Most Remote Music Festivals

Ullapool coastline

Ullapool coastline

Tiree Music Festival

Location: Tiree Island, Scotland

Date: 17-19 July

Link: http://tireemusicfestival.co.uk/

For most of the year, the tiny island of Tiree is home to 650 people, and at least as many cows. But for three days each July, the population triples as hundreds of music fans arrive for the award-winning Tiree Music Festival.

This year’s headliners include Scottish rock band The Fratellis, Celtic rockers Manran, and local legends Skerryvore, who just so happen to be the festivals founders.

Tiree is known as the ‘Hawaii of the North’ due to its white sandy beaches and unusual abundance of sunshine all year round. Stay a few days and enjoy the local surfing, and local hospitality, then do a spot of island hopping around the Inner Hebrides and take in some of Scotland’s most stunning remote vistas.

How do you get there…? There is a daily ferry service from Oban to Tiree which takes approximately four hours. Alternatively, FlyBe operates an infrequent Glasgow-Tiree service, which offer some incredible aerial views of the Scottish coastline and Inner Hebrides. Between 15-21 July, festival representatives will be waiting to meet you at the harbour with information on the stage locations and how to get around. You can hire a bike from around £10 per day, and explore the island at your leisure in between gigs.

Monmouth Festival

Location: Monmouth, Wales

Date: 24 July – 1 August

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

Set on the edges of the Forest of Dean, in the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the rural town of Monmouth is full of countryside charm. It’s not easy to get to, but that’s part of the appeal for festival visitors! The locals still speak Welsh (despite being just two miles west of border with England), and the Monmouth Festival is a proud celebration of Wales’ culture and music.

Check out some local talent at the Busking Festival on the 25 July, and dance to Valley rockers The Pollen Count and A Fool and His Money. Or simply use the week-long festivities as your chance to get to know a hidden yet culturally rich corner of the UK, in all its glory.

How do you get there…? The nearest train stations are in Abergavenny (15 miles to the west) and Chepstow (16 miles to the south), although there is a limited bus service which runs through the Wye Valley, stopping off at Monmouth. If you are driving to the festival, take the scenic route via the M48, which will take you across the original Severn Bridge.

Corbiere lighthouse, Jersey

Corbiere lighthouse, Jersey

Jersey Live

Location: Jersey, Channel Islands

Date: 5-6 September

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

The Channel Islands are a haven for anyone who craves peace, quiet, and nature. The island of Jersey is famous for its white sandy beaches and hidden seaside coves, as well as its rolling hills and large swathes of countryside. More than half of the island is agricultural, and you could walk for hours without meeting another soul.

It is a truly beautiful place, so it’s no wonder that Jersey Live manages to attract such a stellar lineup of artists every year.  George Ezra, Palma Violets, Clean Bandit and Slaves are just a few of the bands who will be taking the stage in Trinity, approximately 6km north of the island’s capital St Helier.

How do you get there…? There are regular flights into Jersey from across the UK. Alternatively, why not hire a boat and sail into one of the island’s many ports to kick off your island stay in true Jersey style.

Loopallu

Location: Ullapool, Scotland

Date: 25-26 September

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

Loopallu prides itself on being the most remote festival on the calendar and it may have a point… The tiny music festival is situated in the coastal village of Ullapool, 60 miles from the nearest town.

But this tiny village comes alive at the end of September, when it becomes a temporary home for some of the UK’s most acclaimed bands. The organisers don’t tend to reveal the year’s line-up until the very last minute in order to avoid oversubscription (the town can only handle so many music fans), but previous years have seen headliners such as The Stranglers, Ash, Shed Seven, Mumford and Sons, Paolo Nutini, and Franz Ferdinand, performing alongside local folk heroes such as the Ullapool Pipe Band. For music fans, it is an unparalleled opportunity to hear world-class music in an intimate, rural setting.

How do you get there…? The nearest transport hub is Inverness, 57 miles to the south. You can arrive here by air, sea or train, and start making your way north to Ullapool – it is one of the few settlements on the North West coast, so it will be well signposted.

