We have just got back from our first ever weekend camping festival experience. After much deliberation and review reading we chose the Cornbury Festival to be our first, based mainly on the fact it had such good write ups when it came to being family friendly, and it was definitely the right choice. We have had the best weekend ever and I urge anyone who is thinking of braving a festival with kids to absolutely go ahead and do it and we can highly recommend the Cornbury festival.
As we had full weekend camping tickets we were able to arrive from the Thursday, however, due to a hospital appointment and the children’s sports day we were unable to arrive until 6.30pm on the Friday evening. Knowing we would be a full day late really made me panic about whether we would even be able to find somewhere to pitch our tent or if we were lucky enough to find a pitch, if it would be miles away from the festival and right next door tot he bins, in fact I think I worried more about this than anything else. As it happened we arrived at about 6.30pm, didn’t have to queue for tickets, were shown to a car park that was a 5 minute walk from the camp site and soon realised that there was more than ample camping spaces left. So much so we had a hard time choosing where to pitch as there was so many options available. In the end we chose to be on a flat bit of land at the top of a small hill where we could see the toilette at the bottom, a cafe, shop and comedy tent at the top and the entrance to the festival to the left about a 2/3 minute walk away.
As mentioned above there are loads of spaces available for camping and if you are worried about the noise you can opt for quieter camping in advance. Personally I found that the noise form the festival at night did not impact on the kids sleep at all as they were so tired by the time we crawled in to bed that they fell straight to sleep and the music made a nice back drop. In regards to what tent to take you will see a real mix at the Cornbury festival from pop up one man tents to full blown communities being made up from a series of 8 man tents plus porches and gazebos, so you will fit in whatever you take. There are plenty of toilette’s and shower facilities and these all seemed to be cleaned on a regular basis, far cleaner than I was expecting.
There are no electric hook ups in the camping area so pack accordingly and don’t worry about it being too dark without electric as the whole camping area is well lite, especially on the pathways to the loos. If camping isn’t your think then there are also glamping options available.
Family Friendly activities
The family activities far exceeded my expectations. There was a whole kids area dedicated to a variety of activities for all ages and what I thought was particularly impressive was that some were outside but a number of them were also in tents which was a great way to get the kids out of the sun for short periods of time. We were there for two full days and despite spending the majority of our time in the kids area the boys still didn’t get to try everything, there really was that much choice.
attend a ukulele workshop
watch a magic show
get our faces painted
create clay models
have drum lessons
build a rocket and launch it
play crazy sports and games
try some free fruity ice lollies
and enjoy circus skills.
For me the highlight was attending the ukulele workshop as a family and all learning a new skill together, I thought the fact parents could join in too was a really good idea. The workshop was easy to follow for all ages and the team running the session were super helpful, informative and enthusiastic.
As for the boys their absolute favourite activity was the circus skills tent which they both kept gravitating back to at any given opportunity. Here they had a go at juggling, riding a uni cycle, throwing and catching various skittles, hoola hooping, and lots more. Again parents were encouraged to get involved in here and one of the circus masters even took the time to teach my husband how to juggle with three balls which I think we all found pretty impressive.
Our boys are 6 and 9 however if you are taking smaller children there also activities dedicated to them including a nursery rhyme session that took place in the shade and if you have teenagers there is a teens only tent further in to the festival where they can hang out with their mates which always looked pretty popular when ever we walked past.
All of the above activities were free/included in the ticket price and there was no restriction on how many times you could join in with an activity. The only two activities that were asking for donations where the face painters and the rocket builders and although we did make donations I did see plenty of people not doing so I guess you could class them as free too.
A festival isn’t a festival without music so when we arrived on the Friday night we set up camp and headed into the arena to see what was going on and listen to some music. Lucky for us the kids stuff had finished for the day so we were able to bypass that and discover five separate stages, the Pleasant Valley, the Songbird, the Riverside the campsite stage and the Cafe Nero stage, all hosting a rang of musical genres for everyone to enjoy.
For me the Riverside stage was the best as it came complete with hay bales to sit on and was decorated with lots of weird and wonderful things such as lamp shades and discs.
This stage was full of lesser known artists and geared up for a smaller crowd but it was here that we enjoyed some fab local bands that we never would have hear of before including the seven o’clock Junkies on the Sunday afternoon who have a song about domestic violence that I thought was brilliant.
The Songbird stage was were we stumbled upon Beverley Knight as she just so happened to be up on stage when we got there on the Friday, we couldn’t have timed it better if we tried, she was amazing and we had a wonderful time dancing along to some of her classics including a well known Whitney number.
