Miss the main stage, sack off the headliners, and find one of these wild woodland parties instead.
We’re found the biggest parties at the smallest stages, from Glastonbury’s unmarked bar to boutique offerings in secret locations – the perfect spots to feel all lovely and unusual and, well, festival-y.
1) Secret Garden Party‘s Labyrinth
Secret Garden Party is bowing out from the UK festival scene this year, but they’re promising to go out on a high. There’ll be no shortage of surprises lurking around every corner, but pop by the Labyrinth for some dizzying disco ball action.
2) End Of The Road‘s canopy of stars
End of the Road takes place in Salisbury’s beautiful Larmer Tree Gardens. While the main stage is set in a pristine lawn surrounded by Victorian follies, the most magical corner of the site is in the woods, where you can find a light up dancefloor, a sawn-in-half living room – whose playable piano hosts surprise stripped-down sets from main stage acts – and, best of all, a thicket of low-slung branches all draped with fairy lights. Recline, imbibe and let your eyes go all wobbly.
3) The Valley at Wilderness
The hoity-toitiest of festivals offers banquets by Nuno Mendes, performances by Grace Jones, wood-fired hot tubs by an outdoor swimming lake and even bloody archery. But at night you’ll want to head down to the Valley, where DJs play late and loud to a crowd of thousands in a gorgeous natural amphitheatre. You can wig out on the dancefloor and then, when it all gets too much, clamber up the steep wooded slopes for a swig of water – and a gorgeous view of the revelry below.
4) Pretty much anywhere at Festival No 6
This festival in Wales rewards the daytime drinker over the night owl. Taking over the real-fake town of Portmerion (made famous in the Prisoner) it’s full of intriguing architecture, little stages, woodland cubby holes and other curios. Dip in the pool, or even go for a swim-splash-paddle at low tide – best keep your wits about you for that, mind you. Otherwise, enjoy a trippy trip into town.
5) The Sunrise Arena at Latitude
“Man is naturally a wild animal, and that when taken from the woods, he is never happy in his natural state, ’till he returns to them again.” So after chilling about the lake and enjoying the pink sheep and floating lanterns, venture into the lantern-festooned forest for late night DJ sets from Joe Goddard, Trevor Nelson and Simian Mobile Disco.
6) The Hidden Piano Bar at Glastonbury
This is so secret only about four photos seem to exist of it on the internet. (It’s also bloody dark inside, which doesn’t help.) But every year at Glastonbury, somewhere on the site, some Irish creatives dig a great big hole in the earth, cover the top of it with canvas, and construct a hidden entrance. To really make things difficult, they dig in a different spot each year. It’s up to you to find it, but inside you’ll find fab live music, the satisfaction of a quest completed, and maybe even Michel Eavis! (It’s often towards the Green Fields / Stone Circle end of the site.)
7) The Woods… at In The Woods
When it comes to round-ups of festivals with secret woodland areas, we’d be fools not to mention In The Woods, literally a festival set in a secret woodland location. (It’s in Kent, though.) This boutique little gem even keeps their line-up close to their chest, but the organisers have earned a reputation of featuring up-and-coming acts that go on to big things, like Alt-J and Kate Tempest. It’s yoru chance to go see the headliners of 2019 two years early.
8) Lost Village, Lincolnshire
Like an even smaller, cosier Wilderness, this little woodland festival has a great line-up of DJs, some of London’s best chefs cooking up grub, a torchlit parade and a gorgeous firework display around a lake. Just watch the video.