Calling all lit-lovers; this is the 2018 guide for you. From the book-lover’s Glastonbury, Hay Festival to the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, we’ve rounded up the best literary festivals of the year so you can get dates in your diary now…
Best Literary Festivals of 2018
Cliveden Literary Festival
When? 29-30 September 2018
Where? Cliveden House, Buckinghamshire
What? You already know Cliveden as the English country estate steeped in politics, aristocracy, espionage, sex and scandal. So what better home for a celebration of story-telling than this English gem, which has hosted a literary salon since 1666, inspiring writers from Alexander Pope to Sir Winston Churchill.
Where to Stay? Stoke Park, Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire. A historic house built in the 1790s by James Wyatt for soldier, scholar and poet John Penn. Choose from splendid traditional bedrooms in the Mansion or contemporary ones in the newly built Pavilion. Stoke Park became Britain’s first country club in 1908; now it is open to all. Doubles from £250.
London Literary Festival
When? October 2018
Where? South Bank Centre
What? There’s always a heavy-weight line-up of the biggest authors and speakers at the capital’s most talked-about literary festival of the year. Last year saw the likes of Hilary Clinton, Philip Pullman and Tom Hanks take to the stage for individually-ticketed events, so stay tuned for this year’s news and buy tickets sooner rather than later.
Where to Stay? Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square, Tower Hill. The latest addition to the Four Seasons’ dazzling portfolio is this exquisitely restored former HQ of the Port of London Authority. You will want for nothing in any of the 100 gorgeous bedrooms, spread over the hotel’s first three floors. Those above are dedicated to 41 apartments and a private members’ club. Doubles from £430.
North Cornwall Book Festival
When? 4-7 October 2018
Where? St Endellion Church, Port Isaac
What? Returning for the sixth year, North Cornwall Book Festival offers something slightly different. As an independent, locally-run literary festival, this largely unknown event may not pull some of the bigger names you’ve seen at the country’s larger literary celebrations, however, for what it lacks in size, it certainly makes up for in passion and authenticity. With an abundance of workshops, readings and performances on offer across the weekend, this is certainly not one to miss.
Where to Stay: Fowey Hall – Fowey, Cornwall. High above the delightful, literary, waterside town of Fowey, which famously inspired author Daphne du Maurier, stands the handsome country house that was also said to be an inspiration for Toad Hall in Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows. There are 36 rooms and suites, all different, all beautifully furnished with antiques and pretty fabrics; the oak-panelled dining room is the setting for delicious dinners, with special menus for children. But don’t think you have to have a family with you to come to Fowey Hall: cleverly, it’s a hotel that works just as well for couples. Doubles from £140.
Cheltenham Literature Festival
When? 5–14 October 2018
Where? Regency Cheltenham
What? The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival is the UK’s oldest literary festival. This year’s guest curators are novelist Sebastian Faulks; V&A Director Tristram Hunt; columnist and activist Scarlett Curtis; historian Peter Frankopan; curator, translator and writer David Karashima; and Junko Takekawa, Senior Arts Programmer at The Japan Foundation. Early line-up announcements will be made on 30 June and the full programme on 17 August.
Where to Stay: Cowley Manor – Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. From the outside, it’s a stunning Italianate manor house in classical lake and cascade-filled grounds; inside, a flawlessly hip hotel, with 21st-century good looks. And although the style is cool, the welcome is warm from the ever-helpful staff. After checking into your state-of-the-art room – in six categories with plenty for families – you can while away time playing pool in the padded leather Billiards Room, drinking in the funky bar or relaxing on the elegant stone terrace, a suntrap with fabulous views. Doubles from £195
Ways With Words
When? 9 – 18 March 2018
Where? Keswick, Cumbria
What? A collection of literature festivals across the UK kicks off in the Lake District in March and boasts a brilliant line-up of speakers across their range of programmes. The Main House features the likes of Terry Waite and royal expert Penny Junor, while Tim Team’s archaeologist Francis Pryor digs into history and Sayeeda Warsi examines Muslim Britain. The political line-up includes journalists Polly Toynbee and David Walker, Martin Bell and Michael Buerk.
Where to Stay? Gilpin Hotel, Windermere, Cumbria. Family-run and fabulous, the 1901 house has 14 bedrooms, six wildly popular hot tub Garden Suites, and five luxurious Spa Lodges with private en suite spas. Gilpin is warm and welcoming, but also very glamorous – a mix of Arts and Crafts charm and glossy, contemporary design – with the sense of a journey as guests wander through. Doubles from £225.
Hay Festival Wales
When? 24 May – 3 June
Where? Hay-on-Wye, Wales
What? The jewel in the UK’s literary festivals’ crown, Hay has been the go-to festival for book-lovers for 30 years now. Cooked up by Peter Florence and friends three decades ago, when tickets were sold from a caravan under the clock tower and talks happened I the British Legion, the annual event has come a long way since then with speakers to date including Bill Clinton, Stephen Fry, Ian Rankin and Jacqueline Wilson to name a few. Throw in some of the best views and walking countryside in Britain and you’ve got a country-lover’s weekend made in heaven. There’s plenty on offer for kids, too. Check out our top picks for this year’s festival – including our very own C&TH talk!
