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Wales, the smallest nation in mainland UK, is home to some of the largest, and best-known festivals in the world. From the Hay Festival to The Big Cheese Festival, Wales has it all.
Join me and discover more about these legendary celebrations, and learn about some other quirky festivals along the way!
1. The Laugharne Weekend
The Laugharne Weekend is an annual celebration, whereby artists and visitors from all over the world come together to celebrate the artistic and literary talents of those performing.
Notable people who have performed on the various stages dotted around the village include Michael Sheen and Patti Smith.
The event’s backdrop is the former home of renowned poet Dylan Thomas, who lived in the small coastal town for several years. Between performances you can walk over to his writing shed to see where he put pen to paper.
Visit The Laugharne Weekend’s website for more details regarding travel, accommodation and to purchase tickets.
Where? Laugharne, Carmarthenshire
2. Between The Trees, Bridgend
Between the Trees takes place each year in Merthyr Mawr National Nature Reserve near Bridgend, literally in between the trees in a forest.
Reconnect with nature over this three-day festival for all the family! Don your scientific hat during the day and start examining flora, fungi and insects under the microscope. And listen to scientific experts discuss issues relating to conservation and sustainability.
And at night you can sit with nature and lose yourself to indie and folk music. Or if you fancy a quieter experience, you can find a peaceful spot and practise some mindfulness amongst the trees.
To book tickets for the festival visit Between The Trees.
3. Tafwyl Welsh Language Festival, Cardiff
Tafwyl started out in 2006 as part of a scheme by Menter Caerdydd to popularise the use of the Welsh language.
Since these early days the festival has grown significantly, and it now takes place over a whopping nine days.
Visitors of all ages can enjoy an eclectic mix of entertainment, including music from Welsh artists, comedy acts, watching dramas on stage, tasting Welsh cuisine and attending recitals.
There’s also a big play area where youngsters can go to learn about science. Plus there’s a large sports area where more energetic events take place, like dancing and cricket games.
You don’t need to book tickets to go to Tafwyl, just turn up and enjoy. For more information about what’s happening on each day have a look at Tafwyl’s website.
4. Green Man Festival, Crickhowell
Green Man is a week-long music festival near Crickhowell that’s fun for all the family.
If you’re into your music, there’ll be plenty of different artists from various different musical genres to tickle your tastebuds. And if comedy and literature are more for you, there are also tents especially for these acts!
But if you’re after a more relaxing and slower-paced few days, you can check out the spa and wellness areas. There’s also Einstein’s Garden, a fun fair and a Cinedrome to keep kids entertained.
There really is something for everyone!
5. The Gower Festival, Swansea
Over 40 years ago an Oxford cellist and an orchestra, made up of 40 students, and a few professional singers performed 31 concerts in various churches around the Gower Peninsula over a two-week period.
The performances were deemed a huge success back then, and they’ve since gone on to grow in popularity, both with fans and musicians. Today, professionals from all over the world come to entertain audiences in churches across the Gower as part of The Gower Festival.
And it’s not just locals that attend the shows, people from far and wide come to the area to be a part of this joyous event. But it’s not just the music people are after, they also come to take in the breathtaking scenery that is the Gower Peninsula.
To experience the brilliant performances of the artists in an unconventional, yet extraordinary setting, book your tickets online.
6. Westival, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park
Set not far away from one of the main beaches in Pembrokeshire – Manorbier – you’ll find Westival which is an underground music and arts festival in South Wales.
For five whole days you’ll be entertained by artists from all over the UK, including some big up-and-coming names in the scene! There’ll be a wide-range of music on offer for you to enjoy and plenty of street food for you to savour.
You must be over eighteen to join the festival and you can camp near the site. Just be sure to book your tickets before you go, so you don’t miss out.
7. Hay Festival, Hay-On-Wye
The Hay Festival is one of the major arts and literature festivals around the world. And it just so happens that it started off in Wales back in 1987.
Since its infancy, the week-long festival has gone on to inspire artists, book lovers, aspiring authors, musicians, politicians and more, to engage in conversations about everything and all things literature.
There’s so much to see, to do and to learn at the Hay Festival, and you might even see your favourite celebrity browsing over a book or two.
If you plan on visiting the festival, you should look at what events or workshops you’d like to participate in, and book a ticket for them beforehand. Places get snapped up quickly due to their popularity.
8. Gottwood Festival, Anglesey
Nestled in the mystical forest of Carreglwyd you’ll find the vibrant Gottwood Festival. This is a renowned electronic music and arts festival in Wales. As well as some of the best underground DJ’s, you can enjoy a range of foods from around the world, and if you’re lucky enough, you can try out Boutique Camping too.
The Boutique area near the festival has a variety of accommodation types that visitors can stay in, from yurts to bell tents, and all come complete with sleek designs and furnishings. With this accommodation, you also get private access to the woods and exclusive facilities.
9. The National Eisteddfod
The National Eisteddfod of Wales is an annual event that moves to a different location in Wales every year – usually alternating between North and South Wales. It’s one of the biggest festivals in Wales, and has on average 150,000 attendees on a yearly basis.
