Chloe Allen

Chloe Allen

Our Digital Marketing Executive Chloe is in charge of our e-newsletter. There's no one better placed to inform and delight you every month, so keep your eyes peeled for her newsletter hitting an email inbox near you soon.

Read time of 5 minutes.

Easter has been and gone – but we’ve got more bank holidays to look forward to before the season is over. 

The UK is a nation with rich history and many local traditions that might baffle our foreign friends. With King Charles’ coronation bumping up the number of special holidays we’ll have off this year, we started thinking about the weirdest, most wonderful festivals celebrated on our tiny island.

Below we’ve assembled a list of our favourite, wackiest festivals deserving national holiday status. Do you agree with us?

Bun fun in East Budleigh, Devon 

We will neither confirm nor deny a small bias in favour of this festival local to Carparison HQ.

In the small, picturesque village of East Budleigh a unique phenomenon takes place early every November; the local schoolchildren are herded into a dull, forty-minute service at their village church.

In exchange, they get to run outside afterwards and enjoy the vicar and their teachers flinging bags of iced buns at them from the church roof – one for every child enrolled in the village primary school (and sometimes enough for pre-school age siblings too).

It’s thought the tradition commemorates the landing of Protestant hero William of Orange in Torbay in 1688 – a good 31 miles drive away from the parish.

Whatever the reason behind this madness, we think it’s a bloomin’ good tradition and would like to see it unrolled as a national holiday across the UK for children and adults alike.

Sugar, excitement, and a mad rush between crumbling headstones to catch a falling paper bag – what more could you ask for? When autumn sets in, we could all use someone lobbing a warm iced bun in our general vicinity.

An abundance of oranges

The famous Totnes orange race, Devon

Only in Britain could we come up with this stonker of an idea. It’s exactly what you’re imagining; man vs orange in an epic race towards the finish line.

Every August, Totnes closes one of its lanes for an annual race to commemorate a local legend about the clumsiness of Sir Francis Drake on a visit to the town.

The legend is fairly self-explanatory; Drake knocked over a delivery boy and sent oranges rolling down the street. The sight of the delivery boy scrambling after them kickstarted this wacky tradition. Organised by the Totnes Elizabethan Society, competitors roll, toss, or kick their orange down the street from Market Square in a race to the finish line. The winner is the first person to cross with an intact orange – and it doesn’t even have to be your own!

Followed by an auction for charity, we think the best prize of all is surely knowing you can outrun an orange.

Crow Fair, Moulton

We’ve all seen and heard Morris dancers, but it’s 2023 and that is so passe. The crow dance in Moulton is what it’s all about.

Every July, giant crows will descend on a field in Moulton and dance around a scarecrow, flapping their wings and generally making a spectacle of themselves until a “farmer” comes and shoots one of the mischievous birds. When they leave, the scarecrow comes to life and leaves the field with them.

Alright, they’re not real crows – just anonymous villagers dressed up in black with giant beak masks sewn onto facemasks, but the spectacle remains the same and we are dying to witness it.

The tradition is comparatively new compared to some others on this list, dating back to the 1920’s when local men were laid off from the salt works. To make ends meet, they formed a dance troupe, choreographed the crow dance and travelled around the UK performing at fairs.

Today it’s performed for fun instead of money, but this tradition is so uniquely bizarre we’d like to see it rolled out across all of Britain.

Tar barrels in St Ottery, Devon

When bonfire night rolls around you might attend a ceremonial bonfire, or a fireworks display. You might even set off some rockets in your back garden, or a nearby field. In Devon, there’s another, far more chaotic option.

Village veterans strap flaming barrels of tar to their backs and run through the narrow, crowded streets of Ottery St Mary (the spectators can number into the hundreds, or even thousands). There are no barriers, no safeguards – if a runner heads in your direction, the only thing you can do is jump out the way, or find yourself on fire.

