Travel
8 min

Pride celebrations in the UK

Passage of same-sex marriage law anticipated to boost celebratory mood

Marchers in the Liverpool Pride Parade. Credit: Jeb Smith, VisitBritain

Great Britain tourism officials promise that “romance and a warm welcome awaits visitors” as England and Wales anticipate extra festive Pride happenings this year to celebrate the same-sex marriage law that took effect March 29. Scotland will follow suit later this year.

Birmingham Pride in May and Manchester Pride at the end of August will bookend almost two dozen Pride celebrations in cities across the United Kingdom. The people at VisitBritain provided the following highlights, with their spin on each city and planned celebrations.

Birmingham Pride (Central England)
May 24–25
England’s second largest city — in the west Midlands region of the country, only two hours by train from London — Birminham hosts one of Britain’s largest Pride festivals at the end of May. Featuring a Carnival Parade through the city centre, a Main Pride Festival Site — where pop acts such as Gabrielle, Ms Dynamite and Conor Maynard will take to the stage — a dance arena featuring top DJs, a funfair, community village green, cabaret marquee, a market street, and a friendly street party, it looks set to be another remarkable weekend. Home to the biggest gay village in England’s Midlands, Birmingham has cabaret, clubbing and a wealth of bars, especially along Hurst Street, the hub of Birmingham’s gay community. One of the most well-known venues on the party scene is the Nightingale, which has been on the Birmingham gay scene since 1969. It features a restaurant, nightclub and live music arena (with top-name acts on Saturday nights) spread across its three floors. Other key gay venues include The Loft Lounge, The Village Inn — where you can expect wigs, heels and makeup for the weekend cabaret — and, for the girls, The Fox is Birmingham’s leading lesbian bar. For more info, visit birminghampride.com.

For the most up-to-date travel information on gay Birmingham, see our City GuideListings GuideEvents Guide and Activities Guide.

Blackpool Pride (Northwest England)
June 14–15
The seaside town of Blackpool in northwest England, approximately an hour’s drive from Manchester, is the place to go for bright lights and fun entertainment. The town hosts its own Pride in the legendary Blackpool Winter Gardens; this year’s celebration runs concurrently with the European Same Sex Dance Championships — particularly fitting as Blackpool is the spiritual home of British ballroom dancing. Further highlights of Pride include the parade along the promenade, plus a whole array of market stalls. Blackpool has a vibrant gay scene; continue the Pride party across a wide range of bars and clubs, including The Flying Handbag, Mardi Gras, Roxy’s and the New Road Inn. For more info, visit blackpoolpridefest.com.

For the most up-to-date travel information on gay Blackpool, see our City GuideListings GuideEvents Guide and Activities Guide.

Pride Scotia Edinburgh (Scotland)
June 18–22
Held in Scotland’s capital every two years, Pride Scotia encompasses live music, DJs and a health and community fair, plus there are festival fringe events running alongside. A full program of events is still to be announced, but the city has a huge variety of gay bars and clubs, particularly in the “Pink Triangle,” centred on the top of Leith walk, just off Princes Street in central Edinburgh. Head to Café Habana for a spot of karaoke, put on your dancing shoes at CC Blooms and be entertained by cabaret at Priscilla’s Cabaret Bar. For more info, visit pride-scotia.org.

Read our travel feature on Scotland’s rugged beautyFor the most up-to-date travel information on gay Edinburgh, see our City GuideListings GuideEvents Guide and Activities Guide.

York Pride (North England)
June 21
The 2014 event’s details are yet to be announced, so keep checking the website, but if it’s anything like last year’s — with fairground rides, food stalls, bars and community stalls — York looks set for another fun and friendly event. You can reach York from London by train in approximately two hours. For more info, visit yorkpride.org.uk.

