Steve's Guide to Bestival


Bestival is a music festival held on the Isle of Wight in Robin Park late in the festival season: September. The festival starts on Thursday and ends on Sunday. Most people leave on the Monday morning.

It is known for a crowd keen on dressing up and having fun – Every year has a theme and the Saturday is the day you dress up. Bestival is also known for showcasing a large number of new acts though not necessarily the biggest names in the world they do have a few big headline acts on Friday and Saturday nights.

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Getting Tickets

Tickets are fairly easy to come by and do not sell out as quickly as at Glastonbury but it is recommended that you get on the mailing by visiting the Bestival site and purchase tickets as soon as they come available.


As with any festival, you need to pick up the necessary camping accessories. There are a lot of hills on the site and the main campsites are all at the far end. We found a useful purchase was of a small travel trolley onto which we piled all of our bags and the tent to drag to the camping area noting that there are very few walkways so you will be trudging through grass when you arrive and mud when you leave - So bring what you are prepared to lug.

Arranging Transport

Big Green Coach offer coach tickets to Bestival from various locations in the UK but many attempt to make their own way to the site. We saw many people actually attempting the walk from the ferry terminal but this is not really recommended as it many tens of miles to the site (then another long walk across the park). There is parking that can be arranged but be aware that you should arrange your ferry ticket well in advance as these all sell out (both coming and going).

At the Festival

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Generally people arrive at the top of the park on the far west side of the site as this is where the coaches arrive. The car parks have their own separate entrance on the south side. On arrival you will be required to show your tickets (or pick them up) then receive a wrist band for the weekend. All tickets include campsite access. A good idea is to pick up a copy of the latest program as soon as possible (I purchased a lanyard that had a small plastic-coated tiny copy of the program which was good but a bit hard to read) to see when your “must sees” are on.


There are a number of large camping sites identified by colours. There are also several rather expensive “boutique” camping areas that are far too expensive to make it worth while (for my money). As always, if you are camping make sure you pitch your tent at the top of the hill instead of the bottom in case of rain and we chose the “Blue (Quiet) Campsite” which, sadly, is not longer there but was not terribly quiet anyway though it did have good views of the cows in the neighbouring fields. To allow us to sleep we chose to pitch up towards the far side of the field so that it was quieter, unfortunately, the lights and noise from the main stages we could not avoid…until they closed down at 3 or 4 in the morning.

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There are police on site and can often be seen patrolling the entire site. I will say that we had our tent broken into while we were sleeping one night where the thieves did not actually take anything (though scattered everything around the tent) as we suspect they were looking for drugs. The police were very polite and took the details, mentioning that they would increase patrols in the area.

As with any festival, it is common to have the smell of marijuana wafting through the air but the year we visited we also saw a lot of helium being used as well with the silver cannisters everywhere. Many people bring in their own alcohol as well.

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The toilets are generally pretty well maintained and can be found throughout the site. They consist of “porta potties” and one area actually had a “compost” toilet where you were encouraged to take some dirt to spread over…what you leave…when you are done in the toilet.

After our experience at Glastonbury we actually purchased a weekend pass for When Nature Calls which offered “premium” toilet facilities on site: Private booths with flush toilets and a sink as well as hair washing facilities. They clean every cubicle after every use so it is spotless. We felt that the money was well spent but there were a few negatives:

  • Limited hours - Not open 24 hours so if you want to visit at 5 in the morning…
  • Large queues in peak times - Not good if you are…desparate
  • Located away from the stages - Often it is quite a walk to get to them.
  • A bit expensive

On your first visit you are given a wrist band that you show on every subsequent trip.

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Food is quite good and varied. The better food has the biggest queues. To be expected. Lots of different places to eat but often a bit of distance from the stages which generally only had massive bars located near them.

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Getting Around

Make sure you have a map. It is a convoluted site and it will take a bit of time to understand the layout. There are lots of hills so make sure you have good, waterproof boats.

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The site is divided into campsites and the performance/eating areas which are:

  • The Grassy Hill - Some really neat art installations, smaller venues (think tent size) and good places to eat.
  • Stardust Field - Home of the main stage and the tented “The Big Top”. We also enjoyed the jazz and smaller folk groups in the “Spiegeltent” but this was also quite noisy.
  • Bollywood Field - A bit more “ethnic” including food.
  • The Port - Dance music. Wild and very loud.
  • The Magic Meadow - Home of the big disco ball there are several bigger bars and restaurants here. Good views of the site.
  • Peace Hill/Peace Valley (now “Slow Motion”) - A quieter section of the site with a small bandshell, exhibits and local stalls (such as a charity shop). This is narrow and steep with exceptional views of the site. Be sure to walk to the top for even more peace and quiet.

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What to See


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The music here is quite varied from dance to techno to country to rock and roll. Whatever you taste, you can find it here though the emphasis is on newer artists. There does not appear to be too much logic given to where artists are playing so be sure you are going to the right place.

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For the main acts as the stages are generally on the level it is not possible to sit on the ground or on portable stools to watch so give up and stand if you want to see/hear everything.


We loved the large number of smaller venues and stages playing really interesting stuff. The year we visited we enjoyed “Caravanserai” in the “Grassy Hill” area which consisted of a bunch of caravans arranged into a ring with cabaret and circus acts inside as well as a place serving snacks, and tea as well as a bar. It was very interesting looking and this was common on the site with very cool artistic looking buildings and exhibits that you could explore.

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Further Information

For further information, see:

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