Britain’s Waterside Festivals

Without its coast, Britain wouldn’t be Britain. Why not experience our local culture by going to a waterside festival? This month, they’re taking place in Cornwall, Liverpool and Henley.

Taste sea salt on your lips at the annual Fal River Festival (to 5 Jun) in Falmouth, Cornwall. Join 100,000 spectators and cheer rowers in a gig race, and watch water cannons signal the arrival of a flotilla of tall ships and tug boats. Be entertained by jazz bands, cookery demonstrations and art displays. The market is back this year, too, along with circus workshops, wildlife walks, foraging classes and a sing-a-long to Mamma Mia! aboard a ferry.

Falmouth Classics’ (17-19 Jun) three two-hour races and parade are best watched from Pendennis Point, Castle Drive or St Mawes Castle. The parade (19 Jun; from 10.30am) features sail and motorboats in the morning and boats under 20ft at 1.30pm – last year, 118 took part. Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival (17-19 Jun) runs alongside the regatta. A shanty is a song sung by seamen 
as they haul up anchors or raised sails, so most feature lyrics about women and lively choruses. In 2015, 21 venues hosted shanty bands. This year, expect more along with folk dancing and a gala concert at Princess Pavilion.

The highlight of the Saltash Regatta and Waterside Festival (11-12 Jun) near Plymouth in the neighbouring county of Devon is a Mixed and Veterans Pilot Gig Championship, held on both days. You can join in the fun, too. Try your hand at sailing, canoeing, river swimming and gig racing – a rowing boat with six oars. Alternatively, browse food and craft stalls, watch a marching band and stilt walkers juggling fire or listen to acoustic singers. Children will enjoy the bouncy castle and fireworks.

Where to stay: Built as a private home in 1640, The Greenbank hotel has contemporary décor and sea views. A weekend single night with breakfast costs from £94.50, based on two people sharing. Harbourside, Falmouth, Cornwall, TR11 2SR. T: 01326 312440.
Where to eat: Within walking distance of The Greenbank hotel is The Wheel House, a cosy candlelit restaurant that specialises in locally caught crab and oysters. Book in advance if you can, as it’s very popular. 
Upton Slip, Falmouth, TR11 3DQ. 
T: 01326 318050
What to see: The National Maritime Museum Cornwall is also along the harbour front. With a focus on maritime heritage, highlights are a flotilla and lookout tower. T: 01326 313388.
How to get there: Trains from London Paddington to Falmouth Docks (from £76.50 return; from 5hrs 8mins) and London Paddington to Saltash (from £57 return; from 3hrs 41mins).

Visit Liverpool for the International Mersey River Festival (3-5 Jun). Watch a tall ships regatta, 18 inflatable catamarans racing at 65mph and professional wakeboarders jumping off ramps, or take a tour in a 113-year-old renovated steam tug. Last year’s highlights included a brass band and guest appearances by The X Factor finalist Rebecca Ferguson. But they were topped by grannies dancing to the 2012 Korean hit Gangnam Style! Expect live music, theatre and craft workshops.

The Northern Boat Show in Albert Dock – Liverpool’s waterfront – will be held the same weekend. There will be 60 narrow boats, four tall ships and 70 cruising yachts, dinghies and sailboats on display. You can also test out boats, see a canoe polo tournament and watch an air display. Daredevils, meanwhile, will be showing off their Flyboarding skills, a watersport in which a jet ski propels riders in the air via a hose.

Where to stay: A boutique hotel with 106 rooms, The Nadler is close to Liverpool Central railway station and Albert Dock. Greats bars, restaurants and clubs are all within walking distance. A weekend single night with breakfast costs from £121, based on two people sharing. 29 Seel St, Liverpool, L1 4AU. T: 0151 705 2626.
Where to eat: Trattoria 51 serves great Italian food and is close to Moorfields station. It’s good value, too. 25-31 Old Hall St, Liverpool, L3 9BS. T: 0151 236 4739.
What to see: Delve into the city’s maritime past – including a Titanic exhibition – at Merseyside Maritime Museum. Free. Liverpool Waterfront, Liverpool, L3 4AQ. T: 0151 478 4499.
How to get there: Train from London Euston to Liverpool Lime Street in central Liverpool (from £37 return; from 2hrs 17mins).

Rowing on the River ThamesHenley-On-Thames 
Henley Royal Regatta (29 Jun-3 Jul) has been held every year since it was established in 1839, except during World War I. Over the years, it has expanded from a single day of rowing races to five days. Each heat sees just two boats race at a time, and to fit all 200 races into the festival they begin every five minutes – which guarantees action for spectators. The one-mile, 550-yard course, which runs from Temple Island to near Henley Bridge, takes seven minutes to complete by teams made up of amateurs and Olympians. The royal family is known to watch, so you never know who you may spot. 

Where to stay: Located in a former Georgian brewery, Hotel du Vin has maintained its original wooden beams and exposed brickwork. It is located on the banks of the River Thames, just over the bridge from the lively regatta. A weekend single night with breakfast costs from £190, based on two people sharing a room. 

Where to eat: Try classic British dishes such as pie, fish and chips or a Sunday roast at The Three Tuns, a cosy pub around the corner from Hotel du Vin and the regatta. It also has outdoor seating. 5 Market Place, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, RG9 2AA. T: 01491 410138.
What to see: Take a taxi to Chiltern Valley Winery & Brewery, which has harvested grapes since 1984. Go on a tour and learn about how it has a Royal Warrant for its ales – who knew the Queen was partial to a pint?
Hambleden, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, RG9 6JW. T: 01491 638330.
How to get there: Train from London Paddington to Henley-on-Thames 
(from £31.40 return; from 1hr 3mins).

London Planner London Planner London Planner

The Latest Social Stories