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Tamar Valley Festivals

There's always something going on in the Tamar Valley. Whatever you're interested in, from poetry to pop, from patchwork to power boats, the Tamar Valley has a festival for you!

Literary and ArtsMusic | Nature | Speed | Food and Drink | Heritage | Sailing | Craft | Christmas and Winter | Other

Literary & Arts Festivals

BODMIN MOOR POETRY FESTIVAL - 27th to 29th May at Sterts Arts Centre

A warm welcome to the fifth Bodmin Moor Poetry Festival. We hope that once again we have created a festival that will excite and inspire you, whether you dip in and out, or, as we hope, come for the whole week-end. This year we have the usual menu of readings, workshops, music and visual art, but have added quite a lot to the mix. After the positive response to last year’s Poetry Walk’ in partnership with ‘Walkers are Welcome’, we are offering that again, but also adding a second, coastal walk, combined with a writing workshop.


Launceston hosts the Charles Causley Festival every June. Named after and inspired by "the best Poet Laureate we never had" (who lived almost all of his life in Launceston), the festival is one of the biggest poetry festivals in the country, regularly attracting the biggest names in the poetry world, as well as theatre groups, musicians and authors.

Tavistock Festival runs for three weeks every Spring and features art exhibitions, drama and dance performances, art, literary and music workshops, poetry readings and lectures in addition to many varied musical events representing a broad spectrum of musical styles. 

The Port Eliot Festival is an "annual celebration of words, music, imagination, ideas, nature, food, fashion, flowers, laughter, exploration and fun". In the past, the festival has featured performers as varied as Kate Winslet, Anita Pallenberg, Jarvis Cocker, Hanif Kureishi and Suggs.

Plenty of professional artists and sculptors make their living in the valley. Drawn to the Valley is a group of more than 160 artists from up and down the valley, formed in 2003. Every Autumn they open up their studios to the public and there is an annual Summer Exhibition in Tavistock.

Landulph is a small parish on the western banks of the Tamar. Although the Landulph Festival started small (as a way to raise money for the church roof), it's now been running for over a decade and regularly attracts a wide range of high quality performers from the worlds of rock, classical music and theatre, plus art exhibitions, children's events and talks.

Gunnislake Festival has been running since 2001 (usually from the Wednesday before to the first Saturday in August). Events usually feature village walks, live music, barbeques, film screenings, history exhibitions, a traditional floral dance, Morris dancing, falconry, Punch & Judy, amateur dramatics and a children's fancy dress parade. And the local pubs make sure that the festivities continue into the evenings.


Music Festivals

Probably the Tamar Valley's biggest festival is MTV Crashes Plymouth, a two day rock and pop festival on 27th and 28th July 2017 situated right on Plymouth Hoe. Amongst the festival's headliners have been the Kaiser Chiefs, Example, Tinie Tempah and Little Mix, but the festival also showcases up and coming local acts on the same big stage.

Perhaps the Tamar Valley's most renowned classical performers are the Dante Quartet. Their own Dante Summer Festival takes place every summer and features their own performances plus guest performances from visiting musicians.


The valley's best festival for jazz and blues fans is the Calstock Jazz and Blues Festival. Every autumn, and always featuring a lineup of world-class jazz and blues artists. There are also workshops to improve your own playing and singing plus all the refreshments you'd expect.


Speed Festivals

Pentillie Castle plays host to the Pentillie Festival of Motorsport most years. It features a timed rally run over a one mile mixed surface course around the estate plus an endurance run to test drivers' car control and timekeeping abilities. And there are plenty of fine automobiles on display, from hot rods and vintage cars to motorsport and prestige models.

There's more motor sport on offer every spring with the two-day Werrington Park Speed Hill Climb. This challenging hillclimb track is one of the longest club hills in the country. Cars range from almost standard road-going cars to single-seater racing cars. The event lasts for two days and there is spectator viewing at all the best vantage points. And as the event takes place at the height of the daffodil season, the estate usually looks lovely even without all the cars charging up the hill!


