Last updated on November 19th, 2023
Curated outdoor festivals and events this summer
by Carolyn Ray, Editor, JourneyWoman
The United Kingdom is one of those places that I always enjoy and love returning to. I will never forget my first trip through England as a student en route to Europe, the excitement of Heathrow, travelling overland through Canterbury, Stratford-Upon-Avon and Oxford, and taking the hovercraft from Dover across the English Channel.
I’ve always felt safe in the UK as a solo traveller, whether I’m stopping over or spending a few weeks. I love England’s history, style and energy.
Our readers feel the same way: the UK and Ireland have been consistently at the top of our surveys as one of the first places to go post-pandemic, and the nation has been a frequent subject of discussion on our private Solo Travel Wisdom Facebook group. At the bottom of this article, I’ve included some recommendations from women in our group on places to stay and transportation.
Tourism statistics show that women are finally returning to Britain but it will take a few years to return to pre-COVID levels of 2019. Visit Britain estimates that by the summer, half of pre-COVID inbound visitor volume will have returned. By the end of 2022, the forecast is expected to be two-thirds of pre-COVID levels. (Source: Visit Britain).
Queen’s Platinum Jubilee
To mark Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee, events and celebrations are taking place across the nations. The Platinum Jubilee Weekend starts on June 2 with the Trooping the Colour ceremony to officially mark the monarch’s birthday, accompanied by a flypast by the Royal Air Force. Otherwise known as The Queen’s Birthday Parade, this colourful display of military pageantry features officers in ceremonial uniform, as well as horses and musicians. The Queen always attends the ceremony, which takes place on Horse Guards Parade behind Whitehall, London.
There’s also a huge party at the Queen’s official London residence and everyone is invited – a massive concert featuring international performers will rock Buckingham Palace and will be beamed to big screens across the nations. There’s a special Platinum Jubilee Pageant and clusters of events around Britain for visitors to enjoy, including giant picnics, parades, exhibitions and more. Efforts are already underway to plant a great floral river that will lap around the moat of the Tower of London.
The Stonehenge Summer Solstice in Wiltshire runs from June 18–21. The Summer Solstice is the most important day of the year at Stonehenge and a truly magical time to visit. There’s a four-day festival to mark the occasion, with the celebration bringing together England’s New Age Tribes (neo-druids, neo-pagans and Wiccans) with the curious.
In Edinburgh, The Royal Highland Show from June 23-26 is one of Scotland’s most iconic events, a major highlight of the Scottish country calendar and firmly established as one of Europe’s most impressive celebrations of farming, food and rural life.
“England is one of my heart places. It’s where I grew up, have moved back to twice, and have spent many holidays. I will never get tired of visiting. Here are a few tips for you if you decide to go.” – Joy Fox, JourneyWoman Advisory Coumcil
Literary festivals, music, arts and more
From literary festivals to music and hot air balloon adventures, here is a selection of outdoor festivals and events happening this summer.
For those who love flowers, the Chelsea Flower Show, in London on May 24-28 is one of the best-known Royal Horticultural Shows. There’s also the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show in Surrey, the world’s largest annual flower show, which runs from July 4-10. Hampton Court is one of my favorite places to visit; I can almost imagine Henry VIII strolling the grounds.
Art and Literature Lovers
From May 26 to June 5, the renowned Hay Festival of Literature and Arts is held annually in a tented village on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park, bringing together some of the greatest contemporary authors and the most exciting new voices in literature and the arts. Past speakers and performers have included Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan, Chelsea Clinton, Michael Woolf, Jake Bugg, Laura Mvula, David Walliams, Simon Schama, David Olusoga, Rose McGowan, Dara O’Briain and many more.
In August, the Edinburgh International Book Festival runs from August 13 to 19, with more than 800 events featuring everyone from the rising stars of fiction to Nobel Prize-winners, plus events for children and young adults showcasing the finest writers and illustrators for young people.
Jane Austen Regency Week runs from June 18-26 in Hampshire, south England. This nine-day festival is packed with all things Austen and takes place in and around the market town of Alton and nearby Chawton, the home of Jane Austen’s House & Museum.
If you need more Austen, from September 9 to 18, Bath hosts the Jane Austen Festival, where you can join other Jane Austen fans in the Grand Regency Costumed Promenade. Past events have included elegant guided walks and day trips, intriguing talks, music recitals and concerts, as well as workshops and dance classes.
For fans of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Oxford hosts Alice’s Day on July 2. Each year on the first Saturday of July, Mad Hatters can join the annual festivities. Visitors can dress up as favourite characters at The Story Museum, take a walk through the story’s history and explore the highlights of the city that inspired Lewis Carroll’s classic children’s tale.
