Top Events

Brighton Festival, May

Glastonbury Festival, June

Glyndebourne, May–August

Notting Hill Carnival, August

Trooping the Colour, June

January

After the festivities of Christmas and New Year’s Eve, the first few weeks of the year can feel a bit of an anticlimax – never helped by the often bad weather.

The London Parade

A ray of light in the gloom, the New Year’s Day Parade in London (to use its official title; www.londonparade.co.uk) is one of the biggest events of its kind in the world, featuring marching bands, street performers, classic cars, floats and displays winding their way through the streets.

Chinese New Year

Late January or early February sees London’s Chinatown snap, crackle and pop with fireworks, a colourful street parade, lion dances and dim sum aplenty.

February

February is midwinter in England. The country may be scenic under snow and sunshine, but is more likely to be grey and gloomy. Festivals and events to brighten the mood are still thin on the ground.

Jorvik Viking Festival

In chilly mid-February, the ancient Viking capital of York becomes home once again to invaders and horned helmets galore, with the intriguing addition of longship races.

Six Nations Rugby Championship

This highlight of the rugby calendar (www.rbs6nations.com) runs from late January to March, with the England team playing its home matches at London's Twickenham stadium.

March

Spring starts to show itself, with daffodil blooms brightening up the month. Some people cling to the winter mood, but hotels and inns offer special weekend rates to tempt them out from under their duvets.

Bath Literature Festival

The elegant Georgian streets of Bath fill up with bibliophiles during this major literary event, held from late February to early March.

University Boat Race

An annual race in late March down the River Thames in London between the rowing teams from Cambridge and Oxford Universities – an institution (since 1856) that still enthrals the country.

April

The weather is looking up, with warmer and drier days bringing out the spring blossoms. Sights and attractions that closed for the low season open up around the middle of the month or at Easter.

Grand National

Half the country has a flutter on the highlight of the three-day horse race meeting at Aintree: a steeplechase with a testing course and high jumps. First Saturday in April.

London Marathon

In early April, superfit athletes cover 26 miles and 385yd in just over two hours. Others dress up in daft costumes and take considerably longer.

Stratford Literary Festival

The top event on the cultural calendar in William Shakespeare’s home town attracts big hitters from the book world for a week of debates, author events, workshops and humour.

May

With sunny spring days, the calendar fills with more events. Two public holidays (the first and last Mondays of May) mean road traffic is very busy over the adjoining long weekends.

FA Cup Final

The highlight of the football season for over a century. Throughout winter, teams from all of England’s football divisions have been battling it out in a knockout tournament, culminating in this heady spectacle at Wembley Stadium – the home of English football. Held in early May.

Brighton Festival

The lively three-week arts fest takes over the streets of buzzy south-coast resort Brighton during May. Alongside the mainstream performances there’s a festival ‘fringe’ as well.

Chelsea Flower Show

The Royal Horticultural Society flower show in late May is the highlight of the gardener’s year. Top garden designers take gold, silver and bronze medals (and TV accolades), while the punters take the plants in the last-day giveaway.

Glyndebourne

From late May till the end of August, this open-air festival of world-class opera enlivens the pastoral surroundings of Glyndebourne House in East Sussex.

Cotswold Food & Farming Festival

A celebration of local food and farming (www.thecotswoldfoodandfarmingfestival.com) at the Cotswold Farm Park near Cheltenham, with stalls, displays, activities and demonstrating chefs. Main festival in May; others later in the year.

Keswick Mountain Festival

A long weekend in late May in the heart of the Lake District is dedicated to celebrating all things outdoor-related, from outdoor activities and celebrity speakers to live music and sporting events.

June

Now it’s almost summer. You can tell because June sees the music-festival season kick off properly, while sporting events – from rowing to racing – fill the calendar.

Salisbury Festival

A prestigious, eclectic event running from late May to early June, encompassing classical, world and pop music, plus theatre, literature and art.

Derby Week

Horse racing, people watching and clothes spotting are on the agenda at this weeklong race meeting (www.epsomderby.co.uk) in Epsom, Surrey, in early June.

Cotswold Olimpicks

Welly wanging, pole climbing and shin kicking are the key disciplines at this traditional Gloucestershire sports day in early June, held each year since 1612.

Isle of Wight Festival

Originally held from 1968 to 1970 during the high point of hippie counterculture, this musical extravaganza was resurrected in 2002. Today it attracts top bands, especially from the indie and rock fraternities. Held in mid-June.

Trooping the Colour

Military bands and bear-skinned grenadiers march down London’s Whitehall in this mid-June martial pageant to mark the monarch’s birthday.

Royal Ascot

It’s hard to tell which matters more – the fashion or the fillies – at this highlight of the horse-racing year, held in mid-June at Berkshire’s Royal Ascot racetrack. Expect top hats, designer frocks and plenty of frantic betting.

Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships

Correctly titled the All England Club Championship, and the best-known grass-court tennis tournament in the world, Wimbledon attracts all the big names. Held in late June.

Glastonbury Festival

England’s favourite pop and rock fest held (nearly) every year on a dairy farm in Somerset in late June. Invariably muddy and still a rite of passage for every self-respecting British music fan.

Meltdown Festival

In late June, London’s Southbank Centre hands over the curatorial reigns to a legend of contemporary music (David Bowie, Morrissey, Patti Smith) to pull together a full program of concerts, talks and films.

Royal Regatta

In late June or early July, boats of every description take to the water for an upper-crust river regatta at Henley-on-Thames.

Broadstairs Dickens Festival

Charles Dickens, one of England’s best-known writers, is celebrated at this literary festival in the town where he spent his summers and based many of his novels.

