Five must-see countryside festivals

by Katie Rowe

Category: Things to do
May 26 2015

Think the English countryside consists of sheep, dry stonewalls and not much else? Think again. There’s a whole host of events taking place amongst patchwork hills, not-so-sleepy villages and in the verdant grounds of many stately homes every summer across England. Here are some of our favourites.

Burghley Film Festival, Lincolnshire

Festival goers sit outside Burghley House waiting for a film to start See your favourite films at Burghley House

The glorious grounds of Burghley House in Central England are the setting for an alfresco film festival each year. From July 29 to August 2, the Elizabethan estate will put on a range of blockbuster hits on a huge screen. Enjoy classics such as Some Like it Hot and Mary Poppins as well as bang-up-to-date films like The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Why not make the most of it by grabbing some local barbequed food from Absolute Taste or grab some goodies from the The Orangery Restaurant.

Cotswolds Olimpicks, Gloucestershire

For English eccentricity at its very finest head to Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire to see the Cotswolds Olimpicks unfold, or rather erupt, in a field. Started by a local barrister, Captain Robert Dover, the world’s inaugural “Olimpick Games” were staged on a Cotswold hillside in 1612. Today the annual event, this year held on May 29, attracts thousands of spectators as ‘athletes’ take part in obstacle courses and tugs-of-war, as well as the peculiar sport of shin-kicking.

Eroica Britannia, Peak District

Festival goers dressed in vintage clothes dance together at Eroica Show off your best moves at Eroica ©James Brown

Handlebar moustaches at the ready, Eroica Britannia is back for a second year. ‘The most handsome bike race in the world’ sees cyclists on sleek pre-1987 road racing bikes whizz past quaint villages and through tumbling valleys on June 21. Departing from Bakewell in the early hours, 3,000 entrants, taking part in three different races, will zoom through the verdant landscapes of the Peak District, including the grounds of the Chatsworth Estate. Along with the race, there’ll be a festival running alongside the event dedicated to all things vintage from June 19-21. Sift through retro fashions galore at The British Bazaar, do your best Lindy Hop to live music and admire the world's greatest Bike Jumble, before feasting on the best of British food. 

Somersault Festival, Devon

Experience five days of music, outdoor adventure and mouth-watering food before everyone else catches on. Somersault takes places for a second year from July 23 to 27 at the Castle Hill Estate in North Devon. Call a decked-out tipi or luxury yurt home for a long weekend and get stuck into circus skills workshops, campfire feasts hosted by Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Restaurant and River Cottage, late-night forest parties and outdoor adventures that include rock climbing and kayaking. Make some time for the live music acts too, which include Laura Marling and Bombay Bicycle Club.

Stratford-upon-Avon River Festival

Barges line the River Avon in Stratford-upon-Avon Boat your heart out in Stratford-upon-Avon

Take a detour from Shakespeare’s Birthplace and head to the riverside instead for the annual Stratford-upon-Avon River Festival. This bunting-draped extravaganza takes place along the banks of the River Avon on July 4 and 5 and is completely free to visit. Get into the festival spirit with a pint of locally-brewed ale, explore the craft village, eat your way through the food stalls and cheer on live bands and belly dancing troupes. Don’t miss the boat parade on Saturday night, a festival highlight which sees 100 boats illuminate the waterfront and fireworks light up the sky above.

Find more things to do on a rural escape this summer…

Katie Rowe

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