Isle of Wight Festival

Location: Isle of Wight

Date: 9-12 June

Link: http://www.isleofwightfestival.com/

It may be a small island, but don’t underestimate the Isle of Wight’s pulling power. Between 1968 (the first year of the festival) and 1970, it played host to Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Doors, and other 60s legends. This year’s festival claimed one of the biggest headline acts in the world – Fleetwood Mac. Blur, Pharrell Williams, The Black Keys and The Prodigy also performed to a delirious crowd of more than 50,000 people.

Festival fever takes over the entire island, so this is your chance to live out your dreams of dancing in the streets, singing on the hilltops, and frolicking on the beaches without anybody raising an eyebrow.

How do you get there…? Around the time of the festival, ferries leave regularly from Southampton, Portsmouth, Lymington and Southsea. When you arrive on the island, festival reps will be at hand to guide you to the site and give you directions to your accommodation.

HebCelt

Location: The Hebrides, Scotland

Date: 15-18 July

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

HebCelt is unlike most other festivals in many ways. For a start, it is situated in the remote Outer Hebrides of Scotland, and the music venues are scattered across a wild stretch of islands including Stornoway, Lewis and Harris.

Lews Castle in Stornoway is where you’ll find the main stage, which this year will welcome the likes of Idlewild and Afro Celt Sound System. But diehard HebCelt fans come here for the traditional Celtic folk music and the unique island hospitality. Get your bearings in Stornoway, before hitching a ride on a fishing boat to one of the neighbouring islands and discovering your new favourite trad band.

How do you get there…? FlyBe operates 92 flights per week into Stornoway from cities across the UK. But to really get a sense of your location, take the ferry from Ullapool (which is itself a remote festival town) or Skye. There are also inter-island ferry services between Ardmhor in Barra and Eriskay in South Uist and from Berneray in North Uist to Leverburgh and Harris.

Cottage of the Week – Suite Three at Witton Hall, County Durham

One of 4 properties at the location, Suite Three (ref MWD) is an apartment situated directly behind Witton Hall (once listed in The Times as one of the top 100 houses in the country) and is surrounded by the grounds, gardens and a shared hot tub. Leisure facilities include a gymnasium with weights and cardio vascular equipment and a sauna looking out on to a dance floor with a sparkling ceiling consisting of hundreds of multi-coloured lights. Guests can also find a heated swimming pool with wave system and wet bar. Sleeps 2. More info on our website.

Best UK Festivals for Families 2015

(Photo by Camp Bestival)

(Photo by Camp Bestival)

When you are young, free and single, the idea of bringing children to a music festival sounds like hell on earth. After all, who wants to spend their festival dragging a pram through mud, or hunting for toddlers in a mosh pit?

Well, luckily, this is no longer the only option. While you are still very welcome to try to keep track of your kids on a rainy weekend in Glastonbury, it doesn’t have to be like that.

The current crop of family-friendly festivals have managed to strike the perfect balance between ‘grown up fun’ and ‘kid-appropriate’. Think watersports, dressing up boxes, kite displays, miniature railways, and cardboard cities; alongside coffee stands, cocktail bars, big-name headliners and world class DJs.

This year, there is a huge range of kid-friendly festivals to choose from, all offering a unique blend of the creative and the quirky. Take a look at our top seven choices, and prepare yourselves for a summer staycation which actually promises to be fun for all the family.

 Beautiful Days

Location: Escot Park, Devon

Date: 21-23 August

Link: http://www.beautifuldays.org/

This award-winning festival just keeps getting better and better. This year, Beautiful Days boasts another eclectic line up featuring the likes of House of Pain, Happy Mondays, Gogol Bordello and Wilko Johnson, as well as all the usual fringe activities and some of the best children’s entertainment on the UK festival scene. The Children’s Area at Beautiful Days is curated by the Majical Youth Theatre and features workshops, funfair rides, music, comedy, theatre and lots of other activities for children of all ages. What’s more, because the kids’ area is situated between the Main Stage and the Big Top, you can plan your perfect family day with minimal trekking.

