Visitors' Book

Fetes and festivals in the south and west

Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival

Insurgent farm labourers start the first ever trade union and lobby for fair pay.
It backfires, so they’re deported and become heroes. If you have a socialist bone in your body, make the day.
Tony Benn and Billy Bragg are regulars.
If you miss July’s festival, take refuge in the museum.
www.tolpuddlemartyrs.org.uk
Area: Dorset

Golowan, Penzance

The town erupts in a riot of colour, music and mayhem to fanfare in the solstice.
It climaxes with Mazey Day, when Penzance rocks to the rhythm of a carnival of huge mythical creatures, street music, local artisans and a feel-good factor that lasts long into the night.
www.golowan.org
Area: Far West Cornwall

Sand Sculpture Festival, Weston-super-Mare

Set against the backdrop of the new pier, this is the humble sandcastle as high art. Sculptors take 15 days and 400 tonnes of sand to create their masterpieces at the UK’s largest sand sculpture event.
www.westonsandsculpture.co.uk
Area: Somerset

Bridgwater carnival Cultural listings Tar barrels

 

Maiden Castle, Dorchester

Britain’s largest and most complex Iron Age hill fort covers an area of over 50 football pitches. In the flesh, the scale is staggering. Within slingshot, Poundbury Camp Iron Age settlement hides over 1,000 Roman graves.
www.maidencastle.com
Area: Dorset

Tavistock Wharf

This 18th Century industrial-centre-turned-arts-centre serves up theatre, concerts, cinema and art, all curated with wit and grace. Grab a pre-performance drink at the waterside bar.
www.tavistockwharf.com
Area: Dartmoor

John Betjeman Summer Readings, Rock

Many a village has a reading room, but here, words attain greatness. Flop out on the dunes at St Enodoc church where the Poet Laureate rests in peace and listen to his poetry read out loud. The pop of a cork beats the crack of a beer can, so best take wine.
www.camhayle.freeuk.com
www.johnbetjeman.org.uk
Area: North Coast Cornwall

Performing

The Dorset Ooser, Dorchester

Rise before sun-up and climb the 180 foot Cerne Abbas Giant (also known as the ‘Rude Man’ – go and you’ll see why), to catch a glimpse of the horned Ooser beast welcoming in May Day. Or just go to the Dorset County Museum to see the Ooser mask.
www.darkdorset.co.uk/ooser
Area: Dorset

Pirate and Shanty Festival, Brixham

Ale rules here, in this weekend of skulduggery and sea dog singing. In 2010, a record-breaking 1,744 Ahab-a-likes took to the streets of Brixham to steal back the Guinness World Record title for the most pirates in one gathering.
www.brixhampiratefestival.co.uk
Area: South Devon

In Garlic We Trust

If you love garlic, or even like it a little bit, hop over to the Isle of Wight in August for 'A vast array of eats, treats, sights and sounds to suit all tastes and ages' in Newchurch.
www.garlicfestival.co.uk
Area: Isle of Wight

Kneehigh Theatre

As theatre troupes go, there is only one that takes your soul to the moon and back. The Kneehigh. Their anarchic brilliance has graced New York, LA and the fields of Cornwall in a tent they call The Asylum. Go and you’ll leave with a 40,000 spin speed grin.
www.kneehigh.co.uk
Area: Cornwall to Bogota

Portland Sculpture and Quarry Trust

Grab a chisel and carve away, as stonemasons do, at this old quarry.
If your sculpture is any good, it may make the clifftop gallery.
www.learningstone.org
Area: Dorset

Flora Day Bolster Day Minack

 

The Lowland Games, Muchelney

Mud wrestling, ferret racing, raft jousting, tug of war and not a kilt in sight, all fuelled by the local rocket-fuel cider.
It boosts performance, allegedly.
www.thelowlandgames.co.uk
Area: Somerset

Sterts, Bodmin

High-energy theatre, comedy and poetry performed at an outdoor (rainproof) amphitheatre somewhere in a field near Bodmin Moor. Beware the beast below.
www.sterts.co.uk
Area: The Moor to River Tamar

Trial of the Beast of Bodmin

The legendary Beast of Bodmin ­– part panto horse, part primordial beast ­– is captured by Helliers (Cornish huntsmen) and put on trial at eerie Bodmin Jail. Lob in a town crier competition and Cornish wrestling and you have folklore at its most bizarre.
www.bodminridingandheritage.org.uk
Area: North Coast Cornwall

