Hardly a weekend goes by in spring, summer and autumn without an action-packed festival on the Isle of Wight. This small Island deserves its reputation as the UK’s home of festivals, which began with Cowes Week in 1826 and continued with Hendrix and The Doors performing to a crowd of 600,000 in 1970.
The big crowds can still be found watching the headline acts at the Isle of Wight Festival or at Cowes Week’s celebration of sailing, sunshine and champers. A relaxed musical vibe can be found at a series of smaller festivals which include the Wight Proms and the Wolverton Folk and Blues Fair.
The natural landscape and good weather is best shown off with the annual walking festival, as well as charming village shows and a series of colourful carnivals and parades. And for something quirky, drop in to Ventnor’s Fringe Festival or order a pint of beer at the Garlic Festival. In short, there’s something for everyone! Read on to discover what these festivals on the Isle of Wight have in store for you.
When: 7th - 15th May and 8th - 16th October
Where: Various locations
Access: Most walks start from a car park, or check the Southern Vectis website for bus times
Ever participated in a walking festival? Ramblers rave about the Isle of Wight’s 500 miles of footpath which criss-cross a space of just 23 by 13 miles. Get yourself a cardio workout on holiday by signing up for one of 100 walks over two weeks – one in the spring and another in the autumn. The coastal path offers many of the headline views but the annual festival also explores the Island’s history of dinosaurs, artists, wartime battles and Romans.
At 2022’s festival, you can follow in the footsteps of Charles Dickens, who spent a summer writing in Bonchurch or hear a historian’s guide to the gun batteries of Culver Cliff. More adventurous walkers can join a three-day challenge to walk the entirety of the coastal path (roughly 70 miles!).
The biggest walk of them all is the Walk The Wight event, which takes place on 8th May this year. Up to 10,000 people are expected to tie up their laces and journey from East to West – the Isle of Wight’s equivalent of Lands’ End to John O’Groats!
If you aren’t visiting during the walking festival, check out our pick of the best walks on the Isle of Wight. You won’t be disappointed!
When: 14th May
Where: Wolverton Manor
Access: Parking available on site
Wolverton Folk and Blues Fair is the perfect music festival for those who favour canapés and chilling over rock and roll! Visitors can be found whiling away the afternoon with a picnic and a folding chair, accompanied by the sound of relaxing music from around the UK.
Musical highlights for 2022 include Papa George who was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2013 and Dave Kelly who is best known for his work with The Blues Band.
Don’t worry, a love of folk and blues isn’t a necessity to still enjoy the day. With a bit of luck, the Isle of Wight will be bathed in the spring sunshine. After all, the Island does enjoy 500 hours more sun each year than London.
Children can come and go from the craft activities and there are locally made gifts and treats to browse. And refreshment is never far away, regardless of what tipple you favour. Real ale is served in the acoustic tent whilst you can pick up something a little softer in the tea tent. Make ours a cup of Earl Grey!
The whole thing raises money for local charities and is set against the backdrop of a 16th century manor house, with gorgeous Jacobean architecture.
When: 16th - 19th June
Where: Seaclose Park, Newport
Access: Parking is available, but most people arrive on foot and catch a shuttle bus from a ferry port or from Newport
Pop on your best festival garb and head down to Seaclose Park for four days of partying on the banks of the River Medina in Newport.
The Isle of Wight Festival competes with Cowes Week to be the biggest and most prestigious event in the Island’s festival calendar. The Festival has a remarkable history, which saw it explode in size from 1968-1970 before being banned by the local council for 32 years. It must have been some party!
It returned in 2002 and has since hosted the likes of David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Coldplay, Fleetwood Mac, Jay-Z and Queen.
This year, a crowd of about 60,000 will watch main stage shows from Muse, Lewis Capaldi, Pete Tong and Kasabian. Meanwhile, The Big Top will host Craig David, Shaggy and The Kooks.
Look out for Wet Leg, who are appearing in the early afternoon on Sunday. They’re an Isle of Wight band being tipped for great things after appearing on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
Camping is an option, but lots of festival goers leave the tent behind and book a nearby holiday cottage for a more luxurious weekend.
When: 25th June
Where: Cowes (and other high points around the Island)
Access: Cowes is busy on the day, so catch the number 1 bus or visit a hilly location near the coast
The Round The Island Yacht Race is a special day for the Isle of Wight. For many, it provides the Island’s most spectacular view with 1,400 yachts filling the Solent, crewed by 15,000 sailors.
The idea is simple – complete an anticlockwise circle of the Island as quickly as you can. The twist is that amateurs in three man-boats sail alongside Olympians in vast catamarans, each trying to win in their class. The record time stands at around two and a half hours but most amateurs in smaller yachts will take between seven and ten hours, depending on the weather.
Spectators can choose from a number of stunning vantage points around the Island. To hear the distinctive boom of the starting guns, you’ll need to head for Cowes early in the morning.
For the best photos, combine the yacht race with a trip to The Needles New Battery and capture the sight of hundreds of yachts simultaneously navigating past the famous lighthouse.
Other popular spots for a photo include: St Catherine’s Lighthouse and Ventnor in the South Wight, Ryde Pier or Culver Down in the East Wight or Fort Victoria in the West Wight. Several of those feature in our guide to the best Isle of Wight beaches.
Alternatively, you could even catch a glimpse of the race from one of our webcams!
