15 of the wackiest events in Gloucestershire

From world-famous antics such as cheese rolling to fabulous folk traditions, SoGlos takes a look at the craziest events in the Gloucestershire calendar.

By Emma Luther  |  Published
Spectate from the side lines or go all-in with some of the most unusual events and traditions in Gloucestershire — including the world famous cheese rolling in Brockworth.
In partnership with National Waterways Museum Gloucester  |  canalrivertrust.org.uk
 National Waterways Museum Gloucester

Discover the 200-year history of Gloucester Docks and the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal. Housed in Llanthony Warehouse, you can explore interactive exhibits, as well as browse the museum shop and enjoy a bite to eat in the tea rooms. There’s also a chance to take 45-minute boat trips along the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal on a Dunkirk Little Ship, Queen Boadicea II.

Gloucestershire is home to a bevy of crazy events — all as historic as they are unique.

So, whether you’ve thought about 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 el-ver eating world championship, now’s your chance — with SoGlos rounding up 15 of the wackiest things to do in the county!

Folk for Folk exhibition at National Waterways Museum Gloucester

Showing off an eclectic collection of weird and wonderful canal boat-inspired artwork, the National Waterways Museum Gloucester's new Folk for Folk exhibition breathes fresh new life into its canal folk art collection from Saturday 23 March 2024. 

Bold and colourful, telling fascinating stories of individuality, aspiration and a fierce pride, the project asked young artists to creat 50 authentic and unique folk art pieces spanning textiles, paintings, sculpture, digital art and photography, bringing the traditional art form firmly into 2024.

Randwick Wap

Watch a ceremonial cheese rolling followed by a traditional costumed procession and soak up the atmosphere of the traditional fayre on the village green at Randwick Wap. Three Double Gloucester cheeses are honoured and blessed during the village church's spring service. The cheeses are then 'mystically' rolled 'widdershins' (anti-clockwise) around the church yard.

There's welly wanging at the fayre, a Wap Queen held aloft on a floral throne, flag bearer, sword bearer and the mop man or maiden to feast your eyes on, too!

May Day sunrise celebrations in Stroud

The May Day Dawn Dance at 5.30am on Wednesday 1 May 2024 across Rodborough Common attracts hundreds of sun worshippers and photographers to capture the stunning spectacle of dancing the sun up.

Expect colourful costumes come rain or shine, Morris dancing, painted faces, live music and a festival feel befitting of a celebration of the sun.

The Folk of Gloucester

With a host of live music, tours and creative workshops, The Folk of Gloucester invites visitors to learn all about the intriguing folk traditions of Gloucestershire and beyond — from wassailing to Gloucester Day. 

Make Ukrainian dolls, see artworks painted onto pieces of artillery debris, decorate Easter eggs in traditional folksy style and admire the Tudor timber-framed building itself that was once Gloucester's Folk Museum.

Dursley Pancake Race

If you're passionate about pancakes and count down the days to Shrove Tuesday every year, then the annual pancake race in Dursley may be just the event you're looking for! Runners test their pancake tossing talent as they race down Parsonage Street, attempting to complete six flips in total as they speed towards the finish line.

The winner can bask in the glory of their frying pan flinging skills and the best fancy dress is also rewarded with its very own trophy, after being judged carefully by the town's mayor. But really, everyone's a winner when you get to sample a super stack of pancakes after the race.

Cheese rolling in Brockworth

We couldn't create a list of wacky events without including 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 wheel — some even wearing fancy dress costumes, from farmyard animals to superheroes and even Borat-style mankinis!

Attracting thousands of spectators from near and far, the event has gained worldwide recognition, with its own feature on the Netflix series, We Are The Champions. Despite being stripped of an official event status in 2010, the unofficial event has thrived on the famous Gloucester hill ever since and has seen the additions of both female-only and child-friendly chases.

El-ver Eating World Championship in Frampton on Severn

The action-packed El-ver Eating World Championship event takes place at Frampton Country Fair in Frampton on Severn and truly puts tummies to the test. In a revival of a local tradition, competitors race to eat a plate full of the two-inch-long eel-shaped fish, in the quickest time they can manage.

