The UK is covered from head to toe in music festivals, and is home to some of the biggest and most diverse in the world. From the iconic Glastonbury to the weird and wonderful worlds of Latitude and Bestival via small, family names such as Wychwood, we present to you the ultimate list of the best UK music festivals.
There's surely only one place to start, so we'll begin with arguably the world's most famous festival: Glastonbury. For those who have been, you'll know what we mean when we say there's no place like it. For those who haven't, imagine a valley-city where you're just as likely to find Fatboy Slim tearing up a main stage as you are him tearing down a secret hut filled with just 100 people. And split across those hundred or so stages, you'll be spoilt with a lineup that ranges from mega names such as the Rolling Stones, down to grassroots theatre companies, comedians and speakers, with everything in between.
Reading & Leeds
When British festival-goers think of the August bank holiday weekend, they immediately think of Reading & Leeds. Beginning in Reading in 1961, the original rock heavyweight has grown into a more diverse force, encompassing artists from the worlds of electronic RnB and hip-hop, yet still retaining its inherent rock identity. Expect headliners along the lines of the Arctic Monkeys, Metallica and The Libertines, alongside a vast selection of comedy and film to ease those muscles between moshing.
If you find Reading & Leeds a bit too timid, then Download is probably a better fit. Catering for the dedicated rock purist, Download has all grounds covered: be it old-school megastars (Status Quo, Aerosmith), proper metal (Anthrax, Slayer), or the newer generations (Muse, Avenged Sevenfold), you'll be hard pushed to find a sub-genre of rock it doesn't have on its lineup. Beyond the music, the awesome Inflatable Wedding Chapel, Heavy Metal Dating and its real ale house delight in their own right.
T in the Park
T in the Park has become a rite of passage for Scottish music fans, and is now firmly the country's number one music festival. Boasting genuinely huge lineups that cover all genres, 2015 contrasted Noel Gallagher with Avicii in the perfect example of its diversity and all-conquering status.
Dance brand Cream has become a global superstar, taking its legendary parties across continents; and yet it all began as an offshoot from Liverpool's Cream nightclub. Now in Daresbury, Creamfields attracts tens of thousands every year seeking to party to the finest names in dance, along with immense visuals, lighting and pyrotechnics. Joined by a devoted following, Creamfields continues to shape the dance scene as we know it.
Isle of Wight
When everyone thought Fleetwood Mac were a dead cert. to play Glastonbury, the fact that they opted for Isle of Wight Festival instead showed just how big the latter is. Famed for having its licence taken away after 600,000 people attended in 1970, the festival has since gone onto become one of the UK's most diverse, with a consistent lineup that's filled with stars from each corner of the arts.
Flip open Bestival's toy-box of wonder, and out will jump a world of mad-cap adventure, full of fancy dress, leftfield entertainment like Reggaerobics (yes, that's exactly what it sounds like), creative staging and design, and of course, a hugely diverse lineup of music, theatre, comedy and more. We headed down for 2015's extravaganza, and were completely taken aback.
Secret Garden Party
Set within a landscaped garden in Cambridgeshire, Secret Garden Party is another that's hard to describe. Enter through its gates, and you could just as likely be greeted by a paint fight, a mud wrestle, a dance off or a debate. Random? Yes. But that's just the fun.
Latitude's music, comedy, poetry, workshops and creative entertainment have been attracting families for years with its relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Much more than just a music festival, this idyllic part of the English countryside comes alive as even its sheep get a makeover, unable to escape the dazzle of art that permeates through the site.
The creation of music duo Groove Armada, has become a key date in London's festival calendar. Lovebox brings the capital's lovers, freaks and hipsters to Victoria Park for an annual weekend of music and colour, with underground electronic pioneers, pop game-changers and hip-hop royalty working the soundwaves while a flamboyant scene of vintage markets, fairground rides, roller discos and fancy dress unfolds around them.