Ottery St Mary is not the only village in the UK that deals with tar barrels of course, but it is notable that rather than rolling them through the streets, the volunteers wear them. As far as traditions go it’s volatile, it’s dangerous and it refuses to even acknowledge the concept of health and safety.

Perhaps not one for children, or those of us who don’t enjoy being in rowdy crowds in the proximity of open flames.

Tar Barrels Night is such a brilliant way to celebrate Guy Fawkes night that we just couldn’t help ourselves from including it.

Cheese rolling across the UK

We live in a world where cheese rolling exists and what could be more fantastic (or more absurd) than that?

If you want to take your life in your hands, Cooper’s Hill in Gloucester is the place to do it on the Spring Bank Holiday. Participants chase a 9-pound, round Double Gloucester cheese down the steep decline and the first person to make it to the bottom and across the finishing line wins said cheese!

While it sounds like a lark, the cheese can reach speeds of up to 70mph and there is a history of contestants injuring themselves so badly they’ve ended up in hospital.

For a more sedate race, head to Stilton. Some participants opt to attend in fancy dress, but the playing field is one road, not a 650-foot hill. Contestants also race in teams, with the winning male team winning cheese and beer and the winning female team winning cheese and wine. There are, incidentally, separate races for children and wheelchair users.

Tales differ on the origins of this tradition, but regardless of why people started rolling cheeses, we think it’s a smashing idea. We’d even suggest it should be included in the official coronation festivities.

Hunting of the Earl of Rone, Combe Martin (Devon)

We love this one! In true British fashion, this little titbit of local history has been adopted into a tradition that’s spanned 400 odd years (though it was banned briefly in the Victorian era for licentiousness).

The Earl of Tyrone is said to have been shipwrecked on the Combe Martin coast after fleeing from Ireland in 1677 – and hunted down by a regiment of grenadiers. Residents re-enact this chase every year, with the earl “disguised” by a mask as he’s pursued through the town by beribboned grenadiers.

On occasion they will manage to catch and ‘shoot’ the Earl, only for him to be revived by a hobby horse appearing in the crowd. The manhunt only ends when it reaches the sea and the earl is tossed into the sea – until next year, that is.

Though it’s based on local history, we think this one is so fun it could take place in many seaside towns in the UK. We’d certainly appreciate an extra day off to celebrate it!


Stonehenge in the fading light

Sunset at Stonehenge on the Summer Solstice, Wiltshire

Listen. In this modern age of fast cars and mobile phones, most of us don’t have time to stop and appreciate the natural world around us. Most of us barely have a moment to be still.

The summer solstice is the perfect opportunity to do both. Celebrating the longest and shortest days of the year go back to pagan tradition, particularly at landmarks such as Stonehenge which was built carefully to align with movements of the sun.

In past ages it’s likely that people gathered here to perform rituals and ceremonies relating to the changing of the season, the sun and the sky. Although we’ll likely never understand why Stonehenge was built, or what part it played in these ceremonies, even today we still gather there to observe the passing of the solstice.

The longest day of the year is typically paired with long daylight and warm nights, making it the perfect time for a celebration.

We’d love to see the summer solstice melt into a bank holiday – it would make it easier for all of us to stay up and observe the sun setting in such beautiful locations as Stonehenge.

Up Helly Aa, Shetland

January is notoriously the most difficult month of winter to get through. Perhaps another bank holiday would make it easier!

On the last Tuesday of January every year, Shetland has itself a festival – Up Hella Aa.

The men of Lerwick don horned helmets, light flaming torches and strut down the streets to set fire to a replica Viking longship. It is, reportedly, Europe’s biggest fire festival and draws crowds from around the world.

Although it has the appearance of an authentic Viking celebration, in fact it’s a tradition with roots in the late 19th century – it doesn’t stem from Viking times at all.

We have no compunction therefore in suggesting other seaside towns around the UK might want to adopt the tradition of setting fire to something at sea one long, winter night.