Having been previously cancelled due to the eels being named a protected species, the wonderfully weird contest returned in 2015 with a sustainable version made from Spanish surimi, to continue challenging anyone who thinks they can stomach it!

Dragon Boat Regatta at Gloucester Docks

Dragons descend on Gloucester Docks each spring, with 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 spectacle in the city, with up to 30 teams boarding their 40-foot-long boats to compete for the prized Gloucester Dragon Boat Shield — and it doesn't matter if you're a salty sea dog or a fresh, new skipper, everyone can get a team together and give it a go!

Tetbury Woolsack Race

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 woolsack on their back in the Tetbury Woolsack Race.

There's plenty for spectators to join in with, too, with a street fair complete with live music, stalls filled with local produce, Morris dancing and a magic show to entertain younger visitors. Be sure to keep those cameras out as you may even catch a famous face dashing past — Winter Olympic legend Eddie 'The Eagle' Edwards once took part in this wacky race!

Severn Bore throughout Gloucestershire

The Severn Bore is a spectacular natural phenomenon formed when the rising tide moves into the Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary and water forces its way upstream in a series of waves — with surfers, canoeists and windsurfers attempting to catch the strong current when it's at its highest.

Occurring at various times throughout the year and sometimes attracting crowds of thousands to the river banks in key locations across Gloucestershire and the Forest of Dean, the Severn Bore can travel at a speed of up to 21 kilometres per hour. A five-star Severn Bore has already spiced up 2024 with a tidal range of an adrenaline-spiking 5.4 metres! There are plenty more four-star Severn Bores later this year, too. 

Fantasy Forest at Sudeley Castle

A relative newcomer compared to some of the ancient traditions included in this list, fantasy fans from around the world come together annually to cosplay as their favourite characters; browse the largest fantasy market in the UK for new Dungeons and Dragons dice, costumes and corsetry, or LARP equipment; and celebrate with like-minded fans at the Fantasy Forest Festival.

Located in the magical grounds of Sudeley Castle, the fairy tale setting hosts everything from costume competitions to the chance to learn to fight at Witcher School. While the festival is always a hit with families and fantasy fans, with an impressive line-up of music across four stages, three games marquees, body art competitions and many more activities to take part in, the magic of the three-day event can be enjoyed by anyone. 

Shin Kicking World Championship in Chipping Campden

Another oddity in the Gloucestershire event calendar, spectators flock to the Cotswold Olimpick Games every June, where 'athletes' take part in some wonderful ancient sporting trials — including the world shin kicking competition... yes, really!

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. Plus, grab your maddest mates and form a team to compete in the Championship of the Hill team challenge, consisting of slippery relays involving wheelbarrows, hay bales and even dustbins.

Football in the River Windrush at Bourton-on-the-Water

On the August bank holiday Monday each year, Bourton Rovers Football Club hosts a hilarious football match knee-deep in the River Windrush. Attendees can make a day of the occasion and enjoy the fete that opens the same bank holiday weekend, too. 

The game has been played annually for more than half a century and attracts 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!

Christmas Day Swim in Cheltenham

Expect f-f-f-freezing cold festive frolics as locals add a fun — if not barmy — twist to their Christmas celebrations, braving the unheated December depths as they take the plunge at Sandford Parks Lido’s Christmas Swim in Cheltenham. Of course, it's another excuse to pull out your best fancy dress, too!

The pool temperature is between four and seven degrees Celsius and participants must sign a waiver prior to entering the ice-cold water, with organisers warning that this is not for the faint-hearted. The swim is free to enter but donations are encouraged towards the charitable trust that keeps the lido operating all year round.

Bibury Duck Race in Cirencester

Every year, usually on Boxing Day, the River Coln hosts some little yellow visitors. Spectators come from far and wide, wrapped up in their woolly hats and gloves, to watch as thousands of plastic ducks are released into the water, which runs through the centre of the picturesque village of Bibury.

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 in the county with the all the family, check out SoGlos's Gloucestershire Family Bucket List.

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