We’ve rounded up some great spring and summer festival and event ideas in Plymouth, Windsor, Oxford, Exeter, Bath, Bristol, Swansea, Port Eliot and Cheltenham. Why not make the most of a visit to one of these great events and turn it into a weekend break? Adventures start here...
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Cheltenham Jazz Festival
The Cheltenham Jazz Festival
brings massive international names (Randy Crawford, Van Morrison, Courtney Pine, China Moses) and a host of British established and emerging talent (Anoushka Lucas, Becki Biggins) in a wide variety of performances. Cheltenham’s Montpellier Gardens become a tented festival village for the duration, with a Big Top stage, Jazz Arena and food, drink and market areas. Performances extend into nearby Cheltenham Town Hall, the Parabola Arts Centre and the Daffodil restaurant.
Cheltenham itself is a cultural hub all year round; its expanding music, theatre and arts scene taking in public buildings and live-music pubs across the town. Historic Pittville Park
is a relaxing place for families to wander and taste the famous (admittedly unpleasant) spa waters in the Pittville Pump Room. And if things get too warm, a dip in Sandford Parks Lido
is a refreshing interlude in a busy weekend.Getting there:
GWR trains run direct from London Paddington to Cheltenham Spa in around 2h15m.
Exeter Festival of Food Drink
If you love everything food-related, come to the heart of Exeter and indulge in top-class local produce, cuisine and drinks from all over the South West at the Exeter Festival of Food and Drink
. Exeter Castle hosts hands-on events and cookery demonstrations from the likes of Mitch Tonks and Michael Caines in its Festival Cookery Theatre, VIP lounge, two food pavilions and more than 100 individual producers selling a tempting array of food and drinks from outdoor catering stalls. Surrounding Northernhay Gardens hosts Exeter Beats: live music in the evening to enjoy with drinks and delicious street food from the pop-up stalls.
And when you feel you couldn’t eat even a wafer-thin mint, Exeter city itself is a fascinating place to walk off the calories. Marvel at the amazing vaulting in the magnificent Gothic cathedral
, explore the labyrinth of atmospheric medieval underground passages
beneath the city streets, or amble around the quirky antique shops, pubs and bars of the idyllic quayside
GWR trains run direct from London Paddington to Exeter St Davids in about 2h20m.
Flickr CC-BY Timothy Davies
If you’re into all things equestrian, you’ll love the Royal Windsor Horse Show
, set over five arenas in the private grounds of Windsor Castle. As well as world-class international show jumping, dressage and carriage driving, you’ll see exciting displays of horsemanship by the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, the DAKS Pony Club Mounted Games and the Shetland Pony Grand National. Browse 250 stands and eateries in the shopping village, and make sure you’ve reserved your seat in the main castle’s grandstand area.
Windsor itself is a genteel riverside town, packed with historic buildings and excellent shops and restaurants. Take a boat trip
on the Thames, or - even more fun – an amphibious Windsor Duck
tour. Eton is within easy walking distance from Windsor Castle – the 15th-century buildings of Eton College make up most of the town and run guided tours
on Friday afternoons. Look out for the Eton schoolboys in their distinctive tailcoats.Getting there:
GWR trains run from London Paddington to Windsor & Eton Central, changing at Slough, in under 45 min.
joe daniel price via Getty Images
It’s the Bath Festival
’s 70th anniversary and this multi-arts festival taking place across the city is as varied and mind-expanding as ever. With literature and music at its heart, author talks are on subjects as varied as space travel, sport, mathematics and politics; workshops include crime writing and publishing poetry, and music ranges from string quartets to Professor Green via Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Take some time out to appreciate the sweeping Georgian splendour of Bath itself, the magnificent Roman baths and pop into a tea room for some genteel refreshment.Getting there:
GWR trains run direct from London Paddington to Bath Spa in about 1h 30m.
Oxford Castle Unlocked
Oxford Castle plays host to eight weeks of stunning Shakespearean performances throughout the summer in the Oxford Shakespeare Festival
. In June, BMH Theatre, ‘one-hour Shakespeare’ specialists will be performing ‘Othello’ and ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ back to back: a double bill exploring how love and jealousy can lead to happiness or tragedy. July brings Tomahawk Theatre with the compelling, evergreen open-air favourite, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in the exquisite setting of Oxford Castle’s courtyard – one of Oxford’s must-see productions. And in August, Oxford Castle is the perfect setting for the tragic love vs. power tale of the two star cross’d lovers, Romeo and Juliet, performed by Siege Theatre.
