Country Life rounds up the best things to see, do and book over the next few weeks.


Festivals   – Food and drink  – Architecture
Books and literature – Sport, games and the great outdoors – Cinema and theatre
Plants, gardens and natureMusic and concerts
History and historic vehiclesTheatreArt and exhibitions


July 6 – Natural History & Taxidermy, Tennants Auctioneers, Leyburn, North Yorkshire

Lots under the hammer include the Tinsley Skull Collection, consisting of an African white pelican, a Californian sea lion, woodpeckers, polecats, domestic dogs and other captive-bred species. From 10.30am.

Tinsley skull collection - Natural History & Taxidermy, Tennants Auctioneers

Plant, gardens and nature

June 23-24 – Woburn Abbey Garden Show, Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire

Woburn’s show is in its 9th year, attracting 5,000 visitors to the 42-acres of the Abbey’s beautifully landscaped gardens. The displays are complemented by an array of live entertainment, artisan foods, shopping, demonstrations, informative talks and gardening advice, tips and tours, including talks and Q&A sessions with BBC Gardeners’ World presenter Adam Frost, BBC Radio 4 Gardeners’ Question Time panellist Pippa Greenwood and Woburn Estates Gardens Manger and show organiser Martin Towsey.

June 24 – NGS opening of Woolstone Mill House, Woolstone, Oxfordshire

In this exquisite 1½-acre garden with views of the Uffington White Horse, venerable topiary frames mixed perennial borders, a gravel garden and old-fashioned roses. Garden designer and owner Justin Spink, whose parents are next door at Midsummer House, redesigned the gardens in 2015 — the combined opening is a friendly family affair. 2pm–6pm; combined admission with Midsummer House £6, children free.

June 24 – Roses for the RDA, Thorncombe, Somerset

A giant open garden event, with gardens around the village to open in aid of Riding for the Disabled, with cream teas, a raffle and a plant stall. 2pm–5pm, tickets £5.

June 21–24 – Ely Cathedral Flower Festival, Cambridgeshire

This year’s festival, entitled Kaleidoscope of Life, features more than 50,000 blooms, with a floral arch running the length of the nave and a 40ft-wide kaleidoscope of flowers beneath the Octagon Tower. Tickets from £8.

June 24 – Stowupland Open Gardens, near Stowmarket, Suffolk

Sixteen gardens will open in aid of Holy Trinity Church, including those of 14th-century moated manor house Columbine Hall, with homemade teas and plants for sale. 1pm–6pm, adult tickets cost £4 and are available on the day from Holy Trinity Church Hall or any of the open gardens.

Stowupland Garden

June 22–24 – Blenheim Palace Flower Show, Woodstock, Oxfordshire

There will be more exhibitors than ever before in the Grand Floral Pavilion, plus a new Orchid Tunnel. Tickets £14.

Blenheim Palace


Festivals and fairs

June 21–23 – Fly By Night, East Thamesmead, London

As dusk falls, 1,500 trained LED-lit pigeons will soar over the Thames, paying homage to the birds’ role in the First World War. The show by artist Duke Riley is being presented as part of LIFT Festival. 9.15pm, tickets from £7.50.

June 29–July 1 Scottish Game Fair, Scone Palace, Perthshire

Now in its 30th year, new elements at the fair include a Cookery Theatre, The Junior MacNab and The Holts Flush Challenge plus a 30th party on Saturday night. Adult tickets from £18.

July 18 – Lycetts Festival of Hunting, East of England Showground, Peterborough

The annual showcase for the world of hunting, with what organisers call ‘the greatest gathering of hounds in the country’. The 2018 edition includes the 130th Peterborough Royal Foxhound Show as well as the popular Inter Hunt relays where opposing teams of riders race each other over a mirror image set of jumps.

July 27–29 – The Game Fair, Ragley Hall, Warwickshire

The 60th-anniversary year will see gundog scurries, falconry and fishing demonstrations plus live music from Ronnie Scott’s and food by TV chef James Martin. Adult tickets from £27.

Food & Drink

July 15 – Wild Food Foraging and Cookery Course, Hinchingbrooke Country Park, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire

Discover how to identify edible wild plants and mushrooms before going foraging to harvest and prepare a two-course meal. 10am–4pm, £60pp.

June 20-24 – London Seafood Festival, Battersea Power Station, London

Occasional Country Life contributor Mark Hix is among the top chefs taking part in this seafood festival, which includes chef masterclasses, a crayfish broil, an oyster masterclass and a selection of pop-ups serving a range of delicious dishes.


July 5 – Mausolea, Monuments and the Country House, The Gallery, Cowcross Street, London

A talk by Country Life’s Architectural Editor John Goodall for The Mausolea & Monuments Trust. 6pm for 6.30pm start, tickets from £15.

Books and literature

June 29–July 8 – Ledbury Poetry Festival, Herefordshire

Rated as ‘one of the most exciting and important literary festivals in England’ by Carol Ann Duffy, this year’s programme includes appearances by Benjamin Zephaniah, Michael Palin and Sabrina Mahfouz.