Food & Drink Festivals

Duchy College (the Tamar Valley's agricultural college) opens its doors for the Duchy College Open Day & Food Festival every June. As well as a huge pavilion to showcase many of the valley's artisan food producers, there are bakery demonstrations, chef masterclasses and equine displays. Even digger driving!

Country Cheeses of Tavistock puts on an annual Real Cheese Fair in August. Tavistock Town Hall is filled with tables of delicious artisan cheese (most of it from Cornwall, Devon and Somerset) for you to try (and maybe buy).


Heritage Festivals

Plymouth's Ocean City Festival takes place every September and celebrates everything that makes Plymouth 'Britain's Ocean City'. Learn about Plymouth's fascinating maritime history, play at being a pirate, get up close to our marine wildlife or just enjoy the sea air and some locally caught scallops.

Tavistock Heritage Festival is a newish festival (2015 was its second year of existence) organised by the Rotary Club of Tavistock and now taking place every Autumn. The festival focuses on history and culture. This year's festival included talks on J.M.W. Turner's artist adventures in Tavistock and the Tamar Valley, a medieval sword school, living history events, tales of Francis Drake's adventures on the high seas and a performance of local folk songs from folk legend Geoff Lakeman. 

Those people who like their heritage steam-powered will find plenty to interest them in the Tamar Valley. Launceston Steam and Vintage Rally is held every year over the second May bank holiday weekend. Not just steam engines, but vintage fairground rides, cars, bikes, lorries and tractors.

Across the river, Tavistock has its own Tavistock Steam Fair run by the Robey Trust, a charity dedicated to the preservation, restoration, operation and display of steam vehicles and other historic engines. The fair usually takes place on the Sunday of the first weekend of June - so our two big steam fairs are only a few days apart!


Sailing and Rowing Festivals

Saltash Regatta and Waterside Festival takes place on 17th and 18th  June 2017 and is one of the most colourful events held in Cornwall. Gig racing is run to the highest standard with rowing on the Saturday, with a Flash Boat Regatta. Also on the river you'll find sailing, canoeing, swimming and the cardboard boat race on Sunday afternoon! Plenty of live music and family entertainment too.

The Royal Western Yacht Club organises Plymouth Regatta ('The Yachtsman's Regatta') every July. The perfect sailing conditions off Plymouth make for close competitive racing, and the regatta attracts both local amateur and professional sailors, including some national championship events.


Craft Festivals

Cowslip Workshops, based on a farm just outside of Launceston, specialise in textile art, quilting and sewing. They run the Cowslip Christmas Fair in late November every year. 


Launceston Flowerpatch Quilters hold an annual exhibition of their members' work every August in Launceston, with a raffle quilt in aid of charity.


Christmas and Winter Festivals

Tavistock town centre hosts a Dickensian Evening in the town centre on the last Friday of November to coincide with the switching on of the town's Christmas lights. Expect to see choirs, brass and woodwind bands, fire eaters, jugglers, Morris dancers, children's rides as well as Tavistock's shopkeepers dressed up in Dickensian costume dishing it mulled wine as a way of thanking their customers. 

Launceston Christmas Lights are switched on in late November on a Thursday.  Then in early December, the town's shops open for Launceston Late Night Christmas Shopping. As well as the chance to do your Christmas shopping, the town puts on parades and band performances and of course the chance to see Father Christmas himself. Launceston also has a Christmas Tree Festival at St Mary's Church and a Christmas Market in the Square in December.

Other Festivals

One of the Tamar Valley's biggest events is unique to Plymouth - the British Fireworks Championship. Every August, over two nights, six different fireworks companies compete for the British title. The competition is spectacular and completely free to watch from the perfect natural amphitheatre of Plymouth Hoe. The fireworks are accompanied by a fun fair and live music.