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Books

The essential guide to the UK's best book festivals 2023

From the Scottish Highlands via Wales down to Cornwall, here’s where to find the best literary festivals this summer

Book festivals map

Image: Lizzie Lomax

Borders Book Festival 

15-18 June, Melrose, Scottish Borders 

The 20th edition of the Borders Book Festival boasts talks from Shuggie Bain Booker winner Douglas Stuart, tennis legend Judy Murray and a sprinkling of Great British Bake Off winners alongside a strong focus on books about mental health and neurodivergence.
bordersbookfestival.org

Bradford Literature Festival 

23 June-2 July, Bradford, West Yorkshire 

Yorkshire’s biggest literary event offers talks from famous names (Irvine Welsh, Sadiq Khan) alongside intriguing mini-fests, like B-Disruptive, a current affairs discussion day for young people. 
bradfordlitfest.co.uk

Barnes Children’s Literature Festival 

24-25 June, Barnes, South London 

This vibrant weekend gives kids the chance to tell a joke with Lenny Henry, learn about the climate with Lucy Hawking, and join a live drawing session with former Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell. There are also activities themed around beloved characters like Elmer and the Velveteen Rabbit, Aardman model making, an interactive guide to Dungeons & Dragons and much more. 
barneskidslitfest.org 

Ledbury Poetry Festival 

30 June-9 July, Ledbury, Herefordshire 

WH Auden’s old stomping ground is a haven for poetry all year round, culminating in this annual 10-day festival – the biggest of its kind in the UK. The town’s community halls, theatres and churches play host to talks, readings and workshops from the likes of Andrew McMillan, Amy Key and Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho. 
ledburypoetry.org.uk

Beyond the Border 

7-9 July, Dinefwr, Carmarthenshire, South Wales 

Camp for the weekend in a stunning nature reserve with castle and woodlands, and revel in the mythology and history of the Welsh landscape, with talks, workshops, performances and guided walks. Guests come from around the world, with West African musicians and Bulgarian feminist folklorists programmed alongside their Welsh counterparts. 
beyondtheborder.com

Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival  

20-23 July, Old Swan Hotel, Harrogate 

Agatha Christie’s famous hideout is the appropriate location for this star-studded crime fiction festival, chaired this year by Baby Ganesh book series author Vaseem Khan. This year’s guests include genre icons Val McDermid, Lee Child and Jeffery Deaver. Themed panels explore TV adaptations, courtroom thrillers, how to write a killer opening scene and more.
harrogateinternationalfestivals.com

Llangwm Literary Festival 

11-13 August, Llangwm, Pembrokeshire, South Wales

A picturesque former fishing village plays host to this intimate weekend festival. This year’s programme is yet to be announced, but previous years have offered everything from crime writing panels to nature writing workshops, with poetry open mic nights and performances by the village choir livening up the evenings. 
llangwmlitfest.co.uk

Edinburgh International Book Festival 

12-28 August, Edinburgh College of Art 

Set in a pop-up village in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, this major literary festival offers both a seriously impressive programme and a utopian hideout for book lovers during the height of festival season. Browse the bookshops, read in the courtyard and attend inspiring talks from authors and world-leading thinkers – previous editions have welcomed everyone from Zadie Smith and Ottessa Moshfegh to
Al Gore and Noam Chomsky. 
edbookfest.co.uk

Nairn Book and Arts Festival 

30 August-3 September, Nairn, Scottish Highlands 

Head to the seaside town of Nairn for this family-friendly celebration of literature, art and performance. Local and nationally renowned authors are programmed alongside live music, theatre and screenings, with plenty of events for kids too. There’s also a fringe festival organised by Nairn residents. 
nairnfestival.co.uk

Bloody Scotland 

15-17 September, Stirling, Central Scotland   

This crime writing festival consistently draws the best authors in the genre, while maintaining a distinctly friendly, convivial vibe. Previous guests have included Ian Rankin, Martina Cole and even Stephen King (albeit virtually). There’s also a pitching event for aspiring authors and a hotly contested quiz. 
bloodyscotland.com

North Cornwall Book Festival 

21-24 September, St Endellion, Cornwall 

Best-selling author Patrick Gale is the artistic director of this relatively young festival, where authors like Kate Mosse and Max Porter are programmed alongside musicians like Gwenno. Expect signing sessions with your favourite authors, advice surgeries for emerging writers and lots more. 
ncornbookfest.org

book festival map

Wigtown Book Festival 

22 September-1 October, Wigtown, Dumfries and Galloway 

Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, here’s a chance to immerse yourself in words in a beautiful market town-turned-literary paradise. Between events, be sure to dedicate some time to the huge number of second-hand and independent bookshops. 
wigtownbookfestival.com

Cliveden Literary Festival 

30 September-1 October, Cliveden House & Spa, Berkshire 

This intimate event is inspired by Cliveden House’s historical literary salons, frequented by the likes of Alfred Lord Tennyson and Jonathan Swift. Expect thought-provoking panels in grand surroundings, with guests as high-calibre as Vogue editor Edward Enninful, author Bret Easton Ellis and Oscar-winning director Emerald Fennell. 
clivedenliteraryfestival.org  

London Literature Festival 

19-29 October, Southbank Centre, London 

The capital’s longest-running literary festival returns for its 15th edition. Previous editions have welcomed giants from the worlds of music (Nick Cave), activism (Greta Thunberg) and film (Riz Ahmed), alongside authors like George Saunders, Salman Rushdie and Mieko Kawakami.  
southbankcentre.co.uk

Mallaig Book Festival  

10-12 November, West Highland Hotel, Mallaig, Highlands and Islands 

The bustling port town of Mallaig on the northern west coast of Scotland plays host to this lively fest, otherwise known as the ‘Write Highland Hoolie’. The full line-up is still to come, but expect events dedicated to the entwined Scottish traditions of poetry and folk music. 
a-write-highland-hoolie.com 

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