June 30–July 1 – Queen’s Park Book Festival, Kilburn, London

More than 30 events with appearances by the likes of Stanley Johnson, Zadie Smith and Sir Nicholas Hytner.

June 16–24 – Jane Austen Regency Week: Various venues, Hampshire

Jane Austen fans

Nine-day festival celebrating the author, with events in and around Alton and Chawton. Highlights include Regency Day in Alton – with carriage rides, costumes, market stalls, a period-dancing workshop and a Regency ball – and a curated tour of Chawton House followed by a cream tea.

Sport, games and the great outdoors

July 16–22 – The Real Tennis Champions Trophy, Hampton Court Palace, East Molesey, Surrey

Professional competitors from around the world battle it out for a second year on the Royal Tennis Court, where Henry VIII once played. Tickets from £15, including admission to Hampton Court Palace.

Cinema and Theatre

July 13, 14, 20 and 21 – Withnail and I at Sleddale Hall, Shap, Cumbria

This screening of the cult film at ‘Uncle Monty’s cottage’ is the ultimate outdoor-cinema experience, with food, an onsite bar, games, dancing and compulsory camping. Entry from 5.30pm, tickets £45 including evening meal. Luxury furnished bell tents available at extra cost.

Music and dance

June 22–July 1 – Il Trovatore, Winslow Hall, Winslow, Buckinghamshire

First-class production of Verdi’s dramatic opera, with soaring music, melody and passion, plus the chance to enjoy a picnic in the grounds of the house built by Sir Christopher Wren. Times vary, tickets from £75.

Bucks - Winslow Hall - circa 1700 -04 - built for William Lowndes - Secretary to the Treasury - design by Sir Christopher Wren

June 26 – Evensong at St Paul’s Cathedral, London

Special service of thanksgiving celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Incorporated Church Building Society, predecessor to the National Churches Trust, which will be attended by The Duke of Gloucester and the Archbishop of York. Attendance is free, but places must be booked. From 5pm.

things that make britain great

July 20–22 – Ballet Under the Stars, Hatch House, Tisbury, Wiltshire

Three nights of world-class ballet, contemporary and classical, performed by the Covent Garden Dance Company in the 17th-century walled Dutch garden, with a Best of British theme. Gardens open at 6pm and, post-show, there’s a cocktail bar with music until 1am. Tickets from £120 including three-course dinner with drinks.

July 28-August 25 – Dartington International Summer School and Festival concerts and events, Dartington Hall, Totnes, Devon

Bumper celebration of the Summer School’s 70th anniversary with a different theme each week: The Heavens, Moon and Stars; Bach’s St Matthew Passion; powerful women; and the history of Dartington and Dorothy Elmhirst’s influence.

History and historic vehicles

June 23–24 The Original Bloxham Rally, Smiths Fields, Bloxham, Oxfordshire

Fiftieth anniversary steam rally with displays of vintage and classic vehicles and miniature steam engines over 130 acres, plus a full-size Hurricane aircraft and Spitfire fly-pasts. 10am–5pm, adult tickets £10.

June 22–24 – Wimpole History Festival, Wimpole Hall, Arrington, Cambridgeshire

A bustling programme covering history from the Vikings to today, with appearances by David Olusoga, Daniel Beer and Christopher de Hamel.


August 25 – Romeo and Juliet, Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland

Cycling theatre company The HandleBards presents an all-female performance of the Shakespeare classic. General admission £15, from 6.30pm, with doors open an hour earlier for guests to enjoy picnics in the gardens.

Art and Exhibitions

June 20–July 17 – ‘The Dambusters and Beyond: Celebrating the RAF’, The North Wall Arts Centre, Oxford

Archive photography, military artefacts, private papers and diaries will be on show to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the RAF, including the vital roles played by women.

June 6–30 – ‘Morning Light, Spring in Knoydart and South Skye’, The Manse, Ardvasar, Isle of Skye

Studio exhibition of the latest works by William Swann, who completes much of his paintings en plein air.

June 9–July 21 – Martin Greenland, New Ashgate Gallery, Farnham, Surrey

‘Beautifully detailed, highly realistic yet surreal’ landscape paintings by the award-winning Lake District-based artist.

Until October 21 – ‘Canaletto and the Art of Venice’, The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh

The exhibition was a hit in London last year, and now The Royal Collection’s 18th-century Venetian work is on display in Edinburgh, with pieces by its most famous view-painter and his contemporaries.

Canaletto, Piazza San Marco looking East towards the Basilica and the Campanile, c.1723-4, part of a set of six views of Venice. Royal Collection Trust/(c) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 For single use only in connection with the exhibition 'Canaletto & the Art of Venice' at The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace, 19 May - 12 November 2017. Not to be archived or sold on.

