So, you’re hunting for the best music festivals in the UK? Nice. Despite often conjuring images of mud-covered, welly-wearing revelers (that’s right, summers in the UK don’t always equals sun), the get-togethers remain one of most iconic activities between May and September in Old Blighty. They offer a music line-up of big-name bands and legendary icons, along with nights of dancing under the stars, stand-up comedy, real-ale tents, locavore food – you name it!
From the big hitters of Glastonbury and Isle of Wight Festivals to smaller, more intimate occasions in less-trodden corners of the country, the UK certainly has its fair share of summer shindigs to choose from. With day-long passes or complete weekend admission for the most hardcore parties, along with all sorts of camping options, from basic tent pitches to glamping yurts, these are some top spots to let your hair down, binge out at burger vans, and exhaust yourself bouncing from stage to stage to catch your chosen acts.
Whether you’re looking to rock out in the mosh pit to the sounds of some glam 80s band making a comeback, don your best neon gear for a techno rave, or create fun-filled family memories to the sound of local folk musicians, our list of the 13 best music festivals in the UK has you covered. It’s got everything from colossal parties with decades-long pedigree to small affairs that focus on regional music. Let’s begin…
Here’s the big one. Yep, like a rite of passage for the festival goer, Glastonbury Festival has been alluring audiences for decades. Keeping it in the family, Glastonbury was founded by farmer Michael Eavis back in 1970. It takes place on the farmland he owns, nestled amid the rolling hills of Pilton, Somerset, and is now jointly run with his youngest daughter, Emily Eavis.
This iconic festival has blazed a trail on the scene thanks to its eclectic mix of world-class performers, and hippy-inspired atmosphere. The highly anticipated secret sets are the subject of much speculation in the months leading up to Glasto (as it’s affectionately know), but have recently included the totemic likes of The Killers and Pulp.
Named after the nearby town of Glastonbury, this festival sees around 200,000 revelers pass through each year. That’s earned it the record of being largest open-air music and performing arts festival in the world. From its renowned Pyramid Stage, which hosts some of the biggest names in the biz, to the legendary Cider Bus, serving up the best of apple-based beverages (the region’s top tipple), Glastonbury has many claims to fame that keep seasoned festival goers returning year on year.
Today, it’s just a little more expensive than the original £1 entry fee! In fact, you’re looking at paying around £285 for entry plus a booking fee for the whole weekend). However, this one’s very much a bucket-list draw for lovers of A-list music acts, and unquestionably one of the best music festivals in the UK.
BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend
BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend is the heir apparent to the Radio 1 Roadshow, a touring radio production that graced various locations around the country from 1973 to 1990s. The music has changed quite a bit since then, but the format remains the same: Well-known DJs from the corporation’s flagship pop-chart radio station hit different towns in the country (close to the beach, more often than not) to present live shows of some of the hottest acts of the moment.
It’s not a full-service festival like many of the best festivals in the UK on this list. That’s because attendees at the Big Weekend don’t camp on site. Instead, most get accommodation at local B&Bs or campgrounds within reach of the main stage and pop back and forth for the shows. The effect? It turns the whole town into a sort of festival venue for a couple of days.
There are some seriously big hitters on previous line us here. We’re talking the likes of Ed Sheeran and Coldplay, Wolf Alice and Fatboy Slim. Sadly, BR1BW is no longer a free-to-enter event. There’s now a ticket charge, but it’s still only a measly £18 per person plus a booking fee.
If EDM and techno beats are what do it for you, Creamfields is likely to be the best music festival in the UK, hands down. A Cheshire-based festival that takes place annually on the August bank holiday weekend, it’s officially the UK’s oldest electronic dance music festival. Founded by British club promoter Cream in 1998, the shindig promises to be a fun-filled weekend of DJ spinning, wild dancing, and even wilder fashion choices (yep, there’s LOTS of neon).
In 2001, Creamfields broadened its fan base by starting operations in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Since then, it has grown in popularity worldwide, with Mexico, Turkey, and Spain hosting their own versions. More recently, even Australia has gotten in on the action. However, the original and best iteration of the electro blowout remains the UK’s own, so it’s hardly a surprise that this one’s won awards from prestigious industry commentators like DJ Magazine and the International Dance Music Awards.
The rollicking event sees over 70,000 dance fans come together to break out their best moves to the finest DJs from around the globe. To back them up, there’s strobe lighting, colossal dancefloors, and some of the best sound systems this side of Aiya Napa. It really is like a dose of Ibiza in the countryside of Chesire.
Isle of Wight Festival
Cue one of the UK’s oldest music festivals. Wit its roots reaching all the way back to 1968, the Isle of Wight Festival was originally seen as Europe’s answer to Woodstock. It was edgy, it was groundbreaking, but, above all, it was loud, built on the booming subcultures that went along with the Summer of Love.
Set on a glorious island that fragments into the English Channel off the south coast of the country, this festival has seen the likes of Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, David Bowie and The Rolling Stones grace its stages. Big names, eh? And it’s not just famous faces on stage you should be looking out for, as the Isle of Wight Festival attracts several A-list celebs, so you never know who you might be queuing up for a beer next to.
