A winter tour of Britain London, Bath, the Cotswolds and the Highlands

Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, England ©VisitBritain/Blenheim Palace/Pete Seaward

Looking to travel outside of peak season? A trip to Britain in winter has its own unmissable delights. Enjoy everything from holiday traditions and refreshing walks in crisp country air to evenings in local pubs that ooze cosiness and Christmas charm. From London to the Highlands, plan a trip this winter and discover the highlights of Britain in all their festive glory.

London, south England

As winter approaches, London transforms into the capital of cosy. Lights twinkle as far as the eye can see, shops go all out with magical window displays and pubs bustle with traditional decorations and crackling log fires.

Daytime activity – see the city’s festive lights

Winter in London is a must for those wanting a holiday filled with festive magic and romance. Walk under canopies of glittering lights, marvel at giant Christmas trees and see some of the best festive shop displays in the city. Stop by the famous Christmas tree at Trafalgar Square, see the lights of Carnaby Street and browse the amazing window displays of department stores including Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges or Harrods – or sightsee in style on a Christmas taxi tour.

Winter tradition – explore London on ice!

Built in 1881, the awe-inspiring Romanesque architecture of London’s Natural History Museum makes it one of the city’s best known and most beautiful icons. Packed with fascinating exhibitions throughout the year, during the winter months something extra special pops up, as the building becomes the stunning backdrop to one of the city’s most popular ice rinks. Lit with twinkling fairy lights and with a majestic Christmas tree at its centre, the ice rink is a popular choice for a romantic London date or family outing during the winter months.

When? 19 October 2019 – 12 January 2020

Where to stay – sleep like royalty

Said to be one of London’s ‘best kept secrets’, Hazlitt’s Hotel is every-inch as regal, charming and luxurious as its Georgian townhouse exterior implies. Nestled in the heart of Soho, the hotel’s elegant décor is typified by chandeliers, tall windows and antique furniture, while its honesty bar, library and top-notch service make it the perfect base for visitors looking for a uniquely stylish stay in the capital.

How much? From circa £242 per night

Where to eat – dine like a queen

Visitors looking to relax and warm up in a traditional pub should head to The Queen’s Head. A cosy haven in the middle of bustling King’s Cross, the pub comes complete with a crackling open fire, a selection of great ales, whiskies, and even a special cheese board for those feeling peckish.

The Cotswolds, south England

Located just a three-hour drive from central London, the Cotswolds is a world away from the buzzing streets of the capital.

Daytime activity – discover chocolate-box beauty

For a taste of the Cotswold’s picturesque cottage lifestyle, head to Chipping Campden. This quaint British town offers visitors traditional sand-coloured cottages, friendly, locally-run shops and a historic church, not to mention a choice of charming tearooms – the perfect spot for a warming pot of tea and a traditional teacake or two.

Winter tradition – experience Christmas at Blenheim Palace

Discover Christmas at Blenheim Palace. A World Heritage Site and the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, the palace is an endlessly interesting historic house, with grand rooms and glorious gardens. Known for its annual Christmas celebrations, in 2019 the palace will be transformed into a fantasy world straight from Alice in Wonderland. With magical light trails, the Mad Hatters Tea Party and even a Christmas market, this festive experience combined with misty mornings and fresh air is sure to leave visitors grinning like a Cheshire Cat.

When? 22 November 2019 – 5 January 2020

Where to stay – unwind in eco-friendly luxury

Guests searching for five-star luxury combined with countryside chic and eco-friendly facilities need look no further.  Offering a stay in one of two historic honey-coloured stone cottages, Eco Chic Cottages is the embodiment of Cotswolds’ charm. With a masseur service, afternoon tea on request and exceptional stargazing opportunities, guests can relax and unwind in readiness for the festive season.

