Best of British: Top Events and Things to Do in 2014

Cheese Rolling a quirky British tradition © Mike Warren.jpg

Over the past 18 months the UK has played host to some of the world’s greatest events, so you’d think we might be ready to take a back seat and settle for a quiet couple of years. Not a chance. 2014 is already shaping up to be one of the most memorable years in recent memory, with the Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup and another music-filled summer of festivals to look forward to, alongside a raft of smaller grassroots efforts and quirky little traditions that really sum up what it means to be British. So before you book your flight, let’s take a look at what this year has in store… 

Over the next couple of months as we (hopefully) peel off our winter layers and look forward to the first shoots of spring, a few events help to herald in the new season in style. Kicking things off in mid-February is London Fashion Week, where – yes – we get to discover what next season’s winter layers look like, as we try to wangle our way in to a star-studded party or two. And if we can’t get in, never fear, we’ll console ourselves with coffee instead. The London Coffee Festival in early April celebrates all things java at the Old Truman Brewery just off Brick Lane, with over 250 gourmet coffee stalls and demonstrations from the world’s best baristas. And all that caffeine should help to power us through the Virgin Money London Marathon on 13 April, even if we’re only waving a few flags and enjoying the most uplifting day of the year from the sidelines.

London Marathon © Kyle Taylor, Dream It. Do It.jpg


The Virgin Money London Marathon © Kyle Taylor, Dream It. Do It.


2014 is set to be a momentous year for Scotland. Glasgow International returns for its sixth edition in April; a major biennial festival of contemporary art with a bumper programme of exhibitions, events and performances in venues across the city. And of course, no Scottish summer would be complete without experiencing the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August.


But the two most hotly-anticipated Scottish events this year are sporting in nature: the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup. The Games open in Glasgow with a spectacular opening ceremony on 23 July – details of which are being kept strictly under wraps – and run for 11 event-filled days across 17 different sports. No golf though. That’s the sole domain of the Ryder Cup, being played out at Gleneagles in Perthshire for the first time since 1973, and only the second time in the tournament’s 87 year history.

Gleneagles © Tom Jervis.jpg

Looking across to Gleneagles © Tom Jervis


South of the border, as we move into summer, we turn our attention to a national obsession – our gardens. The annual Chelsea Flower Show in May always makes us vow to be more green-fingered, as we oooh and aaah over perfect blooms and innovative show gardens and select a few prize cuttings to take away. But soon it’s time for turf of a different kind altogether. As fans of iconic British sporting events well know, June means only two things: Royal Ascot and Wimbledon, where frocks, hats, strawberries and cream are as much a part of the spectacle as horses and tennis balls.

Beautiful blooms at the Chelsea Flower Show © HerryLawford.jpg

Beautiful blooms at the Chelsea Flower Show © HerryLawford


But the best happenings in Britain are not always in or around the capital. In Gloucestershire, The Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake takes place on the late spring bank holiday at the end of May, and has earned a reputation as one of the country’s oddest annual traditions. A totally un-corporate free for all, locals from the village of Brockworth – plus an increasing number of outsiders – race down Cooper’s Hill in chase of a 9lb wheel of Double Gloucester cheese. Although the aim is essentially to catch the cheese, due to its one second head start and the speed of its descent, this never happens in practice. However, the cheese is presented to the first person over the finish line in each of the four races.

Cheese Rolling a quirky British tradition © Mike Warren.jpg

Cheese rolling, a fine British tradition © Mike Warren


Summer in Britain is also music festival season, with people visiting from around the world to attend the Isle of Wight (12-15 June), Glastonbury (25-29 June), V (16-17 August) and Reading (22-24 August) festivals. Line-ups for all are still being finalised, but you can be sure of catching the biggest names in rock, pop, indie and dance from across the globe, with rumours of Dolly Parton, Metallica and Prince as potential Glastonbury headliners alongside already-confirmed Arcade Fire and Lily Allen.

Space pods at Glastonbury © fussy onion.jpg

Space pods at Glastonbury © fussy onion


Later in the year, we can look forward to another dose of arts and culture with the Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival which takes place at Bristol’s harbourside in late September (dates tbc), and the brilliant Frieze Art Fair at London’s Regent park on 16-19 October; an event which has evolved from a commercial enterprise to an all-round cultural event, attracting close to 70,000 people each year.

As we move into winter, it’s time to welcome back the London Jazz Festival to the city, a great excuse to get back indoors and hunker down with some great music in some of London’s most intimate venues. And last but not least, the wonderful Winter Festival at the Southbank Centre arrives to see us through the shortest days of the year, running from mid-December to mid-January 2015. If previous events are anything to go by, expect festive markets, funfairs, street performances, great seasonal food and a glorious display of Christmas lights.

London Southbank © Martin Pettitt.jpg

London Southbank © Martin Pettitt


Header photo © Mike Warren.

Which event would you most like to experience? Let us know in the comments below.

Travelling to the UK this year? We operate direct services from around the world to London multiple times a day, so book your flight today.

About Maxine Sheppard

Maxine is the co-editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.
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