Being one of the earliest on the UK festival calendar, this multi-award-winning weekend has music and much, much more. Perhaps you might want to take in a little circus act over at Cirque de la Quirk. Those craving a bit of luxury after sleeping on the muddy grounds should head on over to the Bathing under the Sky area, where you can unwind in wood fired hot tubs or sip on complimentary wine in the sauna. Or there’s theatre shows, comedy stand-up, and local food stores to boot.
Latitude Festival earns a place on the list of best music festivals in the UK for many reasons. For us, though, it’s the family-friendly vibe that comes up trumps. Yep, this one has things like the dedicated family camping ground known as the Kids Area, with its Enchanted Garden where you’ll spin hula hoops and hop fairground rides. There’s also the Canopy Stage, which welcomes people of all ages for dance lessons, craft workshops, and even Bollywood musical renditions.
Located in the picturesque grounds of Henham Park in Suffolk, Latitude Festival has been running since 2006. It hosts of a variety of acts across its four stages. Some of the more popular names to have graced these platforms include Stereophonics, Blur, Grace Jones, and The Pet Shop Boys, as well as totemic English comedians, Michael McIntyre and Jimmy Carr.
To be honest, this laid-back festival is as much about the performing arts and street-food as it is about the music. It’s great for all ages, and isn’t just about glugging beers and dancing all night. Full weekend tickets start at £226.80 per person, while children aged 5-12 go for just £15. Oh, and keep an eye out for those pink sheep – spray painting the local grazers is a yearly tradition.
The free love and the good vibes flow at the Green Man Festival. Made in Wales, the get-together is a multidisciplinary event that covers everything from literature to slam poetry, film to scientific talks. The music is still top of the bill for many, though. It’s varied stuff but expect a folksy bend to it all. Past performers include the likes of the Fleet Foxes, Father John Misty, and Grizzly Bear.
The setting for Green Man could hardly be more enticing. It takes place on the edges of the Brecon Beacons National Park in the heart of South Wales. Wooded mountains rise and fall all around, and when the weather’s good it is a downright pleasure to be out.
That pleasure is heightened all the more by the presence of ethical food stalls and big Welsh ale and beer tents. There’s even an in-house brew to sample – the Green Man Growler. Intimate is the keyword that’s often used to describe Green Man, as the festival is limited to just 25,000 in capacity. You’ll want to score tickets ASAP if this one tickles your fancy!
So, we’ve seen the cream of the crop when it comes to rock and pop and folk, but what about the rap game? Well, if you’re big on hip hop and urban beats, Wireless Festival has you covered. Taking place annually in the cultured capital of London, this music festival has hosted the likes of Kanye West, Jay Z, Drake, The Weeknd, Stormzy – the list goes on and on.
Owned and run by Live Nation, the festival, famed for its spectacular headline acts in the world of rap, doesn’t come with the option of camping. That said, it should be easy to get to from the buzzy heart of London, where there’s an overload of fantastic hotels and hostels. A single tube ride is usually enough to get you to the venue, which is the leafy confines of Crystal Palace Park in South London. Either way, this could be the perfect excuse to treat yourself to a little London city break on the side!
The event also offers a massive beer garden, a VIP Village, and interactive games. There are now offshoot festivals of Wireless being held around the UK and even in Germany. Entry costs £75 for a single day’s admission and £195 for the full weekend. Dates are usually in the first two weeks of September.
Taking place in the expansive grounds of Heaton Park, Manchester, this is another one for the ravers, the R&B nuts, and the techno heads. Parklife is actually relatively new to the festival scene, as its first event took place in the summer of 2010. It now manages to draw crowds of up to 80,000 each year (that’s despite an official capacity in the region of 15,000-20,000!), and reigns as one of the fastest-growing festivals in The North.
Run in partnership with some of the world’s top clubbing brands, Parklife Festival is the ultimate party. There’s a mega 16 stages dedicated to a diverse mix of musical genres – yep 16! Having evolved rapidly from the former student-run Mad Ferret Festival, the past decade has seen Parklife welcome the star-studded talents of Snoop Dogg, The Chemical Brothers and Manchester’s own Liam Gallagher. Pretty epic, huh?
Parklife remains a non-camping event, which means people come to enjoy the music for the day and then head back to a local B&B or hotel for the night. Alternatively, you could go a little south to the Northern Quarter of Manchester to keep the party going – it’s a whole district of hip clubs, cocktail bars, and underground music venues that rock with Brit Pop until the early hours.
Bournemouth 7s Festival
A combo of sporting showdowns and live music that now draws upwards of 30,000 people each year, the Bournemouth 7s Festival is one for the active folks out there. As the name implies, it all began with a passion for rugby 7s, which quickly gave founders the idea for a shindig that combines all the oohs and ahs of sport viewing with top-quality music acts.
By day, you can watch everything from elite-level netball and hockey matches that involve national-level teams and players to amateur ruggers head-to-heads. Participation is possible too, what with amateur leagues in most sports and even fitness tests in CrossFit and other programs on the menu – talk about scaring off the hangover!