When: 22nd July - 30th July
Where: Various venues around Ventnor
Access: Parking in car parks at either end of the Esplanade
Where can you have your chips stolen by a man dressed as a seagull? Or listen to a piano being pedalled through a high street? Or enjoy some improvised hip-hop inside a launderette? Ventnor Fringe, of course!
This charming festival brings a combination of weirdness and established acts to the Island’s southernmost town. It was started by a group of students in 2010 and now attracts 300 artists, including well-known comedians testing out new material.
Plans for 2022 are still being finalised, but last year’s schedule included a Mini Fringers day which was jam-packed with family-friendly activities. Cbeebies’ Andy Day brought his rapping dinosaurs, whilst a 5.5m tall animatronic triceratops loomed over visitors.
Ventnor is the perfect venue for a fringe festival. It has a different feel to other Isle of Wight towns thanks to its steep hills which bring shelter to the beach. Make a day of it by stopping off at one of the many excellent eateries in the town.
When: 30th July - 5th August
Where: Cowes seafront and on the Solent.
Access: Parking is tricky, so use the park and ride or the number 1 bus from Newport
Cowes Week is a seven-day party, full to the brim with live music, ice-cold jugs of Pimms and hot competition on the water.
Even if you don’t sail, it is worth a visit to enjoy the atmosphere of thronging crowds on the Esplanade and busy bars spilling out onto the town’s pretty streets.
During the day, head for the Royal Yacht Squadron to hear the sound of cannons signalling the start of another race. You may not be able to keep up with the action on the water, but the sight of yachts racing across the Solent is something special.
There’s plenty to do on dry land, including Women’s Day on 2nd August where visitors are invited to wear navy and white stripes.
In the evening, sailors and landlubbers gather on the Parade and in the Yacht Haven to listen to live music and watch the sun setting over the town. Perfection!
When: 6th August - 7th August
Where: Chale Recreation Ground
Access: Plenty of parking onsite. Wheelchairs and mobility scooters are welcome, but the recreation ground is mostly grass
Several Isle of Wight villages hold an annual show, but no-one does it quite like Chale! The South Wight village draws in thousands for its celebration of rural life in one of the Island’s most isolated spots.
Prized fruit and vegetables combine with motorbike stunts and fairground rides whilst local artists and artisan bakers show off their works. The highlight is the jumbo-sized horticultural marquee where more than 1,500 exhibits compete in 240 categories. Who will take home the top prize for the perfect plum or the largest leek?
The venue is a spectacle in itself, with visitors enjoying gorgeous views of the English Channel and bands performing in front of the high cliffs and crashing waves below.
Children under 16 get in free, and there’s plenty to keep younger ones entertained in the Main Arena and in the children's zone. You can even bring along your four-legged friends.
When: 16th - 21st August
Where: Northwood House, Cowes
Access: Large car park next to Northwood House or the number 1 bus from Newport
Grab your union flags and prepare for Wight Proms 2022, which offers something for all ages in the grounds of Northwood House in Cowes. The 18th century manor house is the perfect backdrop for this celebration of the arts.
Visitors can buy tickets for one night only, or buy a bundle and make the most of the festival. For the full experience, upgrade your ticket to include a cream tea or a bottle of bubbly.
Highlights this year include the Isle of Pride, where stars from RuPaul’s Drag Race will sashay to the Isle of Wight for a night of comedy and music.
Penny Smith hosts the Isle of Opera night, whilst Britain’s Got Talent winner Jai McDowall headlines the musicals night, and G4 close the festival with Last Wight of the Proms.
For younger visitors, there’s a stage show from the Horrible Histories team with gruesome tales from the Terrible Tudors. They’ll love it!
When: 20th - 21st August
Access: Plenty of parking is provided in the nearby fields
Garlic is a big part of the Isle of Wight’s food and dining culture. The wild variety grows in many of the Island’s villages, giving the air a pleasant whiff when it is in season.
The Isle of Wight’s Garlic Farm has cultivated this relationship with its annual Garlic Festival, which has been going for nearly 40 years. It has grown into one of the biggest events on the Island, with thousands turning up over two days to enjoy the sights and smells.
Festival goers can knock back pints of garlic beer and order scoops of garlic ice cream, as well as more conventional treats and drinks.
Head for one of the marquees to see celebrity chefs serving up garlic-themed dishes. In recent years, visiting chefs and bakers have included Nadiya Hussain and Rachel Khoo.
In the arena, you can expect a busy schedule of shows and performers whilst the music stage provides the accompaniment. Kids will love the funfair rides and the arts and crafts.
As the slogan goes: “eat, drink, STINK!”
When: 1st September (Main Carnival)
Where: Starts from Ryde Esplanade
Access: The main roads are closed, so buses are a good option (numbers 2, 3, 8 or 9 from Newport)
Summer carnivals are a big deal on the Isle of Wight, with all the main towns putting on a spectacular show for locals and visitors.
Ryde’s Carnival is the biggest and most prestigious of them all, thanks to its history dating back to the Victorian era. Indeed, Queen Victoria once brought along Princess Beatrice to witness the parade whilst living at nearby Osborne House. History does not record whether or not one was amused!
Ryde’s steep shopping streets and sandy seafront are lined with spectators for three events, including the Main Carnival (1st September), the Illuminated Carnival (3rd September) and a Children’s Fun Day and Parade (27th August).
Expect to see cleverly created costumes as well as synchronised dance routines and colourful carnival floats. Plus of course there is the ‘Carnival Royalty’, made up of local children who have been chosen to represent their town throughout the season.
For places to stay near to the Isle of Wight’s eclectic mix of festivals, see our range of beautiful Island cottages.