Weekend music, fun and games by some of the capital's best alternative club nights and promoters in Hackney's Victoria Park. Recreating the vibe of a village fete, Field Day, aims to harness the charm of traditional country stalls as well as weird and wonderful games such as a three-legged sack race, tug of war, and a pillow fight.
A custom-built city that looks as if its been picked straight out of a movie set shakes to the sound waves of its pulsating boombox. Wander through BoomTown's nine districts and you'll be walking a journey that will take you from folk, through reggae, up to garage, and onto jungle and drum 'n' bass, before dropping you back into reality come Monday morning.
The annual series of Manchester club nights has become a major player in the North West's electronic music scene, bringing together both club promoters, record labels and global artists to curate a season of nights that'll have any electronic fan overwhelmed with excitement.
South West Four
Named 2014's Best Festival at DJ Mag's Best of British Awards, South West Four is the weekend that dance fans take to Clapham Common for one final summer blowout. Laying on a feast of house, minimal, trance and techno, 2015's lineup spanned from Basement Jaxx and Faithless to MaRLo and Sven Väth, with festival-goers partying from midday to evening, before pouring out into the London night to carry it on.
Electric Daisy Carnival
EDC's continuous march around the world has made every UK stop eagerly anticipated. And it never fails to disappoint, with 2015's explosion of colour, sound and light that surrounded scenic stages, cutting-edge audiovisual production and immersive costumed performers leaving even the most hardcore raver a little lost for wear the morning after.
Popular with England's north-western student community, the Parklife weekender tends to coincide with the end of exam season; waves of students from Manchester's neighbouring cities make the trip over to what has become one of the UK's most diverse events with an inherent electronic root. Showcasing household DJs backed by renowned clubbing brands such as RA, Chibuku and Bugged Out!, their tightly curated electronic lineup will be accompanied by indie divas and urban & hip-hop legends, which in 2015 included mark Ronson and Wu-Tang Clan.
Aside from the music, there is also a variety of themed chill out zones, live interactive art, a funfair, crazy installations, cabaret and busking stages offering dance troupes, comedy, spoken word and theatre.
We Are FSTVL
We Are FSTVL is the UK's newest major dance festival, now running into the fourth year of its Essex residency. Come May, eight stages will light up an Upminster field with huge electronic names from the worlds of drum 'n' bass to mainstream dance hitting the decks for a pulsating weekend, that in 2015, was led by Jamie Jones, Carl Cox and Steve Aoki.
The Social Festival
Are you in Kent or Ibiza? You would have thought that'd be an easy question. For those who have been to The Social Festival, they'll know it's never that straightforward. Yes, the weather may be a little riskier, but the music isn't. Almost transported straight out of the Balearic island, DJs such as Richie Hawtin, Seth Troxler and Jamie Jones headed up 2015's day-long boutique event curated by Saved Records head Nic Fanciulli.
Born in a warehouse and evolving from an underground rave, Eastern Electrics retains its intimate and deep roots, but showcases that on a much greater scale. Taking over the picturesque Hatfield House with the best in the underground house and techno scene, its DJs will be interspersed with ravey woodland wonderlands, chill-out areas, and of course, pillow and paint fights.
Over a decade on from Wireless' first Hyde Park takeover, the inherently urban festival - now with a dash of pop and EDM - has become one of the capital's most eagerly anticipated annual weekenders, with thousands turning out due to its guarantee of huge pop icons, superstar electronic DJs and big players in urban culture. It now holds its residency in North London's Finsbury park.
Possibly the UK's most famous city festival, Tramlines is curated by a collection of venue owners, promoters and volunteers from Sheffield, bringing to life the city's streets, bars, clubs, warehouses. Its lineup is equally as diverse, with each venue as likely to host a rock or indie band as it is a house or techno DJ, and there's also a huge variety of theatre, dancers and workshops on the billing too.