How much? A cottage sleeping six costs from £550 for two nights

Where to eat – savour local ale and haute cuisine

Just a stone’s throw from the Eco Chic Cottages lies the Shilton Rose & Crown, a charming local pub where visitors can try high-end pub food while sipping on local ale by a roaring open fire. With exposed beams, candlelit tables and stonewalls bathed in golden lamp light, this pub offers a cosy slice of quintessential British country life.

Bath, south-west England

A city of cathedrals, world-famous architecture and Jane Austen characters, Bath is an unmissable stop on the ultimate winter tour of Britain. Located in the southwest, under a two-hour drive from Chipping Campden, it’s a place steeped in history, culture and charm.

Daytime activity – admire royally good architecture

Discover one of Britain’s most recognisable pieces of Georgian architecture, the Royal Crescent. The backdrop to many Jane Austen adaptations, this sweeping stone crescent includes thirty grand terraced houses and is a must-see sight for lovers of history and period dramas. Curious to learn more about Georgian life and culture? Visit the Museum of Georgian life at No. 1 Royal Crescent, where visitors can take the chance to step back in time and experience life in Britain’s upper-class 18th-century society.

Winter tradition – enjoy carols and Christmas markets

Already the gem of the city, Bath Abbey becomes even more atmospheric during their Christmas carol services. Held on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, these festive 20-minute singalongs are a fun dose of traditional Christmas spirit for festive shoppers and sightseers alike.

When? 28 November – 15 December 2019

Where to stay – unwind at a spa

Known for the healing properties of its water, Bath has been a famous spa town since Roman times, so where better place to stay than Bath Spa Hotel? A wonderful five-star accommodation with elegant décor and a choice of fine-dining venues, guests can enjoy the spa, the pool or indulge in a special festive afternoon tea, for an extra special seasonal experience.

How much? Price varies, book in advance for best rates

Where to dine – get cosy at The Mill

Just one mile along the canal from the centre of Bath lies the welcoming The Mill at Bathampton. A great spot for a taste of rural cosiness within a cultural hub, this canal-side pub offers warming food, wine and ale accompanied by beautiful river views.

Fort William, Scottish Highlands

 

For travellers seeking epic Scottish scenery and warming local whisky, Fort William offers endless charm and stunning views, not to mention some the country’s finest ‘water of life’!

Daytime activity – soak up Scottish vistas

Visitors wanting to soak up some of the famous Scottish scenery can spend the day at Lochaber Geopark, near Fort William. With lochs, endless skies and waterfalls in abundance, this is a great starting point for a rewarding hike or a driving adventure of the area.

Winter tradition – taste the art of whisky

Visitors with a love of or interest in Scottish whisky can enjoy a guided tour around one of the oldest distilleries in the country. Located just a few minutes’ drive from Fort William, Ben Nevis Distillery has produced its own unique spirit for more than 178 years. Explore the production rooms and sample a wee dram of whisky, made from the dew of Ben Nevis, while gaining a unique insight into the world of Scottish whisky.

Where to stay – sleep in a former church

Looking for a historic hotel? Head to Limetree Hotel, a former church building dating back to the mid-1800s. Now a family-run hotel, serving food in an award-winning restaurant with a warm, welcoming environment, Limetree is a unique base from which to explore the surrounding city and countryside.

Where to dine – savour hearty Scottish scran

Located on Fort William high street, the Ben Nevis bar offers good ale and hearty dishes including ‘Ben Nevis steak pie’, Lochaber larder traditional sausages and mash, or classic fish and chips. And with regular live open music sessions, including traditional Scottish music and ceilidhs, it’s the perfect place to dance off the winter chill in true Scottish style.

11 of the best Christmas markets in Britain

Manchester Christmas Market sign

Twinkling lights, mulled wine, a festive atmosphere and fabulous gifts – Britain’s Christmas markets are back this year and bigger and better than ever before. Set in some of Britain’s loveliest cities, a visit to a Christmas market is equal parts shopping experience, equal parts destination discovery.