Not to be outdone, there’s also Roald Dahl Day in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, south-east England on the storyteller’s birthday, September 13 at the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in his home village of Great Missenden.
Music lovers should check out Last Night of the Proms & BBC Proms in the Park at Royal Albert Hall & Hyde Park, London. While dates are being confirmed for 2022, the BBC Proms is the biggest classical music festival on earth. The legendary Last Night of the Proms is the culmination of an eight-week summer season of daily orchestral and classical music concerts taking place across London. Last Night of the Proms tickets are very popular, so music fans should plan ahead. The celebrations include BBC Proms in the Park, which take place in London’s Hyde Park.
The Isle of Wight Festival runs from June 16-19 on the famous island situated off the south coast of England. The Isle of Wight has an impressive musical heritage stretching back to Bob Dylan (who performed here in 1969) and Jimi Hendrix (who took to the stage in 1970). Recent headliners have included Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, George Ezra and Biffy Clyro. The Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival runs from July 15-24 and plays host to some of the finest jazz and blues talent from all corners of the globe.
While in Edinburgh
Established in 1947, the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) is the world’s oldest continually running film festival and runs from August 12-20. In July, the Edinburgh Art Festival runs from July 28 – August 28 and is Britain’s largest annual celebration of visual art. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, from August 5 – 29 is the world’s largest arts festival, transforming Scotland’s capital as thousands of performers take to hundreds of stages all over the city to present shows of all kinds and for every taste. The work on show ranges from huge names in the world of entertainment to unknown artists looking to build their careers.
While in Edinburgh, don’t miss the The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo from August 5-27, an iconic Edinburgh institution, with music, dance and precision displays with the Massed Pipes and Drums, the Massed Military Bands, cultural troupes, singers and the poignant refrain of the Lone Piper against the stunning backdrop of Edinburgh Castle. Each year’s Tattoo is very much a ‘global gathering’ – showcasing the talents of musicians and performers from every corner of the globe. Each Tattoo is different from the last and always embraces different themes; nature, creativity and Scotland’s homecoming are just some of the concepts explored in recent times.
Pride in Britain
Pride is celebrated across England, with Pride in London, Bristol Pride, a week-long series of events dedicated to the city’s LGBTQI+ community to spread the message of love and equality for all, and Brighton Pride in August. The party in Brighton carries on with Fabuloso in the Park, featuring main stage entertainment from major artists, with previous years hosting acts including Britney Spears, Kylie Minogue and Jess Glynne. Other entertainment has included dance tents, cabaret, a funfair, a family area and a market.
On the water
For those who love being on the water, the Round the Island Race on the Isle of Wight on June 25 is an annual one-day yacht race around the Isle of Wight, usually attracting more than 1,700 boats and around 16,000 sailors, making it one of the largest yacht races in the world. Competitors come from all over the world and follow the 50 nautical mile course, which starts and finishes in Cowes.
Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2022, the Bristol Harbour Festival is a free weekend of music, markets and maritime fun based around Bristol’s historic harbourside. Previous festivals have been packed with live performance, artists, musicians, circus acts, children’s events, dancers, food markets and street stalls. On the water, hundreds of sailing vessels provide a vibrant backdrop to the activities.
Eroica Britannia, Goodwood is a unique two-day vintage cycling festival on August 6-7, which sees cyclists from all over the world don retro gear and hop on pre-1987 bikes for this special race. 2022 is the first year the event will take place at its new home in Goodwood, in the heart of Sussex. Competitors will glide past lush vineyards, golden shores and through chocolate-box villages on this new route, while the festival hub promises entertainment including track races and competitions.
I had my first-ever hot air balloon ride in San Miguel de Allende last November – it’s definitely an experience worth doing. With more than 100 balloons taking off, the four-day Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is the city’s largest outdoor event, held annually at the city’s Ashton Court Estate, and the largest fiesta of its kind in Europe.
You can also hop in a hot air balloon in Bath, and fly over the Royal Crescent, Victoria Park, and surrounding lush countryside. Bath’s Hot air balloon rides offer a bird’s-eye view of the whole city. A perfect way to see the city from new heights.
The Taste of London Festival in London transforms Regent’s Park into a foodie wonderland for four days of summer eating, drinking and entertainment. Past years saw around 40 of the city’s best restaurants dish up their finest dishes for the ultimate alfresco feast, while 200 producers provide a bounty of the best food and beverages from Britain and around the world.
