15 festivals and events to travel for

The South West is home to many world famous events such as the Glastonbury Festival, Bristol Balloon Fiesta and Bath Literature Festival. Don't miss the best of the South West when you plan your visit!

1. Slapstick Festival, Bristol – January

Bristol Slapstick Festival © VisitBristol Bristol Slapstick Festival © VisitBristol

A unique celebration of silent film and slapstick comedy, the festival offers a unique chance to watch silent films with a live orchestra along with a VIP list of guests and celebrities sharing their passion for this genre. The event that always makes Bristol laugh-out-loud in bleak January is the Silent Comedy Film Gala. Held annually at Colston Hall, the event celebrates the start of the city’s internationally-popular Slapstick festival of vintage comedy film and TV.

Find out more about Slapstick Festival

2. Bath Literature Festival, Bath, Somerset - end Feb - early March

An entertaining and enlightening festival jam packed with an enticing mix of events covering a vast range of topics from the Arts and Science to History, Economics and Politics. For ten days, the leading lights of the literary and cultural scene descend on Bath for an extravaganza of passionate debate, thoughtful discussions, insightful lectures and lighter comedy. All events take place in the stunning buildings that have made Bath a World Heritage city and provide a stunning backdrop for this lively and imaginative festival.

Find out more about Bath Literature Festival

3. South West Food and Drink Festival, Northernhay Gardens, Exeter, Devon - April

South West Food and Drink Festival, Exeter © VisitExeter South West Food and Drink Festival, Exeter © VisitExeter

The South West's leading food & drink festival is an annual event held in the courtyard of Exeter Castle and the surrounding Northernhay Gardens, right in the centre of Exeter. Taking place over three days, the Festival also includes two evening Festival After Dark Events featuring live music, chef demos and a great atmosphere. 

Find out more about South West Food and Drink Festival

4. Gloucestershire's Festival Frenzy. Cheltenham, Gloucestershire - End April/ early May

A visit to the Cheltenham Jazz Festival will blow away the winter cobwebs and give that much-needed razzle-dazzle to spring!  Offering everything from traditional to contemporary jazz, you’ll hear fantastic music in venues ranging from the Town Hall to marquees in Imperial Gardens.  Sample an atmospheric lunchtime or evening concert with delicious food at The Daffodil restaurant – a converted Art Deco cinema near Regency terraces.  Make best use of the time between concerts with a spot of shopping in one of the many distinctive boutiques where you’ll also see jazz acts on the streets and themed shop windows.

Find out more about Cheltenham Jazz Festival

5. Badminton Horse Trials, Badminton, South Gloucestershire - May

Badminton Horse Trials © VisitEngland Badminton Horse Trials © VisitEngland

Badminton Horse Trials is one of the most popular and prestigious events in the equestrian eventing calendar. The three-day event takes place in the stunning grounds of Badminton House (where the game of Badminton was invented!) in the heart of the Gloucestershire countryside, just half an hour from Bristol. The house dates from the 17th century and is set in a beautiful deer park. The trials feature two days of dressage, a day of cross-country and a day of show jumping, within four miles of terrain, 30 seemingly unsurmountable fences, 45 jumping efforts and a set time to compete it- it showcases the ultimate test of horse and rider. As well as watching the efforts of the horse riders, visitors can take part in a course walk and shop to their heart’s content in the large shopping village.

Find out more about Badminton Horse Trials

6. Artipelago, Isles of Scilly - May

Pantomime at the Artipelago, Scilly © VisitScilly Pantomime at the Artipelago, Scilly © VisitScilly

The Isles of Scilly's inaugural Arts & Literature Festival will celebrate the arts across all five islands from 7th - 31st May. Three weeks of Performing Arts, Visual Arts & Crafts, Music, Film, Pop-up Galleries and Literature, the festival will incorporate the popular Art Scilly Week and Scilly Folk Festival of previous years and include both local and visiting artists and performers. Workshops, demonstrations and theatrical, comedy and musical performances will be held throughout the month.   

Find out more about Artipelago

7. Ageas Salisbury International Arts Festival, Salisbury, Wiltshire - end May - early June

The annual Ageas Salisbury International Arts Festival presents a wonderful array of spectacular events in and around Salisbury. Classical and world music share the limelight with international theatre, dance, film, visual arts, children’s events, free outdoor events and a full literature programme during late May to early June. The Festival draws the best artists from around the world, commissioning and creating work unique to the region. Venues vary from the spectacular Salisbury Cathedral through to Salisbury Playhouse, the Market Place and other historic locations such as Old Wardour Castle and Stonehenge. Each year, the Festival takes on a different theme and for 2016 this will be focussing on New Zealand.    

Find out more about Salisbury International Arts Festival

8. Glastonbury Festival of Performing Arts, Glastonbury, Somerset- End June

A 5 day festival of contemporary performing arts which attracts world-headlining musicians, comedians, DJs and 185,000 people! Held annually with a break every 5th year, the Glastonbury Festival is one of the world’s leading festival and a must-do for all who are able to get their hands on the tickets!        