Canaletto’s Piazza San Marco looking East towards the Basilica and the Campanile, c.1723-4, part of a set of six views of Venice. ©Royal Collection Trust/Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II


May 24–June 22 – ‘Dreamed House’, Long & Ryle, John Islip Street, London

Kate Montgomery uses geometric principles and Victorian designs in her small and intense paintings to capture ‘private moments and domestic quiet’.

Courtyard At Night by Kate Montgomery

Courtyard At Night by Kate Montgomery

May 26–November 11 – ‘Baldwin & Guggisberg: Under an Equal Sky’, Canterbury Cathedral

Large-scale glass installations designed to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War include 100 glass amphorae suspended in the shape of a ship. Normal admission prices apply

May 18–July 1 – ‘Making the Great Tapestry of Scotland’, New Lanark World Heritage Site

The story of the tapestry’s creation – which was the brainchild of Alexander McCall Smith and used more than 300 miles of wool – will be told with sketches, photographs and memorabilia. Adult tickets £5.

Until January 27, 2019 – ‘House of Portraits’, Powis Castle, Welshpool

Portraits by the likes of Reynolds, Gainsborough and Sargent will be on show, as well as Isaac Oliver’s miniature of Lord Edward Herbert of Cherbury, which was bought for the nation in 2016.

Powis Castle – Lord Herbert of Cherbury - OMN_250716 002 whole

May 10–June 15 – ‘Jane Hammond, Natural Selection: New Botanical Collages’, Lyndsey Ingram, Bourdon Street, London

The first London solo show of large-scale collages by the American artist.

‘Jane Hammond, Natural Selection: New Botanical Collages’

 May 8–October 31 – ‘An Elixir of Letters’, Chelsea Physic Garden, London

New artworks by leading lettering artists on the theme of drink, featuring pieces in stone, slate and metal inspired by the plants that go into teas, cordials and beers.

April 25–July 7 – ‘I Do!’, Willis Museum and Sainsbury Gallery, Basingstoke

Wedding dresses, veils, bonnets and shoes illustrate the choices made by brides from the 1770s to today. This exhibition will also appear at Gosport Gallery (July 27–October 9) and Winchester Discovery Centre (October 20–January 6, 2019). Free entry, suggested £3 donation.

21 April-8 July 2018 – ‘Paul Feiler: One Hundred Years’, Jerwood Gallery, Hastings

A celebration of the life and work of Paul Feiler (1918-2013),  one of the foremost figures of the Modern Art movement emanating from the South West of England.

April 18–June 24 – ‘Raw Materials: Textiles’, Nunnery Gallery, Bow Arts, London

Exploration of the history of textiles along the River Lea Valley, from the 17th century to today, using archive material and newly commissioned artworks.

Until January 27, 2019 – ‘The Poppy: A Symbol of Remembrance’, National War Museum, Edinburgh Castle

Exploration of the symbolism of the poppy, from John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields to the inaugural ‘poppy day’ in 1921 and the first poppies to come out of the factory established by Lady Haig in 1926. Free admission with entry to the castle.

March 24-June 17 – ‘The Art of Industry: From Joseph Wright to the 21st Century’, Derby Museum and Art Gallery, Derby

A new exhibition at Derby Museum and Art Gallery which looks back at the region’s industrial history through both historic artefacts and artistic interpretation. Highlights include photographs by Simon Mackney that recreate Joseph Wright’s portrait of Sir Richard Arkwright with modern day business people including Liz Fothergill.

March 31-June 27 – ‘Gerald Scarfe: Stage and Screen’, The Gallery, Winchester Discovery Centre, Hampshire

Exploration of the The Sunday Times’ political cartoonist’s extensive work in film, opera and ballet design, from Pink Floyd’s The Wall to English National Ballet’s The Nutcracker. Free admission, suggested donation £3.

March 30–September 30 – Outdoor Sculpture and Indoor Art Exhibitions at The Walled Gardens, Croome Court, near High Green, Worcestershire

A series of exhibitions showcasing the works of various artists, including sculpture, landscapes, wildlife paintings, glasswork and embroidery. All pieces will be offered for sale. Standard admission applies.

March 24-June 24 – ‘Queen Victoria in Paris’, The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, Co Durham

One of only four UK venues – and the only one in the north of England – to stage this exhibition of watercolours commissioned to commemorate the monarch’s 1855 state visit to Paris. The works are on loan from the Royal Collection.

Until January 27, 2019 – ‘The Poppy: A Symbol of Remembrance’, National War Museum, Edinburgh Castle

Exploration of the symbolism of the poppy, from John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields to the inaugural ‘poppy day’ in 1921 and the first poppies to come out of the factory established by Lady Haig in 1926. Free admission with entry to the castle.

Until July 13 – ‘Arabian Horse: From the Desert to the World’, National Heritage Centre for Horseracing & Sporting Art, Palace House, Newmarket

A celebration of the world’s oldest horse breed and the centenary of the Arab Horse Society, with the first mapped genome of an Arab, plus paintings, prints and artefacts.