Don’t miss… The Circus of Horrors – it’s too scary for younger kids but teenagers will love the gory spectacle of watching a man pull a sword out of his throat.

Cornbury Festival

Location: The Great Tew Park, Oxfordshire

Date: 10-12 July

Link: http://www.cornburyfestival.com/

Cornbury Festival describes itself as “civilised, charming and irresistible”, and it’s not wrong…  This is a quintessentially English festival, complete with bunting, cider and Morris dancers, who weave through the crowd when you least expect to see them. The laid-back, homespun vibe makes it the perfect place for families of all ages, and although the Children’s Zone is expertly kitted out with balloon shows, fancy dress, circus skills and musical workshops, the chances are that they’ll be just as entranced by the bright lights of the Disco Shed, headline acts such as Lulu, Razorlight or Tom Jones, and the roaming entertainers.

Don’t miss…the food! This is one of the few festivals who actually take their catering seriously, and a sponsorship deal with Caffe Nero means you can get a mean cappuccino (or babyccino) first thing in the morning.

The Deer Shed

Location: Baldersby Park, North Yorkshire

Date: 24-26 July

Link: http://www.deershedfestival.com/

This festival was dreamed up by a group of parents who were sick of the sub-par entertainment on offer for kids at other festivals. At The Deer Shed, it’s all about the kids – we’re talking eight tonnes of play sand (and a whole shedload of buckets and spades), a soft play area, a cardboard city (yes, a cardboard city), and a huge sports field bursting with activities. There’s even a milk-warming centre for the babies.

This might be a child’s dream festival, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything for the parents! This year’s headliners include a rare appearance by cult folk singer John Grant, as well as other contemporary folk favourites such as James Yorkston, Emmy the Great and Damian Dempsey. Billy Bragg headlines on the opening night, while The Unthanks close the festival on Sunday evening.

This year’s theme is ‘Up in the Air’, so keep your eyes on the skies and you never know what you might see!

Don’t miss… the cardboard city. Did we mention the cardboard city?

(Photo by Lakefest)

(Photo by Lakefest)

Lakefest

Location: Croft Farm Waterpark, Gloucestershire

Date: 7-9 August

Link: http://lakefest.co.uk/

It’s a festival at a waterpark – what more could you ask for? While the parents will be attracted to the stellar line up (this year’s headliners include Ash, Embrace, Billy Bragg and The Magic Numbers), the kids will also have plenty to be excited about. Expect storytelling, face-painting, circus acts, gladiator dueling, bungee running, arts and crafts and the ever-popular Lakefest Treasure Hunt. But the real draw at Lakefest is – you guessed it – the lake. Kids (and adults) can take part in all sorts of watersports, including banana boat rides, aqua zorbing, kayaking, sailing and 6-man katakanuing.

Bring a sense of adventure and all the swimming gear you find.

Don’t miss…zorbing on the lake. The most fun you can have on the water while staying completely dry.

Camp Bestival

Location: Lulworth Castle, Dorset

Date: 30 July – 2 August

Link: http://www.campbestival.net/

The original family-friendly festival is still hitting it out of the park when it comes to themes and activities. This year the theme is ‘Into the Wild’, and the Camp Bestival crew are taking it very seriously indeed. At the Dingly Dell, families will learn basic survival skills together, including how to make a fire in the wilderness, how to identify trees, and how to build a home for faeries.

There is a comedy club for kids, a range of theatrical workshops, a soft play area for the tots, and a series of great wilderness-inspired films such as Madagascar and Up. The Den caters specifically to teenagers aged 13-17, and includes an exclusive Q&A with Professor Green, plus live performances and DJ sets from the likes of Rob Da Bank.

Apparently there are also a few bands playing on the main stage. But let’s face it, the most fun is to be had running around the site in a home-made owl costume, while wearing a leaf mask and looking for faeries.

Don’t miss… The Jungle Book Bedtime Story – read by celebrity guests such as Sara Cox, Michaela Strachan and Dick n Dom. The perfect way to end a busy day, no matter how old you are.

