such as the meaning of existence, our status in the universe and where it all goes from here.

MUST-SEE ACT: Subgiant – Expect an epic electro set filled with fond memories, in their first Blissfields performance since they met at the festival ten years ago.

(Photo: Bestival)

(Photo: Bestival)

Bestival

Date: 10-13 September

Location: Isle of Wight

Link: http://www.bestival.net/

Bestival has a habit of sneaking in at the end of the festival season and completely stealing the show. For a start, there’s the fancy dress theme, which everyone takes VERY seriously. This year, the theme is ‘Summer of Love’, so expect to see plenty of tie-dyed t-shirts, cheesecloth shirts, and floral garlands.

MUST-SEE ACT: The Jacksons – that’s right, the actual, real life Jacksons: Jermaine, Tito, Jackie and Marlon, performing all the hits of the Jackson 5. Considering they have a grueling Vegas residency, this may be your only chance to see them in the UK for a long time.

Womad

Date: 24-26 July

Location: Charlton Park, Malmesbury

Link: http://womad.co.uk/

This is the ultimate world music festival, with a loyal following. The atmosphere is relaxed, family friendly and welcoming to people of all ages, from all walks of life – a true melting pot of music fans from across the UK.

Womad goes to every corner of the globe in search of the best and brightest traditional artists and up and coming musicians. The result is a brilliantly eclectic lineup, featuring the likes of a 76-year-old Brazilian diva (Dona Odete), a reinterpretation of Cambodian pop music from the 60s and 70s (Cambodian Space Project),  a Malian superstar (Kasse-Mady Diabate) and a Macedonian brass band (Kocani Orkestar), as well as established names such as De La Soul and Ghostpoet.

If you hate chart music, you will LOVE Womad.

MUST-SEE ACT: Ibeyi, the ridiculously talented French-Cuban twins who are tipped for huge success this year.

If glamping isn’t glamorous for you then take a look at our featured holiday cottages near to summer 2015’s must-see music festivals