11 of the craziest events in Gloucestershire

From world-famous antics such as the Cheese Rolling to more quietly quirky county traditions, SoGlos takes a look at the craziest events in the Gloucestershire calendar.

Watch safely from the side lines or get stuck into some of Gloucestershire most unusual events and traditions - including the world famous Cheese Rolling in Gloucester.
Watch safely from the side lines or get stuck into some of Gloucestershire most unusual events and traditions - including the world famous Cheese Rolling in Gloucester.

Gloucestershire is home to a bevy of crazy events. So, whether you’ve thought of throwing yourself down Cooper’s Hill at the annual Cheese Rolling competition, dashing through Tetbury weighed down with woolsacks or even testing your stomach at an elver eating world championship, now’s your chance!

Plus, for more inspiration about unique things to do in the county, also see SoGlos’s Gloucestershire Bucket List.

1. Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling

The most famous of Gloucestershire’s crazy traditions, the annual cheese rolling competition at Cooper’s Hill sees scores of competitors pegging it down a very steep slope after an elusive 8lb Double Gloucester cheese – some wearing fancy dress costumes, from farmyard animals, superheroes and even Borat-style mankinis!

Due to popular demand, over the years organisers have added a ladies’ downhill and kids’ uphill race, providing the opportunity for the whole family to take part.

Attracting thousands of spectators from near and far, the event has gained recognition across the globe and even inspired a New Zealand version! Despite being officially cancelled since 2010, an unofficial event has been staged on the famous Gloucester hill ever since.

2. Elver eating world championship

The action-packed elver eating world championship event at Frampton County fair will truly put appetites to the test, as competitors race to eat a plate full of two- inch-long eel-shaped fish, in the quickest time.

The event had previously been cancelled due to a shortage of eels and as they became a protected species, but has now returned with a sustainable, man-made version of eels ready to challenge anyone who thinks they can stomach it!

3. Gloucester Dragon Boat Regatta

At Gloucester Docks each spring, you’ll find hordes of fancy dress-clad rowers, steerers and drummers making their way across the water in decorative boats, for the Gloucester Dragon Boat Regatta

The annual event has become a real Gloucester tradition, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a salty sea dog with years of dragon boating under your belt or a fresh, new skipper, everyone can get together a team and give it a go.

4. Tetbury Woolsack Races

Expect to find an unruly bunch of rugged runners demonstrating their immense strength and fitness by taking on the steep ‘1 in 4’ hill through Tetbury town with a weighty 60lb (for the men) or 35lb (for the ladies) woolsack on their backs.

Spectators can also join the townsfolk in celebration at the street fair, complete with live music, stalls filled with local produce, Morris dancing, and a magic show to entertain the younger spectators.

As several celebrities have been part of the festivities over the years, including Eddie the Eagle Edwards, there is a chance that a famous face might dash past in this wacky race too!

As the 2022 Woolsack Race clash with celebrations for the Queen’s Jubilee, this wacky Cotswold tradition will make its return in 2023.

5. The Severn Bore

The Severn Bore is a spectacular natural phenomenon formed when the rising tide moves into the Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary and the rising water forces its way upstream in a series of waves – with surfers, canoeists and windsurfers attempting to rids the bigger Severn Bore waves.

Occurring at various times throughout the year and sometimes attracting crowds of thousands, The Severn Bore can travel at a speed of up to 20mph, watched from the river banks in key locations in the Forest of Dean and Gloucester.

6. Fantasy Forest at Sudeley Castle

A newcomer compared with some the ancient traditions included in this list, fantasy fans from around the world come together annually to dress up, enjoy themselves, and celebrate with like-minded fans at the Fantasy Forest Festival.

Located in the grounds of Sudeley Castle, the fairy tale setting hosts everything from fairies in costume competitions or the chance to learn to fight at Witcher School, as just a few of the fantastical attractions.

7. Shin kicking world championship

Spectators flock to the Cotswold Olimpick Games annually in June, where they take part (or simply watch!) some wonderful ancient sporting trials – including the world shin-kicking competition.

Dating back to the early 1600s, the unmissable event takes place in the natural amphitheatre of Chipping Campden’s Dover’s Hill – with running races; Tug O’War; and the brutal-looking shin-kicking on the evening agenda.

8. Bourton Football in the River

On the August bank holiday Monday each year, Bourton Rovers Football club hosts a hilarious Bourton Football in the River football match, knee-deep in the River Windrush.

Attracting thousands of spectators to Bourton-on-the-Water, the grassy banks of the Cotswold town fill up early – with crowds warned they will get wet!

9. Newent Onion Fayre onion eating competition

There are no tears at the Newent Onion Fayre, where the humble vegetable is joyously celebrated in a unique, annual event in the Forest of Dean town every September.

Combining live music, dog shows, local produce and, of course, onions – this is a fun-filled family event. With the Newent Onion Fayre also hosting the world-famous onion eating competition, which sees competitive eaters race to eat an entire raw onion in the quickest time!

10. Sandford Parks Lido Christmas swim

Expect f-f-f-freezing cold festive frolics as locals adding a fun – if not barmy – twist to their Christmas celebrations brave the unheated icy December depths and take the plunge at Sandford Parks Lido’s Christmas Swim in Cheltenham – sometimes in fancy dress, too!

Participants must even sign a waiver form prior to entering the ice-cold water, with organisers warning this is not for the faint-hearted.

11. Bibury Duck Race

Every year, usually on boxing day, spectators come from far and wide, wrapped up in their woolly hats and gloves, to watch as thousands of plastic ducks are released along the River Coln, which runs through the centre of the village.

There are two races, starting with a race of 150 decoy ducks, followed by a race of 2,000 bath time favourite, yellow ducks – with spectators purchasing tickets to back their favourite ducks, raise money for charity and potentially win prizes!

For the definitive collection of 100 unique things to do, see the Gloucestershire Bucket List.

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