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The UK and Ireland’s ten best outdoor cinemas

Heading to the UK or Ireland this summer? Make the most of the balmy evenings with a movie night to remember. Rafa Sales Ross grabs her popcorn and rates the outdoor events to catch, from blockbusters on the lawn to cult classics under the stars


Punters watch Rocketman in the grounds of York Minster

The Luna Cinema, UK

Billed “kings of the outdoor cinema experience” by Tatler, The Luna Cinema’s evenings are some of the most anticipated movie nights in the UK. This year’s hosts of the travelling moving picture circus include Lincoln’s Inn and Kingston Lacey, as well as the returning venues of Waddesdon Manor, Kensington Palace, Harwood House and Kew Gardens. And feelgood films are on the 2022 agenda, with blockbusters such as No Time To Die and Steven Spielberg’s Academy Award-winning West Side Story on the slate. Classics including Dirty Dancing, Pretty Woman and the ever popular The Greatest Showman will also be screening, as well as other sure-fire winners yet to be announced.

Book a screening at Luna Cinema

Two views for the price of one at Wavelength

Wavelength Drive-In Cinema, Cornwall

If you’re after a viewing with a view, head to Wavelength Drive-In Cinema in Cornwall, which this year takes place against the coastal backdrops of the county’s famous Watergate Bay in Newquay. Not only does this event boast a sublime setting, but it also gifts attendees with a broad-ranging programme that includes short films, surf documentaries and cult darlings. To top it off, live music and trendy food trucks set the tone for a fun night out by the ocean.

Drive into Wavelength

Deckchairs and Mamma Mia! in St Andrew Square gardens

Film Fest in the City, Edinburgh

The largest free outdoor cinema in the UK, Film Fest in the City is organised by the prestigious Edinburgh Film Festival and takes place in the capital’s buzzy St Andrew Square gardens. Funky beach chairs are laid out on the lawn for attendees to enjoy boisterous films that embrace singalongs, rom-coms and superhero sagas. While titles have not yet been confirmed for this year’s edition, the festival is set to return to the Scottish city in August, making it the perfect time for an all-round cultural escape as it coincides with the world-famous Edinburgh Festival Fringe. 

Find out more about Film Fest in the City

West Side Story at Clifton Downs, Bristol 

Adventure Cinema, UK

Adventure Cinema, the largest touring outdoor cinema in the UK, returns this summer with a giddy array of more than 200 pop-up screens across the country, including its first Scottish event in the beautiful Dalkeith Country Park near Edinburgh. Celebrating 50 years of ABBA with cheery screenings of Mamma Mia! and toasting Elton John’s 75th birthday with showings of Rocketman, its set-ups are all about swanky locations such as lush public parks and mediaeval castles, so the off-screen ambience is pretty great, too.

Book Adventure Cinema now

Picnic after dark at Delapré Abbey

Picnic in the Park, Northampton

From game nights to dress-up parties with special prizes, a Picnic in the Park event goes beyond the big screen to embrace a full-on festival vibe that includes pre-movie concerts by local bands and a wide choice of food and drink. This year, Picnic in the Park will land at several locations across the country (including 12th-century Delapré Abbey in Northampton) and screen such happy-weepy delights as Mamma Mia!, Bohemian Rhapsody and The Lion King. 17-19 June 2022.

Book tickets to Picnic in the Park

Moonlight Flicks in the grounds of Chester Cathedral (Ant Clausen)

Moonlight Flicks, Chester

From within the ancient walls of Chester Cathedral to the quaint grounds of Claremont Farm in Bebington, Wirral, Moonlight Flicks delivers one of the longest summer open-air cinema seasons in the country. A relaxed night out, this is a bring-your-own-chair endeavour, with big hits such as Jurassic Park and The Secret Garden having previously been shown on a giant 30ft inflatable screen. For maximum immersion, film fans can connect their earphones directly to the sound system, guaranteeing an outdoor experience with indoor technical quality.

Visit Moonlight Flicks

Out in the open with the Alfresco Film Company

Alfresco Film Company, UK

If a singalong is your idea of a good time, the Alfresco Film Company is the one that you want. From hook-laden greats such as Grease and Dirty Dancing to more recent musical blockbusters including The Greatest Showman, this atmospheric outfit offers a rich selection of foot-tapping titles screened across multiple UK locations including Derbyshire, Redditch and Staffordshire. 

Book a film at Alfresco Film Club

Cinema with added zombie at Camelot Rises from the Dead

Park ’n’ Party, Manchester

With three large cinema screens and a fully immersive accompanying show, Park ’n’ Party transforms a car park in Manchester into a cinematic spectacle of epic proportions. The current show is a post-apocalyptic zombie-extravaganza called Camelot Rises from the Dead, where actors dressed up as ghouls hover around your car as films such as 28 Days Later and I Am Legend play on the big screen. Scary stuff.

Head to Park ‘n’ Party

Sunset cinema at St Donat’s Castle, Vale of Glamorgan

UWC Atlantic Experience, Llantwit Major

One of the most majestic cinema-under-the-stars experiences can be found at the historic St Donat’s Castle in south Wales. This month, the UWC Atlantic Experience presents two family-favourites (West Side Story and Spider-Man: No Way Home) on the jousting lawn of the atmospheric 12th-century fortress. Following sunset schedules, programming resumes again in September, so book a ticket early to grab one of the 250 seats available. Just remember to pack a cosy blanket and hamper. 

Visit the UWC Atlantic Experience

The Greatest Showman singalong at Malahide Castle

Retro Drive-In, Dublin, Ireland

Earn your cinema stripes – or, in this case, spots – at this pull-up projector, installed near Dublin’s Leopardstown Racecourse. It’s easily accessible off the M50, so escape the noise of the city and snuggle up under the stars to a classic or contemporary flick (or three, with triple bills on Saturdays and Sundays). Around 200 cars switch off their engines and switch on the radio to immerse passengers in the sound of evocative cinematic scores and dialogues. It’s the stuff dreams are made of. Had enough films? Retro Drive-In has previously hosted drive-in bingo events and car park karaoke, à la James Corden.

Book your space at Retro Drive-In

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