 

Winter Wonderland, London

Transforming one of London’s spectacular parks, Hyde Park Winter Wonderland offers a festive paradise in the heart of the city. Home to the world’s tallest transportable observation wheel, a Magical Ice Kingdom and an array of comedic acts at its own Comedy Club, in addition to Britain’s largest open air ice rink and plenty of bars and food stalls, there’s something for all the family to enjoy. Enjoy jaw-dropping circus acts and don’t miss the arrival of Paddington on Ice, a stunning show combining cutting-edge choreography, toe-tapping music and impressive costumes that is being performed in the UK for the first time!

When? 21 November – 5 January

Also check out: The festive window displays at Hamleys, Selfridge’s and Harrods, plus the capital’s festive lights around the shopping hubs of Regent’s Street and Oxford Street

 

Bath Christmas Market, south-west England

For historic-ambience-meets-winter-style, head to Bath Christmas Market, as more than 150 pop-up chalets set up on the city’s pretty Georgian streets. Visitors can expect a real treasure trove of gifts to take home, whether that’s jewellery, homewares or decorations. Last year more than 80% of stallholders came from Bath and south-west England, while 99% of all products were handmade in Britain or abroad with Fairtrade certification, so this is very much an eco-savvy shopping experience. There’s always new stalls to explore as well as the perennial favourites, while visitors can fill empty bellies with a range of festive food from The Lodge in the heart of the market.

When? 28 November – 15 December

Also check out: Bath on Ice, the festive ice rink that runs from 15 November to 5 January 2020, and Glow in the Dark mini golf; the Christmas Trail at Prior Park Landscape Garden during December; and Shoppers’ Carols at Bath Abbey on various dates throughout the festive season.

 

Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market, central England

A firm favourite on the city’s yuletide calendar, Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market is the largest authentic German Christmas market outside of Germany or Austria. Expect a fine range of traditional, personalised gifts and products on its 80 stalls and get into the German spirit while feasting on schnitzels, bratwursts, glühwein and weissbeer. Another huge draw is its bandstand location in Victoria Square and the programme of live music and carol singers that’s set to bring the party atmosphere to festive shopping.

When? 7 November – 23 December 2019

Also check out: Outdoor skating at Ice Rink Birmingham plus the Big Wheel Experience from 7 November to 12 January 2020, or head to Enchanted Weston, an illuminated, after-dark experience in stunning parkland with live music and food, running from 13 to 21 December.

 

Edinburgh Christmas Market, Scotland

Even if paying a visit after Christmas, guests still get the chance to enjoy some festive treats as Edinburgh’s Christmas market continues until early January as part of Edinburgh’s Christmas, a six-week programme of entertainment in the city centre. While it’s not open on Christmas Day, it is open until 8pm on Christmas Eve so bring plenty of bags to fill up with goodies such as arts and crafts, foodie treats and traditional or bespoke Christmas products. The market itself takes place in East Princes Street Gardens, guaranteeing some gorgeous views of Edinburgh Castle in the background and easy access to some of the city’s major attractions.

When? 16 November 2019 – 4 January 2020

Also check out: The Big Wheel and funfair rides on East Princes Street Gardens; and an adaption of Charles Dickens classic An Edinburgh Christmas Carol at the Lyceum (28 November 2019 – 4 January 2020).

 

Belfast Christmas Market, Northern Ireland

Set against the backdrop of one of the Northern Irish capital’s most iconic buildings, Belfast City Hall, the Belfast Christmas Market returns in 2019 with its enviable mix of artisan products and stalls groaning with tasty treats from international cuisines in its outdoor food court. Indulge in crepes, a hog roast, glühwein and continental cheeses, then make it a truly Northern Irish experience and visit Lavery’s traditional Irish bar for fantastic live music to really get in the Christmas spirit. Kids will love riding the vintage carousel or zipping down the helter skelter, as well as taking a trip to visit Santa in his magical grotto.

