18 UK Literary Festivals To Know

Supplied © A woman enjoying the sunshine at Hay Book Festival

Whether you’re a reader, a writer, a thinker or all of the above, the UK hosts a plethora of world-leading literary festivals where you can find community, inspiration and, more often than not, a rather lovely day out.

Here, “The People’s Friend” rounds up the annual events all book lovers need to know – from sea and stories on the South coast, to crime-writing on the cobbles of Harrogate, to hobnobbing with the hottest global names in Hay.

Top literary festivals in the UK:

Hay Festival

Arguably the most prestigious and well-known of all the UK’s literary festivals, Hay – hosted in the quaint Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye – boasts more than 600 in-person events over the 11 days of its 2024 programme in May.

As well as celebrating all things books, an inaugural Sports Day will mark the Olympic year with a celebration of sporting stars.


Oxford Literary Festival

At almost 30 years old, the Oxford Literary Festival promises to bridge the gap between ‘town and gown’, opening the doors to some of the city’s most beautiful historical buildings for its events each March/April.

Beloved author, poet and former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen kicked off the proceedings in 2024 to a packed-out Sheldonian Theatre, introducing his new book, The Incredible Adventures of Gaston Le Dog.


Borders Book Festival

Where words come alive! is the compelling strapline to this vibrant four-day event, held each June in Melrose’s stunning Harmony Gardens in the Scottish Borders.

The presentation of the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction signals the start of the action each year.


Bradford Literature Festival

The Bradford Literature Festival (BLF) is the UK’s largest Muslim platform and Europe’s most eclectic and diverse literature festival.

It celebrates its 10-year anniversary in June/July 2024 with a bumper schedule. Its ethical ticketing policy ensures access for those who could otherwise not afford to attend.


Stratford Literary Festival

As the home of one of Britain’s most famous literary talents, Stratford hosts both spring and autumn festivals championing ‘the brilliant benefits of books and how they can change lives’.


ALSO Festival

This award-winning, Warwickshire-based festival mixes literature, music, comedy and wellness for a unique experience that champions the power of ideas.

Bestselling psychotherapist Philippa Perry is on the roster for 2024 – her only festival appearance this year.


North London Book Festival

With its inaugural meeting held in March 2024, the North London Book Festival – a four-day event at Alexandra Palace – proved an exciting addition to the annual literary circuit.

It was headlined by Natalie Haynes, Michael Rosen and Erin Kelly.


Ealing Book Festival

Dame Jacqueline Wilson

Dame Jacqueline Wilson

Also new to the calendar in London for 2024, the Ealing Book Festival kicked off in April with Sathnam Sanghera, Eleanor Catton and Dame Jacqueline Wilson beefing up its cred.


Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival

In a stunning seaside setting on the Jurassic Coast in Devon, this celebration of books may attract big names such as Michael Morpurgo and Simon Armitage but it has its roots firmly in promoting a love of reading in the local community.


Henley Literary Festival


With events both in-person and online, Henley Literary Festival will return for 2024 from 28 September to 6 October.

While a guide to what’s on for this year is yet to be announced, 2023 was the festival’s biggest year yet, boasting over 120 talks, performances and conversations with the likes of Theresa May, Ben Okri, Robert Peston, and Victoria Hislop – so it’ll be worth watching this space.


London Literature Festival

First held in 2007 and now one of London’s most beloved annual events, the London Literature Festival runs over 10 days at the Southbank Centre in October.

It features talks, discussions and conversations with well-known writers, up and coming authors, and ‘those making waves in written and spoken word’.

And, while we’re on the subject of London: Queen’s Park, Wimbledon, Deptford and Chiswick are among the city’s enclaves with standalone festivals to call their own.


Kendal Mountain Book Festival

Part of the broad-ranging Kendal Mountain Festival, this Cumbrian book festival boasts 35 events – not to mention the awarding of two prizes – dedicated to works rooted in nature and place each November.


Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival

At “The People’s Friend”, we love a bit of cosy crime – and there’s plenty of that on offer at the UK’s largest event for fans of crime and thriller writing, hosted each July in this quaint Yorkshire town. Lee Child called it ‘the best crime festival in the world, and I should know – I’ve done them all’.

The jewel in its crown is the announcement of the coveted Crime Novel of the Year Award winner.

If crime isn’t your thing, the town also plays host to the genre-agnostic Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival, which is held in October.


Cheltenham Literature Festival

Cheltenham comes with quite the pedigree – it lays claim to hosting oldest literary meet in the world.

As you might imagine, its roster boasts the best in up-and-coming talent alongside top-drawer names. While its October 2024 cohort is yet to be announced, in 2023 it included Brian Cox, Jojo Moyes, Elizabeth Day, Charlie Mackesy, Sadiq Khan and David Mitchell.



For one weekend in July, the Food Museum in Stowmarket, Suffolk, is taken over by Primadonna: a vibrant festival for people who love ‘books, conversations and ideas’.

Its line-up celebrates women, Black and Asian artists, the LGBTQIA+ community, and disabled and working-class people.


Cliveden Literary Festival

Cliveden House Buckinghamshire

Cliveden House, Buckinghamshire

Alain de Botton has declared the Cliveden Literary Festival ‘the most dignified and beautiful literary festival on the planet’ – quite the accolade.

Set in the sophisticated surrounds of the iconic Cliveden House in October, this 7-year-old gathering has previously welcomed the likes of Zadie Smith, Maggie O’Farrell, Ian Rankin and, of course, de Botton to its hallowed halls.


Penzance Literary Festival

Penzance LitFest, as it’s known, plans its schedule to surprise, entertain, and delight.

Ann Cleeves is among the guests for its 2024 edition – plus, there’s an emphasis on local treasures, gardens and craft at the Festival Fringe, a supporting arts and cultural events calendar.


Edinburgh International Book Festival

People sitting, walking, reading books in Edinburgh International Book Festival at Charlotte Square. In Edinburgh

Edinburgh International Book Festival

If there’s one thing Edinburgh knows how to do well, it’s host a festival.

The scope of its literary edition is staggering, with over 500 events running in person and online over two weeks in August.



Leisa Millar

I'm a digital editor with experience of writing and editing for some of the UK's best-known women's lifestyle titles - and I'm delighted to count "The People's Friend" and "My Weekly" among them! A busy mum of three young children, I also host a parenting podcast called The SEN Mums' Career Club.