Oxford itself is leafy and glorious in the summer. You can wander around the magnificent historic colleges (they’re open to the public
), the UK’s oldest botanic garden
, university parks and riverbanks, taking a punt out on the river if you’re feeling brave. The museums are fascinating, whether you choose the imposing Ashmolean
with its rooftop restaurant or the quirky, recently-refurbished Pitt Rivers
with its ethnographic collection and shrunken heads.Getting there:
GWR trains run direct from London Paddington to Oxford in about 1 hour.
Flickr CC-BY RichardJo53
The natural amphitheatre of beautiful Swansea Bay forms a backdrop to the thrilling air displays of the free Wales Airshow
. You’ll be able to watch the aerobatics along the whole 5-mile stretch of the bay from Mumbles Head towards the city. State-of-the-art jets will share the skies with iconic vintage aircraft, and as it’s the Royal Air Force’s centenary, expect something special over Swansea. On the ground, explore the interactive military village, trade stands, children’s entertainment, funfair and plenty of refreshment stalls.
When you’ve had enough of planes, Swansea itself has lots to offer. You have to try welsh cakes, laverbread and cockles at the friendly, historic Swansea indoor market
; learn about Wales’s maritime and industrial heritage at the award-winning hi-tech National Waterfront Museum
, or simply take in the wonders of nature in Clyne Gardens
, with its lake, Japanese and Italian bridges and look-out tower.Getting there:
GWR trains run direct from London Paddington to Swansea in around 3 hours.
Plymouth Armed Forces Day
Bring the whole family to Plymouth Hoe for Plymouth Armed Forces Day
, an exciting, spectacular day out featuring air displays, military bands, parades, combat demonstrations, a field gun competition and activities for all ages. Over 100 exhibitors from the Royal Navy, Army, Royal Air Force, Royal Marines, emergency services, veterans’ organisations and charities showcase their services in a series of 'villages' set out across the Hoe. It’s a very special year: 2018 marks 100 years of the Royal Air Force and the day’s RAF100
celebrations and commemorations will include a thrilling air display.
Plymouth itself has plenty to fill up the rest of your weekend: cruise the lovely coastline with a guided harbour boat trip
, or take the eight-minute Cremyll ferry
journey across the river Tamar for the beaches of beautiful Mount Edgcumbe Country Park
. Take in spectacular city views on Plymouth’s own (much cheaper) answer to the London Eye – The Wheel of Plymouth
and don’t miss the spectacular 2m sharks, rays and turtle in The National Aquarium
- the UK’s largest public aquarium.Getting there:
GWR trains run direct to Plymouth from London Paddington in just over 3 hours.
Flickr CC-BY Hugh Llewelyn
Stretching from the Grain Barge all the way up to Castle Park, Bristol’s free Harbour Festival
showcases the city’s rich and diverse creativity over two miles. Events take place on the water, and all along the harbour side - expect electrifying circus performances, interactive street theatre, children’s activities, markets and more live music and dance than you can possibly enjoy in one day. Forget the packed lunch and head to Queen Square continental market for delicious European fare, and Narrow Quay for a street food vibe. College Green is the place for families to chill – there are plenty of child-friendly activities including storytelling, creative arts, face painting and interactive performances.
Explore a bit of historic and modern Bristol while you're here too. GWR’s founder Isambard Kingdom Brunel is an iconic figure – see what’s on at the SS Great Britain, his colossal steam ship and an integral part of the festival, and cross his iconic Clifton suspension bridge.Getting there:
GWR trains run direct from London Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads, in under 2 hours.
Book your event break to one of 270 destinations in advance and save over 50%* on Advance Single fares at GWR.com. Stay connected with GWR’s free onboard wifi and power sockets and arrive at your weekend break destination refreshed, relaxed and ready to explore.
* Savings correct as of January 2018. Average saving calculated by comparing Advance Single Standard Class ticket prices to the equivalent price of a Standard Class Super Off Peak ticket bought on the day of travel. Advance fares are subject to availability. Selected GWR routes only. Advance fares available from up to 11 weeks prior to travel. Full terms and conditions at GWR.com.