The United Kingdom is arguably the cultural and sporting capital of the world – after all, it is the birthplace of William Shakespeare, the Glastonbury Festival, and tennis!
Every year, thousands of festivals and sporting events all across the country celebrate this rich history, but 2017 offers a host of one-of-a-kind celebrations too. So rediscover your love of the arts and your passion for sports at these unforgettable events and activities, which showcase the very best of the UK’s past, present and future.
Jane Austen 200 – A life in Hampshire
2017 marks 200 years since Austen passed away, and there are plenty of events scheduled in 2017 to celebrate one of Britain’s most beloved writers. Since Austen spent most of her years in Hampshire that is where you will find the lion’s share of the celebrations. Winchester offers exhibitions, a unique walking trail; the Austen House and Museum will be open and offering exclusive events; there are open gardens in the village of Chawton and much more! http://janeausten200.co.uk/
Year of Legends – Snowdonia, Wales
Wales is celebrating a ‘Year of Legends’ in 2017, and perhaps the best time to visit is early spring when the new film King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is released. Much of the film was captured in the Snowdonia National Park, whilst the region plays into the legend itself. It is rumoured that Arthur defeated the giant Rhitta atop Snowdon, whilst his sword Excalibur is said to have been thrown into the waters of Llyn Llydaw by Sir Bedivere upon the king’s death. https://www.visitsnowdonia.info/.
North Wales – Lonely Planet’s ‘Best in Travel’ 2017
A well-deserved win for the gorgeous region of North Wales. Enjoy a host of unique activities, including the longest man-made waves, the world’s fastest zip line and huge subterranean trampolines in the caverns beneath Blaenau Ffestiniog. It’s a bold reinvention and perfect for outdoor enthusiasts, so perfect for a 2017 break. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/best-in-travel/regions
Cavern Club, Liverpool – 60th anniversary – Liverpool
Once an unassuming live Jazz venue, this bar on Liverpool’s waterfront became a cultural mecca due to early skiffle performances by the Quarrymen in the late 1950s – eventually becoming The Beatles and performing under that name at the Cavern in 1961. Though closed and rebuilt in the interim, the Cavern is still a live music venue and a mainstay for Beatles fans visiting their hometown. https://www.cavernclub.org
Sherlock Holmes’ 125th Birthday – Various Locations
A Study in Scarlet the debut case of Sherlock Holmes was published in 1887. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous creation is commemorated with a statue opposite the author’s birthplace in Picardy Place Edinburgh. In the south you could visit Baker Street or Upper Wimpole Street in London – Holmes and Doyle’s respective dwellings. Bristol is where much of the recent BBC TV series was filmed, or there’s Stonyhurst College in Lancashire, where Doyle attended school in the company of a classmate known as Moriarty (we suspect they didn’t get along!). Incidentally, another visitor to the college was J.R.R. Tolkien, so it’s a one stop shop for classic literature.
Hull, City of Culture – 2017
A 365-day cultural celebration of Hull broadcast to the world. 2017 promises a host of unique events with Opera North transforming the Humber Bridge into a piece of music, the 2017 Turner Prize being hosted at the city’s Ferens art gallery (following a £4.5m revamp), world premieres, exclusive festivals and much more. https://www.hull2017.co.uk/
Donald Campbell’s Bluebird K7 – 50 Year Anniversary – Coniston, Lake District
Campbell died in January 1967 while trying to break his own speed record on Coniston Water in the Lake District. Engineer Bill Smith is working to restore Campbell’s ‘Bluebird K7’ vehicle with the aim of bringing it back to the water. In the meantime, the Ruskin Museum is the perfect place to experience Campbell’s story and see the restored K7. http://www.ruskinmuseum.com.
Brecon Beacons National Park – 60th Birthday
A beautiful tapestry of grassy moorland, forests and pastures, the Brecon Beacons is one of the jewels in Wales’ crown of wonderful natural expanses. 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the Brecon Beacons National Park, so this year is the perfect time to visit! Enjoy exploring stunning vistas in the day and the gazing at the glorious clear heavens at night (the park received International Dark Sky accreditation in 2013). http://www.cottages.com/wales/brecon-beacons
Enid Blyton’s Famous Five – 75th Birthday – RHS Gardens nationwide May & August
Blyton’s intrepid adventurers will be celebrating 2017 in style with reprints of their classic adventures and activities taking place in the Royal Horticultural Society’s flagship gardens: Yorkshire, Essex, Greater Manchester, Devon and Surrey. Expect adventure trails, storytelling workshops and lashings of ginger beer, culminating in a big celebration on 11 August – Blyton’s 120th birthday! https://www.rhs.org.uk
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – 20th Anniversary of Publication – June
Amazingly it was 20 years ago that Harry Potter was introduced to the world. In the years since we’ve had 8 films, about as many books and countless other ways to enjoy J.K. Rowling’s tales. Take a look at the cottages.com guide to Harry Potter filming locations in the UK, visit the incredibly popular Harry Potter attraction at the Warner Brothers Studio Tour In London or just pop past your local bookshop, curl up by the fire and lose yourself in the enchanting literary world of the boy wizard. https://www.wbstudiotour.co.uk
Oxford v Cambridge Boat Race – between Bishop’s Park and Furnivall Gardens – first Sunday in April
The rivalry between Oxford University and Cambridge University goes back hundreds of years, and each year it comes to a playful head at this famous boat race. Find a comfy spot on the banks of the River Thames, pack a traditional lunch of lemonade and cucumber sandwiches, and cheer on the rowers on their way past. http://theboatraces.org/
If boats aren’t really your thing, there is also the Oxford v Cambridge Goat Race, which is held concurrently in Spitalfields City Farm http://www.thegoatrace.org.
Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival – Strathspey – end of April
The Speyside area in north-east Scotland has the highest concentration of malt whisky distilleries in the world, with more than 50 at last count. The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival brings whisky devotees together to sample the local produce and visit some stunning rural locations where you can watch the whisky-making process in person. https://www.spiritofspeyside.com/
Shakespeare’s Birthday Celebrations – Stratford-upon-Avon – 23rd April
William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in April 1564, and the picturesque town has been synonymous with the Bard ever since. Each year, processions and public events are held to mark Shakespeare’s birthday, while his plays are performed by local theatre troupes and the Royal Shakespeare Company. https://www.shakespearescelebrations.com/
The London Marathon – across London – end of April
As one of the world’s most popular marathons, entry is strictly by ballot only, but anyone can watch the brave runners making their way through the city of London. The 26-mile route takes in landmarks such as Big Ben, London Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral, before finishing in front of Buckingham Palace. https://www.virginmoneylondonmarathon.com/en-gb/
Hay Festival – Hay-on-Wye – late May
Britain’s biggest literary festival has a habit of attracting some really big names. Think Bill Clinton, David Frost and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Dozens of authors, poets and philosophers host talks in tiny venues, making it one of the most intellectual (and influential) festivals in the world. https://www.hayfestival.com/
Solstice at Stonehenge – 21st June – Stonehenge
No one knows what the stones of Stonehenge are meant to represent, or how they got there more than 5,000 years ago, but that doesn’t stop people from speculating. Many people believe that the stones have a deep spiritual significance, largely due to the position of the ‘rising stone’, which falls perfectly in line with the sun during the summer solstice. Hundreds of people gather here on 21st June to see this for themselves, and a four-day long Stonehenge Solstice Festival has even sprung up for super-fans. http://www.stonehengecampsite.co.uk/solstice_festival
Wimbledon, The Championships – South London – starts on the last Monday in June.
There is something quintessentially British about watching a tennis match in Wimbledon on a warm (ok, grey and drizzly) summer’s day while you sip a glass of Pimms and eat strawberries and cream. The world’s most famous tennis courts have played host to countless sporting legends over the years, while A-list celebrities and members of the royal family are frequently spotted watching from the Royal Box. If you aren’t lucky enough to get a VIP invite, you can apply for tickets through the Wimbledon ballot, or queue for returns a day in advance. http://www.wimbledon.com/index.html
Edinburgh Festival Fringe 70th Anniversary – Edinburgh – month of August
Somehow a month isn’t long enough to experience all the culture that Edinburgh has to offer. This massive arts festival boasts some of the biggest and brightest names in comedy, theatre, literature and drama, all held against the backdrop of beautiful Edinburgh city. Don’t be afraid to venture off the beaten track – there are some hidden gems to be found away from the main venues. With the Edinburgh festivals celebrating their 70th anniversary, there’s going to be plenty to enjoy! https://tickets.edfringe.com/
Bog Snorkelling Championships – end of August – Llanwrtyd Wells
It started as a joke, but has now become one of Wales’ most popular sporting events – bog snorkelling. Each summer, contestants from all over the world line up to swim through the peat bogs of Waen Rhydd in Llanwrtyd Wells, while hundreds gather to watch from the safety of the banks, with a pint of ale at close range. http://www.green-events.co.uk/events.html?id=57
Eden Sessions – the Eden Project – Cornwall, all summer
Cornwall’s innovative Eden Project is worth a visit any time of the year, but it is particularly special during the Eden Sessions – a series of musical events which take place in the Biomes (domes and botanical gardens). Past performers include Elton John and Motorhead, and tickets are – understandably – in very high demand. http://www.edensessions.com/
Heritage Open Days – early September – across England
Many of England’s most historic buildings are not open to the public. Unless you visit on a Heritage Open Day. Each year, for a few days, 5000 castles, windmills, bunkers and other quirky homes open their doors to curious visitors, who can explore them free of charge. Plan well in advance so you get to see as many places as possible! https://www.heritageopendays.org.uk/
Notting Hill Carnival – West London – second bank holiday in August
The Notting Hill Carnival started out as a tribute to West London’s Caribbean population, and it is still a joyous riot of music, dancing, singing and eating – complete with colourful sequined costumes! Saturday is the best day for families. http://thelondonnottinghillcarnival.com/
Cowes Week – Isle of Wight – start of August
The UK’s best-known regatta attracts sailors from around the world to the sleepy harbour town of Cowes on the Isle of Wight. More than 40 boat races take place over the course of the week, and the Solent is speckled with white sails as far as the eye can see. https://www.sunsail.co.uk/events/cowes-week
Scottish Highland Games – across Scotland – all summer
In the Highlands of Scotland, old traditions are proudly maintained, and the Highland Games is one of the best-loved traditions of all. Where else could you watch men in kilts take part in ancient sports such as the caber toss and the tug o’ war, while bagpipers play along in the background? Compete if you dare, but this is one event which is probably more fun for the spectators than the participants. http://www.shga.co.uk/events.php
Bonfire Night – Lewes – 5th November
Bonfire night is a peculiarly British tradition – commemorating Guy Fawkes’ failed plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament way back in the 16th century. Across the country, bonfires are lit and effigies of Fawkes are burned, but Lewes in Sussex takes things to a whole other level. Costumed locals march through the town holding burning torches and fiery symbols, before a giant bonfire is lit on the outskirts of town. http://www.lewesbonfirecelebrations.com/
Lord Mayor’s Show – across London – every November
The Lord Mayor’s Show is a great family day out, and the perfect introduction to London life. Cheer on the Lord Mayor’s flotilla on the Thames, follow the extravagant cross-London procession, then watch an epic fireworks display light up the sky after dark. https://lordmayorsshow.london/