Best literary festivals in the UK 2024

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Best literary festivals in the UK 2024

Books, glorious books – there really is nothing like them! From riveting works of fiction you couldn’t put down if you tried to eye-opening explorations that delve into the world of history, science, art, and so much more, there’s no greater feeling than disappearing into the pages of a good book for an hour or two.

Rivalling their musical and foodie counterparts, the UK is now home to many fabulous literary festivals, which round up book lovers and superb local authors and creators for hours – and often days – of literary fun.

You can expect fascinating talks covering every topic under the sun, from cultural questions to excerpts from your favourite novels, as well as workshops where you can flex your own creative fingers. Many also include a chance to top up the bookshelves and perhaps even nab a signed copy – the book lovers’ dream!

Ready to dive into a world between pages? Here’s our round-up of the best literary festivals happening around the UK in 2024…

 

York Literature Festival

The historic buildings of York bathed in morning light.

Where: Various venues across York

When: 1st – 30th March

Access: There are plenty of car parks around York, with cobbled streets linking the venues.

Made famous by the Brontë sisters, James Herriot, and even offering inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula (head to Whitby Abbey to see why), Yorkshire is an unbeatable setting for a literary festival. Sprawled across the cobbled streets of York, this celebration of the written word in North England attracts booklovers from all over the place – and for very good reason.

Over the years, many big names have visited this historic city to share their passion, from Michael Palin to Carol Ann Duffy. This year, you can delve into the history of the British monarchy with Iain Dale or you can learn draw with Philippa Robinson-Gill and Adam Gill's incredible children's illustration session. Or, if you would like to stretch your legs as you learn, a literary walk through the historic streets of York will be right up your… well… street!

 

Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival

People giving a talk at the Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival

Where: Various venues around Budleigh Salterton

When: 1st – 2nd March

Access: There are several car parks in Budleigh Salterton, although these can get busy during the festival so allow plenty of time.

Devon is no stranger to rip-roaring festivals, with a heady mix of foodie and musical extravaganzas filling the social calendar up nicely. If you’re looking for a page-turner of a festival, head to Budleigh Salterton where an annual festival celebrates books by the sea. Oh yes, nestled in a National Landscape (formerly known as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) on East Devon’s incredible Jurassic Coast, this book-lover’s destination is the place to be for those who want to soak up the sea air while falling imagination-first into their favourite book.

This year’s roster for the much-loved spring weekend boasts a fantastic mix of speakers and topics, from Poet Laureate Simon Armitage to award-winning mathematician Marcus du Sautoy, who will be spilling the tea on how to win at your favourite tabletop games. Satiate your mind at the many fabulous talks before doing the same for your stomach – after all, Budleigh Salterton is home to some of the best fish and chips and cream teas in Devon!

 

Oxford Literary Festival

Dame Jacqueline Wilson standing amongst the crowd at her talk at the Oxford Literary Festival

Where: Various venues around Oxford

When: 16th –24th March

Access: Car parks at Westgate Shopping Centre and Gloucester Street are a short walk from the festival venues, or you can use the park and ride services from the city perimeter. Most of the venues are a short walk from the train station.

Spanning a collection of superb venues across the beautiful city of Oxford, this literary festival is a true collaboration of minds. The star-studded events list always packs a punch, with 2024 amping up to be one of the best yet. Val McDermid, Jacqueline Wilson, and Tom Holland are just some of the people set to appear, with other fascinating topics spanning children’s literature, innovations in science, and politics – there really is a fabulously diverse line-up for you to sink your teeth into.

After your mind has been well and truly expanded at the fascinating talks, you can pop along to the festival bookshop, which is laden with books by the festival speakers, along with any tickets you want to purchase for the talks - not to mention a lovely coffee shop where you can grab some refreshments as you plan your next move and discuss your favourite talks so far.

 

CrimeFest, Somerset

A panel of speakers at CrimeFest in Bristol

Where: Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel, Bristol

When: 9th - 12th May

Access: There is first-come, first-serve parking at the hotel, as well as a number of larger car parks nearby

Made for the dark of heart, Bristol’s annual CrimeFest celebrates this most gritty of genres with lots of superb authors joining the lineup. In 2024, crime writing great P.D. James will be the ‘Ghost of Honour’,  while an immersive event with Murdle creator G.T. Karber will have you scratching your head in no time. 

Throughout the festival, numerous talks provide a glimpse behind the page, covering a great number of topics. Although this year’s schedule has yet to be announced, last year’s programme included topics such as police procedurals, telling tales, and psychological thrillers, so whatever your interest, you’re in for a thrilling ride.

 

Hay Festival, Wales

The colourful welcome tent at the Hay Festival in Wales

Where: Dairy Meadows, Brecon Road, Hay-on-wye HR3 5PJ

When: 23rd May – 2nd June

Access: The car park at Hay operates throughout the festival in aid of Macmillan. Disabled parking can be booked for the main site too. There is a festival bus connecting train and bus stations between Hay, Worcester, and Hereford.

Travelling the world to inspire those who love to read, think, and imagine, the Hay Festival returns to Wales in 2024 for another rip-roaring celebration of all things creative. Writers, comedians, musicians, and more gather throughout the festival to put on an epic show, whether you want to delve into the chapters of your favourite book or sit back and tap your foot along to the beat of one of the many superb live performances.

Big names on the docket this year include Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Miriam Margolyes, and Julian Clary (to name but a few). Early bird tickets are available online so you can book the edge of your seat now!