Where to Stay? Castle House, Hereford, Herefordshire. An elegant Grade II-listed mansion, with an unrivalled location. The 24 bedrooms and suites are all stylish and individual, split between the main building and Number 25 Townhouse, where there are eight striking rooms, each offering an array of treats, from a hospitality box filled with local produce to underfloor heating in the bathrooms. A hotel that fits perfectly into its surroundings and ticks all the boxes. Doubles from £150.
When? 30 June-1 July
Where? Throughout Queen’s Park
What? This weekend-long London literary festival is a celebration for book-lovers in the heart of the capital. Authors, poets, actors and artists will gather for a weekend of readings, talks, debates and special events throughout Queen’s Park. Alongside the ticketed events, there will also be free children’s events, special programmes and fringe events. The festival director is Thomas du Plessis and this year’s big names include Zadie Smith, Tessa Hadley, Eleanor Catton and Philip Hensher. Read our full guide to Queen’s Park Book Festival here.
Where to Stay? The Laslett – Notting Hill. Spread across five beautiful white stucco Victorian townhouses in buzzing Notting Hill, The Laslett is part of Tracy Lowy’s Living Rooms collection of elegant, superbly located London addresses. Inspired by the neighbourhood’s rich cultural heritage, it takes its name from Rhaune Laslett, an activist who organised the original Notting Hill Festival, forerunner of the famous Carnival. Doubles from £199
When? 12-15 July 2018
Where? Henham Park, Suffolk
What? Known for its big-name music headliners, there’s just as much on offer for lit-lovers with notable authors and poets at the ‘Speakeasy’ with lively debates and discussions alongside author talks and workshops. With The Killers, Alt-J and Solange headlining, you’ll be spoilt for music too.
Where to Stay? Milsoms Kesgrave Hall, Suffolk. An impressive country house built in 1812 standing in 38 rambling acres of woods, fields and immaculate, sweeping lawns. Its 23 rooms, ranging from ‘Standard’ to ‘Top’, with ‘Superior’, ‘Deluxe’ and ‘Principal’ in between, are all supremely comfortable and well equipped. Doubles from £130.
Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival
When? 19-22 July 2018
Where? Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate
What? With a line-up of the best international and UK crime fiction writers, this festival is now in its 15th year of being the best in its genre. Get your tickets early because last year was a complete sell-out. Go along for a chance to meet your crime-writing heroes; there’s a really relaxed attitude where everyone drinks together.
Where to Stay? Rudding Park, Harrogate. A glorious, privately-owned gem and one of Yorkshire’s finest hotels, Rudding Park, has a new feather to add to its rather well-endowed cap; the recent opening of a swishy destination spa. The accommodation is in two wings, which offer a range of bedrooms, from doubles to luxuriously lavish spa suites complete with steam room and private garden. Doubles from £172.
Curious Arts Festival
When? 20-22 July
Where? Pylewell Park, Hampshire
What? This stylish and beautiful arts and music festival is held in the grounds of privately owned Pylewell Park in the New Forest. There’s always a stellar line-up of authors attending, so we can’t wait to see who’s on the roster for this family-friendly event for 2018. As the organisers say: ‘expect fabulous novelists, exceptional historians, poet laureates, dogs on leads, gin and tonics.’ Fabulous.
Where to Stay? The Montagu Arms, Beaulieu, Hampshire. With all the attributes of a traditional country-house hotel – roaring log fires, oak panelling, pretty gardens and warm, comfortable bedrooms, some stylishly contemporary, others charmingly traditional – which just so happens to be set in the heart of Beaulieu, the New Forest’s picturesque riverside village, The Montagu Arms makes an ideal base for a weekend away. Doubles from £149.
Port Eliot festival
When? 26-29 July 2018
Where? St Germans, Cornwall
What? This is no ordinary festival. A celebration of ‘words, music, imagination, ideas, nature, food, fashion, flowers, laughter, exploration, fun and all that is good in the world’, there’s plenty on offer for the literary crowd at this beautiful Cornish getaway. Colin Midson of Bookshaped PR curates Port Eliot’s literary programme – you can read his 2018 reading list . The first line-up has just been announced, with the likes of Helen Pankhurst and Billy Bragg providing words, Jack Stein and Anna Jones feeding rumbling bellies and Arthur Smith providing the laughs. Full line up .
Where to Stay? Talland Bay Hotel, Porthallow, Cornwall. Talland Bay Hotel is set in two lush acres of subtropical gardens, a pebble’s skim from the beach. Choose to stay in one of the 22 beach-chic rooms, perhaps with a sleigh bed or four-poster draped in white fabric. Or for more space and privacy, the cottages are perfect. Doubles from £160.
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