Bank holiday bangers: great late August festivals and fun

Bank holiday bangers: great late August festivals and fun

The long weekend will see brilliant music, arts and food festivals, along with great-value breaks. Our pick takes in giant feasts, outdoor adventures and cool places to stay

Dancers at Notting Hill Carnival, London, UK
Stoke the fire … the Notting Hill Carnival is London’s biggest attraction over the bank holiday weekend. Photograph: Getty Images

Places to stay

It’s not too late to book a last-minute bank holiday getaway. Carmarthenshire in Wales is quieter than many of the UK’s hotspots and Brechfa Farm on the River Pid in the Cothi Valley makes a great base. The 22-acre smallholding has geese, chicken and alpacas (which guests can take for a walk) and Brechfa village with pub and play park is close by. The four yurts (each sleeps four) have proper beds and woodburners and the whole site can be hired. There’s currently a 25% discount; three nights from 23 August cost £356 sleeping up to four).

Campsites with onsite activities are a winner for families. Yurtcamp, in Liverton (near Newton Abbot), south Devon, has 22 yurts and activities including zipwires, an assault course and a wooded fort (from £507 for three nights in a large yurt for up to six, from 23 August). At Camp Katur, an off-grid campsite near Bedale, North Yorkshire, there’s quadbiking, a treetop adventure course and a climbing wall, plus a well-equipped communal kitchen and accommodation from teepees to geodomes. Bell tents for four cost from £150 for three nights from 23 August.

Corner Thatch, Abbots Morton, Worcestershire
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Corner Thatch, Abbots Morton, Worcestershire. Photograph: Simon Foster

In Cornwall, on the Rame Heritage Coast south of Plymouth, brand new Wilder Me has six geodomes in a wildflower conservation area, with sweeping sea views. Profits are used to run nature retreats for adults with autism. A three-night stay for two over bank holiday costs £255.

Many cottage companies have last-minute discounts, too. Rural Retreats’ offers include the chocolate-box Corner Thatch cottage in Abbots Morton, Worcestershire, which sleeps four and now costs £518.50 for three nights from 23 August (reduced by nearly £100).

A narrow boat in the Peak District on the Caldon Canal between Stoke-on-Trent and Leek.
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A narrow boat in the Peak District on the Caldon Canal between Stoke-on-Trent and Leek

Or take to the water on a narrowboat. Savings over bank holiday include a discount of more than £400 on a boat for four, based at Gailey on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal. Three nights on Common Kestrel costs £666 from 23 August. No experience is needed as instruction is provided.

There are also big savings to be had on a Peak District boating trip: £353 to be precise, starting from Stoke-on-Trent. The 16-metre Princess narrowboat, sleeping six, costs £826 for three nights.

Food and drink

Big Feastival.
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Big Feastival, on Churchill Heath Farm, Oxfordshire, which is owned by Alex James of Blur. Photograph: Justine Trickett

The two-day Bury St Edmunds food festival in Suffolk (free, 25-26 August) takes over the town centre, with cooking demonstrations from celebrity chefs such as Nick Nairn, 100 food and drink stalls along the Buttermarket and Cornhill, and a farmers’ market. The festival is particularly family-friendly: there is a beach on Charter Square; a mini-farm with pygmy goats, miniature pigs and pint-sized ponies; fairground rides; and entertainment including Punch & Judy, magicians and face-painting.

The Hampton Court Palace food festival in Richmond, London (from £21.30 adult/£10.70 child, 24-26 August), has appearances from Michel Roux Jr and Nadiya Hussain; the Big Feastival (from £67/£40 day ticket, £157.50/£90 weekend, 23-25 August) is a music and food festival on Alex James’s Cotswolds farm, with Rudimental and Jess Glynne among the live acts; Bolton food and drink festival (23-26 August) has free and ticketed events including the Hairy Bikers and Gregg Wallace; and the Great British Food festival at Stonyhurst College, Lancashire (£8.10/£3.33, 24-26 August) has foraging walks and chef demos.

