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HOTELS NEAR BRITAIN'S FINEST FESTIVALS

Adrian Mourby

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Does any country in the world have so many festivals per square mile? These days Britain's arts festivals run from early spring to late autumn and cover pretty much the entire country. It can sometimes seem that there are very few cities - and even villages - that haven't invited recently-published authors to come and promote their books. But my selection below highlights the bigger hitters, festivals that led the way and that remain unique events. Each has its own character and each is set in a part of the world that is well worth visiting, with some great hotels nearby.
The Queensberry Hotel

Bath International Music Festival, Bath, 22 May – 2 June. Bath's annual music festival dates back to 1948 and is boldly eclectic. The programme includes classical music; jazz, world, folk, contemporary and electronic. Over the years the festival has had some celebrity artistic directors including Yeheudi Menuhin, Sir Michael Tippett, and Sir Colin Davis. There is also a very active fringe during the festival and a number of free events. Stay in comfort at the Queensbury hotel which is well situated for Bath's Assembly Rooms as well at the city's bars, shops and restaurants.

Castle House

Hay on Wye Festival, Hay on Wye, 23 May – 2 June. Bill Clinton described Hay as "The Woodstock of the mind”. Though a relative newcomer, this literary festival has made itself one of the most talked-about in the world by bringing in high profile, high octane writers. Set in a small Welsh border town that is famous for its second-hand bookshops, Hay has now created a dozen “sister” festivals all round the world. It's a short but picturesque drive to and from the Castle Hotel in Hereford. If the festival programme allows try out the hotel's Castle Bistro for a perfect informal dinner.

The Slaughters Manor House

Longborough Festival Opera (Opera – Wagner) 16 June – 27 July, As Britain's only festival to feature a complete performance of Wagner's Ring Cycle this summer, Longborough is something of an anomally. All opera performances are given in a converted agricultural building in the grounds of Martin and Lizzie Graham's home. The Grahams have been working up to this summer's extravaganza since 1991, “laying the foundations for what may become the British Bayreuth” according to The Guardian. Head to Lower Slaughter Manor at the end of the day for a relaxing sleep or post-Wagnerian glass of wine. With a list of 700 vintages you‘ll be spoilt for choice!

Losehill House Hotel & Spa

Buxton Festival, 5-21 July. Buxton's festival took off in the 1980s after the refurbishment of its Edwardian opera house. Since then it has hosted many new productions of rarely-performed operas, including the UK premiere of Kodály's Háry János, and is now home to the Northern Chamber Orchestra. These days Buxton presents five or six operas but also has an active literary wing. Its “fringe”, one of the biggest in Britain, presents smaller works in fifty venues around the town. After the show drive across the stunning Peak District National Park to Losehill House and relax in its al fresco hot tub.

Norton House Hotel & Spa

Edinburgh International Festival, 9 August – 1 September. The mighty Edinburgh Festival was established in 1947 in an admirable effort to "provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit" in post-war Scotland. That same summer eight theatrical companies organised their own performances outside the festival proper and the concept of a festival "fringe” was born. These days Edinburgh's fringe is as important a showcase for international musical and theatrical talent as the festival proper. In between forays into the busy city relax at Norton House with its quiet gardens and superb oak-panelled residents´ lounge.

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