Solfest

Location: Tarnside Farm, near Aspatria, Cumbria

Date: 28-30 August

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

Set along the coastal edge of the Lake District, Solfest is a haven of tranquility. Between storming sets by Maximo Park, The Joy Formidable, KT Tunstall and The South, festival goers can relax in the Healing Gardens, trek through the beautiful surroundings or catch a spot of teddy parachuting with the kids. The kite displays are a popular draw, so bring your own home-made creation if you want to get involved!

Don’t miss… The Solfest Community Musical – a nature-themed performance by local residents that everyone is welcome to join. Just make sure you turn up for rehearsals on the Saturday, and be there with your instruments in hand for the Sunday afternoon performance.

Chilled in a Field Festival

Location: Bentley Wildfowl and Motor Museum, East Sussex

Date: 31 July – 2 August

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

Chilled in a Field won the prestigious gold award by Festival Kidz last year, marking it out as one of the UK’s best family-friendly festivals. This year, it looks set to build on its success with a “fantastical” offering of fun, games, music and dancing. Why not start the day off with a spot of glitter wrestling, followed by a session on the tree-top zipwire? Then get the kids ready for bed at the ‘No Sleep Til Bed Time Family Disco’, where the dress code is simply ‘pyjamas’ and everyone has to dance and dance until they’re ready for bed.

For the parents, there is a coffee-tasting workshop, a well-stocked bar (which also offers cashback), live music all day, and a host of DJs and video artists lined up to keep the party going all night long.

Don’t miss… the Miniature Railway – a tiny purpose-built track which takes adventurers of all ages on a 20-minute tour of the beautiful grounds. Just watch out for the geese!

For a better night’s sleep take a look at our featured holiday accommodation near to the UK’s best family festivals

Best One Day Music Festivals 2015

There’s nothing glamorous about Day 3 of a festival. You’ve run out of wet wipes, everything is covered in mud, you’ve lost at least one valued possession (or person), and the toilets are basically a no-go area… So it’s no surprise that the past few years have seen a whole host of one-day festivals emerging. You just turn up, have a great time, and stumble off to the comfort of your own accommodation afterwards.

Just because you don’t want to test the depths of your personal hygiene, doesn’t mean you can’t also enjoy the very best of the festival experience. There are one-day festivals all over the UK to suit every musical taste – from rock music to swing dance. Take your pick from these great one-day music festivals in the UK for 2015…

Electric Daisy Carnival

Location: Milton Keynes

Date: 11 July

Link: http://uk.electricdaisycarnival.com

The uber-glamorous Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC to its mates) is going global with a string of appearances in exotic locations: Orlando; Brazil; and of course, Milton Keynes.

Yes, Milton Keynes will play host to some of the biggest names in dance music (headliners include Hardwell, Tiësto and Steve Aoki), as well as EDC’s signature art installations, funfairs, and a truly epic firework display at the end of the night. There are no plans for the festival to return to the UK in the next couple of years, so catch it while you can!

MADE Birmingham

Location: Birmingham

Date: 25 July and 26 July

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

For its second anniversary, MADE is taking things up a notch by offering not one but two one-day festivals in Birmingham’s trendy Digbeth Triangle. Day one sees acts such as MK, Wilkinson and Norman Jay performing from midday until midnight, followed by the official ‘MADE…My Night’ after party which goes on until 6am. On day two, cure your hangover with the newly-created MADE Food and Drink festival, where you can feast on locally sourced street food, craft beers and real ale.

Eastern Electrics

Location: Hatfield House

Date: 1 August

Link: http://easternelectrics.com/

Hatfield House is best known for its historical links to the British monarchy (Queen Elizabeth 1 once lived there), but on 1 August, it will play host to a very modern festival of underground and house music. Three stages will host electronica stars such as Boddika, Jamie Jones, DJ EZ and Floorplan, while the huge estate grounds will be treated as one non-stop party. Keep your ears open for details on the infamous Eastern Electrics Pillow Fight.