 

Edinburgh International Book Festival, Scotland

Someone giving a talk to a large audience at the https://www.classic.co.uk/browse-holiday-cottages/UK--1.html

Where: Edinburgh College of Art, 74 Lauriston Place, Edinburgh EH3 9DF

When: 10th - 25th August

Access: Car parks can get very busy in Edinburgh during August, but there are plenty of buses, trams, and trains around the city. Wheelchair users can be dropped off at the entrance to the festival on Lauriston Place.

Celebrating the written word on an international level, this much-loved festival in Edinburgh is the place to be if you love all things wordy, from books to spoken word. Authors from around the world gather to share their thoughts, ideas, and stories, giving you a spectacular opportunity to see the world in a different way. Previous years have seen the likes of Maggie O’Farrell, Brian Cox, and even The Gruffalo making an appearance, so there really is something for everyone.

There’s a real emphasis on creative learning, while encouraging a love of reading at every age. Kids will find a whole host of fun activities throughout the festival, with curriculum-led topics providing an enthralling way to learn. Naturally, a whole library-worth of books will be available to buy throughout the festival, with all proceeds going back into the event itself – you might even be able to get some of them signed!

 

North Cornwall Book Festival

Someone giving a talk inside a tent at the North Cornwall Book Festival

Where: St Endellion, PL29 3TP

When: 27th – 29th September

Access: There is a large, free car park on-site. Disabled parking can be booked by calling 07787 944935.

Surrounded by the drama and imagination-sparking delights of North Cornwall, there’s no better place to get lost in the wide world of books than this bountiful local book festival. Welcoming and inspiring all ages, there are lots of things to get stuck into during your visit, including workshops with illustrators and cartoonists for all those longing to fulfil their dream of bringing their anecdotes to life. Previous years have seen the likes of poet and boxer Matt Windle and international best selling author Kate Mosse sharing their passions with riveted audiences. In 2024, the likes of Tom Holland, Max Porter, and Ann Cleeves will be taking to the stage to share their incredible insights into the industry.

In true Cornish style, this festival throws a spotlight on everything the local community has to offer, from fabulous food and drink in the festival market to local artists and musicians creating stirring exhibitions and concerts. We absolutely recommend filling your visit to Cornwall with as much creativity as possible, which is wonderfully easy thanks to the many incredible open-air theatres such as The Minack and outstanding local artists and galleries.

 

Bath Children’s Literature Festival

An author signing books at the Bath Children's Literature Festival

Where: Various venues around Bath

When: 27th September – 7th October

Access: There are plenty of car parks and buses around Bath to make travelling between venues a breeze.

Getting kids into reading has never been easier thanks to Europe’s largest dedicated children’s literature festival right here in Bath. This rambunctious celebration of children’s literature is jam-packed with fun activities for little ones, all of which are aimed at getting them excited about the books that surround them. Talks from beloved authors and illustrators provide even more excitement, with the likes of Darren Shan, Neil Gaiman, and David Walliams amongst the festival’s previous headliners.

With both the beautiful and fun-filled wiles of the Cotswolds and Somerset on your doorstep here, you can easily turn your festival visit into an action-packed family holiday that inspires an adventure worthy of your own storybook!

 

Isle of Wight Literary Festival

Two people giving a talk at the Isle of Wight Literary Festival

Where: Split across Northwood House and the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes

When: 3rd – 6th October

Access: There is on-site parking at both festival venues.

One of the many great festivals held on the Isle of Wight, this literary bonanza is a powerhouse of writers, with over 50 speakers taking to the stage during last year’s event. 2024 promises to be just as big, with an eclectic programme of events ready to enlighten, engage, and entertain. Surround yourself in topics that range from maritime adventure to gardening, both of which lend themselves perfectly to the rich history and beautiful gardens found around the Island.

A weekend event, the Isle of Wight Literary Festival is the perfect chance to soak up the culture and heritage of the Island, whether you fancy strolling around the many inspiring art galleries or walking the famous trails and paths that wind around the many historic buildings and epic castles.

 

Cheltenham Literature Festival, Cotswolds

Two people celebrating under the archway at the Cheltenham Literature Festival

Where: Various venues around Cheltenham

When: 4th – 13th October

Access: There are plenty of car parks throughout the town, with public transport available to take you to the venues. Cheltenham Literature Festival also offers accessibility bookings, which cover wheelchairs, personal assistant tickets, sight impairments, hearing loops, and aisle seat requirements.

Claiming the impressive title of the UK’s oldest annual literary festival, Cheltenham turns into a giant book club every autumn, welcoming bookworms the world over for a spectacular celebration of literary delights. The 10-day festival packs a lot in, with a range of family activities, ticketed events, and pop-up intrigues catering to every bookish taste. Over 600 writers, poets, actors and politicians converge on the regency town, ready to lend their thoughts to a myriad of topics, from history to the state of the world today.

Previous years have seen some truly jaw-dropping names take to the stage in Cheltenham, from Stephen King and Jamie Oliver to Stanley Tucci and Lenny Henry. While the line-up changes every year, you can always expect some incredible people delivering fascinating talks and performances. Cheltenham itself is one of the many gems of the Cotswolds and definitely deserves a proper exploration during your stay – we heartily recommend heading to the town’s incredible Michelin star restaurant Le Champignon Sauvage for some post-festival discussions over a plate of something special.

 

Ready to let your imagination loose at one of the UK’s top literary festivals? Explore our cosy holiday cottages and find the perfect place to curl up with a good book.

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