Hunting the Earl of Rone, Combe Martin

600 locals dress up as grenadiers and hunt down the evasive pimpernel on the fourth and final night of this four-day jolly. He is then mounted back to front on a donkey, paraded through the village and thrown in the sea. Who cares why.
www.earl-of-rone.org.uk
Area: North Devon

Hunting the Earl of Rone, Combe Martin

600 locals dress up as grenadiers and hunt down the evasive pimpernel on the fourth and final night of this four-day jolly. He is then mounted back to front on a donkey, paraded through the village and thrown in the sea. Who cares why. 
www.earl-of-rone.org.uk
Area: North Devon

Rhythmtree Festival

A tree-lined field on the Island fills with family-oriented fun and a diverse range of music.
www.rhythmtree.co.uk
Area: Isle of Wight

World Stinging Nettle Eating Championship, Marshwood Vale

Dorset’s answer to the chilli eating contest. An argument between two local farmers over who had the longest nettles growing on his land led to this macho test of taste buds. Each June, crowds gather at The Bottle Inn to witness the showdown.
www.bottleinn.co.uk
Area: Dorset

Drawn to the Valley, Tamar Valley

This is the spiritual home of the 160-strong Tamar Valley art community. Since Turner’s day, print-makers and painters, sculptors and ceramists have thrived on this border of contrasting counties.
www.drawntothevalley.co.uk
Area: The Moor to River Tamar

Bonfire

The Brewhouse, Taunton

Welcome to the creative soul of the county. This vibrant arts hub is rammed with theatre, film, comedy and music. After 30 years, it’s as eclectic as ever.
www.thebrewhouse.net
Area: Somerset

Carn Euny Fogou, Land’s End

We’ve lauded this ancient village before and rightly so. With its lunar landscape and 20 metre long tunnel (the Cornish say ‘fogou’) dating back to the first Century, it knocks spots off its busier neighbour Chysauster.
www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout
Area: Far West Cornwall

Walford Mill Crafts, Wimborne

Artisans weave silk and jewellers carve works of art out of precious metals.
Have a go yourself. There are classes galore, from glass bead workshops to silversmithing.
www.walfordmillcrafts.co.uk
Area: Dorset

The Ancient Custom of Wassailing the Apple Tree

In the depths of winter, locals congregate to sing to the apple trees. The Wassail queen pours ‘precious liquid’ (mulled cider) around the roots of the tree. If the locals then down another few gallons, the gods will guarantee a good harvest, so they say.
www.wyrdwords.vispa.com/heathenry/wassailing/index.html
Area: Somerset

Festival watching Waiting parade Music stand

 

Lulworth Castle and Park

Fancy a joust, or an open-air rom-com? Then this 17th Century fortress is a good bet. It even hosts the uber-cool family-friendly Camp Bestival (older sister to the Isle of Wight fest).
www.lulworth.com
Area: Dorset

The Willow Man, Bridgwater

Serena de la Hey’s famous 12 metre high willow salutes you on the M5 near Bridgwater. Find out where you can see some of her lesser-known sculptures.
www.serenadelahey.com
Area: Somerset

The Land of Dance

From pubs to pagans to professionals, we like a good knees-up. The gulls dance in the wind, and the dolphins move to the sea. There are a million variations of human body expression to watch or take part in.
www.dancesouthwest.org.uk
Area: Wherever the music takes you

Withypool Hill Barrow and Circle, Exmoor

One of only two complete stone circles on Exmoor, it’s so precise you could stand in the middle and let your shadow cast a sundial good enough to set your watch to.
www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/2216
Area: Somerset

Dartington Hall

With 1,200 acres to play with, the sense of space filters through their programme of arts, film, contemporary performance, literature and music. If it all gets too much, cool off in the River Dart that snakes through the estate.
www.dartington.org
Area: South Devon

Portland Castle

You could pretend to be Henry VIII or one of his wives, as he built this seaside shack to no doubt woo a few more. While you’re here, grab a play at the turreted amphitheatre.
www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout
Area: Dorset

Hound Tor, Dartmoor

This stack of rocks on Dartmoor is famed for ghosts and spawned Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’. Take your dog to see how he/she reacts.
www.legendarydartmoor.co.uk/hound_tor
Area: Dartmoor

Festival float

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