The best UK festivals


The UK's music festivals are world-famous, but there is plenty more to celebrate in the country's quirky roster of top UK festivals. Festivals in the UK celebrate everything from poetry to Vikings, and even the failed attempt of Guy Fawkes' bombing. Here's a selection of the UK's best festivals all year round.
25 January: Burns Night, Scotland. On 25 January, Scots celebrate the life and works of Scotland's national poet Robert Burns by holding a special Burns Supper. This can be a casual gathering of friends or a huge formal dinner. Either way, the menu will likely include haggis (a sheep's stomach stuffed with seasoned offal), neeps (turnips) and tatties (mashed potatoes). Someone will recite a poem called Address to a haggis before everyone toasts the haggis and tucks in. Guests then take it in turn to recite Burns' poems or sing one of his songs. At some Burns Suppers, there are pipers to welcome in the guests - and the haggis. The evening continues with toasts to Burns, more poems and ends with the song Auld Lang Syne.
February: Jorvik Viking Festival, York. Viking lovers from all over the world - around 40,000 at the last count - gather for the annual Jorvik Viking Festival in the city of York, a city with a rich Viking heritage. You can expect battle re-enactments, combat performances, crafts, guided walks, talks, music, archaeological sessions and family-friendly events around the city.
May: Jack in the Green, Hastings The Hastings Jack in the Green Festival celebrates the start of summer on 1 May (May Day) with its famous Jack in the Green procession, plus events held throughout the first week of the month. May Day celebrations date back to the Celts, but it was in the 16th and 17th centuries when people started making head decorations out of flowers and leaves. In time, chimney sweeps wore such large decorations that they covered the whole body and Jack in the Green was born.
There are Jack in the Green celebrations elsewhere in the UK, but Hastings' are considered the best. Everyone dresses up, and 'Jack', who is covered with leaves, parades through the Old Town accompanied by traditional Morris Dancers, giants and musicians. The procession ends at West Hill where Jack is 'killed' in order to release the spirit of summer.
May: Hay Festival, Hay-on-Wye, Wales. For 10 days each May, the small town of Hay-on-Wye on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales is filled with writers, filmmakers, musicians, comedians, politicians - and people who come to hear them talk and exchange ideas. Bill Clinton once described the Hay Festival as 'the Woodstock of the mind'. The festival celebrates great writing of all genres and it all takes place in a tented village in the town. There’s no one overall festival ticket, you just buy a ticket to the event that you want to see, and many are free. There’s a kids’ program too. In between gigs, hire a bike and explore the spectacular countryside.