“Adventure unites us” – Bear Grylls, Gone Wild Festival 2022.
I can’t say I want to take on all the same adventures as Bear, but the ones we experienced at Powderham Castle over the August Bank Holiday definitely stirred up team spirit in my family.
We were invited to review Gone Wild in its second year. I’ll admit I was a bit nervous after the festival got a lot of bad press in 2021. But my reservations quickly fell away as it became clear lessons had been learnt and it had come back bigger and better.
We went along with family who attended last year and they felt the same, so you don’t just have to take my word for it.
If you’re short on time, here’s a 15 second overview of Gone Wild Festival 2022:
If you’re thinking of giving this family-friendly festival a go in 2023 read on to find out what to expect and our top tips for making the most of your long weekend.
Also note that some experiences and festival systems will be different in 2023. I have tried to highlight these and point you to the latest information.
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What is Gone Wild?
This fledgling Devon festival is a clever mash up of outdoor activities, workshops for inquisitive minds and great music.
It’s aimed solely at families and 10 percent of ticket sales go to the Royal Marines Charity.
Bear Grylls is a co-founder so expect to see him pop up during the event.
You can buy tickets for a day or for the whole four day weekend, but we’d recommend the latter so you get the most from the whole experience. Consider it an activity holiday with excellent evening entertainment.
Where is Gone Wild Festival?
Gone Wild’s home is Powderham Castle at Kenton near Exeter. It’s on Devon’s South coast and easily accessible from around the county and futher afield.
The best route in (to avoid small roads) is to take the A379 from Exeter. If travelling from the North or East it’s junction 30 on the M5. Coming from the South on the A38 it’s the turn off sign posted Dawlish/Exminster.
If you’ve got time to explore the area then you must visit Exeter – Devon’s capital city.
Here’s my guide to all the things to do in Exeter with kids including museums, free places to visit and where to avoid the rain.
Camping at Gone Wild
We camped for four nights and can highly recommend this way of doing Gone Wild.
It’s a busy festival, especially if you want to fit in as many activities as possible. Camping means you can start early in the day and pace yourselves over the weekend.
We had a non-electric pitch at the back of the motorhome and caravan campsite, which put us just a few minutes walk from the festival entrance.
There was plenty of room for our camper and awning. There’s no additional charge for awnings.
Aside from the music coming from the stage there was no late night noise in the campsite. Everyone was in family groups, so night times were very much about energising for the next day rather than partying in the early hours.
The motorhome campsite had five showers and two sets of portable toilets with hand-washing sinks.
There were no queues for the loos and only short queues for the showers at 9am each day. We went straight in at 7am and in the early afternoon after getting muddy on the assault course.
All the festival facilities were kept clean over the weekend and there was never a toilet roll shortage.
The only point at which things started to look less tidy was on the last morning when the rubbish area began to overspill as people dumped black sacks before they headed home.
Camping pitches and pre-pitched yurts were on the other side of the site – about a 10 minute walk with access through the main festival entrance.
We heard good things about the camping pitches but didn’t see them ourselves.
In 2022, camping pitches were available from 8am on the first morning of the festival (the activities opened at 11am). Pack up time was by 11am on the Bank Holiday Monday.
Find out about camping arrangements this year.
Activities at Gone Wild Festival
There were dozens of activities to try at the festival – more than we could fit into four days. Everything we did was included in the ticket price and didn’t require booking in advance.
There were pre-bookable ‘premium experiences’ but you certainly don’t need to pay extra to make the most of Gone Wild.
So, what did we do that was included in the ticket price?
Across the long weekend, we had a go at:
- the activity wall
- survival archery
- the commando assault course
- axe throwing
- the skills assault course
- hoola hooping
- circus skills
- and a two hour survival island experience with the Bear Grylls Survival Academy.
Once you’ve received a brief from the team running each activity, you have about 20 minutes to have a go.
One exception was the Commando Assault Course which we did at our own pace. Its route was 2.7km and if you’re willing to run back up a hill you can have more than one go on the muddy slip and slide.
We did about three to four activities each day before catching our breath at a workshop or seeing what was happening on the main stage.
Top tip: arriving at opening time and ticking off your must do activities is the way to avoid queues later in the day.
Find out what activities are planned this year.
Speakers and workshops
We thought there was a great variety of more chilled activities at the festival.
From hearing the stories of real life adventurers like Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Ed Stafford to learning how to do a Haka with Toa Haka UK and meeting dinosaurs with Dinomania there was plenty to keep the whole family entertained.
We revisited the Guerrilla Science tent a few times for life drawing and the explosive science demonstration.
The quality of the off stage entertainment was really high. There was only one show – a comedy act – that didn’t land with us. Luckily we weren’t front row so were able to make an easy exit.
Find out who’s speaking this year.
Festival line up
We love a bit of a bop and were excited to see some decent acts on the 2022 Gone Wild line up
Before the evening entertainment really kicked in we loved hearing local groups like Mad Dog Macre. Yolanda’s Jam Band was a hit with the kids and who wouldn’t enjoy a work out with Mr Motivator?!
On Friday night we jumped about to a slightly sweary set by The Darkness. And on Saturday we were wowed by the super glamorous Sophie Ellis Bextor and The Script, who were both great with the crowd.
