Our festivacation: Beautiful Days festival, Devon

What a Beautiful Day, hey hey!

What a Beautiful Day, hey hey!

Family Gammon & Chips has just spent the best part of the last two weeks on holiday. And I’ve spent a good part of those two weeks coining a new phrase for what we’ve been galavanting about doing – a ‘festivacation’. The definition of which is (according to me, as I invented it) ‘a holiday that involves two or more festivals in a row, with no going home in between’.

We started our family festivacation at the Beautiful Days festival in Devon, and finished it at the Shambala festival in Northamptonshire, with a few nights of camping and fossil hunting in Lyme Regis in Dorset in between.

The crocodile and the caterpillar

The crocodile and the caterpillar

So this blog post is a festival review, in an attempt to spread the joys of the extended festival holiday experience.

A festivacation is not for the faint hearted – it consists of night after night of camping, what seems like constant camp set-up and take-down, and cooking food in packets because the frozen ice bricks in your cool box only last two days at best, but it brings with it a colourful cornucopia of fun, frolics and fancy dress that will live in our hearts for probably as long as this stubborn fluorescent rave paint flower will remain on my cheek.

Chips getting into the festival vibe

Chips getting into the festival vibe

Beautiful Days is a lovely little eco-and-family-friendly festival which has been running for 11 years at Escot House, near Exeter in Devon. It’s put on every year by the Brighton band, The Levellers, and is strictly non-commercial, with no corporate sponsorship or branding and it’s not advertised – as one review by John Bownas on Virtual Festivals puts it ‘It’s the festival that sells out every year – by simply not selling out’.

So, how does it rate in our festivacation stakes?


9 Marshall amps out of 10 (or should that be 11?)

With its history linked directly to one of the biggest bands of the 90s in the UK, Beautiful Days is firmly about music. This year saw a corker of a line up, including Primal Scream, The Wonder Stuff, Dodgy, Arrested Development, Aussie indie-punk favourites The Living End, Ocean Colour Scene, Krafty Kuts and of course, two sets by the festival organisers themselves, The Levellers. My favourite (apart from The Levs of course) was Sinead O’Connor, who belted out some of my favourite songs from my uni days, crooned some new ones from her new album, and looked to me to be so fresh and vivacious that she must have been cryogenically frozen since that single teardrop ran down her face all those years ago (probably along with Morten Harket from A-ha I would think – have you seen him lately? He’s hardly aged in 25 years! Anyway, I digress.) As a gesture of appreciation, a single teardrop ran down mine too, although that could’ve been the cider.

Night time entertainment

Night time entertainment

Stuff to do

8 juggling balls out of 10

Beautiful Days has six stages – Main Stage, The Big Top, The Little Big Top, The Band Stand, The Bimble Inn and the Theatre Tent. All of these feature music, but you’ll also find comedy, theatre, Q&A sessions, workshops, competitions, open mic sessions, politics, and more music. Just the right amount really – unlike Glastonbury which (I believe) features way too much stuff, making you feel like you’ve missed out on more than you’ve actually seen.


8 Rhubarb & custards out of 10

Football match: The Levellers Vs The Kids

Football match: The Levellers Vs The Kids

Beautiful Days festival won ‘Best Family Festival’ at the 2011 UK Festival Awards and it’s not difficult to see why. The Kids’ Area is co-ordinated by Majical Youth Theatre and there is everything your little ones would want to do, and more, including story-telling, circus acts, arts and crafts, rides, music, face painting, fancy dress, comedy and climbing frames. The Theatre Area has loads of stuff for kiddiewinks too. My personal favourite was the game of football that the members of The Levellers play against the festival kids every year – this year I think the score was 308 to 6 to the kids, but it just goes to show what cool down-to-earth blokes The Levs are.

Toilets & general amenities

10 bog rolls out of 10

I’ve been going to festivals ever since I arrived in the UK back in 1999, and these are by far the best festival toilets I’ve ever come across. Cleaned regularly by the heroes that are Andy’s Loos, these are about as spotless as festie dunnies come. With bog rolls constantly at the ready, what seems like a neverending supply of hand disinfectant and showers as hot as Idris Elba’s accent, Thomas Crapper would be cheering in his grave. Doing a poo doesn’t get much better than this!

