The best autumn festivals across the UK

Festival season doesn't stop after summer

Head offtrack with The Glossary’s edit of the best autumn festivals in the UK – from the well-known to the niche.

This season’s festival scene is setting a new standard in world-class curation. Not only are the events themselves brilliant – think stargazing, lake diving and Michelin-starred cuisine – the settings are also sublime. This is a world where you can stumble upon luxury bell tents in the shadow of a Victorian castle, or secret garden banquets nestled beneath the trees. It’s a sphere where you can be stirred at the sight of regal riverside fireworks, or hooked on the words of literary icons. (Not to mention fashion design workshops, poetry slams, and so much more.) Prepare to leave the everyday far behind with our pick of the best festivals in the UK this autumn.

Cliveden Literary Festival, Berkshire, 28 – 29 September

Talks, debates, readings all in the stunning setting of one of England’s most beautiful country houses. Known as a literary salon since 1666, Cliveden has inspired writers Alexander Pope, George Bernard Shaw, Jonathan Pope, Lord Tennyson and Sir Winston Churchill – no wonder then the house is steeped in politics, espionage, sex and scandal. Today, it’s still the perfect place for book-lovers to unite. This year, don’t miss The Art of the Novel talk, which brings together some of the finest minds in fiction, including Kate Mosse, Ian McEwan, Ben Okri and Leila Slimani, to talk about their craft.

London Restaurant FestivalLondon, 1 – 31 October

One for fans of fine dining. With a programme of over 60 events, expect restaurant-hopping tours, tasting menus, master classes, gourmet odysseys and top chef appearances and demonstrations. One-off events are also on offer too, from a feast with author Bill Bryson to a night dining aboard the historic 1923 Thames sailing barge Lady Daphne. The pièce de résistance, however, are the “Ultimate Gastronimic Weekends” – two weekend-long events featuring food from chefs such as Monica Galetti, Michel Roux Jr., Francesco Mazzei, Richard Kirkwood and Vivek Singh. As well as Michelin-starred dining to tempt you, there’s also a stay at a five-star hotel included, too.

BFI London Film Festival, London,  2 – 13 October

Presenting 229 feature films both the industry’s biggest names and the best emerging talent, the BFI’s 12-day festival aims to inspire, entertain and provoke alike. As usual, the opening and closing galas are the hot tickets, but with 28 world premieres taking place, there are plenty of other exclusives to entertain. The highlights? Timothée Chalamet as Henry V in The King; The Irishman, a gangster film from Hollywood powerhouse Martin Scorsese; and the ridiculously star-studded cast of Dev Patel, Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Ben Wishaw, Peter Capaldi and Gwendoline Christie in The Personal History of David Copperfield, a retelling of Charles Dickens’ classic.

London Literature Festival, London, 17 – 27 October

Taking place at London’s Southbank Centre, this 11-day long literary offering is arguably the meatiest of all the UK’s literary festivals, thanks to a programme of exclusive appearances, live readings, newly commissioned performances, talks, debates, workshops, award ceremonies and book launches. For its 13th instalment, the theme this year is “Once Upon A Time”, exploring the democratic nature of storytelling via accessible events on everything from Game of Thrones to Harry Potter and The Handmaid’s Tale. But the festival isn’t just for readers, it’s for writers too. The festival’s inaugural Writers Day will take place on 26 October, when budding authors can attend for talks and 1:1 agent advice in order to uncover burgeoning talent.

Cheltenham Literary Festival, Gloucestershire, 4 – 13 October

Image credit: Still Moving Media

Turning 70 this year, The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literary Festival claims to be the first ever and longest running literary festival in the world. It’s easy to see why it has proved so popular. Attracting the biggest names in literature, journalism, culture, sports and more, the festival gathers 900 of the world’s greatest writers, thinkers and performers for 10 days of literary revelry. The anniversary this year makes it one of the best times to attend, thanks to the “Seven at 70” project, which aims to celebrate the festival’s heritage with seven special guest curators, partnerships with seventy other festivals, seven events showcasing brilliant new writing and events discussing seven decades of British history. It’s set to be a bonanza.

Falmouth Oyster Festival, Cornwall, 10 – 13 October

Image credit: Jamie Johnson

This ode to the most decadent of seafood finds its stage in the charming coastal town of Falmouth. Celebrating the start of oyster dredging season, top chefs across the region descend for four days of cooking demos, wine pairing and live music by the sea. Prepare for feasts of native Fal Oyster alongside a full range of Cornish seafood delights. There will also be a boat race, a Grand Oyster Parade (yes, really), live music and a shucking competition. This is a perfect way to round off the festival season and provides a good excuse to get acquainted with Falmouth, with its labyrinth of creative boutiques and picturesque harbour.

Wimbledon International Music Festival, London, 9 – 24 November

Wimbledon might be synonymous with tennis, but locals know that the classical music scene is the real hidden gem. This year’s festival claims to offer a “galaxy” of world-class talent as performers explore the three themes of music, mathematics and architecture. Taking place over a fortnight in several intimate small venues across Wimbledon, the festival comprises 18 classical music concerts. On the 2019 programme, look out for Music Labyrinths, which explores the art of deconstructing Bach, Beethoven and Brahams to tie in with this year’s themes.

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