Where can I watch a heavy horse display, a hound parade and learn about dry stone walling, you ask? Get out of the city and slip on your wellies to explore the Great British countryside and some of our oldest, most treasured traditions. From ferret racing to falconry, Great Britain’s county fairs showcase weird and wonderful customs that celebrate British heritage, agriculture, food, and local communities.
Cowal Highland Gathering in Dunoon, Argyll (August 24-26, 2017)
First held in 1894, the Cowal Highland Gathering (CHG) is a fantastic celebration of Highland games and Scottish culture. This year sees CHG welcome a record 720 Highland dancers from across the world to compete in the World Highland Dancing Championship. If heavy athletics is more your thing, don’t miss the Cowal Championship in which the “heavies” battle it out in shotput, the hammer and the famous caber toss (in which competitors throw a large tapered pole) on Saturday. Yes, those are actual events and they’re topped off by the magnificent sight of 1,000 pipers and drummers saluting the Chieftain as the sun sets down the Firth of Clyde. We swear this is real life.
Chatsworth Country Fair at Chatsworth Park, Derbyshire (September 1-3, 2017)
What could be more picturesque than celebrating the British countryside and its traditional pursuits in front of the 16th century, historic and current home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire? Held on part of a 35,000 acre estate, the Chatsworth Country Fair features events such as highland dancing, sheepdog trials, hot air balloons and a good ol’ dog and duck show. If you’re a fan of The Great British Baking Show, catch Paul Hollywood (Friday September 1) and Mary Berry (Saturday September 2) at The Stoves Cookery Demonstration Theatre. Don’t miss the RAF fly-by or the daredevil acrobatic Royal Signals Motorcycle Display Team.
Dorset County Show in Dorchester, Dorset (September 2-3, 2017)
Showcasing competitors across homecraft, horticulture, horses & ponies, livestock and vintage agricultural machinery (amongst other categories), the Dorset County Show brings together some of the finest animals and crafts in the South West. Stroll through the grounds that host over 330 trade stalls, watch an incredible stallion and falcon display in the Main Ring, and sample quintessential Dorset treats in the Dorset Food Hall.
Usk Show at Usk Showground, Monmouthshire (September 9, 2017)
The Usk Show has run every year since 1844 and celebrates the best of Monmouthshire farming and rural life. This year, over 300 traders will be present across the Food Hall, Craft Marquee and Shopping Mall, alongside livestock judging and show jumping competitions. Get up close to vintage steam engines and tractors as well as larger than life produce in the Heaviest Marrow, Pumpkin, and Potato competitions.
The Royal County of Berkshire Show at Newbury Showground, Berkshire (September 16-17, 2017)
With 20 arenas and over 2,000 animals, the Royal County of Berkshire Show (running since 1909) is one of the best agricultural shows in Great Britain. Wander through the grounds to see pigs, sheep, cattle, dogs, horses and llamas, and go back in time at the vintage Victorian fairground. Be sure to catch the Grand Parade of Livestock, the Scurry Driving Championship Final and the Heavy Horses show.
Nidderdale Show at Bewerley Park, Yorkshire (September 25, 2017)
Even though it traditionally marks the end of the agricultural show season, Nidderdale Show takes an unconventional approach to its special Main Ring attraction. Who knew you could watch camel racing in the Yorkshire Dales? You can still find classic events such as terrier racing, sheep dog trials and show jumping. You know what they say - come for the camels, stay for the speed shearing.