Music, comedy and big ideas: May festivals you can reach by train

The festival season kicks off this spring with two top events, offering a wide range of sublime sounds, philosophical debates and laughs galore. You can avoid the bank holiday traffic by taking the train, where you can sit back, relax and let the festival vibe take hold.

Cheltenham Jazz Festival

1–6 May
The annual Cheltenham Festival – now in its 23rd year – has always done a great job of catering for all kinds of music lovers. As ever, there’s plenty of jazz on offer, such as home-grown talent Jamie Cullum and Gregory Porter. They are joined by a varied roster of acts that include singer-songwriter Katie Melua, 1980s pop group Level 42 and Serbian blues guitarist Ana Popovic, as well as more experimental bands like Vels Trio.

For those looking for a more casual affair, there are loads of free outdoor music and family activities, so head along to Montpellier Gardens to soak up the festival atmosphere.

Discover more and buy tickets at

Take a GWR train to Cheltenham Spa station


Hay-on-Wye, 24–27 May
Distinctive among the year’s festival offerings, HowtheLightGetsIn combines music and philosophy, bringing you top bands alongside some exceptional thinkers. You can enjoy live discussions between some of the world’s greatest minds, including Terry Eagleton, Saul Kripke and Liz Truss, as well as listening to acts, such as gothy popster Anna Calvi, 1960s folk star Donovan and British Sea Power.

If you’re out for a laugh, then look no further. HowtheLightGetsIn offers an impressive line-up of comedians that includes Phil Wang, Ahir Shah, Tony Law and Lou Sanders.

For tickets and full line-up, visit

Take a GWR train to Hereford station. Frequent buses run from Hereford to Hay-on-Wye (T14) throughout the festival.