The August bank holiday weekend – marked in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – is a chance to squeeze the very last out of our summer before the big ‘back to school’ (sorry Scotland, I know you’re already back by then!) and heads down at work scenario. So it’s worth celebrating. And as a motorcaravanner you’re well-placed to tour the country and discover something different. We hope his choice collection of festivals, carnivals and seaside escapades will inspire you.
Don’t forget that some campsites insist upon a minimum three-night stay over the bank holiday period.
1. Hark back to the Middle Ages, East Sussex
England’s Medieval Festival at Herstmonceux Castle is your opportunity to attend one of the largest events of its kind in the UK with authentic history blended with fun for the whole family. The three days (27 to 29 August) of the festival offer a colourful and noisy introduction to war and peace in the Middle Ages, from the day-to-day re-enactment of daily life in a medieval village, to skilful jousting events and full-blown castle sieges complete with entire armies of archers, horses and cannon. Look out for the archery tournament, the battle siege, the falconry displays and the medieval markets. Children will find plenty to do in Kids’ Kingdom.
To boot, you don’t need to go in search of a campsite. There are camping tickets available as part of the festival package! Don’t expect electric hook-ups, although there are serviced toilets and showers, as well as rubbish and recycling points, along with 24-hour campsite security. It means you’ll catch the evening entertainment – including an outdoor cinema, medieval beer taverns, banquets, torch-lit parades, campfires, storytelling and stargazing.
2. Jamie Oliver’s and Alex James’ Cotswold extravaganza, Oxfordshire
Well, if you were invited to a musician’s country pad, you’d rock up wouldn’t you? Especially if one of Britain’s favourite TV chefs was doing the cooking. Yes, this is The Big Feastival, where Blur guitarist (and cheese maker) Alex James provides the farm location and chef Jamie Oliver dishes up. It’s a Cotswolds combination of music and food from 26 to 28 August.
You’ll hear music from, among others, Mark Ronson, Kaiser Chiefs, Ella Henderson and The Proclaimers while Jamie Oliver, Tom Kerridge and Raymond Blanc will serve the food. Pukka. It’s very much a family festival, though, so you’ll find all sorts of treats for kids including a Big Top, a vintage funfair and family Olympics.
This is a popular gig and weekend camping tickets sold out a while ago. But there are still day tickets available so you could pitch instead at Cotswold View Caravan and Camping Site, just outside the neighbouring village of Charlbury.
3. Total summer fun at Towersey, Oxfordshire
Across the county, what began as a little village fete 50-odd years ago is now (and, actually, has been for many years) one of the most recognised and renowned family festivals in the UK. It certainly has a reputation for being one of the friendliest. For Towersey Festival was one of the first to offer an all-singing, all-dancing music festival – literally. There are workshops and entertainment galore to strike up on the violin or shuffle your way across the dance floor if you’re not fixated by the pro musicians on stage (and there are plenty of those too, each offering a variety of genres).
Sited in beautiful countryside just outside the market town of Thame, you’ll need more than the bank holiday weekend to fit everything in – whether spending the day in the Creative Quarter to engage the imagination, brush up on – or learn from scratch – a Towersey ceilidh in the Festival Dance House or chilling out on The Festival Green, the unique heart and soul of Towersey Festival.
All About Children is the place for families to interact and have fun over a vast programme of activities while the Youth Festival will keep 12- to 25-year olds entertained. There’s even a homework club for getting those summer holiday projects completed last-minute. Jeepers!
Naturally, there’s on-site camping. Choose between the quiet area if you’re early to bed and the ‘Late Nighters’ area if you’re still carousing as the cock crows.
4. Souvenirs from Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland has some of the finest coastline in the British Isles. Undoubtedly. Never been? I urge you to go. Grab yourself a last-minute crossing (unless, of course, you’re already there) and see for yourself. And while you are there, grab a unique souvenir of your stay. Over the August bank holiday weekend, from 27 to 29 August, there’s the Causeway Coast Artists’ Art and Photography Sale in Portballintrae, Bushmills.
Causeway Coast Artists is a group of selected artists, photographers, jewellers and artisan craft makers who are inspired by or live on the Causeway Coast. This event offers an opportunity to purchase their work. The art, photography, ceramics, glass, jewellery and crafts are original, unique and priced for all budgets, and a selection process ensures that high quality and standards are maintained.
Conveniently, Ballyness Caravan Park, a regular regional winner of the Practical Motorhome Top 100 Sites Guide, is located just outside Bushmills. The site is a restful haven and a perfect base from which to explore the Causeway Coast, not to mention having a wee tipple at the Bushmills Distillery.
5. Get into the carnival spirit on the Isle of Wight
If you’ve enjoyed reading about Claudia Dowell’s trip to the Isle of Wight in the September 2016 issue of Practical Motorhome, and thinking of planning your own trip, you might want to visit during the August bank holiday weekend. For when August arrives, the Isle of Wight turns into carnival island and thousands of onlookers line the streets to catch a glimpse of ‘Rio’ on the Isle of Wight. Floats are hugely varied and carry pageant queens, local community groups and even pets in fancy dress! Each major town hosts an evening of colourful frivolity as a stream of floats makes its way through the centre of town. The town of Ryde hosts the oldest carnival in the UK and Queen Victoria was a patron when the carnival first took place in 1887, in celebration of her Diamond Jubilee.
Most carnivals happen in the daylight, but some popular locations such as Cowes host an illuminated carnival where the procession parades through the night, creating a fantastic light display. This year, the free-to-attend Cowes Illuminated Carnival kicks off at 9pm on Saturday 27 August so be sure to arrive early to grab a great viewing spot.
There are lots of campsites on the island from which to choose and no site is too far to travel but, if you need help deciding, both The Orchards Holiday Park and Appuldurcombe Gardens Holiday Park made it into Practical Motorhome’s Top 100 Sites Guide this year.
6. Racing at Ripon
At Ripon Racecourse, voted best small racecourse in the North of England for the last two consecutive years, they believe that horse racing should be enjoyed by all the family. Hence, the August bank holiday meet offers free admission to all children under 18 when accompanied by an adult.
Besides plenty of action on the course that day, you’ll find two playgrounds, plus free bouncy castles and fairground attractions. Pack a picnic basket or opt for something to eat from the Paddock and Course enclosures. If you’d prefer to make a day of it with an à la carte sit-down meal, families are welcome in the Club Dining Room.
7. The grand prix of the sea
For fast-paced action on the water, P1 powerboat and jet ski racing returns to Cardiff as part of the Cardiff Harbour Festival. The fleet of 11 powerboats and more than 30 jet ski riders will be competing in the fourth round of the P1 national championships. It’s free to watch and there will also be spectacular hydroflight and jet ski freestyle displays to enjoy.
With its stadium-like setting and great facilities, Cardiff Bay provides an outstanding race venue and there will be lots going on away from the water at the Harbour Festival with a wide range of activities and entertainment for the whole family. You can see the powerboats, jet skis and displays at Mermaid Quay, while Barrage Walk will be a great place to watch all the race action, which gets underway around 11am on both Sunday 28 and Monday 29 August.
Cardiff Caravan and Camping Park is your place to stay for a city break in the Welsh capital. It’s a five-minute walk to the city centre and a little over a mile to Cardiff Bay.
Look out for the archery tournament, the battle siege, the falconry displays and the medieval markets