Liverpool Sound City
Liverpool is a city steeped in musical history – not to mention a certain four lads from the 60s – and still it is at the forefront of the country's music scene. Its flagship festival, Sound City, twin to its New York counterpart of the same name, is the showcase of all the city's greatness. With a proud record of having put on alt-J and Florence and the Machine before they broke, the city-sprawling weekender gives a platform to international names, and a healthy dose of local and regional talent.
The Great Escape
Likened to South by Southwest (SXSW), Brighton's very own music festival has been going since 2006. Spread across 30 venues – not to mention numerous "unofficial" shows – the event has become a major part of the seaside city.
In addition to the variety of gigs, The Great Escape is also an industry festival, with conferences featuring some exceptional guest speakers running throughout. Known as "London by the sea", Brighton takes the hippest parts of the capital and scales them down into an intimate, friendly place with a thriving gay scene. Popular with those who chase the alternative, The Great Escape is the perfect festival for anyone looking to break out from the norm.
Extreme Sport Festivals
Europe's only surfer-skater music festival spreads itself across the Cornish sands of Fistral Beach and the nearby Trebelsue Farm. Attracting professional boarders of both the waves and ramps, Boardmasters' variety of competitions and showcases are soundtracked by dance groovers and pop bouncers including Faithless, Rudimental and Bastille in 2015.
A skater's paradise, NASS Festival is a wild weekend of BMXing, skateboarding and inline-skating on Somerset marshes, fuelled by live bands and DJs that range from heavy metal, to R&B, to drum 'n' bass. The adrenaline-pumped festival also houses white knuckle rides, minimoto racing and freerunners amongst its selection of bars and shisha lounges.
Freeze Big Air
A snowsports festival in England? Yep, that's right. Freeze Big Air is the country's biggest, bringing the mountains and some of the most talented snowboard and ski athletes to the UK's shores. Armed with 360 tonnes of snow and a 120 metre ramp, November 2015's crowd will get the chance to witness British Olympic bronze medallist Jenny Jones and British Olympian Jamie Nicholls challenge a field of world-class snowboarders and skiers. Away from the slopes, the event lays on the best Alpine foods and the best après-ski party the country's ever seen.
Packing in more than 100 artists to please all generations, Wychwood's musical lineup ranges from legends such as UB40 down to the urban musings of Ghostpoet, while its wider lineup embraces comedy, literature, theatre and endless workshops for all the family. And if the trials get too tough, there's an internal real ale festival to help parents through.
For Londoners, going in search of a relaxed family weekend out in the open air usually means hitting the motorway or getting on a train. But it doesn't have to be that way, for Blackheath Common, in South East London, is the home of a festival tailored-made to suit those days. Combining great music and upmarket food, OnBlackheath gives revellers the chance to rid themselves of the fast-paced city atmosphere and instead unwind to the sounds and flavours of the likes of Elbow, the Manic Street Preachers, and Michelin star chefs who take part in live demonstrations throughout the weekend.
The festival also offers a fabulous area designed specially for kids, with arts and crafts workshops, games and special performances from kids' favourites, creating a village fete vibe that's fun for all ages.
Bestival's eccentric little sister has won the 'Best Family Event' accolade at the UK Festival Awards so many times, it’s no wonder it's a firm favourite for the family-festival-goers. And just like its older brother, Camp Bestival is packed full with nonsense and surprise that permeates the worlds of music, theatre, art, comedy and poetry, with just a touch of fancy dress thrown in.
The only UK festival with a swimming pool, Standon Calling began life as a birthday BBQ but has now become a hugely intimate and diverse festival, priding itself on delivering creative fun for all ages. What you're left with is a musical lineup that embraces both the familiar and the stars of tomorrow, but also an eclectic variety of painters, sculptures, actors, comedians and even chefs, coming together to create a weekend full of bizarre surprises.
A folk, pop and rock festival with a love of technology, filling its weekend with not just music (previous headliners have included I Am Kloot and Darwin Deez), but also many technology driven workshops, previews and performances.