Pride

The big event on the gay-and-lesbian calendar is a technicolour street parade through London’s West End, culminating in a concert in Trafalgar Sq. Late June or early July.

Aldeburgh Festival

Founded by composer Benjamin Britten in 1948, this exploration of classical music is East Anglia’s biggest festival, taking in new, reinterpreted and rediscovered pieces, and extending into the visual arts.

July

This is it: summer, with weekly festivals and county shows. Schools break up at the end of the month, so there’s a holiday tingle in the air, dulled only by busy Friday-evening roads.

Great Yorkshire Show

The charming town of Harrogate plays host to one of England’s largest county shows. Expect Yorkshire grit, Yorkshire tykes, Yorkshire puddings, Yorkshire beef…

Latitude Festival

Popular and eclectic festival held near the lovely Suffolk seaside town of Southwold, with top names from the alternative-music scene complemented by theatre, cabaret and literary events. Held in mid-July.

Cowes Week

The country’s biggest yachting spectacular hits the choppy seas around the Isle of Wight in late July.

Womad

In late July, roots and world music take centre stage at this former Reading-based festival (www.womad.org), now in a country park near Malmesbury in the south Cotswolds.

Truck

Held in late July, this indie music festival (www.truckfestival.com) in Steventon, Oxfordshire, has a loyal following and is known for its eclectic acts.

August

Schools and colleges are closed, parliament is in recess, the sun is shining (hopefully), most people go on holiday for a week or two (some of them abroad), and England is in a holiday mood.

Notting Hill Carnival

A multicultural, Caribbean-style street carnival in late August in London's district of Notting Hill. Steel drums, dancers and outrageous costumes.

Reading Festival

England’s second-oldest music festival. Originally a rock fest, it veers a bit more towards pop these days, but it’s still a good bet for big-name bands. Happens in late August.

Leeds Festival

Leeds’ major music festival, and the northern sister of the festival in Reading. The two festivals are held on the same late-August weekend, with the same line-up. If artists play Reading on the Friday, they’ll play Leeds on Saturday, and vice versa.

Manchester Pride

One of England’s biggest celebrations of gay, bisexual and transgender life. Happens in late August.

International Beatleweek

Held in the last week of August, the world’s biggest tribute to the Beatles features six days of music, exhibitions, tours and memorabilia sales in Liverpool.

September

The first week of September feels more like August, but then schools open up again, motorway traffic returns to normal and the summer party’s over for another year. Good weather is still a chance.

International Birdman Competition

In the first weekend in September, competitors dressed as batmen, fairies and flying machines compete in an outlandish celebration of self-powered flight (www.birdman.org.uk) at West Sussex’ Bognor Regis. The furthest flight takes home a £30,000 prize. So far no one’s got near the hallowed 100m goal.

Bestival

Quirky music festival in early September, with a different fancy-dress theme every year. Held at Robin Hill Country Park on the Isle of Wight.

World Gurning Championships

Gurning is face-pulling, and this has to be one of the weirdest events of the year. Elastic-faced contestants come to Egremont in Cumbria in mid-September every year, contorting their features in a bid to pull the most grotesque expressions. See www.facebook.com/EgremontCrabFairWorldGurningChampionships.

Great North Run

Britain’s biggest marathon is in London, but the Great North Run in Tyneside in September is the biggest half-marathon in the world, with the greatest number of runners of any race over this distance.

October

October means autumn. Leaves turn golden-brown and, unless there’s an ‘Indian Summer’, the weather begins to get cold. Sights and attractions start to shut down for the low season, and accommodation rates drop.

Falmouth Oyster Festival

The West Country port of Falmouth hosts this event to mark the start of the traditional oyster-catching (‘dredging’) season, and to celebrate local food from the sea and farmland of Cornwall.

Horse of the Year Show

The country’s major indoor horse show (www.hoys.co.uk), with dressage, showjumping and other equine activities. Held in early October at the NEC arena near Birmingham.

Cheltenham Literature Festival

Established in 1949, the world's longest-running book-focused festival showcases the biggest names in literature over 10 days in autumn.

November

Winter’s here, and November is dull. The weather’s often cold and damp, summer is a distant memory and Christmas seems far away: suitably sombre for Remembrance Day, while Guy Fawkes Night sparks up some fun.

Guy Fawkes Night

Also called Bonfire Night and Fireworks Night (www.bonfirenight.net), 5 November sees fireworks filling the country’s skies in commemoration of a failed attempt to blow up parliament in 1605. Effigies of Guy Fawkes, the leader of the Gunpowder Plot, often burn on bonfires.

Remembrance Day

On 11 November, red poppies are worn and wreaths are laid in towns and cities around the country. The day (www.poppy.org.uk) commemorates military personnel killed and injured in the line of duty, from the world wars to modern conflicts.

World's Biggest Liar Contest

Another whacky event, and it’s Cumbria again. Fibbers from all walks of life go head-to-head in a battle of mid-November mendacity at the Bridge Inn in Wasdale. See www.santonbridgeinn.com.

December

Schools break up around mid-December, but most shops and businesses keep going until Christmas Eve. Many towns and cities hold Christmas markets, ideal places for picking up Christmas presents.

Victorian Festival of Christmas

Portsmouth's historic dockyard, home to HMS Victory and the Mary Rose Museum, gets a Dickensian makeover for this celebration of Victorian Christmas traditions (www.christmasfestival.co.uk), including street entertainment, carol singing and a Christmas market. First weekend in December or last weekend in November.

New Year Celebrations

On 31 December, fireworks and street parties happen in town squares across the country, lighting up the nation to welcome in the New Year.