Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly weekend, thought-provoking performances, a magnificent and unique location, or all of the above, there are some fantastic festivals to try this summer. Here are some of our favourites:
Makeshift tables and sprawling on rugs with a picnic (however scruffy) may seem a little bohemian for a world-class festival of opera, but the mandatory evening finery sets the tone at Glyndebourne. The Glyndebourne estate, a splendid Edwardian house with beautiful gardens and spectacular views across the South Downs, has a grand opera house where six works are shown between May and August each year. Highlights this year include a spectacular adaptation of Donizetti’s Poliuto, Fiona Shaw’s award-winning production of Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia and David McVicar’s unveiling of Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail.
Photos: Leigh Simpson
Get your glad rags on from the comfort of these lovely spots:
The Ram Inn, Sussex
Retire to quirky, individual rooms with bold colours, exposed beams, super comfortable beds, fluffy bathrobes in tiled bathrooms, and dreamy village or South Downs views.
Old Whyly, Sussex
All of the luxuries that make a B&B very special – wonderful food, smart rooms and a garden replete with pool, orchard, tennis and lake.
Renowned for undulating landscapes and dark skies full of stars, the Brecon Beacons made another name for itself 27 years ago with the inaugural Hay Festival of Literature & the Arts. Now ‘international’ with 15 sites across the world, the annual 10-day celebration of stories and debates draws ever-larger audiences. Early-bird tickets have unveiled a notable line-up: Hay festival president, Stephen Fry hosts the first of a series of talks on equality, Germaine Greer is holding a discussion about the roles of Shakespeare’s women, and author Michael Morpurgo will collaborate with a string quartet to reflect on the part that music played in World War II. Fondly described as ‘The Woodstock of the mind’ by Bill Clinton, it is a place where one can almost hear the ideas tumbling down the hills of Hay.
Photos: Finn Beales
Heading to Hay?
Why not stay…
Hideaways in Hay, Hay-on-Wye
Off a Georgian cobbled courtyard in bookish Hay-on-Wye, two side-by-side cottages full of comfort and charm, designed with romance in mind.
Pottery Cottage, Hay-on-Wye
Ancient village house near Hay with beautiful retreat attached, balm for urban souls.
The younger sister of Isle of Wight’s Bestival, Camp Bestival has four days of family festivities in the magnificent grounds of Lulworth Castle in Dorset. With fairground rides, circus-skills workshops, go-karts and oodles of activities, kids of all ages are spoilt for choice. Little ones will love the soft play area, learning how to craft wands in the woodland and live shows such as the Marvellous Imaginary Mengaerie and CBeebies’ Mr Tumble. Older kids can hide away at The Den with film screenings, activities and ‘open mic’ nights. With The Guardian Literary Institute giving a series of talks, numerous foodie stalls and chart-toppers including Clean Bandit, Professor Green and the Kaiser Chiefs, there should be a little something for the whole family.
Don’t fancy trying to fit teenagers in a tent? Try this little bolthole for families with children aged 12 and above just a 5 minute drive away from the festival:
Lulworth House, Wareham
Breathtaking views, walks, wildflowers, pretty beaches, a creative treasure, inside and out. The garden has a tropical feel with banana trees, ferns, deep borders and abundant grapes over a pergola.
In the surreal Italianate Welsh village of Portmeirion, music swirls around the cobbled streets and past the pastel-coloured houses when Festival no. 6 comes to town. For the past three years, visitors have descended upon this whimsical town in their droves for street theatre spectacles, impromptu performances and an impressive selection of acts at unusual venues across the village, the surrounding Gwyllt Woods and the River Dwywrd estuary. This year, spoken-word artist Kate Tempest, 80s new-wave singer Grace Jones, and folk band Stornoway are not to be missed.
Get away from it all and sleep soundly just 15 minutes away from the festival…
Tyn Llech, Criccieth
Serene and stylish with a wood-burning stove, beautiful colours and distant sea views.
In an archipelago of astounding beauty, Orkney stands proudly with clear waters worthy of Mediterranean climes, and wild craggy coastlines. Devised as a creative way to boost visitor numbers to the island in the early eighties, the Orkney Folk Festival has become a hub for local and international folk talent in May each year. Listen to renowned artists (this year’s listings includes BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winner, Seth Lakeman, and country music stars Ward Thomas), take a workshop or two, witness home-grown Orcadian folk at its finest and dance until you drop at one of many ceilidhs.
For bookings information, locally recommended places to stay and all of the information you’ll need during your stay, visit the Orkney Folk Festival website.
Photos: Sean Purser