Best Rock and Pop Festivals in the UK

My Favorite Music Festivals Around Britain

You're never far from a rock and pop music festival during the UK summer and fall. Hundreds of rock and pop festivals take place across Great Britain from May through early September. Dance music, singalongs, ambient sounds, new age, family friendly; established bands, the latest indie groups and iconic artists all come out to play, rain or shine, in the British summer.

Here's a list of music festivals we like around the UK, plus a handy resource to find even more.

  • 01 of 18

    Glastonbury Festival

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    This 30 plus -year old festival is a bit like an English Woodstock with cherries on top. There's a famous Pyramid Stage, smaller venues, camping, food, a kids Glastonbury and every kind of music imaginable. Musicians are the top acts at the top of their games as well as great blasts from the past. There are at least seven main stages, circus tent and theatre and loads of Greenfield activities. The weather usually turns it into a huge mud bath. And if you don't have the stamina for three solid days of partying, don't come.

    Who's there? Every kind of music imaginable. In 2014 - Dolly Parton, Kasabian, Robert Plant, Metallica, Lily Allen, Ellie Goulding, Ed Sheeran, Bryan Ferry, GoldFrapp are among the acts.

  • 02 of 18

    Isle of Wight Festival

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    It may not be the cutting edge (some people even call it Dad rock), but the combination of well established rock'n rollers with current stars makes The Isle of Wight Festival in June a sell-out year after year. Once Europe's answer to Woodstock, the festival is now kept deliberately small - only 50,000 tickets are available and they are like gold dust. Get on the mailing list before the line-up is announced because, by the time it is, they gone. Check the festival's community website for a chance to buy returns.

    Who's there? You might see in 2014 Alison Moyet, Massive Attack,Skrillex, Paolo Nutini, John Newman, Blondie

  • 03 of 18

    RockNess

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    Paul Campbell/VisitBritain Images

    The only music festival with its own monster, this rock and music festival has the gorgeous background of Loch Ness. About seventy acts perform on four stages and there's a cinema, silent disco, 24-hour café, lots of food and drink outlets and luxury camping available. Who knows? Nessie might even rise to the occasion.

    In 2009, second year running, The Big Issue named RockNess Best Music Festival in Scotland, calling it a "stellar festival that's fast becoming a Scottish summer institution" and praising the site and the "unbeatable mix of huge rock and dance acts plus many other standouts on another monster bill."

    Who's there? In 2014, Rockness is taking a break because of clashes with other big events like the World Cup and the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Organizers promise it will be back in 2015. Meanwhile, check out this report.

  • 04 of 18

    The Leeds and Reading Festival

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    Promoters Festival Republic stage this pair of popular rock and pop festivals in both Leeds and Reading at the same time. Similar to the way the V Festivals are organized, artists play both festivals, racing between the north and south versions on different days. Leeds fans consider their version, in Bramham Park, to be the north's answer to Glastonbury. The festivals sell out almost as soon as tickets go on sale at the end of March.

    Who's there? Among the 2014 acts - Those popular perennials Arctic Monkeys, Blink, Queens of the Stone Age, Bombay Bicycle Club, Disclosure.

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  • 05 of 18

    The V Festival

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    Zak Hussein
    Top British pop music stars perform at two outdoor festivals in two days. The multi-stage festival takes place on a Saturday and Sunday, simultaneously in the Southeast - Chelmsford - and in the North Midlands - Staffordshire. The Saturday line ups of artists at each venue switches from the other venue on Sunday. Acts tend to come from the cream of British pop musicians. Because V Festivals have been copied in the USA and Australia, some festival fans consider this huge event a bit "corporate".

    Who's there? In 2014 - Justin Timberlake, Ed Sheeran, Manic Street Preachers, Kaiser Chiefs, Blondie, The Killers, Lily Allen, Tinie Tempah, All Saints, Human League, Sophie Ellis Bextor, plus a lineup of comedy acts on the Glee Club Comedy Stage.

  • 06 of 18

    Bestival

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    Mike Mantin

    The first self-described boutique festival, Bestival is small and perfectly formed. Just like some of the other big time UK festivals, it features top commercial and indie acts, past and present, but it's a bit more upmarket. First off, it's "curated", and it's held in a lovely country park which almost never turns into a muddy field. There are ready pitched tents, a Tipi Field, caravan camping and free or "pay per poo" Comfy Crappers - sorry that's their brand name.