Pride in London
June 22–29
England’s capital hosts one hell of a party in the summer; Pride in London is one of Europe’s largest non-ticketed events. The festival usually comes to a close with a sizzling carnival of colour of music, floats and dancing, drawing a huge crowd of spectators. While London’s established gay neighbourhoods include Soho, Vauxhall and the East End, London’s integrated LGBT appeal goes way beyond. Clerkenwell, for instance, is a hotbed of great design, while Borough is a foodie’s paradise. But whatever their pleasure, LGBT visitors will find everything their hearts desire in this welcoming and wonderful, truly cosmopolitan city. For more info, visit prideinlondon.org.

For more about London, read our travel feature. For the most up-to-date travel information on gay London, see our City GuideListings GuideEvents Guide and Activities Guide.

Northern Pride, Newcastle Gateshead (Northeast England)
July 18–20
The biggest free LGBT festival in the northeast of England, Northern Pride, based in the party city of Newcastle — a three-hour train journey from London — has grown this year to run over three days and across two venues. For the first time, Pride will have a stage in the heart of Newcastle’s gay scene, Times Square, on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. This year’s theme is Pride Across the Decades. Then party the night away in bars such as Lola’s, Heavens Above and The Eagle; dance until dawn at nightclubs Powerhouse and SR44; and wind down at café/bar Dancing Peppermill. For more info, visit northern-pride.com.

Pride Glasgow, Scotland
July 19–Aug 3
All of Glasgow will be in party mood in July and August as the city hosts the Commonwealth Games (July 23–Aug 3) and will also be looking forward to hosting another successful Pride festival in 2014 at the same time. Sensational shows, music extravaganzas and an assortment of street stalls are just a few tasters of what could be on offer, with the main event on  July 19, headlined by international pop and club act Blue. Glasgow’s gay bar scene is particularly vibrant. One of the most popular venues is Speakeasy, a hip place with elegant interiors and girls-only events in the upstairs bar, plus a Saturday night dancefest in its Trophy Room, where you can dance along to tunes from the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s. There’s more good design at Polo Lounge, a stylish affair located within a converted 100-year-old bank and at the uber-trendy FHQ, Scotland’s first female gay bar. For the more culturally inclined, the annual Glasgay! arts festival is a monthlong celebration of theatre, film and dance that takes place every October; this year it will celebrate its 21st birthday, with the theme Year of the Curator. Along with Pride Glasgow, this is Scotland’s largest LGBT event. For more info, visit prideglasgow.co.uk.

For the most up-to-date travel information on gay Glasgow, see our City GuideListings GuideEvents Guide and Activities Guide.

Belfast Pride, Northern Ireland
July 25–Aug 2
In recent years Belfast has reinvented itself as a modern European city, full of cafés and museums. It also hosts Northern Ireland’s largest LGBT festival. Belfast Pride will run July 25 to Aug 2 with the Belfast Pride Parade and Party in the Square on the final day. Check back on the website for further details as they are announced. Belfast has an international airport, with frequent service from many UK airports. For more info, visit belfastpride.com.

Sort through the clichés about the Emerald Isle with our travel feature on Ireland. Easy road trips from Belfast include Limerick, about 3.5 hours by car, and Dublin, at one-hour, 45 minutes. For the most up-to-date travel information on gay Dublin, see our City GuideListings GuideEvents Guide and Activities Guide.

Brighton Pride (Southeast England)
Aug 2
“The gay capital of England” is often used to describe Brighton — a 45-minute train journey to the coast from the capital — and its Pride festival is world-renowned. Last year’s event was its 21st anniversary, and this year’s promises to be equally enthralling, with the theme of Freedom to Live. The Main Park Event will have a great lineup of acts; while this year’s have yet to be announced, they are likely to follow in the footsteps of acts such as Alison Moyet, Stooshe and Paloma Faith, who all graced the stage last year. Last year was also the first year the Brighton Pride Arts & Film Festival took place, and it will feature in the run-up to the Pride parade this year, too, from July 18 to Aug 3. Most of the city’s gay scene takes place in Kemptown, where visitors will find a vibrant café culture and many of the larger bars and clubs. Favourite nightspots here include Legends, Charles Street and Doctor Brightons. For more info, visit brighton-pride.org.