Hampton Court Palace food festival.
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Hampton Court Palace food festival

Drinkers may prefer the Swansea Bay beer and cider festival (£3 for Camra members/£5 non-Camra, 22-24 August), with 100 real ales, ciders and perries, many of them from Wales, and the Rutland beer festival in Oakham (free, 22-26 August), with 70 real ales. The heritage Churnet Valley Railway in Staffordshire is holding a Spirits of the Railway event (£12, 23-26 August), with 30 gins, 10 rums, five vodkas and five whiskies to sample on the 11-mile journey. Stations will have entertainment, barbecues and gin slushies.

In London, the pop-up Fentiman’s Secret Spritz Garden (free entry) has opened in Farringdon, Wednesdays to Saturdays until 29 August, serving low-alcohol spritzes such as martini with rhubarb tonic, prosecco with rose lemonade or Lillet blanc with Valencian orange tonic. It is also open on bank holiday Sunday (25 August), when there is a herbal cocktail masterclass and live jazz.

Street life

Pride Cymru, Wales
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Pride Cymru, Cardiff

There are several pride events taking place over the bank holiday weekend. The biggest is Manchester Pride (free and ticketed events, 23-26 August), which includes a music festival headlined by Ariana Grande; Superbia, a programme of film, art and talks; a Gay Village street party; a new Youth Pride event; a candlelit vigil; and, of course, the Pride Parade, this year commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. Others include Pride Cymru in Cardiff (free and ticketed, 23-25 August), with four stages and a parade; Cornwall Pride in Newquay (free and ticketed, 24 August), with a family Rainbow Fest and an adult Moonbow party; and Southampton Pride (free, 24 August), with S Club 3 on the main stage.

The Notting Hill Carnival
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Exotic costume at the Notting Hill Carnival. Photograph: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

The Notting Hill Carnival (free, 25-26 August) in west London is one of the biggest street festivals in the world, celebrating black British culture with music, dancing, parades and street food. But it is not the only bank holiday carnival – Leeds West Indian Carnival also has a costumed parade (free, 26 August). In Lincoln, the streets will be filled with people in a different kind of fancy dress, attending the world’s biggest Steampunk festival (free and ticketed, 23-26 August). For families with younger children, A Beastly Adventure (free, 25 August) at Smithfields Market in central London stands out. It has been curated by the Museum of London themed around the city’s animals; apparently, visitors will learn to dance like a bee.

Outdoors and active

Helmeted kids on a Via ferrata
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Climning a via ferrata on Much Better Adventure Holidays’ Scottish Highland trip

Spend an adventure-filled weekend in the Scottish mountains outside Fort William, canyoning, trekking, tackling a via ferrata and camping under the stars. Much Better Adventures has lots of options over the bank holiday, including a two-night trip to the Highlands, with a guided ascent of Ben Nevis, too. Three days, with all technical and camping equipment and most meals, costs £354. Venture Sail has a discounted Hebrides sailing and wildlife watching trip on board expedition yacht Zuza, departing from Oban for three nights, for £441 (reduced from £490) visiting remote islands (no experience necessary).

For something gentle, Saddle Skedaddle has a three-day, self-guided family cycling trip along Hadrian’s Cycleway. Historic sites range from Hadrian’s Wall to Roman forts, through landscapes of river valleys and gentle hills, staying in bed and breakfasts with luggage transported. Adults from £295 B&B, children from £177. In the New Forest, The Rattler Endurance Weekend features optional lake swimming, cycling and running, with a choice of distances and camping (all three events £80, individual events from £30, limited camping £25 a pitch).

Surfing at Fistral Beach.
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Surfing at Fistral Beach. Photograph: Carlo Bollo/Alamy

The new Surfing for Scaredy Cats package at Cornwall’s Esplanade Hotel on Fistral Beach, Newquay, promises ocean-based action for all the family (children need to be at least seven). Perfect for first-timers and suitable for all ages, it includes a two-hour family surf lesson with Quiksilver instructors, all equipment and a beach picnic as well as goodie bags and two nights’ B&B in a family room for four, from £650. The hotel has a pool, sauna and Jacuzzi as well as play areas and pirate ship. Stay without the surf package for £410 B&B.

