Posted on 11th January 2017
People visit Wiltshire for the scenery, the beautiful landscapes, relaxing walks and the fascinating history of this quintessential county. But Wiltshire is also something of a secret gem of culture, and each year the region plays host to some fascinating events to stimulate the intellect and imagination, both local and touring from around the world. If you’re planning your Wiltshire cottage holidays and are wondering what’s on in the area this year, you’ll be delighted to find that Wiltshire hosts countless festivals to accommodate any interest, from art to trainspotting. Here are our top picks of the best festivals in Wiltshire for 2017.
When we think of festivals, most of us immediately think of music, and luckily Wiltshire has much to offer for the music lover of every persuasion in its festivals for 2017. If you’re a connoisseur of classical and choral music, the Edington Festival of Music will enchant and inspire, as for one week the town’s fourteenth-century church is filled with some of the finest cathedral and collegiate choirs in the country taking part in the daily services. The Great British Proms also venture to Wiltshire in 2017, with a prom at Bowood House near Chippenham and Calne on the 6th August 2017. The National Symphony Orchestra will make their debut at Bowood, accompanied by the Brit-Award winning vocal ensemble, Only Men Aloud, soprano singer Philippa Healey, and a traditional piped band for an evening of classical favourites performed by only the finest musicians.
For folk music fans, the Chippenham Folk Festival is the perfect weekend of entertainment, running from the 26th until the 29th of May. This participatory festival promotes the best in English folk music with performances, street parades and workshops led by artists such as Cloudstreet and the Exmouth Shanty Men. This explosion of folkloric excitement is matched only by the Marlborough International Jazz Festival from the 14th to the 16th of July. One of the top events of its kind in the UK, the bands featured range from well-known touring artists such as Clare Teal to grassroots local artists like the Wiltshire Blues Sessions. A carnival atmosphere spreads over this corner of Wiltshire over the weekend, full of music, dance and laughter.
Whilst Larmer Tree Festival is taking a year off in 2017, there is no shortage of popular music festivals to explore this year. The globally renowned WOMAD Festival (World of Music, Arts and Dance) is back to Charlton Park for another year of what the Daily Telegraph calls an “annual unearthing of global gems”. Although the line-up is yet to be announced, big things can be expected of WOMAD, with 2016’s artists including George Clinton, Baaba Maal and Roots Manuva. Expect music from around the world over seven stages, along with poetry readings, comedy, interactive workshops, fairground rides and art installations. For something a little more low-key, Fieldview Festival from the 3rd to the 6th of August is the perfect choice. The festival describes itself as a “beautiful combination of top-notch, fun-filled, cutting edge music, locally sourced cuisine and delicious local brews”, and also offers interactive workshops and games, making it the perfect family festival.
Image Credit: Ponten Pie (Salisbury Festival)
If you’re looking for an experience that fuses the senses and comprises multiple art forms in one, Wiltshire’s many art festivals are set to inspire. Although there are several arts festivals in the area, the most notable of them all is Salisbury International Arts Festival. Running from the 26th of May to the 10th of June 2017, this is not one to be missed, as it is the final of their series of festivals that have been inspired by the points of the compass. In 2017, for Festival Director Toby Smith’s final year, the event looks towards the West and particularly the culture of French-Canadian province, Québec. The festival will feature an eclectic mixture of art exhibitions, classical music, folk, jazz, circus skills and dance performances, featuring artists as diverse as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, dance troupe Ballet Black and Québecois folk group Lu Vent du Nord. Everything from the performances to the food and décor will make you feel as though you have been transported across the Atlantic into this bustling urban centre.
Home to such notable wordsmiths as poet Thomas Moore, Ian Fleming, William Golding and Sir Terry Pratchett, Wiltshire has been a hub of literary activity throughout history. It’s no surprise, then, that the area is home to one of the UK’s most notable annual literature festivals: Swindon Festival of Literature. For two weeks from the 2nd to 14th of May, the twenty-third Swindon Festival of Literature will bring together novelists, poets, philosophers, naturalists, adventurers and more, all speaking and reading on several topics to interest readers of every enthusiasm. The festival offers both guided walks and traditional lectures to create a dynamic event that draws visitors from around the world. It also features names such as Brian Blessed, Joanne Harris, Ken Livingstone and Yasmin Khan.
Food and drink
Image Credit: Gentlebird (Flickr)
If you’re a self-professed foodie, Wiltshire is set to wow with its extensive programme of festivals celebrating the food and drink from both global and local sources. After dry January, treat yourself to a tipple at the Devizes Festival of Winter Ales on the 24th and 25th of February, where you can sample bespoke local ales whilst enjoying live acoustic music and hot pies at this charming event. Around the 13th of May, Devizes takes a more culinary focus in the Devizes Food and Drink Festival. Although in the early stages of planning, past years suggest that visitors can expect street food from around the world, curries, antipasti and baked goods. Last year also saw some fun food-based activities such as the Devizes Food Festival Bake Off, the Chilli Chuckin’ Challenge and Crumpet Frisbee, so prepare for the unexpected!
In Swindon, one of the county’s favourite festivals is hosted at Blunsdon Station. The Real Ale and Cider Festival allows visitors to drink local ales and home-brewed ciders, as well as enjoying steam train rides aboard Wiltshire’s only standard gauge heritage railway. For something a little more niche, visit the Cheese and Chilli Festival, which tours several towns in Wiltshire on weekends from the 10th of June until the 20th of August. Here, enthusiasts can try out unique cheeses and fiery chillies from across the globe, whilst also participating in live demonstrations and enjoying bike stunt shows, crafts and live music. For a decidedly more traditional fare, visit the Melksham Food and River Festival from the 2nd to the 3rd of September for excellent local food and drink, plus some amazing aquatic activities and on the river such as canoeing and zip wires.
Image Credit: Matt Buck (Wikimedia Commons)
With miles of stunning countryside, Wiltshire is the perfect location for sports and outdoor activities-based events, and there are plenty for visitors to enjoy. Both the Bradford on Avon Walking Festival from the 1st to the 3rd of September, and the Corsham Walking Festival, from the 9th to the 11th of June, are ideal for avid ramblers. Enjoy jaunts through beautiful landscapes with a group, from easy to demanding routes discovering the local wildlife and history with local experts.
For the more adventurous sports enthusiast, the Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race makes for exhilarating viewing, with several competitions running from the 14th to the 17th of April, from singles to doubles, where records are challenged each year. Alternatively, for motorsports fans, the renowned Castle Combe Circuit is running its Summer Action Festival on the 22nd of July, where car owners are invited to participate in races, whether performance, classic, kit, modified or original. With club displays, drift demos, parades and more, car lovers will enjoy every second of this fantastic event.
Image Credit: Laura Lee Moreau (Visualhunt)
Film and TV buffs may be pleasantly surprised to find that there are several festivals in Wiltshire that celebrate all things screen. Two of the more unique events are the Banff Mountain Film Festival UK tour leg and Melksham Comic Con. The Banff Mountain Film Festival will appear in various locations including Bath, Swindon and Salisbury during February and March, showing some of the best adventure films from this internationally-renowned festival. Discover skydiving, extreme climbing, dog sledging and even a band of musicians playing in mid-air in these exhilarating screen showings. Aiming to “bring the fun, madness and intrigue of city-style conventions to a small-town, rural setting”, this festival was voted the third best UK convention by Conic Conventions in 2012, and will feature artists and writers such as Jack ‘Jackademus’ Lawrence and John-Paul Bove. Perfect for any comic book or superhero film fan.