A summer festival is a great day out and some are surprisingly accessible. Most are held outdoors so – assuming the weather holds out – you can soak in some sun, enjoy the atmosphere or find a quiet corner away from the crowds. Rough Guides’ author Karen Darke provides her pick of the UK’s most accessible festivals.
A parade at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod
1. Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod
3–8 July, Llangollen, North Wales
Every summer, around 4,000 performers and 50,000 visitors gather in this small town in northeast Wales for the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod. This spectacular cultural festival runs a smorgasbord of music, dance and entertainment for people of all ages and cultures. Buy a day ticket for the main pavilion where you can watch choirs, folk singers and dancers from around the world compete. Alternatively, catch an evening concert – this year’s line-up includes the Sir Van Morrison, Kaiser Chiefs at Llanfest and Alfie Boe. Access facilities are good: there are wheelchair spaces at the main pavilion, a courtesy car for travel around the site and an induction hearing loop system. Carers get in free and assistance dogs are welcome.
Also Try: On 14–15 July, watch historic aircraft perform spectacular aerial displays at The Flying Legends Airshow at IWM Duxford in Cambridgeshire.
2. The Great Yorkshire Show
10–12 July, Harrogate, North Yorkshire
There is something for everyone at The Great Yorkshire Show, England’s best-known agricultural show. This big summer event celebrates its 160th anniversary in 2018 and will feature 160 shows, including daredevil equestrian displays, a show-jumping competition, cutting-edge farming machinery, and thousands of cows, sheep, pigs and pigeons competing in the judging ring. The majority of walkways have hard surfaces, and most buildings and animal areas have ramped or level access. There are viewing platforms at the ends of the Grandstand, disabled parking and toilets, and wheelchair and electric scooter hire. See the website for more on access.
An acrobatic flypast at the Royal International Air Tattoo
3. The Royal International Air Tattoo
13–15 July, RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire
With fast jets and historic WWII fighter planes, The Royal International Air Tattoo is billed as the “world’s greatest flying events. This year is set to be more spectacular than ever, as the show celebrates the centenary of the Royal Air Force. As well as seven hours of dramatic air shows on all three days and an air salute to the RAF by serving air arms and aircraft from around the world, there is plenty of on-ground entertainment too. You can step back to the 1940s in the Vintage Village, use hands-on technology in the Techno Zone or watch death-defying motorcycle displays. Access at the show is good: there’s disabled parking, an accessible bus around the showground, and a disabled enclosure positioned centrally for good viewing.
4. Bristol Harbour Festival
20–22 July, Bristol
During one weekend in July, a spectacular regatta transforms Bristol’s historic docks, as boats of all kinds gather for the Bristol Harbour Festival to celebrate the city’s maritime heritage. Along with many nautical attractions, including tall ships, steamboats and boat races, there’s all manner of entertainment – from a circus playground in Queen Square, dance workshops, and street theatre to concerts, poetry jams, art exhibitions, food markets, and water display teams, including this year’s headline act the Power8 Sprints – a “high-octane” rowing championship. Children can take part in singing or storytelling workshops, or simply get covered in mud. Access is generally good on closed roads and hard surfaces, and there is a raised viewing platform at the Amphitheatre stage. See the festival website for more about access.
Music and Culture
Celebrating world music and dance at child-friendly Womad festival
26–29 July, Charlton Park, Wiltshire
Billed as “celebrating the world in a weekend’, WOMAD showcases music, arts and dance from around the world. This year, some of the highlights include the wonderful Amadou and Mariam (the globally successful blind married singers from Mali) and the legendary Orchestre Les Mangelepa, who play alongside all manner of global musicians from Scottish folk, Canadian roots and Portuguese Fado acts to dueting Sufi sisters and a Polish punk concept band. There is also a restorative spa in a yurt (note that carers must purchase a ticket if they wish to use the spa facilities). Disabled viewing platforms are located in front of the main stages; there are accessible toilets around the site and a designated campsite area for people with disabilities. See the festival website for further details.
Scotland’s Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival: a relaxed family event
6. The Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival
2–4 August, Belladrum, Beauly, Inverness
This family-friendly all-ages music and arts festival is held on the Belladrum Estate, just outside Inverness. The festival won the 2008 Best Grass Roots Festival in the UK and has grown in popularity ever since. In 2018, fancy dress theme is Bollywood, so don your best sari or your Bella clan tartan and enjoy a diverse musical line-up on multiple stages, including headline acts Paloma Faith and Primal Scream. All of the festival site is accessible to wheelchairs, but note that as this is an outdoor event the ground can become muddy. Apply in advance for free tickets for carers and a pass to the designated camping zone for people with disabilities. For further camping and access information see the festival website.
Also Try: Watch sails billow at Cowes Regatta (4–11 August), an international gathering of boats on the Solent.
7. Brighton Pride
3–5 August, Preston Park, Brighton
Brighton Pride is a flamboyant, colourful “carnival of diversity” that’s famed for its community parade of floats, bands, costumes and dancers. There’s also a dog show, activities in the park and many other music, comedy and poetry performances. Sign up to the access service where you can reserve accessible parking, request viewing passes and passes for accessible toilets, and book a sign-language interpreter. Note that Pride festival itself has already sold out for 2018, but VIP tickets are yet to go on sale and you can still buy tickets for the parade and attend many other events around Brighton.
Exuberant music theatre at the Edinburgh Festival
8. The Edinburgh Fringe
3–27 August, Edinburgh, Scotland
Since it began 70 years ago, The Edinburgh Fringe has become the world’s biggest celebration of the arts. Around 50,000 comedy, music, theatre, circus and cabaret shows all over central Edinburgh in all kinds of venues: from big concert halls and nightclubs, through to small arts venues, theatres, bandstands, churches and the back rooms of pubs. The steep streets and cobbles of Scotland’s capital may not be easy to navigate, but if you plan well, the festival is worth every effort. Access needs are well catered for, with signed, audio-described and captioned performances. For information on accessible performances and the best ticket collection locations see the festival website.
9. Leeds Festival
24–26 August, Bramham Park, Leeds
Like its sister festival in Reading on the same weekend, Leeds Festival is surprisingly inclusive, so you don’t need to miss out on seeing some great rock, indie and dance acts this August bank-holiday weekend. The main arena is in a flat grassy area and the stages have viewing platforms. There’s disabled access parking and a campsite with accessible showers, toilets and wheelchair charging. The campsite is run by the charity Attitude is Everything, a charity that seeks to improve access to live music. However, note that some sections of terrain are steep getting from the camping area to the arena and the ground is mostly unsurfaced around the site, although some temporary paths are laid down for the event. For further details, see leedsfestival.com
You might imagine the festival scene to be too hectic, muddy or inaccessible to negotiate with a disability, but our research shows that many have thought about access really well. A fun festival experience can be possible for all, and we hope this list gives you some inspiration to make the most of the summer and get out and about.
For more travel inspiration, see other articles written by Rough Guides:
Rough Guides would like to thank the following individuals, companies and picture libraries for their kind permission to reproduce their photographs (in order of appearance on the web page):
Header image: Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival: © Paul Campbell
Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod: © 2016 Eye Imagery
The Royal International Air Tattoo: © The Royal International Air Tattoo
WOMAD: © David Hedges
Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival: © Paul Campbell
Edinburgh Festival: © Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society / David Monteith Hodge