PGL Family Adventures has a discounted weekend offer for two nights starting 24 August at seven of its centres – including Shropshire, Lincolnshire and the Isle of Wight – everyone pays £99 each for three days, which includes all meals and six activities from archery to climbing. Accommodation is in bunk-bedded family rooms.

Lap the Lough (£39 for the full ride, 23-25 August) is an annual cycle ride around Lough Neagh, starting at Moy in County Tyrone. For those who don’t fancy cycling the full 89 miles, this year there are two new events: a 25-mile round trip to a pop-up cinema in Armagh, and a six-mile family picnic ride.

Gardens

Chinese and Mexican folk dancers will be among performers at this year’s Belfast Mela
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Chinese and Mexican folk dancers (pictured in the Botanic Gardens) will be among performers at this year’s Belfast Mela. Photograph: Darren Kidd/@Press Eye

The Belfast Mela (£7/£6, 25 August) takes place in the city’s Botanic Gardens, which will be transformed into a global garden celebrating culture and diversity. There will be drummers from Ghana, a brass band from Rajasthan and a choir from Russia, plus a north African souk and a world food market.

At the National Botanic Garden of Wales in Carmarthenshire, the Pollinator Festival (from £11.49/£5.50, 24-26 August) will offer visitors the chance to learn how to attract pollinating insects to their own gardens. Burley Manor in Hampshire is hosting a Mediterranean garden party (£20 including a glass of sparkling wine, adults only, 25 August), with Spanish, Italian, Greek and Moroccan food; wine from Hambledon vineyard and tasting sessions on its double-decker bus; and wandering acoustic musicians. Similarly, the Fish hotel near Broadway in the Cotswolds is holding a Big Bank Holiday Bash (£25/£10 including food, 26 August) on its 400-acre estate, with a feasting deck (lamb kofta tacos, baked spuds with barbecue beans) and tipple tent (Cotswold gin, Corney & Barrow wine), fairground games, charity sheep racing and a dog show.

Enchanted Horsham secret illuminated gardens
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Enchanted Horsham secret illuminated gardens

As the sun sets at Horsham Park in West Sussex, the secret illuminated gardens of Enchanted Horsham (£20 adult/£5 child, 23-25 August) will reveal dragons, unicorns and mermaids. There are fire shows, lifesize puppets and roving performers, plus a silent disco and a show based around folk tales.

The Grove Hotel in Hertfordshire has a pop-up Everyman cinema in its walled garden, showing everything from crowd-pleasers, such as The Greatest Showman, to the Jordan Peele horror film Us (from £45/£22, including dinner and film).

Nature

Camp Wilderness at Castle Howard
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Camp Wilderness at Castle Howard

Camp Wilderness runs three- and five-day summer camps in six UK locations, teaching children how to survive in the wild. Over the bank holiday, there is a camp at Castle Howard (from £175, 26-28 August), a stately home surrounded by woodland and lakes in North Yorkshire. Children will build and sleep in shelters, light campfires and make wood-fired pizzas on them, learn wilderness first aid, swim in the lakes and try archery. The camp is suitable for ages six to 15.

If a residential wilderness trip sounds a little too gnarly, the same company is running bushcraft days at Penhurst Place in Kent, teaching skills such as whittling, knot-tying and campfire cooking (£12 adult/£6.50 child, 25-26 August).

Lots of country shows take place over the bank holiday weekend. One of the best is the Malham Show (£10 adult/child free, 24 August) in the Yorkshire Dales, which has displays from the Cumbrian Axemen Team and traditional crafts and produce in addition to sheep, cattle, horses and dogs. There are events to enter too, from mountain-bike orienteering and fell races to an egg-throwing contest.

A fell race at the Malham Show in the Yorkshire Dales.
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A fun fell race at the Malham Show in the Yorkshire Dales. Photograph: Stephen Garnett

Those living in the south of England might head to Godstone Farm (from £8.90, until 1 September) in Surrey, which is celebrating its 40th birthday with a Festival on the Farm, designed for “free-range children”. As well as all the farmyard animals and playgrounds, there’ll be extra craft workshops, a noisy music zone and live performers.

