Top picks for the North's best festivals and events

by Melissa Brobby

Category: Things to do
January 12 2016

The rain may have severely dampened many parts of Northern England this winter, but the North is still open for business and ready to receive visitors to its numerous festivals and events that cater for all tastes from sporting events to literary festivals. Check out our picks of some of the North’s best upcoming events that shouldn’t be missed.

Cumbria and the Lake District

This year, the scenic Cumbria and Lake District celebrates the 150th anniversary of the birth of its famous resident, Beatrix Potter, famed for her Peter Rabbit tales, with a series of events to celebrate her life, including The National Trust’s first Children’s Book Festival at Wray Castle (4-6 March), where kids can meet their favourite authors and illustrators and even Peter Rabbit himself.

Literary lovers will also enjoy the Words by the Water Festival (4 – 13 March), where writers and readers celebrate the written word with a series of talks, workshops and book launches over ten days at the edge of Derwentwater.

Lovers of adventure and the great outdoors will be in for a treat at the Keswick Mountain Festival (19 - 22 May) which features a packed festival programme of guided activities including Mountain biking, hiking, canoeing, navigation training, ghyll scrambling and climbing.

Find more things to do in Cumbria and the Lake District


Vintage enthusiasts will be in their element as the East Lancashire Railway parties 40s style at its annual 1940s Weekend (28 – 30 May). The kids can go wild at the retro funfair whilst the adults get down to a swinging soundtrack from live bands whilst sipping on classic cocktails, and the whole family can enjoy the period vehicle displays, battle re-enactments, and a military parade.

Enjoy an egg-cellent day out this Easter at Preston’s Easter Egg Rolling (28 March), where the whole family will enjoy a free fun-packed programme of live music, street theatre and most importantly, rolling your Easter egg down a hill. 

Foodie lovers, wear your loosest trousers and head over to Clitheroe for the Great British Food Festival (8 – 10 April), where Cake Offs, Man V Food challenges and numerous stalls selling mouth-watering local produce, real ales and fine wines will keep you entertained and fed throughout the weekend.

Find more things to do in Lancashire

West Yorkshire

Celebrate the 200th anniversary of Charlotte Brontë’s birth with a visit to the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, which will mark this special anniversary with a packed ‘Brontë’ programme of exhibitions, publications, musical performances and more to celebrate her life and work.

Grab yourself a good spot for the second Tour de Yorkshire (29, 30 April – 1 May) where the world’s best riders will speed their way through Yorkshire’s bustling cities, picturesque villages and scenic countryside as they race to the finish line.

Fall in love with the rhubarb at the Wakefield Festival of Food, Drink and Rhubarb (19 February) which celebrates the long, pink vegetable with three days of cookery demonstrations by national and regional chefs, street entertainment, rhubarb farm tours and a food market.

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Head to Manchester’s vibrant Chinatown and join in the city’s Chinese New Year celebrations (4 – 7 February), where Piccadilly Gardens will be awash Chinese lanterns, food stalls filled with delicious treats and a Dragon parade to welcome in the year of the Monkey.

If you enjoy your tipples then a visit to Manchester’s Beer and Cider Festival (20 – 23 January) is a must, where over 500 varieties of the finest craft beer, ales and traditional ciders will be on offer for you to sample.

Find more things to do in Manchester


Celebrate the 300th birthday of England’s most famous landscape gardener, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown with a visit to Kirkharle Courtyard for an evening fireworks display and torchlight procession around Capability Brown’s serpentine lake. (25 – 27 March).

Book lovers can celebrate all things literary within the pretty surroundings of Hexham at its annual Book Festival (22 April - 4 May), where you can enjoy a packed programme of creative writing workshops, author talks and book readings. You may even come away from the festival feeling inspired to put pen to paper…

Find more things to do in Northumberland

North Yorkshire

Enjoy an experience that’s out of this world at the Dark Skies Festival (15 – 21 February), where the true beauty of our night sky will be celebrated with a packed programme including astronomy talks, lantern and kite making, planetarium presentations and star gazing sessions.

If you’re a keen rambler, tie up your walking boots and enjoy a multitude of hikes, children’s treasure hunts and afternoon tea strolls at Walkfest in the North York Moors National Park this Bank Holiday (28 – 30 May).

Enter the gruesome era of the Vikings as York dons its horned helmet in celebration of its Viking heritage for the JORVIK Viking Festival (15 – 21 February). Recognised as Europe’s largest Viking festival, this ten day event has something for all ages to enjoy, from children’s have-a-go sword combat to hearty grub and free flowing ale at the Ultimate Viking Banquet.  

Find more things to do in North Yorkshire

Melissa Brobby

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