Unique restaurant experiences in London
Looking for some innovative restaurant experiences? Try these, recommended by Visit Britain:
Bustronome: A high-end double decker bus invites visitors to explore London and savour the finest seasonal cuisine during a real gourmet escapade.
Alice at The Franklin Afternoon Tea: Inspired by the Alice: Curiouser and curiouser exhibition at the Victoria & Albert museum, The Franklin, a boutique hotel, offers an Alice in Wonderland themed experience in the heart of Knightsbridge.
Romeo & Juliet Afternoon Tea: With a menu inspired by the great romantic tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, the Swan serves Mr Falstaff’s Afternoon Tea which includes special treats such as cheese scones and a Welsh rarebit.
Peter Pan Afternoon Tea at the Aqua Shard: Situated on the 31st floor of Europe’s tallest building, the restaurant Aqua Shard offers magnificent views of the London skyline through its floor-to-ceiling glass can be enjoyed while indulging in the Peter Pan themed afternoon which brings the magic of the classic children’s fairy tale to life.
Supperclub Tube: Three times a week an old 1967 Victoria Line tube carriage is transformed into a restaurant serving a six course Latin American-inspired menu at the Walthamstow Pumphouse Museum.
Below Stone Nest: A hidden candlelit cocktail bar with a subterranean touch is located in the cellar of an old chapel in Covent Garden.
Places to Stay, recommended by JourneyWomen:
When you book these, please let these business owners know you heard it through JourneyWoman!
Bath: Diane K recommends “The Old Stables”, saying “Ally will take care of you. You will love the energy, her kindness…” Learn more here
London: Kathy W. recommends the Ashburn Hotel, a small boutique hotel in Kensington. “Love the area. Short walk to tube station.” Check rates now!
London: Melissa recommends the Citizen M: ”A London friend recommended the Citizen M to me. I stayed at the Citizen M in NYC and it was just what I needed. Tiny room. Great hotel services. Decent price.” Book CitizenM right here
London: Charley recommends a Premier Inn in London; “nothing special but it was clean, had very helpful staff and a full breakfast. Our itinerary was sleep, breakfast, TOUR! We were just off Leicestershire Square – easy walk to theatres and the tube.” Book it now
London: Michelle recommends the Nadler in Kensington: “The Nadler Kensington near Victoria and Albert Museum (perfect for 1 person with cute tiny kitchenette) recently renovated and super clean.” Book it here
Michelle also recommends the Strand Palace: “A large hotel where I stayed the last time is the Strand Palace in Westminster Borough very near Covent Garden Market very near Tube station not as quaint as others but way more practical (for a short stay.)” Book your stay now
London: Diane recommends the Rose Park Hotel: “Nothing special but walk to Paddington tube and rail stations – and train from right from Heathrow airport. On a lovely inner courtyard too. Look it up. My new go to.” Book a room now
Getting around England is best done by rental car, according to Fiona. She recommends renting a car to get to less-travelled places and using the Underground and bus system in London.
Donna says: “I used the train/tube in London and out to Bath where I rented a car to travel around Devon and Cornwall. It did take me 2-3 times longer to drive most anywhere in Devon and Cornwall than it would take me for a comparable distance in the States, although this was long before GPS.”
Janet says: “I live in London and use public transport to get around. In normal times, you spend lots of time in traffic and drivers have to pay a daily congestion charge in central London, which is quite high. Outside of London, car is a great way to get around, although if want to travel longer distances in a short space of time – I.e. London to Scotland, consider using the train & booking a car at the other end. The disadvantage of that is you don’t get to experience the amazing British countryside in quite the same way. In Ireland, car hire is a good option as inter-city transport is not quite as efficient.”
Plan Your Trip
Get started with resources recommended by the JourneyWoman community
Book Your Flights
Find Somewhere to Stay
Looking for an apartment or something more long-term? Check out VRBO.
Insure Your Trip
Travel insurance is more important than ever. Compare plans and policies for the best coverage for your trip using Insure My Trip.
Looking for a Tour?
Head to the Women’s Travel Directory to find a woman-friendly tour around the world.
Why not brush up on a new language before your trip with Babbel.
Don’t forget your JourneyWoman branded accessories while you’re on the go!
Explore More From the UK
With its ancient history and famous Cathedral, Canterbury, in Kent, has inspired pilgrimages, myths and stories for centuries.
Our October 2023 Book of the Month, “The Dictionary of Lost Words”, explores the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary and how words mean different things to men and women.
Visiting London? Why not take a long weekend break in Edinburgh, one of those magical cities that can be enjoyed year-round.