If the weather lends itself to a long walk, there will be three guided wildlife rambles on the Isle of Rum, a national nature reserve in the Inner Hebrides. A ranger will lead walkers to spots where there’s a good chance to see deer, seals, birds and wildflowers (£5/£2.50, 24-26 August).

Art and music

Hub festival, Cardiff.
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Hub festival, Cardiff. Photograph: Jonathan Baker

The Exeter Street Arts festival (free and ticketed events, 24 August) fills the city with music, theatre, art and dance. This year there are giant kangaroos on bouncing stilts, street dance workshops, a graffiti academy and a family rave. In the evening, the action heads into the Exeter Phoenix for a gig headlined by Yellowman and an afterparty.

In Wiltshire, the Devizes International Street festival (free, 25-26 August) on the green has circus acts, walkabout shows and street performers. The Arundel festival (free and ticketed events, until 26 August) is a multi-arts event with a Party by the River, a gallery trail, a dragon boat race and street entertainers. The Curious Arts festival and the Byline festival, running concurrently in Pippingford Park in the Ashdown Forest, East Sussex (from £115 for a weekend ticket to both festivals, 23-26 August), have a literary bent – Byline also claims to be “the only festival trying to change the world” with an environmental theme. The Hub festival in Cardiff’s Womanby Street (£26 adult/£14 youth, 23-25 August) is a multi-genre weekender with 150 live music acts on 13 stages, comedy, spoken word and poetry.

The Curious Arts festival.
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The Curious Arts festival. Photograph: Richard Hanson

Tickets to Reading festival have sold out, but Leeds (same lineup on different days) still has capacity. Foo Fighters, the 1975 and Post Malone headline, with Bastille on the second stage (from £69.50 day/£205 weekend, 22-25 August).

Those who have left their teenage years behind might prefer New Order at the Victorious festival in Portsmouth (from £45 day/£125 weekend, 23-25 August) or East 17 and 10CC at the Sunshine festival in Upton-upon-Severn, Worcestershire (from £80 weekend, day tickets sold out, 23-25 August).

For a different vibe, try the Cottingham folk festival (£86.83 weekend or gigs individually priced) in East Yorkshire, with a lineup including Newton Faulkner, Frank Turner and the Magic Numbers, or the Great British Rhythm and Blues festival in Colne, Lancashire (£45 day/£99 weekend, 23-25 August).

Beaches

Hope Cove weekend
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Hope Cove weekend

The Hope Cove Weekend (free, 23-26 August) is a fun family event on this beach in south Devon, with land and sea races, sandcastle competitions, live music and folk dancing, a hog roast and fireworks on the Saturday night.

August bank holiday in Brighton means one thing – The Brighton Mod Weekender (daytime events are free, evening events at Komedia from £12), with four days of vintage fairs, afternoon DJ sessions and club nights from 22 August. On the Sunday there’s also a celebration of 40 years since Quadrophenia the Movie, with Q&As with the cast, live music and a screening of the film.

Brighton Mod Weekender.
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Brighton Mod Weekender. Photograph: Haydn Denman/Alamy

For old-fashioned seaside fun, Cromer on Norfolk’s north coast hosts the World Crabbing Competition on 25 August, with competitors battling to catch the most or biggest crabs from the pier, and stalls selling local food, drink and crafts.

But you don’t need to go to the sea to enjoy the beach this bank holiday. The Bristol Beach Club has transformed Millennium Square with sand, cabanas and beach huts (until 7 September). Activities include sunrise yoga and petanque, and there are vegan pizzas, acai bowls and cocktails on tap. Visitors can watch films on the Big Screen Bristol from deckchairs and there are DJs at weekends. Other urban beaches can be found on Old Market Square in Nottingham and Victoria Gardens in Leeds (both until 1 September).

Looking for a holiday with a difference? Browse Guardian Holidays to see a range of fantastic trips

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