Food & shops

Good thing the food and drink was tip top – Chips was a very hungry caterpillar

Good thing the food and drink was tip top – Chips was a very hungry caterpillar

9 steak and ale pies out of 10

Beautiful Days scores highly on sheer value for money. With ice creams at a very reasonable £1.50 and pints of lager and cider courtesy of local Honiton firm, Otter Brewery, the right side of £3.50, these are festival prices without the painful wincing. Plenty to eat for carnivores, herbivores, fishivores and kiddivores too.


9 water butts out of 10

Almost top marks for its anti-commercialisation stance, it lost a point as I thought it could have pushed its recycling a bit more (Shambala had a £10 recycling deposit) and maybe had reusable plastic cups at the bars (where you pay £1 more for your first drink, but get a cup you keep with you and the bar swaps every time you buy a new drink). The BDs festival site was pretty clean, but not as spotless as Shambala.

Gammon was a Tigersaurus – thankfully the rain didn't dampen our spirits (or create any mud!)

Gammon was a Tigersaurus – thankfully the rain didn’t dampen our spirits (or create any mud!)

Climbing frame in the Kids' Field

Climbing frame in the Kids’ Field

The whole shebang

9 glowsticks out of 10

With ticket prices a very acceptable £120 for adult weekend camping, under 5s £5, under 10s £30, under 16s £60, campervans £40 and car passes £15, you get the idea that Beautiful Days is more about covering costs than making a massive profit. I love the atmosphere of this festival – I’ve been loads of times, but twice I’ve had friends lose bags with wallets and phones inside, and both times they’ve got them back almost as quickly as they lost them with all money and goods intact – to me, that sums up this festival. It’s a chilled, fun-filled weekend spent in a field listening to some brilliant music along with 14,999 of your closest friends. And this year – animal fancy dress Sunday, fab finale fireworks, no mud and only one wasp sting. Roll on 2014.

*Disclosure – We paid for our tickets to Beautiful Days. We go almost every year, and think it’s bloody brilliant!




18 thoughts on “Our festivacation: Beautiful Days festival, Devon

  1. I’ve been wanting to go to Beautiful Days for some years now but haven’t made it yet. Latitude is our local festival and the one we always get to. But Beautiful Days sounds very tempting.

    • It’s a lovely chilled one Caz. Worth getting a group of friends together for it, defo! Thanks for reading & commenting! 🙂

    • Yes, your 7 year I’d would definitely love it. It’s the perfect size to allow the kids a bit of freedom, but still be able to keep an eye on them. Thanks for reading & commenting!

    • You should come next year Lulu (although I know Johnny doesn’t like camping, so you might have to go without him!) I bet he’s a massive Levellers fan though – ha ha!

    • Thanks Mrs Field! Gotta do my Shambala Part 2 now. Loved being in a field somewhere in Northamptonshire with you! X

  2. That really does sound amazing! Thank you very much for sharing this. So pleased the loos sound good, that’s the main thing that puts me off festivals! I took my two boys (12 and 9) to see the Levellers earlier this year and they loved it. They would definitely like to play football against them!

    • No worries Sarah! So fab to find another Leveller’s fan in the mummy blogosphere! Sad I didn’t spot you at BritMums Live now, as we would’ve had loads to chat about!

  3. Wow, I take my hat off to you! What a brilliant review, it even makes me wonder whether I could ever muster up the courage to do one?! Lots of people have been waxing lyrical about family music festivals this year – seem to be all the rage!

  4. I love the idea of a festivacation! We are looking into festivals next year with L being just over a year is this one you would recommend? We are seasoned campers pre baby so hope that bringing her along from young we will be able to carry on the camping traditions.

  5. I hadn’t heard of this…we *might* be going to Camp Bestival next year if my OH can shoe-horn me back into a tent, but perhaps we should look at this one instead!

    Thanks Maddie for linking up to the #mondayclub

  6. Pingback: Family-Friendly Holidays in the UK and Ireland | Tots 100

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