When the sun starts to set over the rolling English hills just north of Bournemouth, then the party switches from the field to the DJ tent. There are some cracking places to let loose, like the Ya Mum’s House stage, which focuses on the best of British deep house and EDM. You also get R&B and pop stages, along with the headline Big Top where the A-list names play.
Brecon Jazz Festival
First held in the quaint Welsh mountain town of Brecon way back in 1984, the Brecon Jazz Festival was started by Toni Constantinescu and co. The aim? To bring world-class jazz acts to one of the often-overlooked corners of Wales and the UK.
It started with a line-up of people from the cream of the British jazz scene – Humphrey Lyttelton in year one; Stan Tracey and Kennith Colyer in year two. These days, the event can pull in globally totemic names in the ilk of Dennis Rollins, Jools Holland, and the Easy Rollers, but there’s still an overarching focus on homegrown musicians.
Most people will camp in and around the official grounds of the Brecon festival but you can also simply head up to enjoy the vibe that goes on from start to finish. That’s because there are also ongoing parties and live-music shows all across the town and even in neighboring villages. What’s more, Brecon is the gateway to a stunning national park filled with waterfalls and fell hikes – you won’t get bored.
Boardmasters Festival is a sun-scorched blowout on the glinting beaches of Cornwall. It started life as a surfing competition but broadened into live-music and dance acts in 2014. Today, it has a capacity of 50,000, and has spread to offer a number of stages, with the hub of the whole thing up on wave-washed Watergate Bay just north of Newquay town.
Boardmasters still stays true to original surf-skate purpose. There are regular competitions on the swell, including the hard-fought Men’s Pro 5 Star WQS, WSL Men’s Longboard Heats, and Vans very skating showdowns. On top of that, there’s also a focus on wellness, with yoga classes on offer to attendees, along with sessions in the hot tub. Nice.
The list of big-name players on the Boardmasters ticket has been growing and growing, and the event now draws the likes of Foals, Gorillaz, The Kooks, and Basement Jaxx. It takes place in the first half of August every year, but is heavily weather dependent – no swell means no surf comps.
Reading & Leeds Festivals
Next up on our list of best music festivals in the UK is another oldie. Although, if you’re clued up on your UK geography, you may just be wondering why these two very distant cities (some 195 miles apart, no less!) are making up one festival. Well, here’s the answer: Running on the same bank holiday weekend in August and by the same organizer, Festival Republic, these two festivals are generally considered peas in a pod.
The good news is that both festivals generally have the same headliners and supporting acts, as they will play at one then head on over to the other for the next day. A bit more traveling for the acts but less of a decision-making process for you, meaning your main question is do you go for the likelier sunnier southern climate that’s on offer at the Reading Festival or the wild northern spirit offered at Leeds Festival?
Also, camping is a favorite here. Expect a distinct lack of showering, drinking all day, and just general hedonistic escapism at both – it’s sorta’ the quintessential British music festival scene. As far as acts go, these can draw arguably the biggest names of the lot. Think Fall Out Boy, Eminem, Green Day, Oasis Nirvana – they’re all pedigrees.
And lastly, no list of the UK’s best music festivals could be complete without a little something for the hardcore rockers. Yep, Download Festival is your one stop shop for moshing heaven.
This British-created rock and metal festival is not only held annually in Leicestershire, England, but has now found international popularity in places such as Paris, Sydney, and Melbourne. Hailed as the UK’s premier rock festival, it sees sellout audiences across three days, all eager to get a glimpse of the rock industry’s finest. Previous line ups have included mega superstars in the ilk of AC/DC, Aerosmith, Metallica, and Slipknot.
There are after parties on the menu when they’re done rocking, too. Mhmm…Download has A special afterhours zone that keeps the party going until the wee hours, with bars, funfair rides and a cinema.
How many festivals are in the UK?
There are approximately 241 music festivals in the UK! This includes many smaller-scale, boutique festivals. The UK has a wide range of festivals catering for all music tastes, from opera to hardcore rock, so, you’re sure to find something to take your fancy around these shores.
What is the most attended music festival in the UK?
Glastonbury takes the trophy on this one. With the capacity to hold an audience of 210,000, it has been the most-attended and popular UK music festival for quite some time. However, you will definitely want to don your wellies for this one, as Glastonbury is famed for unlucky weather conditions. Oh, and you’ll want to try and bag your tickets ASAP, as Glasto will sell out fast.
What is the best electronic festival in the UK?
Creamfields is generally considered to be the best electronic festival in the UK, with Parklife being a close second. First entering the scene in 1998, it is now a staple in the festival circuit for electronic dance music. Founded by British club promoter, Cream, it now hosts several international editions to boot.
What is the best family music festival in the UK?
Latitude Festival is generally considered the best music festival for families. Having a section for family camping and various activities for younger kids, it’s no wonder it has previously won awards for ‘Best Family Festival’ and ‘Best Family Day Out’. We also think Green Man is worth a mention here, as it’s small (only 25,000 people) and takes place in the lush mountains of Wales.