Find out more about Glastonbury Festival of Performing Arts


9. Upfest, Bristol- July

Upfest Street Art Festival in Bristol © VisitBristol, Paul Box Upfest Street Art Festival in Bristol © VisitBristol, Paul Box

Upfest, Europe’s biggest, free, street art and graffiti art festival, is now a firmly established annual event in the Bristol calendar attracting over 250 cutting-edge graffiti artists from all over the world. The artists descend on Bristol to paint stunning visual spectacles at venues throughout Southville and Bedminster with 30,000 square foot of artwork over the weekend. Artists paint to a soundtrack of live music at locations including the Tobacco Factory, Hen and Chicken and Redpoint Climbing Centre. Upfest is a family-friendly festival and hundreds of families attend each year – kids can take part in graffiti workshops, draw on a ‘giant doodle wall’ and lots more art-related activities. The festival raises money for The National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACOA).        

Find out more about Upfest

10. Experience a celebration of Dorset seafood, Weymouth & Portland, Dorset - July

Dorset Seafood Festival © VisitDorset Dorset Seafood Festival © VisitDorset

Come to Weymouth and experience a festival of food!  Celebrate Dorset’s finest seafood at the Pommery Dorset Seafood Festival, with cooking demonstrations and tasting opportunities. Walk along the 17th Century harbourside and see the bustling flotilla of fishing boats coming and going, to bring you their catch of the day. Watch as passionate chefs present for your delight, a mouth-watering display of dishes using the best, fresh local produce and make it look so very easy!  Discover locals’ secrets as you dive into a prawn cocktail, or Saffron infused crab bisque.  Head a little further along the harbour and you’ll discover delights from seafood paella to swordfish kebabs. 

Find out more about Dorset Seafood Festival

11. Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, Bristol - August

Bristol Balloon Fiesta © VisitBristol, Gary Newman Bristol Balloon Fiesta © VisitBristol, Gary Newman

Every year, Bristol plays host to Europe’s largest hot air balloon event, Bristol International Balloon fiesta. Launching from Ashton Court Estate’s beautiful grounds at dawn and dusk and illuminating the skies in an extravagant evening ‘nightglow’ on selected days, the free four-day event is a fantastic spectacle. Over 150 hot air balloons of all shapes and sizes take to the skies with beautiful Bristol providing an incredibly photogenic backdrop. Now one of the UK’s Top 5 Outdoor Events, it attracts hundreds of thousands of people each year and is particularly popular with families.          

Find out more about Bristol International Balloon Fiesta

12. The Islands' Regatta, St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly - August

Scilly Gig Race at the Island Regatta © VisitScilly Scilly Gig Race at the Island Regatta © VisitScilly

Join the Scilly's inaugural Islands' Regatta on St. Mary's over the August Bank Holiday Weekend. Four days of celebration of our amazing maritime heritage, with a colourful parade of sail, tall ships, sailing regatta of Red Wings, and more, Plus live music and entertainment, pop up stalls and beach activities for all the family!  This will take place from the 26th-29th August         

Find out more about The Island’s Regatta

13. Bournemouth Air Festival, Bournemouth, Dorset - August

Bournemouth Air Festival © VisitBournemouth Bournemouth Air Festival © VisitBournemouth

This free festival brings together the thrill of gravity-defying displays in the air and an abundance of family entertainment on the ground against the spectacular backdrop of one of the UK’s best seaside resort.  The skies of Bournemouth host some of the world’s best military and civilian aviation display teams and a huge off shore naval presence. When the sun goes down, Night Air entertainment lights up the skies with night flying illuminated by pyrotechnics and the moon.

Find out more about Bournemouth Air Festival

14. The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire - October

For ten days every Autumn, Cheltenham is transformed into a literary lover's dream as over 600 of the world's finest writers, actors, politicians, poets and leading opinion formers help to celebrate the joy of the written word.  Alongside a programme of nearly 500 debates, interviews and workshops, the Book It! festival within a festival is for families and young readers.  Established in 1949, The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival is one of the oldest literary events in the world - with a feast of superstar speakers from award-winning novelists to Hollywood legends, in an unrivalled setting in the heart of Cheltenham.

Find out more about Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

15. Longleat Festival of Light, Longleat, Wiltshire - End November - early January

A Chinese Lion at the Festival of Lights, Longleat © VisitEngland A Chinese Lion at the Festival of Lights, Longleat © VisitEngland

See the beautiful parkland of Longleat transformed over the winter on a visit to the Festival of Lights. The festival is Europe’s largest display of Chinese lanterns and features hundreds of illuminated designs. Some of the designs are up to 20 metres in height and 70 metres in length offering scenes including Safari Park animals, Chinese boats and dragons. In addition to the Festival of Lights, visitors can enjoy ice skating, the Santa trains and a fairy-tale Christmas within Longleat House with fairy-tale characters Cinderella, Prince Charming and Red Riding Hood to name a few.       

Find out more about Longleat Festival of Light


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