Discover Brighton’s boho paradise. For the most up-to-date travel information on gay Brighton, see our City GuideListings GuideEvents Guide and Activities Guide.

Liverpool Pride (Northwest England)
Aug 2
Celebrating its fifth year, the theme for this year’s Liverpool Pride is Glam Fairy Tales, with those attending encouraged to come dressed in their most glitzy costumes. The main performance areas will be ticketed this year, but there will also be a free zone, with entertainment for those not wishing to pay to visit the main stages. Liverpool’s gay quarter is concentrated around Stanley Street and Dales Street, and if you want to party until 7am, head to the popular G-Bar; elsewhere, The Masquerade is open seven nights a week. For more info, visit liverpoolpride.co.uk.

For the most up-to-date travel information on gay Liverpool, see our City GuideListings GuideEvents Guide and Activities Guide.

Pride Cymru, Cardiff (South Wales)
Aug 16
Coopers Field in the Welsh capital will once again be the location of the main stage of Cardiff’s Mardi Gras, with Cardiff Castle as the backdrop. One of the first acts to be announced for this year is 1990s girl band Eternal. Pride Cymru will kick off at midday and feature an impressive lineup of live main-stage acts, special guests and cabaret performances, while the theme of the Pride Cymru Parade this year is Welsh Pride Is…. The annual Iris Prize Festival, held later in the year, Oct 8 to 12 this year, is Cardiff’s queer alternative to Cannes. During four days of international film screenings, panel sessions and parties, 30 short films by or about gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people compete to win the top accolade, valued at about $46,000 Canadian (£25,000). Cardiff’s gay scene is focused on two central strips — Charles Street and Bute Terrace — which are both close to St Mary Street (Cardiff’s main bar area) and Queen Street, the primary shopping district. Leading lights on Cardiff’s gay scene include the Eagle for drinking, plus Pulse for dancing and Minsky’s Showbar for cabaret. For something a little more mainstream, Clwb Ifor Bach is a gay-friendly venue offering clubbing and live music in an inclusive environment. For more info, visit cardiffmardigras.co.uk.

For the most up-to-date travel information on gay Cardiff, see our City GuideListings GuideEvents Guide and Activities Guide.

Manchester Pride (Northwest England)
Aug 22–25
Culminating with the Big Weekend — Friday to Sunday of non-stop partying and fundraising events in Manchester’s Gay Village, where last year saw The Feeling and Kate Nash play — Manchester Pride is a 10-day festival crammed with arts, culture, sports, music, film and heritage showcasing the talents of the city’s LGBT population. This year’s Pride parade theme has yet to be announced, but judging by previous years it will be glamorous and fabulous! Manchester is famous for its lively gay village; centred on the waterfront strip of Canal Street, it’s a friendly area, with the contagious party atmosphere spilling out onto the streets when the weather is fine. Popular hangouts here include Manto and Queer for the boys and Vanilla for the girls. As for nightclubs, Cruz 101 and AXM are said to be among Manchester’s best. For more info, visit manchesterpride.com.

Read more about Manchester’s change from post-industrial Cottonopolisto today’s vibrant gay village packed with innovative expressions of art and cultureFor the most up-to-date travel information on gay Manchester, see our City GuideListings GuideEvents Guide and Activities Guide.

ADDITIONAL PRIDE EVENTS ACROSS BRITAIN

Oxford Pride (South-central England)
June 7
oxford-pride.org.uk

Cumbria Pride (Northwest England)
June 14
cumbriapride.org

Suffolk Pride (East England)
June 21
suffolkpride.co.uk

Sheffield Pride (North England)
June 28
sheffieldpride.co.uk

North Wales Pride
July 4 & 5
northwalespride.com

Bristol Pride (West England)
July 12 
pridebristol.co.uk
For the most up-to-date travel information on gay Bristol, see our City GuideListings GuideEvents Guide and Activities Guide.

Cornwall Pride (Southwest England)
Aug 23
cornwallpride.com