    Who's there? In 2014, headliners scheduled included Tune Yards, Factory Floor, MNEK, Wolf Alice, The Amazing Snakeheads, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Say Lou Lou, Glass Animals, Kate Tempest, Cousin Marnie, Indiana - this is true indie discovery territory. There's usually a fancy dress theme as well, with extra goodies for your costume available in the Dressing Up Field.

  • 07 of 18
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    Some Rights Reserved liz west

    Fans of Scotland's taste for fire festivals will love The Wickerman Festival at East Kirkcarswell in South West Scotland. This huge event, which includes tent, tipi and yurt camping, has a wide open music policy that ranges from chart-topping pop and dance music to hard core rock. And at the end, a thirty-foot tall Wickerman goes up in flames. Cool - or if you've seen the classic British horror film The Wicker Man - pretty creepy.

    Who's there? Dizzee Rascal and Del Amitri headline in 2014, along with a huge line up that includes Shed Seven, The Feeling, Alabama 3, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, Augustines, The Zombies, Big Country,  Finding Albert, Skinny Lister, The Hosts, Model Aeroplanes, LIFE.

  • 08 of 18

    Mathew Street/Liverpool International Music Festival

    The Mathew Street Music Festival in Liverpool,  Europe's largest free music festival became the Liverpool International Music Festival, held in Sefton Park, in 2013. It began as a kind of outlet for Beatles tribute bands, other pop tribute bands and reinterpretations. That's all changed now. Though you'll still find plenty of Beatles music and tribute bands, you'll also find Soul, Diva, BritPop, New Bands, Big Bands and Country & Western.

    Who's there? At least 95 bands from all over the British Isles and as far afield as the USA, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, France, Italy, Finland, Poland and Turkey perform in the main festival, carried across the crowds by huge LED screens so no one misses anything. A a supporting indoor program of live music fills pubs, clubs and venues all over town. in 2014 even the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic will be there, along with Shaggy, Ian Broudie and the Lightening Seeds, Kid Creole, Goldie and a huge line-up of new and established acts.

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  • 09 of 18
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    Dave Etheridge-Barnes/Getty Images
    This one's for hard rockers who go for real guitar mayhem. Located in Donington Park, not far from East Midland's airport, Download regularly features such veterans as KISS, Judas Priest and Lost Prophets. It's noisy, wild and a good choice if you can't score tickets to the Isle of Wight festival.

    Who's there? The 2014 line up is really typical,Aerosmith, Avenged and Linkin Park among the headliners.

  • 10 of 18

    T in the Park

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    July's mega festival at Balado in Kinross, Scotland, has nine stages, tents and arenas with dozens and dozens of acts. Like most big festivals, it sells out fast. Get on the mailing list for the best chance of getting one.T Break stage introduces the best unsigned acts after organizers sift through more than 1,000 submissions. The main stages feature top British and international bands and artists. And there's all the usual paraphernalia of a giant festival - camping, a Fancy Dress Friday, fairground rides, food and market stalls.

    Who's there? Among the 2014 headliners, lots of the usual suspects and Pharrell Williams, Ed Sheeran, Ellie Goulding, The Arctic Monkeys, Paolo Nutini, Franz Ferdinand, The Kaiser Chiefs and loads more.

  • 11 of 18
    And now, for something a little different. Wakestock attracts the wakeboarding crowd by combining top wakeboarding events(think water-sking on a snowboard with jumps and tricks) with groovy music and a chilled out campsite in Abersock on the coast of North Wales. The three day wakeboarding music festival, on Cardigan Bay, is Europe's largest. Organizers promise "hot, hot beaches, boardies and good times."

    Who's there? In 2014, John Newman, Tom Odell, Kidnap Kid, Charlotte Church, Ella Frye, MNEK, Goldierocks and loads more going on at three sites - beach, festival and marina.

  • 12 of 18
    Another boutique festival, Latitude at Henham Park, is in a lovely part of Suffolk, near the coast. Beautiful countryside, nice pubs and a festival that attracts about 50,000 for a really fine mix of experiences. Music, comedy, theatre, film and poetry are featured on nine different stages.

