Beyond Music: Strange Festivals of the UK

If you automatically associate festivals with long days of being jostled by thousands of people while listening to music on distant stages, think again. Festivals are held to celebrate a variety of pursuits other than live music. And, some of those reasons are quite bizarre. Here are a few worth looking into if you are in the mood for something entirely different.

Up Helly Aa, Sherwick, Shetland

If you are of a mind to don a horned helmet and march through the streets with a burning torch before joining a thousand other pseudo-Vikings in a good old fashioned long ship burning, this festival is for you. Every year on the last Tuesday in January, Europe’s largest fire festival attracts thousands of participants from around the world in this tribute to the Scandinavian influence in this part of the UK.

Tichborne Dole, Hampshire

In one of the most unusual annual events in the UK, residents of Tichborne line up every year to receive a sack of flour blessed in the name of Lady Mabella Tichborne. Why? It seems that in the twelfth century, the kind Lady Mabella lay dying and made Lord Tichborne promise to continue distributing food to the locals.

Lord Tichborne agreed but proclaimed the food would have to come from land she could travel to that day. Lady Mabella proceeded to crawl across 23 acres. To this day, the land is called The Crawls and provides the flour given to locals on Lady’s Day.

Cheese-Rolling, Cooper’s Hill, Gloucestershire

Every spring since the 1500’s Gloucestershire locals have lined up wheels of cheese at the top of a dangerously steep hill and released them. Then, they release themselves in a frantic tumbling event resulting in numerous injuries and presumably adrenalin filled entertainment. The winner of the event is the first to make it to the foot of Cooper’s Hill, with or without capturing the cheese.

If you are looking for something unique, visit one of these festivals or another of the strange events happening each year across the UK.

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