Guide to the best literary festivals

The rise and rise of the literary festival, both as a means for authors to communicate with their reading public and for readers to gain insight into the way authors work, is a truly 21st-century phenomenon.

Here, we have selected some of the key dates in 2012. Programmes are yet to be announced for some of the later fixtures.

April 22-May 7 Stratford-upon-Avon Literary Festival, Warwickshire. Including poets Andrew Motion, Carol Ann Duffy and Simon Armitage, and novelists P. D. James, Mavis Cheek and Patrick Gale (01789 207100;

May 9-20 Daphne du Maurier Festival, Fowey, Cornwall. With E. V. Thompson, Julian Clary and Andrew Motion in the county that inspired the author of Jamaica Inn (01726 833847;

May 11-13 Boswell Book Festival, Auchinleck House, Ayrshire. Biography-based
festival honouring James Boswell (01563 554900;

May 18-20 Words in the Park, Holland Park, London W8. With John McCarthy, Sandi Toksvig, Sophie Dahl, Mary McCartney, Maureen Lipman and more (0300 999 1000;

May 25-June 3 Charleston Festival, East Sussex. With Ian McEwan, Max Hastings, Jeanette Winterson and Jessica Fellowes on her Downton Abbey book (below) (01273 709709;;

May 31-June 10 The Telegraph Hay Festival, Hay-on-Wye, Powys. The biggest of them all (01497 822 629;

June 15-17 Althorp Literary Festival, Northamptonshire. With former Chancellor Alistair Darling, art critic Brian Sewell and Dickens biographer Claire Tomalin (01604 770107;
June 16-19 Borders Book Festival, Harmony Garden, Melrose. With 65 events including Michael Parkinson and Alexander McCall Smith (right) (0844 357 1060;

June 26-July 1 Chalke Valley History Festival, Ebbesborne Wake, Wiltshire. A celebration of all things historical (

July 6-16 The Telegraph Ways With Words Festival, Dartington Hall, Devon (01803 867373; www.

July 19-22 Port Eliot Literary Festival, Cornwall. Coastal family festival with food, swimming and music, plus writers including Tracy Chevalier and William Dalrymple (01503 232783;

August 11-27 Edinburgh International Book Festival With William Goldsmith and Michael Morpurgo (0845 373 5888;

August 24-27 Voewood Festival, High Kelling, Norfolk. In the glorious grounds of the Arts-and-Crafts house (020-3592 5439;

September 4-9 Nairn Book and Arts Festival, Inverness (

September 28-October 7 Wigtown Book Festival, Dumfries & Galloway (

September 28-30 Marlborough Literature Festival, Wiltshire (07827 376224;

October 5-14 The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival, Gloucestershire (

October 18-27, Guildford Book Festival, Surrey (01483 444334;

November 2-4, Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, Suffolk (01986 835950;

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