Calling Festival

Location: Clapham Common, South London

Date: 4 July 2015

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

Calling Festival scored another coup this year when it signed Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds as its headline act, and the rest of the lineup reads like a ‘who’s who’ of the 2015 festival circuit: Echo & the Bunnymen; The Hives; Modest Mouse; Wolf Alice and Ryan Adams.

The only downside is the location. Clapham Common is a busy area at the best of times, even without several thousand festival goers stumbling out into the dark. Having said that, you can beat the crowds by booking accommodation to the south of London and checking train times in advance.

The Social Festival

Location: Maidstone, Kent

Date: 12 September

Link: http://www.thesocialfestival.com/

This boutique festival is achingly hip. The one-day ‘Summer Social’ festival (there is also a winter edition) boasts great food (all locally sourced); great fun (check out the carnival rides); and great music. This year’s top names include house and techno legends Richie Hawtin and Seth Troxler, as well as emerging talent such as Richy Ahmed and DJ Tennis.

Extravaganza at Glastonbury Abbey

Location: Glastonbury

Date: 9 August

Link: http://www.glastonburyabbey.com/view_page.php?pageid=1001

The ‘other’ Glastonbury festival – except this one is decidedly low key. Held in the historical surroundings of Glastonbury Abbey, the Extravaganza has limited tickets and always sells out early. Organizer Michael Eavis has a knack for attracting the biggest names in the industry, and previous headliners have included Robert Plant and George Ezra. This year, soul legend Ray Davies is headlining, along with Joan Armatrading and The Shires.

Lounge on the Farm

Location: Merton Farm, Canterbury

Date: 2 August

Link: http://loungeonthefarm.co.uk/

For its ninth anniversary, Lounge on the Farm is sticking to what it does best: chilled out music in a chilled out setting. Fun Lovin’ Criminals and Courtney Pine are headlining this year, but veteran Loungers will know that the best thing about this festival is the laid back atmosphere and the amazing array of locally sourced, organic food which is on offer all over the farm.

UV Festival

Location: New House Farm, near Gatwick Airport

Date: 9 August

Link: http://www.uvfestival.com/

If you like UV lights, this is the festival for you. The aptly-named UV Festival is all about the glow sticks, the neon face paint and the dramatic Ultra-Violet light rig which illuminates the farm at night.

By day, guests can just chill out on a farm by Gatwick Airport listening to ambient electronica while getting gently drunk at the cheap festival bar. By night, let go of your inhibitions and party until sunrise, as international jet liners fly low over your head.

Flashback Festival

Location: Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire

Date: 16 August

Link: http://www.theflashbackfestival.com/flashback-clumberpark.html

Fans of nostalgia will love Flashback Festival – the only place on earth where the 80s are still alive….for one day, at least.

Held in the National Trust’s stunning Clumber Park, it is a tribute to all things retro, with headliners such as Jason Donovan, Marx Almond, Soul II Soul and The Human League. The massive success of previous years has convinced organisers to put on a second day this year dedicated to the 70s– Flashback Friday features performances by Sister Sledge, Boney M and Hot Chocolate.

Freshen up your perm, dust off your shoulder pads and BYO-Black Forest Gateau.

Summertime Swing

Location: Saint Hill Manor, East Grinstead

Date: 3 August

Link: http://www.jiveaces.com/

Swing music is one of those ‘love it or hate it’ things. But if you love it, then this festival is for you. Summertime Swing is all about jive and swing music, and on its tenth anniversary it’s only getting more popular! Jive Aces (of Britain’s Got Talent fame) are curating this year’s event, and as well as the usual live performances, dance-offs and ukuleles, there is also a vintage fair and plenty of food and drink options.

Cottage of the Week- Daubeneys Stable nr. Bath

This Grade II listed stable conversion (PFFH) is part of the only longhouse in Wiltshire and, dating back to the 13th century, is the oldest house in the village. Beautifully refurbished to offer all modern conveniences, it also retains a wealth of charm and character. Sleeps 3 and 2 pets. More info on the property listing.

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?

DSCF4588

(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.