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Europe’s best alternative festivals

Sick of the same old summer events? Hire a car and do summer your way with our guide to some of Europe’s best alternative festivals.

 

Shambala Festival, Northamptonshire

If you’re pining for a Glastonbury-esque experience but can’t stomach the crowds (or the ticket prices), the Shambala Festival is a nice alternative to check out this summer. Held in a secret location in Northamptonshire, this innovative festival brings together over 200 diverse musical acts, as well as an explosion of contemporary creative entertainment, covering everything from cabaret and comedy to debates, inspirational talks, theatre and acrobatics.

Photographer credit: Danny North, courtesy of Shambalafestival.org
Photographer credit: Danny North, courtesy of Shambalafestival.org

 

Adults can also take some time out in the relaxation areas, complete with hot tubs and plunge pools, whilst kids can stay entertained with a number of activities including an organised overnight bush-camp adventure.

Shambala Festival, Northamptonshire, 21-24 August 2014.

Photographer credit: Jenna Foxton, courtesy of Shambalafestival.org
Photographer credit: Jenna Foxton, courtesy of Shambalafestival.org

 

Green Man Festival, Wales

Shying away from the mainstream festival circuit, the proudly independent Green Man Festival is a family friendly experience tucked away in the Welsh wilderness. Over 1,500 quirky multi-arts performers will entertain and inspire through music, comedy, theatre, art and more.

Image by Ashton
Image by Ashton

 

As the self-proclaimed “World’s Friendliest Festival”, Green Man provides a creative experience for all ages, including an Enchanted Forest for the little folk. You’ll feel like you’re a world away from reality here in the Black Mountains in the beautiful Brecon Beacons; but actually you’re only 3 hours from London and Manchester and a mere hour and a half from Bristol. Hire a van and pack up the camping gear for an extended meander through the Welsh countryside.

Image by Les Haines
Image by Les Haines

 

Green Man Festival, Wales, 14-17 August 2014.

 

St Dominic’s Fair, Poland

Step back in time at this Medieval-themed festival, one of the largest open-air cultural events in Europe. Running for 23 days (so you have plenty of time to catch it), a medley of musical talent will be performing, covering the genres of rock, electronic and folk with a few brass bands  thrown in for good measure. Besides the music, there’s plenty of theatre, parades, pageants and games and stalls to keep everyone entertained – don’t miss the chivalry tournaments for some unmissable people-watching opportunities.

Image by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland
Image by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland

 

St Dominic’s Fair, Gdansk, Poland, 26 July – 17 August 2014.

 

Best Kept Secret, The Netherlands

It may not quite be Europe’s best kept secret after its successful launch last year, but it’s certainly a better kept secret than most of our local big-name festivals here in the UK. Head to the Netherlands this June to catch the likes of Franz Ferdinand, Interpol, Elbow, Babyshambles and Belle & Sebastian and pay a mere 139 euros for a weekend ticket with camping.

Image by Eddy Berthier
Image by Eddy Berthier

 

If your days of slumming it are over, invest in the comfort of one of the bungalows or tipitents available on-site. There’s plenty of pretty scenery nearby as well – including forests, a beach, a lake and safari park.

Image by Webkrab
Image by Webkrab

 

Hire a car on arrival at Amsterdam airport and get there in under an hour and a half.

Best Kept Secret, Hilvarenbeek, Holland, 20-22 June 2014.

 

Beacons Festival, Yorkshire

Ideas, art, creativity and emerging talent are the names of the game at Beacons Festival, a family-friendly gathering in the beautiful surrounds of the Yorkshire Dales. Visitor numbers are capped at 2,500 to retain the festival’s boutique “garden party” vibe, supported by the pop-up tea rooms, on-site ale festival and independent vintage stalls. As well as performances from top musical acts, art installations, film screenings and literary events will take place throughout the festival, whilst little ones are entertained with games and crafts in the dedicated kids’ area.

Image by Peer Lawther
Image by Peer Lawther

 

Beacons Festival, Skipton, North Yorkshire, 7-10 August 2014.

 

Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival, Northern Ireland

Literary fans will be in their element at this unique festival, which is dedicated to the life and work of Nobel prize-winning writer Samuel Beckett. Held in the playwright’s home town of Enniskillen in County Fermanagh, visitors can lap up their fill of concerts, comedy and theatre in the multi-arts cultural programme.

 

Image by Yabba You
Image by Yabba You

 

The town also happens to be smack bang in the middle of the Fermanagh Lakelands, home to some of Europe’s most stunning landscapes. Pick up a hire car in Belfast and get there in an hour and a half.

Happy Days Enniskillen International Becket Festival, Northern Ireland, 31 July – 10 August 2014.

 

Dalvik Fish Festival, Iceland

If you really want to fit something different into your summer festival schedule, Dalvik Great Fish Day (Fiskidagurinn Mikli) ticks all the boxes. This celebration of deep-sea dwellers is held in the tiny village of Dalvik in north Iceland.

Image by Hansueli Krapf, CC BY-SA 3.0
Image by Hansueli Krapf, CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Every year, the village limits swell with thousands of visitors who descend to enjoy free seafood, music, entertainment and boat rides on the nearby fjord. For a truly unique experience, arrive a day early in time for the residents opening their homes to the public for traditional fish soup tastings.

 

Dalvik Fish Festival, Iceland, 9-12 August 2014.

 

Ready for summer? Check out some of Britain’s best (and most bizarre) summer sports events.

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