The Eisteddfod is a celebration of all things Welsh – poetry, music, literature, dancing, cooking, recitals and acting. And thousands of competitors travel the length and breadth of Wales to come and compete in multiple competitions held throughout the week-long celebration of Welsh culture.
But the pièce de résistance of the festival is when an anonymous person wins the Chairing of the Bard ceremony for writing a piece of poetry. It’s a very special, historical moment when a competitor is called up by their nom de plume to be seated in a brand new chair, designed especially for the occasion!
The National Eisteddfod is an event for all the family, and you don’t need to speak Welsh to enjoy the festival. You might even find a Welsh class for beginners that you can pop into when you’re on the Maes!
Where? Various locations across Wales
10. The Big Cheese Festival, Caerphilly Castle
A free, cheesy weekend at a castle with mediaeval battle displays, and local musicians taking to the stage – sounds like the ideal way to cap off the busy summer holidays.
With an abundance of tents selling different cheeses, and other locally produced goods, a castle backdrop, and all just a few minutes away from the M4, it would be rude not to cheese the day!
For more information about where to park and stay, visit The Big Cheese Festival’s site.
11. Fire in the Mountains Festival, Aberystwyth
Fire in the Mountains festival takes place near Aberyswyth in the Cambrian Mountains. But where exactly? Well, you’ll have to buy a ticket as they only tell you after purchase. It’s a small festival that takes place on a farm where you can expect live music, performances, food, and of course, fire.
The festival has been a huge success, but rather than expanding the size of it, the organisers want to keep the small feel. Instead, they have launched several spin-offs of the festival throughout the year:
- Campfire in the Mountain – A music-learning camp where you can hone your skills at fiddle, banjo, and guitar ready for the next campfire. In the evenings, the instructors will show off their own skills with some live performances.
- Family in the Mountain – A family friendly week packed full of workshops, games, family activities, and campfires.
- Craft in the Mountain – Learn to craft with classes in canvas stitching, green woodcrafts, spoon carving, weaving, dry stone walling, roofing, and more.
12. FOCUS Wales, Wrexham
FOCUS, as its name suggests, is a multi-venue festival that focuses on new musicians from Wales, as well as other talented artists from around the world.
With over 300 live performances being shown over the three day period, visitors often get treated to a glimpse of Wales’ biggest emerging acts, international stars and popular names in the music world.
Talented acts that have already passed through the doors include Gwenno, Catrin Finch and Charlotte Church. There’s also a chance to see some comedy, art and film screenings at the 20 stage event.
13. Unearthed Festival, St Davids
If you’re interested in exploring and learning more about your mind and spiritual self, the Unearthed Festival is the ideal event for you. With plenty of music, foods, talks and activities to join, you’ll soon be at one with yourself. In addition to this, visitors can also make use of the calming wellbeing area.
Here you can experience a well-deserved Aromatherapy session or you can try some Raindrop Therapy. It’s the perfect festival to unwind and to find your inner peace at.
14. International Harp Festival, Caernarfon
You don’t have to be a hardcore harpist to enjoy the International Harp Festival of Wales. Instead, you can immerse yourself in the extraordinary talents of world-renowned harpists.
Internationally recognised Gwellian Llŷr from Wales, has been known to play her latest music at the festival. And you might be lucky to see this phenomenal harpist showcasing her talents once again at the festival.
But the fun doesn’t stop there because you can join workshops, held by professional players, to learn more about the harp and how to play it at the event.
It’s an entertaining two day celebration for all.
15. Merthyr Rising Festival, Merthyr Tydfil
Founded way back in 2013, Merthyr Rising is a music, arts, and ideas festival in Merthyr Tydfil that takes place on the anniversary of one of the earliest labour revolts in 1831, known as the Merthyr Rising.
The Blockheads, Basement Jaxx, and Stereo MC’s are among musical performances that have appeared at Merthyr Rising.But as well as a lively music scene, the festival does a lot to encourage grassroots activism and attracts speakers such as George Galloway, Craig Murray, and politicians from a parties including Labour, Plaid Cymru, and the Scottish National Party.
16. Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod
Not to be confused with the National Eisteddfod mentioned earlier which moves around the country, the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod takes place in Llangollen in North Wales each year and prides itself on being a cultural exchange.
The international music festival hosts up to 4,000 performers who take part in competitions and performances throughout the week with up to 35,000 visitors. After a week of activity, it culminates with the ‘Choir of the World’ competition supported by Luciano Pavarotti. This is followed by an ambitious closing ceremony which has seen the likes of Status Quo, UB40, and Aled Jones perform to the North Wales town.
When? Every July
17. Machynlleth Comedy Festival
The final Welsh festival that I had to mention is the Machynlleth Comedy Festival, Wales’ answer to the Edinburgh Fringe. The festival has been called the best alternative comedy festival in the UK3 (source: Visit Wales).
The festival attracts a range of up-and-coming comedy acts as well as more established acts with the likes of Nish Kumar, Ed Gamble, Kiri Pritchard-McLean and Rhod Gilbert having performed there. There’s also theatre, music and welsh-language performances.
Kieren is the founder and editor-in-chief of Wales Guidebook. Originally from rural Mid-Wales, he has lived all over the country from Cardiff to Wrexham. A true Welshman, Kieren created this site to share his passion for Wales and help others discover this beautiful country.