Festivals 2016: The UK's best boutique festivals from Womad and Wilderness to a few you'd never heard of

It's time to quit the rat race and breathe, if only for a weekend

Jess Denham
Thursday 02 June 2016 14:46
Festival-goers enjoy watching a band play at In the Woods boutique festival in Kent
Festival-goers enjoy watching a band play at In the Woods boutique festival in Kent

That the best things come in small packages might be a cliche, but in the case of festivals, it is arguably the more intimate, low key gatherings that offer the most memorable experiences.

Often set in stunning natural surroundings from lakesides and beaches to forests and rural fields, Britain’s boutique festivals are becoming increasingly desirable as a more unique and often cheaper alternative to the hype and hubbub of major players such as Glastonbury, Bestival and Reading & Leeds.

Here is just a handful of some of the most tempting events happening up and down the UK this summer:

Festival No.6

This is the trinket box of festivals; small but packed full of treasures. This year, Welsh village Portmeirion plays host to a diverse bill topped by Noel Gallagher’s Flying Birds, Hot Chip and Bastille, while guests can also expect poetry readings, exclusive film screenings, stand-up comedy, woodland storytelling and pop up theatre. There’s culture in every corner. 1-4 September, tickets £180

Barn on the Farm

Ed Sheeran, Ben Howard, Bastille and Hozier have all graced the stage at this cosy independent Gloucestershire festival, nestled in the middle of a working farm and headlined this year by Jack Garratt and Oh Wonder. Honne, Frances and Gavin James are among other acts set to perform. If you want to catch up and coming artists before they hit the big time, come and join the 1,500 people on the farm. 1-3 July, tickets £105

The Somerley Tea Party

A relative newbie to the boutique festival circuit at just three-years-old, Somerley is the place to be for fans of house, techno and drum & bass. Undergound talent mingles with established stars in the lush green gardens of an 18th century estate. You can be raving in the big top one moment and chilling out in peaceful woodland the next. Annie Mac, Joy Orbison and Eats Everything are all playing this year. 3-4 June, tickets £65


Head to Oxfordshire for a taste of rural paradise at Wilderness, which this August features exclusive UK sets from Robert Plant and The Flaming Lips. Music aside, mouthwatering food is served at famous long table banquets great for meeting like-minded people. Wellbeing workshops, a carousel and boutique camping strike the perfect balance between relaxation and revelry. 4-7 August, tickets £164

Caught by the River Thames

Londoners need not travel far to find a beautiful festival to chill out at. Caught by the River takes place on the banks of the Thames in Fulham Palace and is a glorious mash-up of a gig, literature festival, nature symposium, national beer festival and global food market. Kate Tempest, Super Furry Animals, Beth Orton and Low are among the acts confirmed to play for some 5,000 people. 6-7 August, tickets £99

Brew at the Bog

Beer and music are two of the joys of life, so why not combine them in one Scottish extravaganza weekend also featuring great comedy and art? Set in the Scottish Highlands, Brew at the Bog will play host to Scottish acts from Idlewild and C Duncan to The LaFontaines, KLOE and White. Expect a turn-out of around 3,000. 3-4 June, tickets £65

In The Woods

Not many gigs take place under an ethereally lit forest canopy, art installations lining the paths while a giant midnight bonfire keeps music fans toasty warm until sunrise. Back for its tenth year, In The Woods promises relaxation to the max, with the refreshing community feel of being among friends and not strangers. Just over 1,000 tickets are available to keep it extra special, with the Kent woodland location and line-up kept secret until the last moment. 2-4 September, tickets £125

BoomTown Fair

Revellers dance in front of the pirate ship stage

Back for an eighth year, this Hampshire shebang is an almighty explosion of colour, vibrancy and joy. One of the wilder independent festivals, what started life as a humble village fair has blossomed into a creative city that attracts artists from all over the world. Music from every genre is celebrated across 24 stages, along with everything that’s good in life. Everybody’s free to express themselves and dance like nobody’s watching here. 11-14 August, tickets £170

LeeFest Presents Neverland

Expect a Peter Pan-style adventure at LeeFest this year

Lianne La Havas tops the bill at this 5,000 capacity independent festival in Kent, supported by 30+ bands including Ghostpoet, Roots Manuva and Shura. Set in a top secret location, LeeFest’s new Neverland creation spreads over three distinct, immersive realms - The Neverwoods, Mermaids Lagoon and Skull Ridge - and is an excellent choice for music lovers hoping to discover new artists. 28-31 July, tickets £99

Kendal Calling

Discover more than music at Kendal Calling in the Lake District

Nestled in the heart of the beautiful Lake District, this lovely low-key festival will play host to Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Madness, Rudimental and The Charlatans. Renowned for more than just the music, Kendal Calling also features gourmet food stalls, art installations, kids entertainment, the health and wellbeing ‘Garden of Eden’ and a real ale festival. This year’s theme is carnival, so bring the most colourful clothes from your wardrobe and expect a slightly larger crowd, at around 25,000. 28-31 July, tickets £135

Secret Garden Party

Photo by Danny North for Fanatic 2015 and Secret Garden Party

Blame Star Wars, for SGP has gone all sci-fi on us this year, with a ‘Gardeners Guide to the Galaxy’ theme. Caribou, Air and Primal Scream are headlining, with Milky Chance, Lissie, The Temper Trap and Band of Skulls also on the line-up. Explore a range of unique areas from the Pagoda and Games Arena to the Spiritual Playground and enchanting Where The Wild Things Are stage. There will be visual spectacles, ceremonies and an art garden too. 21-24 July, tickets £180


Womad Festival

If you want to spread your musical wings and explore the sounds of different cultures, head to Wiltshire for Womad, which boasts inspiring talent from across the globe. You can try yoga and Sabar dance classes, indulge in a massage, enjoy vintage rides at the steam fair and shop in the global market. This year’s theme is Brazilian Carnival so get ready to join the party. 28-31 July, tickets £175

Red Rooster

This huge site in the private grounds of Euston Hall in Suffolk come complete with a 'swamp', a forest and corn fields, while those with the means to splash out on luxury camping will even find their tents pitched in the ornamental gardens. Red Rooster champions the best in R'n'B, Americana, Blues, Soul, Roots and Country, making for a brilliant 'Deep South' weekend. Festival-goers can enjoy Creole-style cooking, Southern Comfort soul food and BBC ribs, while HillBilly Moonshines are a popular order at the cocktail bars. 2-4 June, tickets £50

End of the Road

Joanna Newsom, Bat for Lashes and Animal Collective headline this small festival focusing on alternative music, folk and Americana. Expect four pretty stages, as well as a woodland clearing where secret sets enthral both festival-goers and roaming peacocks. A healing field, film tent, forest library and games area make temptation even harder to resist. 2-4 September, tickets £195

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