From cheese rolling to setting fire to a longship, there are plenty of quirky festivals taking place across the UK every year. Whilst many of these festivals may, at first glance, appear to be simple madness, the majority actually have their roots in England’s diverse history and have been taking place for centuries. If you’ve ever had a desire to take part in something truly unusual then here are some of the most unique festivals happening in 2015:
1. Falmouth’s International Sea Shanty Festival
This beach town in Cornwall plays host to one of the biggest maritime music concerts in the whole of Europe each summer. Held over three days, this free festival has over 50 shanty groups entertaining thousands of visitors. 2014 was the festivals biggest ever year with over 261 hours of shanty singing and this year looks set to be even better. Taking place on Friday 12th June to Sunday 14th June, this festival predominantly raises money for the RNLI and is held at more than 20 different venues across the seaside town. Perhaps it is hard to believe that so many different sea shanties exist, but this is certainly worth experiencing if possible.
2. Totnes Orange Races
This August celebration is organised by the local Elizabethan Society to commemorate the day when Sir Francis Drake visited this Devon market town and knocked over a basket of oranges, sending them rolling down the street. Entrants must throw or kick their oranges along the 450-metre course but in order to win, oranges must be at least partially intact when they cross the finishing line. This year’s races take place on Tuesday 18th August. It seems like a small and strange event to celebrate but the orange races continue to prove popular with Totnes locals and tourists alike.
3. Notting Hill, London
Whilst this incredibly well known festival may not, at first glace, strike you as unusual, when you consider the different elements which go into making it, then you may think again! Since its debut in 1964, this carnival has grown at a rapid rate and now attracts more visitors than ever. Music, masquerade, fine Caribbean food and colourful parades make up this stunning festival which undoubtedly takes place in one of the 30 most beautiful cities in Europe. Hundreds of thousands of visitors will descend on the capital city for this August bank holiday festival so if you want to be a part of it, we suggest booking your hotel as soon as possible. There are many great London Piccadilly hotels which would be an ideal choice. Notting Hill is very easy to get to, so staying further afield from Notting Hill itself, such as in one of the London Piccadilly hotels would still make it fairly easy to reach the festival; just leave enough time to traverse the crowds of people with similar ideas!
4. Cheese Rolling, Gloucestershire
So extreme is this Gloucestershire celebration, which takes place every May bank holiday that there have even been campaigns for it to be banned. This 15th century event occurs on the grassy slopes of Coopers Hill and involves contestants chasing a 9lb Double Gloucester cheese. The cheese, which is released one second before the runners, can reach speeds of up to 70 miles an hour; posing a serious risk to onlookers should it veer off course. The runners are not particularly safe either, despite usually being significantly behind the wheel of cheese. Sprains and fractures are not unheard of. Catching the cheese is very rare so the winner is usually the person who reaches the bottom of the hill first.
5. Fireball Whirling, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire
On the last day of the year, the inhabitants of this small fishing town brave the cold to take part in this risky parade. More than 30 people take part each year, walking through the town’s streets twirling balls of fire above their heads accompanied by a local band of bagpipers. The fireballs are made from combustible materials such as coal and wood and are so large that onlookers have to be kept a significant distance away to prevent injury. After the parade the fireballs are thrown into the North Sea and the entrants go from house to house seeking a dram of whisky; known as ‘first footing’ their neighbours.
If none of these festivals are local to you then why not search your own area to see if there is anything taking place close by? With such a vast and varied history, you might be surprised to find your own county has its own unique festival which takes place each year.