Quirky festivals in Britain

If you have blond hair, love playing with fire and donning a pointed helmet, with or without horns then this first festival is made for you. Spectacular Shetland’s UP HELLY AA dates back to the early 1880’s and features  a night of dancing, singing and as you would expect in Scotland consumption of alcohol! If you are one of the guizer squad and there are usually about 1000 then you can get dressed up in Viking clobber and join the torch lit procession through Lerwick down to the waters edge. Procession at Uyeasound Up Helly Aa by Mike Pennington via Wikimedia Commons A boat, the Galley, a Viking replica is specially built for the festival. After a final bugle call all torches are tossed into the boat setting it alight. The revelry continues late into the night and early morning long after the ship resembles a pile of ash. It is always on the last Tuesday of January. www.uphellyaa.org

Light and fire play significant roles in many British festivals and none more so than on Bonfire night.

Scotland’s big party night is of course Hogmanay. In Stonehaven near Aberdeen in the Grampians at the stroke of midnight the festival of SWINGING THE FIREBALLS begins. Chicken wire nets stuffed with wood, clothes and anything else combustible are doused with paraffin and set alight. There then follows a spectacular procession through the town as these baskets are swing wildly around the heads of the brave. St John’s Ambulance and the local Fire Brigade look anxiously on. www.stonehavenfireballs.com

Down in Devon on 5th November flaming tar-soaked barrels are carried through the streets in Ottery St Mary. www.tarbarrels.co.uk

Talking of street carrying. Dorking hosts the UK WIFE CARRYING RACE in April. Husbands up for a challenge carry their beloved up and around an almost 400 metre course. ww.trionium.com

Marbles And if you think these people have lost their marbles then head for THE BRITISH AND WORLD MARBLE CHAMPIONSHIP held in Tinsley Green, West Sussex held in March to find many more. www.greyhoundmarbles.com

Over in Olney in Buckinghamshire on Shrove Tuesday ladies from the area sprint through the village whilst hanging on to a frying pan! First to compete the course and successfully toss the pancake wins the event. www.olneyonline.com

On a slightly heavier note Oxenhope in Yorkshire is now host to the annual straw race. Fancy dress is not optional. Last year Trump and little rocket man Kim Jong-un were two of the competitors carrying straw bales from one pub to another. www.strawrace.com

Here in my native Yorkshire we are canny shoppers and don’t like to waste food. But over in neighbouring Lancashire, in Ramsbottom, competitors throw black puddings at a plinth piled high with Yorkshire puds. The Wars of the Roses still goes on. I can quite see why black pudding is thrown – it is awful ! Oh the blood! www.visitmanchester.com

Back in Mytholmroyd we Yorkies eat the food. The WORLD DOCK PUDDING CHAMPIONSHIPS are held here around the third weekend in April. Dock pudding is only found here in Calderdale. It is made from dock leaves and nettles and oatmeal and onions and butter and special seasoning. Looking like spinach it is served with bacon and eggs as part of a traditional English breakfast. Superb. www.visitcalderdale.com

Willaston - Worm Charming by Graham Shaw CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2. Ever enticed or wanted to entice worms? No neither have I and as I enter my 7th decade I have no intention of doing so. But In Willaston, near Nantwich, Cheshire contestants flock from around the globe to compete in THE WORLD WORM CHARMING CHAMPIONSHIPS. All competing to take home the coveted golden worm. Contestants have 30 mins to charm/ entice/ seduce as many worms as they can out of a 3 square metre plot -by any means and by any technique. No animals are hurt in this annual event and all are returned back from whence they came. The record is an impressive 567 worms set in 2009. www.rove.me

Take flight to Bognor to watch aspiring birdmen and women leap off the pier in their slightly wacky flying machines. Lets hope that rogue drone activity doesn’t prevent play this year. www.bognorbirdman.com

Ely, city of the Fens, has a wonderfully impressive cathedral and is host to THE WORLD EEL THROWING CHAMPIONSHIP held over the May Bank Holiday. Do relax because no eels are harmed in this activity only stuffed toy eels! Phew! www.elyeelfestival.co.uk

The Hebden Bridge HANDMADE PARADE held in June is a wonderful event. A cast of at least 1000 dance and parade through the streets highlighting their handmade creations, watched by many thousands more. It is fun, it is colourful and it is great. Come early as parking can be a nightmare. www.handmadeparade.co.uk

A race at The Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake on 27th May 2013 by Dave Farrance CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0 Perhaps the daftest and most dangerous event of the year – but which easily sums up the eccentricities of British Life – is the rolling of the cheese in Gloucestershire. The venue is Cooper’s Hill near Brockworth. A concave incline with a gradient of 1 in 3. There are numerous races depending on how many cheeses there are. And can you guess which cheese is used? Yes it’s Double Gloucester. Rounds of cheese weighing 7 to 8 pounds are rolled down the hill . Imagine the Nectar points! People come from all over the world to chase after it once it has been lobbed down the hill. First to the bottom, intact wins the cheese. There are falls aplenty , often broken bones but the spirit of these wacky, some may say foolish Brits, remains strong and unwavering. www.radseason.com

Horn dances, All Hallows, scarecrow festivals, well dressing, green man, country fairs, may poles, morris men, flower shows, summer solstice, Obby Oss festival,duck racing, rush bearing. So many events take place in Britain each year far too many to mention here.

But may they continue to be enjoyed and bring a smile to everybody who takes part in or who visit these British traditions.

152 people found this helpful

Share Article:

Dave Harcombe

Travelling pharmacist

Leave a comment


Sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest travel tips on top destinations.

Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Most Recent Articles

Mark Nicholls visits Austria’s snowiest ski resort and stumbles across a chapter of pop history….

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.