Ultimate Festival Guide: UK Edition
Save space between the Big Bens, London Bridges and Stone Henges – and the parties of the Brightons, Liverpools and Edinburghs – for the chaotic, historic and just plain strange bevvy of UK festivals and events.
From mud wrestling to iconic festivals built on mud (we’re looking at you, Glasto), here are some of the UK’s best-loved festivals and events that will have you rolling around in joy like a pig in, um, mud…
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Turn up the heat ancient Gaelic-style. And bring a torch! Held in Edinburgh, a fire-filled dramatic performance delights thousands at this old-school ritual/event. As darkness falls expect pitch black until the fire torches held by a parade of performers and driven by the beat of drums light up the sky on en route to Calton Hill. Expect dramatic Gaelic performances of yesteryear complete with big swinging big balls of fire.
Risking your life chasing a wheel of cheese down a 295-foot hill in the countryside of England has become quite the popular pastime in Brockworth, Gloucester. Well, actually, the locals have been doing it since the 1800s. But it’s gaining popularity worldwide, with costumed, daredevil ‘athletes’ risking their life (and maybe their ego as the cheese isn’t the only thing that ends up rolling) in a bid to ‘take home the cheese’.
Don your best dress and heels, or top hat and tails, and get amongst the action – just don’t follow the speed of the horses and pace yourself for this huge day of racing and bubbly fun. The leading race meet in Britain for the past 300 years or so, Royal Ascot attracts high society, royal watchers and all-around fun chasers light a moth to the flame.
Whether you’re heading for Centre Court – or the garden lawns for the mammoth party –get yourself to the oldest and most prestigious Grand Slam tennis tournament in the world. Attracting millions of views and the world’s best players – Wimbledon will have you swinging aces no matter how much or little you know about the sport.
One of the last originals, Glastonbury has consistently delivered some of the world’s best and most memorable festival performances since 1970. This five-day festival is a right of passage for anyone who wants to call themselves a festival junkie. However, this year will be a fallow year for the festival which will be back in 2019.
Ultra Europe is the hottest new ticket in Europe and part of the world’s premier electronic music festival movement, Ultra. The inaugural event was held in 2013 in Split, attracting over 100,000 revellers and the likes of Carl Cox and other world-renowned performers. Part of the appeal of Ultra Europe is the festival’s backdrop of the Adriatic Coast’s turquoise waters and coastal mountains. Revellers spend their days at the beach, exploring nearby islands and sailing Croatia’s well-famed routes, and their nights dancing away to some of the best electronic music in the world.
If you own a TV or like to laugh then Edinburgh Festival Fringe, aka The Fringe, probably doesn’t need an introduction. The largest arts festival in the world and has been ‘defying the norm since 1947’ and today runs for three weeks with thousands of performances across hundreds of venues. Acts cater to pretty much all tastes and includes the coveted stand-up King, Edinburgh Comedy Fest.
Forget Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts, think love in Notting Hill think Notting Hill Carnival on the Bank Holiday weekend. Britain’s biggest street party dates back to the swinging 60s when Afro-Caribbean communities paraded to celebrate their cultures and traditions. Bright colours, sounds, food and social solidarity will find you alongside good times, great vibes and amazing after parties.
You will never experience a festival quite like Bestival. Think peace, love and dancing…. and fancy dress – world records have been broken by the sheer number of people in fancy dress here. On top of awesome music line-ups, festival-goers are treated to the beauty of the Isle of Wight and all sorts of goings on – there’s an inflatable church, wishing tree, swamp shack, Bollywood tent and, of course, a dedicated tea and cake tent. Sweet!
Aussie towns have been known to take a stab at this ye old Motherland event from time to time. They’ve got nothing on Guy Fawkes Night in London, where it all began with a failed assassination attempt on the king (and blowing up of Parliament House) by Guy Fawkes in 1605. The Poms sure know how to hold a grudge, with elaborate fireworks displays, large bonfires complete with Guy effigies, and a whole lot of partying on 5 November each year.
Reading (former home to Kate Winslet, Jane Austen and even Ricky Gervais – not that it’s really relevant here) is apparently the world's oldest popular music festival. From time to time has been known to get a little heated despite attempts to swing it back into conservatism. Reading shares a bill and dates with Leeds Festival, typically with rock, indie, punk and metal music and boasting past acts like Nirvana, Alice Cooper, Bonnie Tyler, Suede, Blur, Public Enemy, and The Beastie Boys.
Get bogged. Put your head into a snorkel and flipper power your way along the ultimate 55-metre bog race in Wales. Join 200 competitors for this weird event that came out of a bar conversation back in 1976. Swim two consecutive lengths of a water-filled trench in a bog (swamp) in Llanwrtyd. Be prepared to make a fool out of yourself – alongside everyone else who participates – as no traditional swimming strokes allowed. Google tactics!
Leeds is the funky little sister of Reading, but holds its own sharing the same dates, bill and grand finale slot of the European summer festival run. Expect music and anarchy to collide at this feisty little festival headlined this year by the Chili Peppers. In past years the crowd has been known to physically show their displeasure at bad acts.
A favourite Bank Holiday past-time, the original (and the best) Creamfields is a three-day dance bonanza held in Daresbury. Some 80,000 flock to see the likes of Calvin Harris, Armin van Buuren, deadmau5, Paul van Dyk and musos of a similar ilk. If you like raves and clubbing, Creamfields 12 stages will have you big fish, little fish, cardboard-boxing until the wee hours.
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