We’re gutted we missed The Ministry of Sound Classical on Sunday. By all accounts they were awesome, but by the last night we’d run out of steam. Phew!
The atmosphere around the stage was so family-friendly and with the exception of The Darkness, everyone seemed to have got the brief about there being kids in the audience.
Find out who’s on the 2023 line up at Gone Wild.
Alternatives to the main stage
If you didn’t fancy the bustle of the main stage you could get a wriggle on elsewhere.
The Onfine and Rescued area beside the castle was the place to find dance music and the silent disco. We hit this on the last night as all our energy levels were starting to dive.
The silent disco was brilliant fun but there was a big queue for headphones for the first hour.
You could also see bands in the Korev Festival Tent until 11pm each night.
Find out about this year’s stages.
What ages is Gone Wild for?
Children aged six and up will get the most out of the activities on offer at Gone Wild Festival. This is because there are height and age restrictions on some activities.
My girls, aged nine and seven, could do most things except for axe throwing.
If you go with a baby or toddler there aren’t any adventure activities they could do.
This is probably no surprise – sharp objects, heights and little ones don’t mix well. But there were free inflatables, crafts and a soft play area at the circus skills area. The activities in the Guerrilla Science marque might also take their fancy.
Gone Wild Festival food and drink
Gone Wild’s pre-festival information asked you not to bring food onto the festival site. But this wasn’t enforced.
We packed fruit snacks into our day bag which was soon topped up with ample supplies of cereal bars from the festival sponsors, Nature Valley. They were handing out treats around the site every day.
The festival food on offer was varied and there were plenty of options if you wanted vegan or gluten free meals. There were gourmet burgers, dim sum, paella and, of course, chips to please the fussiest of eaters.
Prices were pretty standard for a festival at about £8 for a main meal and £5 to £7 for an alcoholic drink.
There was a charge of £2 for reusable festival cups, which was refundable when you’d finished with them.
There were water points around the festival site, so you could also bring a reusable bottle to stay hydrated.
We ate breakfast and lunch or dinner at our camper van – another advantage of camping!
Festival money – the cashless system
Please note: the cashless system has been scrapped for 2023. The festival will be contactless so you can use you banks cards as you would in any shop.
Gone Wild is the first festival we’ve been to where you use a tag on your wrist band to pay for everything. Nowhere on site accepted cash or cards for payment.
You used your ticket number to set up your cashless account through the Gone Wild website. This synced with the wrist band you’re given when you arrive.
We found the system worked well but there’s a few things to be aware of:
- It costs £1.50 to set up your cashless account and £1.50 again for every wrist band you link to that account.
- Every wrist band was linked to a ‘wallet’ in your account. It wasn’t possible to move cash between wallets once it had been added.
- You could top up your account manually on the website or at top up points in the festival. Or you could set up each wallet to automatically top up if the funds were running low. You might want to make sure this function is off if you’re adding funds to a child’s wallet/wrist band!!
- There was no additional charge for topping up your account.
- At the end of the festival you had to apply for a refund of any cash left in your account. There is a time limit of two weeks post-festival to do this, so don’t forget!
- In 2022 refunds were being processed on Tuesdays and were expected to take five to six working days to complete. So, if you apply for a refund on a Wednesday it could take about two weeks after that to get your money back.
We thought it was a bit annoying paying to use your own money and waiting for it to be returned, but the concept of cashless festival is a good one.
Our tips for visiting Gone Wild
So, how can you make the most of Gone Wild? Here’s some tips and handy things to know before you go:
- If you want to visit on a quiet day to get in as many activities as you can, Thursday is the one to aim for. There’s less evening entertainment because the main stage doesn’t open until Friday, but there’s also fewer people queuing for activities.
- Bring closed toe shoes – they’re a requirement for a lot of activities like climbing, survival archery and archery.
- It’s OK to bring snacks for your kids. But a full picnic (and any booze) could get you in trouble if your bag is checked at the main gate.
- Festival trolleys and pushchairs can easily negotiate the site except for the Bear Grylls Survival Academy area and Commando Assault Course route. NB 2022 was a dry year, so this advice might change in wet weather.
- Bring sun cream and a hat – most activities have no shade.
- Bring something warm to wear in the evening – warm summer nights are a thing of the past by the August Bank Holiday Weekend.
Gone Wild Festival 2023 tickets
Dates for this year’s festival are 24 to 27 August 2023.
Find out the latest ticket prices.
Summing up Gone Wild Festival
If your family loves outdoor and adventurous activities then this festival is for you.
We had a brilliant weekend trying new things, stepping outside our comfort zones and creating lots of memories. The festival site is small enough to make it manageable to get around with children and the vibe is super family-friendly.
We think it’s awesome to have a festival like this in Devon.
At the time of writing this guide (September 2022) it cost £460 to buy weekend tickets and a camper van pitch for a family of four (with under 11s). That’s £115 per night, which I think is a pretty good price considering the amount of activities and entertainment included.
Did you go to Gone Wild? What did you think?
Find more family-friendly festivals in Devon.
Disclosure: we were invited to Gone Wild Festival to cover our experience on my Devon with Kids Instagram account. I’m sharing my family’s experience here on the website to give you the bigger picture. All images and opinions are my own.