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showcasing the best of the south west
Top 10 Festivals in the South West

Top 10 Festivals in the South West


Wilderness Festival, 4-7 August Oxfordshire

We’ll start off with Wilderness (pictured above), arguably the highlight of last summer for us, and a festival which manages to pedal its offbeat, quirky vibe without seeming in the least bit manufactured. Brilliant music – an exclusive performance from Robert Plant (half the set devoted to Led Zepplin), Crystal Fighters, Flaming Lips, Parov Stelar (our current obsession), Lianne Le Havas and Goldie with the Heritage Orchestra. Aside from that you have incredible food -  feasts from Moro, Petersham Nurseries and Hix, long table banquets from Raymond Blanc and Skye Gyngell and The Dining Room where you can pick one course from a hipster restaurant such as The Quality Chop House or Duck & Waffle for as little as £8. There’s a literary tent, cutting edge theatre, an outdoor spa with lakeside hottubs and the Saturday night spectacle, a closely guarded secret which is guaranteed to blow your mind. And that’s before we’ve got to the late night DJs in the valley. A little bit off our SW beat but well worth the journey. View it as a holiday and stay for the duration.

Glastonbury Festival 22-26 June, Somerset

There is and never will be another Glastonbury, the blueprint for so many festivals both here and overseas but no one can pull off the unique mix of cider-soaked, mud-drenched Somerset with the biggest bands in the world. So huge these days it’s now like a town with a hundred different pleasure zones, don’t expect to see them all. Muse, Adele and Coldplay headline this year but everyone else is there too – Band of Horses, Kurt Vile, Madness, Mercury Rev, Bastille, Cyndi Lauper, LCD Sound System, brilliant, eclectic and easily the best line up of the summer. They haven’t gone down the foodie route which is something of a relief (trad hippy fayre still dominates), you’re here for the best live music around, the quirkiest theatre, late night parties (The Park, The Glade, Shangri La) and strictly old school good times.

Chalke Valley History Festival 27 june 3 july, Wiltshire

And now for something different, Chalke Valley History Festival takes a spectacular location amidst the chalk downs of Ebbesbourne Wake to present a week-long celebration of history with talks, living history encampments from Anglo Saxon times through to the Second World War, an air show of historic war birds (spitfires, swordfish, hawker hurricanes roaring overhead) and more than 100 talks from the UK’s leading speakers and historians (Dan Snow, Peter Mandelson, Mark Knopfler and Simon Sebag Montefiore are amongst the line up). Masses for children here from the World War 1 Trench experience, WW2 commando training, re-enactment battles, a sword school and a creative arts tent. (Book ahead, they sell out quickly). Brilliant, comphrehensive and fun, the festival’s USP was to make history cool which it effortlessly achieves year on year.

End of the Road 2-4 September, Wiltshire

End of the Road, held in the beautiful Larmer Tree Gardens, always scores highest marks for most happening line up. Adored by musos, with a high hipster quota, come here to see the bands that everyone’s talking about – Savages, Joanna Newsom, Bat for Lashes, Goat, Cat Power, Thee Oh Sees. The vibe is laid back and purist, artisan food, craft ale, magnificent gin and tonics courtesy of a Fever Tree truck. There’s comedy too (Stewart Lee, Bridget Christie, Josie Long), a woodland library (exactly as it sounds) stocked full of books for you to take away and massages in a tented spa.

Bestival  8-11 september Isle of Wight

Bestival has always been the blueprint for that let-it-all-hang-out madness that pervades the summer festival. The original home of dressing up, this year there is a huge carnival parade with a heaven and hell theme and a futuristic fireworks display on Sunday night. Music from The Cure, Hot Chip, Bastille, Fatboy Slim, Goldie, Carl Cox, Caravan Palace, Animal Collective, Wolf Alice.  Returning favourites include the inflatable church for impromptu weddings, the Bollywood Tent and morning work outs with Mr Motivator. Pack a free spirit and forget your troubles.

Camp Bestival
 28-31 July Dorset

Taking child-friendly to a whole new level, kids are top dog at Camp Bestival. Yes parents get to see Fatboy Slim, Tears for Fears, Squeeze and DJ Yoda but it’s all about family fun here.  There’s a vast kids’ field with arts and crafts, dressing up, a catwalk and bushcraft sessions in the Dingly Dell. kids will like The Den, the Brit School theatre and dance school and watching motorbike stunts on The  Wall of Death. You’re in it together, that’s the idea, snoozing kids in trailers, cider in hand, a brief reprieve in the beautiful grounds of Lulworth Castle.

Eden Sessions (various dates through June and July) Cornwall

World class acts in a spectacular venue with a relatively small capacity (6000) is the USP which means tickets sell out fast at Eden. This year’s line up includes Lionel Ritchie (with Corinne Bailey Rae supporting), Tom Jones, Jess Glynne, PJ Harvey and Manic Street Preachers. There is nothing in the UK to compete with watching a favourite artist in such an intimate venue with the backdrop of those space age biomes lit up in techni colour. Described by the Guardian as like ‘watching a gig on the moon’, it will spoil you for anything else.

Boomtown Fair, Hants 11-14 August

Boomtown began 6 years ago, a kind of village fair on acid and has grown into a huge pyschedelic town, divided into districts such as  Wild West, Mayfair Avenue and Chinatown. Music from Madness, Parov Stelar, Leftfield, Levellers, Imelda May, Afro Celt Sound System and a zillion other bands attuned to wasted hippy ravers. Every kind of music is here from gypsy to pirate as well as offbeam street theatre and crazy times. Strictly for the 18-25s.

Beautiful Days
, 19-21 August Devon

A different kind of family festival, this one, more purist, more hippy with a matchless warm and friendly vibe. Old school headliners including Leftfield, Afro Celt Sound System, The Proclaimers and the Levellers (it’s their festival), street theatre, old fashioned fairground rides, (swing boats, big wheel), comedy and real ale from local Otter Brewery.Dreadlocks abound for uplifting times in beautiful Escott Park.

The Rock Oyster 15-16 July Cornwall
Boutique and purist, the Rock Oyster started with the simple ambition to combine great food and music in a knock out setting and it's remained faithful to its roots. No better family camping experience than this one, safe enough for kids to wander freely, food to blow your mind and a carefully hand-picked line up keeps the tents rocking after dark. Artisan everything and the anthithesis of the mainstream behemoths of the day (Reading, V, we're talking about you).

Boardmasters 10-14 August Cornwall

Boardmasters has become the trad destination for post GCSEs, think hoardes of cider-saturated 16 year olds on a last ditch before exam results hit. Daytime surfing competiions on Fistral Beach and Watergate Bay, headline performances from Chase & Status, James Bay and Deadmau5. Drunk teenagers aside the line up is good this year with performances from Kaiser Chiefs, Lianne Le Havas, The Correspondents and Michael Kiwanuka. Day trips recommended for the over 18s.

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