The UK and Ireland have no shortage of long-standing events and exciting festivals. While many are steeped in centuries of tradition, others are new additions that reflect their contemporary cultures.
Traditional British Festivals and Events
Britain has a plethora of great traditional events. Get involved with a centuries old convention by joining the hundreds of people who converge on prehistoric Stonehenge during the Summer and Winter Solstices. If Vikings are more your area, a day trip to York during its Jorvik Viking Festival in February is a must.
If Wales is on your agenda, make some time for the country’s National Eisteddfod music and poetry festival that was first founded in 1861. Alternatively, soak up Northern Irish culture – from dancing to gastronomy – at Dalriada Festival at the glorious Glenarm Castle.
Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) is one of the biggest events in Scotland. Journey to Edinburgh to join in with the street parties and watch the city’s historic torch procession down the Royal Mile. Inverness also hosts Red Hot Highland Fling, a free Hogmanay celebration with live music.
Other Scottish festivals include Burn’s Night in January, which celebrates the famous poet Rabbie Burns, and St. Andrew’s Day in November. You’ll discover events for both in most cities and towns, including Glasgow’s St. Andrew’s Torchlight Parade. And if you’re keen to sample authentic Scottish cuisine, don’t miss the Loch Lomond Food and Drink Festival in early September.
British Arts and Music Festivals
Summer music festivals are popular in Britain. Glastonbury Festival offers up something for everyone, while smaller options like WOMAD in Wiltshire celebrate musicians and artists from around the globe. Many London parks also host day festivals, plus classical music aficionados can enjoy performances at the BBC Proms.
Edinburgh is the ideal city to visit if you’re a festival lover as it organizes over ten events every year, including the Edinburgh Fringe. Book a trip to the Scottish capital in August and take your pick of thousands of drama, comedy and experimental performances.
British Sporting Events
As the birthplace of many of the world’s best-loved sports, Britain unsurprisingly hosts multiple events which celebrate them. See tennis champions compete on Centre Court at Wimbledon in early July, dress up for the Royal Ascot horse racing in June, or cheer on the rowers at Henley Regatta.
St. Patrick’s Day on March 17 is one of the most important Irish festivals. Travel to Dublin to see the city’s buildings illuminated green and enjoy four days of exciting festivities. Cork also celebrates with performances and food markets, while Northern Ireland’s cities commemorate the saint with street parades.
In June, you can join in with the Bloomsday Festival in Dublin which celebrates James Joyce’s masterpiece, Ulysses. Attendees dress up as key characters, enjoy readings and visit locations mentioned in the book.
Galway on Ireland’s west coast is famed for its multiple festivals, including the Galway International Arts Festival and Galway Oyster Festival. If you’re a fan of the Gothic, make a trip to Derry at the end of October for the largest Halloween celebration in Europe.
British and Irish Public Holidays
You’ll want to make a note of the UK and Ireland’s major public holidays (also known as bank holidays) as many businesses close and public transport may run on a reduced timetable. Easter and Christmas are the main ones, however, there are other public holidays throughout the year, including the first and last Monday of May.
Ireland additionally has a national holiday for St. Patrick’s Day in March and a bank holiday on the last Monday of October. While most public holidays are the same across the UK, Northern Ireland has an extra one on July 12.
Make your vacation extra memorable by booking your visit to coincide with a wonderful British event or Irish festival.