The 10 Most Eccentric Festivals in Britain & Ireland

They do say that there’s nowt as odd as folk – and if the extraordinary variety of truly bizarre, eccentric festivals that regularly take place all over Britain is anything to go by, we apparently have some very odd folk here. But don’t take our word for it – cast your eyes over the following ten examples that famed author and cryptozoologist Dr Karl Shuker has picked out and judge for yourself!

Lewes – Dwyle Flunking

Fancy using a stick to throw a dishcloth soaked in stale beer at one of several friends standing in a circle? Then dwyle flunking is definitely for you – but be prepared to have said beer-soaked dishcloth thrown back at you! This quaint festival occurs annually on 29 August at the Lewes Arms pub in Lewes, Essex.

Blackawton – Worm Charming

The otherwise odd combination of worms and cider come together famously each year on 2 May in Blackawton, Devon, at the International Festival of Worm Charming. Liberal amounts of cider are used by the global gathering of brightly-garbed charmers together with arcane invocations to lure the local earthworms out of the ground.

Photo via Wikipedia

Abbots Bromley – Horn Dance

On Wakes Monday (the first Monday after the first Sunday after 4 September), the village of Abbots Bromley in Staffordshire hosts the annual – and ancient – Horn Dance, dating back to 1226. Six men wearing ‘horns’ (actually reindeer antlers) dance along a 10-mile course around the village, visiting 12 different locations, accompanied by four other characters plus a musician playing traditional folksongs.

Waen Rhydd – Bog Snorkelling Championships

Each Summer Bank Holiday Monday (last Monday in August), the Waen Rhydd peat bog near Llanwrtyd Wells in Powys, mid-Wales, hosts the annual Bog Snorkelling Championships. Dressed in obligatory ‘smart’ attire (no jeans allowed) and sometimes in fancy dress, plus snorkel and flippers, presumably sane persons compete to see who can swim two lengths of this murky morass in the fastest time. No-one knows why.

Photo via Wikipedia

Whittlesey – Straw Bear Festival

Each January near to Plough Monday (first Monday after Twelfth Night) sees the Straw Bear Festival held in Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire. As its name suggests, a man dressed as a bear made of straw parades and dances around the town’s streets, accompanied by a child dressed as a straw bear cub – and that’s about it, really. Offbeat but entertaining.

Brawby – Yorkshire Pudding Boat Race

Each year during early June, a hardy flotilla of boats designed as giant Yorkshire puddings and duly composed of flour and eggs coated in yacht varnish to prevent them from going soggy sets sail in a hotly-contested race across Bob’s Pond in Brawby, North Yorkshire. This unique festival was conceived in the 1990s by local artist Simon Thackray.

Photo via Barney Moss

Kettlewell – Scarecrow Festival

For one week every year (9-17 August in 2014), the North Yorkshire village of Kettlewell is taken over by around 100 life-sized scarecrows, the slightly eerie, blank-faced stars of its annual celebration of corvine dispellers, which represent a different theme each year. What will it be this year? Look out for the treasure trail too.

Stonehaven – Fireball Festival

Every year at midnight on New Year’s Eve, up to 45 locals in the North Sea fishing port of Stonehaven, south of Aberdeen, Scotland, celebrate Hogmanay by swinging flaming balls of fire (attached to wire handles) around their heads as they march along the town’s high street to the harbour, where they then throw their fireballs into the sea. Around 12,000 others watch this spectacular event annually.

Lerwick – Up Helly Aa

Held on the last Tuesday in January each year in Lerwick, Shetland, since its 1880s onset this boisterous and exceedingly popular festival has had something for everyone – tin kettles, gun firing, torch bearers, fiddling, drum banging, brawling and bawling, people dressed as Vikings, and lots of drinking. Little wonder that the following Wednesday is a public holiday here, allowing the festival’s celebrants to recover!

Photo via Vicky Brock

Killorglin – Puck Fair

For three days in August each year, Killorglin in Ireland’s County Kerry is given over to the Puck Fair, in which a group of locals set forth to capture a wild goat in the nearby MacGillyCuddy’s Reeks mountain range. The goat is then crowned Kind Puck by a schoolgirl playing the role of Queen of the Fair, and for the rest of the three days the town hosts numerous parades, street entertainment, concerts, and livestock fairs.

Whoever said that the British are a staid, boring nation clearly knows nothing about our festivities, that’s for sure!

Further Image Credits:

Dwyle Flunking via Roz South/Lewes Arms via Simon Trimby/Straw Bear Festival via Richard Humphrey

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