    Who's there? Headliners range from electronic dance music makers and disco icons Grace Jones to unusual personal styles.There's punk, nostalgia, new wave and some great comedy acts on the comedy stage. In 2014 Damon Albarn and the Bombay Bicycle Club will be there, along with Kelis, Billy Bragg, Chrissie Hynde, Booker T Jones, The Jayhawks.

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  • 13 of 18
    Not so much a music festival as a New Age weekend for sybarites - There are Boutique Bellboys for the campsite, art boats floating around the lake. Only about 12,000 tickets are sold and the stages and "scenes" have names like Music for Babylonians, The Sounds of Eden, Elysian Fields. Participation and artistic self-expression are encouraged across 12 stages.

    Who's there? Jarvis Cocker, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Freeland, Slagsmalsklubben, Evil Nine and Asteroids Galaxy were among the 2009 attractions. in 2014 the event the lineup is enormous. And if the festival is similar to previous years, paint fights and naked mud wrestling could break out.

  • 14 of 18
    Peter Gabriel's world music festival is legendary. Anything goes in terms of musical styles, but musicianship is paramount. You might hear Jazz, gospel, blues, rock, Bollywood, West African percussion, singer-songwriters and even the occasional disco diva. A lot more listening than screaming and bopping goes on at this grown up event in Charlton Park, Malmsbury, Wiltshire.

    Who's there? On the 2014 line up - an amazing United Nations of bands from all the English speaking countries plus, China, Cambodia, Nigeria, Ghana, Algeria, France, Spain, Guyana, Senegal, Brazil, Cuba, Kenya, Mexico, Israel, Romania, Tibet, Sicily; wherever people make music in fact.

  • 15 of 18
    Folk, lo-fi and psychedelic rock are part of the relatively low key Green Man Festival in Wales' Brecon Beacons. This one's family friendly and mellow. It's been called an "indie-folk fairyland" and "the UK's hippest festival" by London papers. But it's not all new agers in la la land. In fact, NME, the UK's definitive music scene magazine said that the choice of music available "puts most other festivals to shame".

    Who's there? In 2014 - Beirut, Neutral Milk Hotel, Mercury Rev, The Waterboys, Daughter, Anna Calvi, Angel Olsen, Nick Mulvey, Miriam the Believer, Vancouver Sleep Clinic are among the music acts. Comedians Josh Widdicombe, Gemma Whelan, Jo Neary and included in a line up of comedy acts.

  • 16 of 18

    You've gotta go, if only for the great name of this two-day, Ullapool-based festival on the west coast of Scotland. It's indie through and through and features locally big names as well as up-and-comers. This one is really small and intimate - also possibly wet and cold, it being September in Scotland. So, while there's camping available, you might want to look into hotel and B&B accommodations in Ullapool.

    Who's there? Franz Ferdinand appeared in 2008. In 2009, Paolo Nutini has been there and other acts that have appeared include  The Lightning Seeds, The Dykeenies, Mumford and Sons, Kid British and The Family Mahone. 2014 is the festival's 10th anniversary and as of May, they are keeping schtum about the line-up for the late September bash.

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  • 17 of 18
    Despite its name, The End of the Road, at Larmer Tree Gardens in Dorset, is not the last music festival of the year. In fact, since its origins as a mid-September festival, they've moved it to the last week in August. One of the newest festivals, first run in 2006, The End of the Road has a kind of hand-made feel about it - one of the founders actually sold his house to help finance the first one. The festival is family friendly and tends to feature lesser known, less hyped bands who play longer sets and also involve themselves in workshops and festival events.

    Who's there? The Scandinavian connection of the early festival seems to be gone and what you can expect is a big line-up of little known bands and singers and the chance to make a discovery.

  • 18 of 18

    There are hundreds of music festivals in the UK and every year new ones are launched while older ones fade away. Keeping track of them all, their line ups, their dates, their accommodations arrangements is a full time job. Luckily, there's a full time website, e-Festivals, that does just that. Billing itself as the "definitive guide to festivaling", e-Festivals is full of news, useful information and bloggy buzz for the committed festival goer.