The Pleasant Valley stage is of course the main stage where the headline acts were including Keane and The Beach Boys and I was a little worried we would find this too busy with the kids but the set up works perfectly. Directly in front of the stage is standing only and to the left and the right you can set up camp with chairs or blankets if you prefer. We did a bit of both throughout the weekend and even when we were standing near the front to watch KT Tunstall I never felt worried that the children would get crushed, pushed, or shoved, as everyone was so careful and friendly. A much more civilized affair than I was expecting and one that I would most definitely repeat.
There was a real mix of music throughout the whole weekend with the highlights for me being KT Tunstall.
Festival food is the best!
There was so much choice and the smells coming from each vendor were incredible. We had taken some food with us for breakfast and lunches that we could eat back at the tent but had decided in advance to eat our evening meals in the festival and I was surprised by just how much choice there was.
The boys enjoyed pizza and chips – what else.
My husband tried the vegetarian curries where you get a small amount of 5 different curries and some rice. They were all absolutely delicious and really good value for money at £8 as the portion was very generous and it was a brilliant way to try different foods.
I opted for the children’s chicken, potatoes, stuffing and gravy from the rotisserie chicken stand. It was £5 and packed full of chicken and potatoes and it was so delicious that I would highly recommend it to anyone.
What I did notice when looking at the food options is that there was something for everyone from meat options to vegetarian dishes and even specific vegan food suppliers. You could choose the good old British staples of pie and mash or fish and chips or go a bit more exotic with Indian or Greek cuisine, as well as some classics like the chicken and potatoes, various wraps or even mac and cheese.
The prices varied slightly from vendor to vendor but as a guide you could get a bag of chips for £3 and most main means were priced between £7-£10 but everywhere you looked people seemed to be enjoying big portions so it all looked great value for money and reasonably priced.
Of course if street food isn’t your thing you have two other options available to you, you can either BBQ back at your tent or opt for the more civilised dinning option of a sit down meal with the hairy bikers. This was priced at £65 per person and although we didn’t try it so I can’t “review” it, I can say that the queues were massive all weekend and it looked like a very popular option.
Things like festivals often have hidden costs and these can make people feel uncomfortable or really put a dampener on the weekend. For me, Cornbury Festival didn’t seem to have many hidden costs as most things were included in your ticket price, even parking was free. The only two things that might take you by surprise is that
1.In order to know the times the acts where on and at which stage you need to spend £5 on a lanyard or program which is a bit naughty. However, that being said we bought the lanyard which had a buy one get one free card at the back for a single use in Nero coffee and as we would have bought the coffee anyway it made the lanyard closer to £2.50 which wasn’t bad and it does make a nice keepsake.
2. The kids area is all free which is fab, however the face painters were asking for unspecified amounts in donations which I thought was fine as although most people were dropping in loose change the couple running the stand never asked you how much or made you feel pressured they just pointed it out and said thanks if/when you put some cash in. The rocket makers and launchers however were asking for a specified £2.50 donation and I did see some people steer their children away from there as they didn’t want or weren’t able to pay which is a shame as a donation isn’t compulsory and shouldn’t put people off.
Apart from the two things above that might catch you off guard I think everything else that you could pay for are things you would expect to pay for but just in case there is a list below. I will however say that one thing I was impressed with was that the fun fair was not in sight of the kids area so parents could avoid it if they wished.
Stalls selling a whole host of beautiful items
Food vendors from £3 up
Massages, yoga and meditations tents
Rides from £2.50
fair ground games £2-3
1.Have a wander round the camp site before you grab the first space you see as there is loads of room, some is on slopes and some flat so check first.
2.Head to the showers late at night if you can, or pop back mid day as they are really busy between 7-9am.
3.Try and plan your must see acts in advance, especially if you have kids as there is so much for them to do it might be hard tearing them away from the kids area.
4. Be careful if you take kids to the comedy tent, we made the mistake of thinking that a 3.30pm show would be child friendly only to have to walk out 10 minutes into Sophie Dukers performance as it was of a very adult nature and not suitable for the ears of a 6 year old.
5.Take sun cream and umbrellas, it is England after all and in the space of one day we watched one band caked in sun lotion and then danced in the rain waiting for KT Tunstal.
6.Take a power bank as there are so many photo opportunities that you will need to recharge your phone over the course of the weekend, although you can pay £6 for a charging company to do it for you if you forget.
We had the best weekend, made some amazing memories and are already planning on returning next year. The Cornbury Festival was a fantastic family festival and one I would highly recommend to anyone, we drove 3 hours to get there and it was worth every “our we nearly there yet” along the way. If you are planning on going on all out an doing a weekend camping festival then make sure you read our post about what to pack.
(We were gifted our tickets in exchange for a honest review. All opinions are my own).