We love you, London, but sometimes we need a break. Luckily, there’s a whole country’s worth of adventures beyond the M25, and to prove it we’ve rounded up the best seasonal events England has to offer, all located in glorious weekend-break destinations (plus something for diehard stay-at-homes too).
BRIGHTON FESTIVAL, BRIGHTON FRINGE AND THE GREAT ESCAPE, EAST SUSSEX
MAY 3 – JUN 1
Throughout May, England’s largest multi-arts festival, together with the world’s third-largest fringe festival, squeeze comedy, cabaret, concerts, club nights and other cultural things that don’t begin with ‘C’ into every corner of the country’s coolest coastal city. And if you want to see some of the world’s hottest new bands, head down May 8 to 10, when the famous Great Escape Festival adopts at least 50 percent of the country’s hipster population.
Sleep Sea Spray
Sixteen themed rooms. We’ve bagged the Elvis.
Drink Dirty Blonde
Cocktails and hand-crafted beers at a high end bar.
Get there Train from Victoria (1hr)
Stay home Whatever Brighton can do, we can do in a huge upturned purple cow. Spring-long festival Udderbelly (Until Jul 13) is the place for top-notch laughs and titillation on the South Bank.
CHEESE-ROLLING FESTIVAL, GLOUCESTERSHIRE
Can you imagine how difficult it was to have fun before the internet? Before cat videos and ‘Which “Sex and the City” Girl Are You?’ quizzes? If you want an idea of the lengths that people used to go to for lols, head to this ancient event where brave competitors tumble down the formidably steep Cooper’s Hill in pursuit of a runaway wheel of Double Gloucester.
Sleep Detmore House, Cheltenham
Period luxury in the Cotswold countryside.
Drink The Black Horse, Cranham
Talk cheese with the locals in a classic country pub.
Get there Train to Stroud from Paddington (1hr 30min)
Stay home Head to the Southbank Centre Square to get lost in the scents and tastes of India at Alchemy Food Market (May 16-26). There might not be any Double Gloucester-rolling, but you could just chuck some paneer into the Thames.
COTSWOLD OLIMPICK GAMES, GLOUCESTERSHIRE
Another medieval event and one that’s still drawing crowds to serene Chipping Campden, this medley of unusual contests includes tug o’ war, wrestling and, er, shin-kicking. Yes, it really is a thing – and hugely popular to boot. So book yourself a kneesup in the Cotswold Hills and watch lots of burly blokes kicking the shin out of each other.
Sleep Charingworth Manor Hotel
Swim in the heated pool of a manor house.
Drink The Eight Bells
Discuss local Graham Greene’s work over an ale.
Get there Train to Moreton-in-Marsh from Paddington (1hr 40min)
Stay home Medieval schmedieval: only two summers ago we hosted the greatest Olympic Games in history! And now that the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park has reopened, you can enjoy the place without having to be a world-class athlete.
WORLD NETTLE-EATING CHAMPIONSHIP, DORSET
Oh, to have been a fly on the wall when the residents of Marshwood came up with a plan to put their village on the map. ‘Now, we need something really original.’ ‘We’ve got lots of weeds… How about a nettle-eating competition?’ ‘That’s it!’ ‘Erm, I was joking.’ ‘Never mind, we’re doing it.’ However it came about, the bizarre and entertaining ritual is conveniently set near Dorset’s gorgeous Jurassic Coast.
Sleep The White House Hotel, Charmouth
Regency charm in a seaside village
Drink The Bottle Inn, Marshwood
Enjoy a pint at the home of nettles.
Get there Train to Yeovil or Weymouth from Waterloo (2hr 20min)
Stay home Book into one of Kew Gardens’ daily ‘Introduction to the Gardens’ tours. Just don’t eat the flowers!
L’EROICA BRITANNIA, PEAK DISTRICT
Italy’s famous vintage bike race is coming to England for the first time this summer.Seemingly intent on putting cyclists through their paces, organisers are holding the event in the topographically testing Peak District (the clue’s in the name). You can sign up for one of the three races (30, 55 and 100 miles respectively), or just head along to soak up the atmosphere and some of the UK’s most attractive scenery.
Sleep Rutland Arms Hotel, Bakewell
Binge on bakewell tarts, supposedly invented here.
Drink The Devonshire Arms, Beeley
Sip in style at a historic inn.
Get there Train to Matlock from St Pancras International (2hr 30min)
Stay home Starting on June 19, charitable ride London to Paris: Be Unstoppable is raising money for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research. Get down to Greenwich Park for the start.
© Jason Mandella
LIVERPOOL BIENNIAL, LIVERPOOL
JUL 5 – OCT 26
If you think Liverpool’s cultural legacy starts and ends with the Fab Four, then shame on you. The Liverpool Biennial, ten weeks of citywide culture every two years, is the biggest contemporary art festival in the UK. The team behind it basically transform the whole city into a treasure trove of goodness.
Sleep 62 Castle Street
All the fineries you need in an imposing former bank.
Drink Philharmonic Dining Rooms
Local brews in a beautiful pub.
Get there Train from Euston (2hr 15min)
Stay home October’s Frieze Art Fair is a hotspot for the best art in the world. Prices range from ‘affordable’ to ‘not even if you sold your kidneys’.
Still want somewhere to escape to? Here’s you go: