Experience Britain’s finest literary festivals

Cheltenham Literature Festival celebrates its 70th anniversary in 2019, with an extensive line-up packed full of icons from the worlds of sport, television, music and literature. But while the Gloucestershire event provides a chance for you to meet an array of household names, the festival is just one of many exciting literary events where you can celebrate writing in what remains of 2019.

1. Cheltenham Literature Festival

Cheltenham Literature Festival

Established in 1949, the Cheltenham Literature Festival is the UK’s oldest annual festival of its type and welcomes more than 600 of the world’s writers, politicians, poets and actors to celebrate the written word. The 70th edition of the ten-day festival from 4 to 13 October will feature around 500 events and workshops, including Book It!, a series of events aimed specifically at families and young children. As the festival falls on the eve of the Rugby World Cup, former Wales captain Mark Warburton will discuss his new autobiography, while England’s cricketing hero Alastair Cook will talk about his time out in the middle. Veteran broadcaster John Humphrys, musical composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, comedian Lenny Henry and Status Quo frontman Francis Rossi are among the others scheduled to be involved.

Cheltenham Literature Festival

2. Edinburgh International Book Festival

Edinburgh International Book Festival

Welcoming around 900 authors to a specially created tented village in the centre of Edinburgh from 10 to 26 August, the Edinburgh International Book Festival includes more than 800 events for you to enjoy. Nobel and Booker prize-winners have featured on past line-ups, alongside sportsmen and women, illustrators, philosophers, scientists, poets, comic creators, biographers, economists and musicians.

Edinburgh International Book Festival

3. Bath Children’s Literature Festival

Bath Literary Festival. World of Harry Potter, Fleurble Laffalot. Credit: Hesper Matthias.

The Bath Children’s Literature Festival is Europe’s biggest festival dedicated to children’s literature, offering you and your youngsters a chance to meet the creators of their literary heroes. David Williams and Philip Pullman were among the authors to attend in 2018, while this year’s line-up includes comedian Harry Hill and former England women’s footballer Casey Stoney, alongside authors Chris Riddell, David Baddiel, Jacqueline Wilson, Holly Smale and Chris Ryan. Taking place between 27 September and 6 October, there’s a number of Shaun the Sheep model making workshops and plenty of book readings to participate in. Away from the festival, Bath is a UNESCO World Heritage site with an abundance of splendid architecture to enjoy.

Bath Children’s Literature Festival

4. Cliveden Literary Festival

Cliveden Literary Festival

A newcomer to the literary festival scene, Cliveden Literary Festival mixes discussion with a chance for you to explore the picturesque grounds and Renaissance splendour of the spectacular Cliveden House. Speakers at the 2019 festival in late September include award-winning author, journalist and editor Tina Brown, physicist Brian Cox, Bridget Jones’ creator Helen Fielding, presenter and DJ Chris Evans, prizewinning historian Simon Sebag Montefiore and Gaby Wood, the literary director of the Booker Prize Foundation. A full programme for the festival at the Grade II listed property will be announced in August.

Cliveden Literary Festival

5. London Literary Festival

The London Literary Festival returns to London’s South Bank Centre for its 13th year in mid-October, bringing together writers, journalists and creative thinkers for 11 days of readings, talks, poetry and performance. The Southbank Centre’s longest running festival, Poetry International, will kick-start proceedings, having been founded by former Poet Laureate Ted Hughes in 1967. Past speakers at the festival have included author Phillip Pullman, US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, poet and playwright Carol Ann Duffy and actor Tom Hanks.

London Literary Festival

6. Blenheim Palace Festival of Literature, Film and Music

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, England.

Blenheim Palace celebrates the power of words with an all-encompassing literature, film and music festival in late October. The stately home has welcomed many famous faces to previous festivals, including comedian Gyles Brandreth, TV presenter Alexander Armstrong and politician Boris Johnson. A full programme of events is spread across four days at the festival, embracing a broad range of literary and cultural themes.

Blenheim Palace Literature Festival

7. Kendal Mountain Literature Festival

With a diverse programme of events designed to inspire and entertain, the Kendal Mountain Literature Festival in mid-November allows you to explore the connections between people, landscapes, nature and places. Predominantly featuring authors with ties to nature, landscape and mountain literature, more than 40 shared their work in 2018 and that figure is expected to grow. Set in spectacular surroundings and with a distinctive outdoors feel, the festival seeks to promote positive environmental attitudes and values through the power of literature.

Kendal Mountain Literature Festival

8. C.S Lewis Festival

Held as an annual celebration of Belfast-born author Clive Staples Lewis every November, the C.S Lewis Festival explores his legacy via an array of talks, exhibitions, tours, workshops, poetry and film screenings in his former home city. Renowned as the created of The Chronicles of Narnia, Lewis made major contributions in literary criticism, children’s and fantasy literature, and the festival is a recognition of his efforts.

C.S Lewis Festival

9. Scotland’s Storybook Trail

Embark on a magical adventure from page to place across Scotland as part of Scotland’s Storybook Trail. The trail includes an array of stunning locations with ties to literary figures, characters and more. Meet some of Hedwig’s friends from J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter series at the Scottish Owl Centre or hop aboard the Hogwart’s Express at the Glenfinnan Viaduct. Discover how Braemer and Fidra Islands provided the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island or visit the Crinan Canal in Argyll, said to have influenced Kenneth Grahame’s classic The Wind in the Willows.

27 Mar 2020(last updated)