Literary Festivals are a bookworm’s paradise. A line-up of events dedicated to everything bookish, including talks and signings by your favourite authors, they feature all the best bits of music festivals – just without the mosh pits and mud! Last year I went to the Hay Festival and it was an idyllic day spent browsing books, listening to inspiring discussions and eating tasty food (read about my trip to Hay here).
From Cornwall to Edinburgh, they’re often held in picturesque rural settings or vibrant cities so you can make a trip of it by incorporating a day or two at the festival as part of a mini-break. I’ve picked out some of the best Literary Festivals taking place in the UK this year to add to your cultural calendar.
19 – 28 May | The Bath Festival
A new flagship festival for Bath with literature and music at its heart, The Bath Festival programme features over 130 events across 10 days. From Mary Berry and Madeline Shaw to Sarah Perry and Victoria Hislop, I wrote a post about all the talks I’m looking forward to at The Bath Festival, which you can read here.
Highlight: books and the beautiful heritage city of Bath, what more could you want?! Plus, don’t miss the big Party in the City on Friday 19th May to launch the festival.
25 May – 4 June | Hay Festival
This year Hay Festival celebrates its 30th birthday and like always, will bring writers and readers together to share stories and ideas in events that inspire, examine and entertain. From live performances by musicians and discussions with historians, to author signings and creative writing master classes, this year’s line-up is truly impressive and has something for everyone. The Festival Food Hall offers an amazing selection of locally produced, freshly-made food and is not to be missed. It took me ages to decide what to have for lunch when I went last year!
Highlight: so many amazing writers in one place including Bettany Hughes, Jacqueline Wilson, Tracy Emin, Stephen Fry, Tracy Chevalier, Helen Fielding, Victoria Hislop, Paula Hawkins, Lucy Worsely… the list goes on!
7 – 17 July | Festival of Words and Ideas
Dartington Hall, Devon
Set in the rolling green fields and formal gardens of an estate in Devon, the Festival of Words and Ideas brings people together to celebrate the written and spoken word. 10 days of engaging events with writers, journalists and experts, keep an eye out on their website for the full programme to be released soon.
Highlight: they offer all-inclusive accommodation packages to stay in the spectacular setting of the medieval courtyard on the estate.
20 – 23 July | Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival
In its 15th year, the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival is ideal for fans of crime thrillers. A weekend dedicated to celebrating the very best in crime fiction and held in the historic Old Swan Hotel, the festival has a welcoming, friendly vibe despite some quite morbid discussions! This year’s line-up includes Ian Rankin, Val McDermid and Lee Child, with more names to be announced.
Highlight: the Old Sawn Hotel is where Agatha Christie was found ten days after mysteriously disappearing in December 1926, making it the perfect location to inspire crime writing!
27 – 30 July | Port Eliot Festival
St. Germans, Cornwall
The Port Eliot Festival sounds like a Midsummer Night’s Dream. A stately home set in a 6,000 acre estate in Cornwall, Port Eliot turns into a playground for one magical weekend. From swimming in the estuary to going on a wild foraging walk or learning how to do paper cutting and botanical illustration in one of the workshops, there’s so much to do. No to mention the fantastic literary line-up of speakers, which includes food writers, novelists, historians and cultural commentators. A celebration of words, music, imagination and ideas, it’s a creative person’s heaven and the more I look at the programme the more I want to go!
Highlight: it’s in Cornwall. ‘nuff said.
12 – 28 August | Edinburgh International Book Festival
An oasis of calm among the frantic activity of the Edinburgh Fringe, the Edinburgh International Book Festival takes place in a Bake Off-esque tented village in Charlotte Square Gardens. There’s something for every age and every interest with more than 800 authors and 700 events to choose from, and all in the heart of the stunning city of Edinburgh.
Highlight: it coincides with the Edinburgh Fringe Festival so you can kill two birds with one stone and have a super cultured getaway.
These are just a handful of the Literary Festivals happening this year and, if you’re looking for one that’s predominately devoted to music but incorporates literature too then there are plenty, like Glastonbury and Latitude, which have areas or stages for readings and poetry. I’m hoping I make it to at least a couple of Literary Festivals this summer and I’d love to hear if you’re planning on attending any – let me know in the comments below.