When? 16 November – 22 December 2019

Also check out: A Christmas Carol at arts and culture hub The Mac (27 November 2019 – 5 January 2020), and Christmas Wonderland at outdoor adventure centre The Jungle.

 

South Bank Winter Festival, London

The popular Winter Market returns to London’s Southbank Centre, a seasonal pleasure that sits alongside a range of family shows and festive fun as the banks of the River Thames become a winter wonderland. All along the South Bank are strings of decorations and cute illuminated wooden cabins selling Christmas gifts, from the quirky to the traditional, as well as mince pies, spiced cider and steaming mugs of mulled wine and hot chocolate. Global cuisines are available too, in the form of festive treats to gift or to eat there and then. Make sure to grab a selfie by the huge Christmas tree!

When? 8 November 2019 – 5 January 2020

Also check out: The fantastic performances available at the Southbank Centre, from Christmas concerts and choir performances to a children’s retelling of Black Beauty (14 December 2019 – 5 January 2020) and circus entertainment with Circus 1903 (19 December 2019 – 5 January 2020).

 

Cardiff Christmas Market, south Wales

Set across five streets of Cardiff’s pedestrianised city centre, Cardiff’s Christmas Market will be in full swing from mid-November, leaving plenty of time to find the perfect gift among its stalls. Its ethos is hosting stallholders selling original, hand-made products and artists and crafts people selling their work. There are plenty of food and drink options available among the 200+ stallholders and there’ll be music, festive lights and entertainment transforming the streets.

When? 14 November – 23 December 2019

Also check out: Santa Tours at the Principality Stadium (4 – 24 December 2019) or choose from various Christmas shows at St David’s Hall throughout December.

 

Manchester Christmas Markets, north-west England

The 20th instalment of the Manchester Christmas Markets will take over locations across the city from mid-November, meaning visitors won’t be far from festive gifts and delicious food and drink stalls selling traditional bratwurst, hog roast, paella and much more. There will be more than 300 stalls and chalets across the city, with the heart of the markets found in Albert Square. Visitors can follow the trail and pick up jewellery, toys, plants, bags, homeware and fun, quirky gifts at a variety of markets, including a French market, a German market, a World Christmas market and a dedicated Arts & Crafts market.

When? 8 November – 21 December 2019 (Albert Square stalls open until 22 December)

Also check out: Winter Funland, which will be held at an indoor venue and include fairground attractions, an ice rink, a circus and other fun performances (6 December 2019 – 3 January 2020); Halle’s (Manchester’s Orchestra’s) Christmas Concerts at Bridgewater Hall and Ice Village Manchester, the UK's biggest-ever ice attraction which includes an Arctic Tiki Bar, Santa's Grotto and an ice rink (8 November 2019 - 5 January 2020).

 

Leeds Christkindelmarkt, north England

Millennium Square in Leeds is transformed for the city’s annual Christkindelmarkt German Christmas Market, with the addition of more than 40 traditionally decorated wooden chalets. Browse through hand-crafted jewellery and festive decorations, tuck into authentic German food and feel extra festive with a ride on the popular Christmas Carousel. For those still feeling hungry, visit the Alp Chalet restaurant in the centre of the market, a Bavarian style eatery offering a delectable selection of traditional food and drink, alongside evening entertainment.

When? 8 November – 21 December 2019

Also check out: Thor’s Tipi in Victoria Gardens, a pop-up tipi bar offering an array of winter warming drinks; the massed voices of Inspiration Choir as they join forces with the Orchestra of Opera North for Inspiration: A Christmas Extravaganza at Leeds Town Hall (21 December 2019); and the Leeds Playhouse festive production of The Night Before Christmas (30 November - 28 December 2019).

 

Winchester Christmas Market, south England

With its unique location in the shadow of Winchester’s great cathedral, Winchester Cathedral’s Christmas Market is widely regarded as one of Europe’s best. More than 100 chalets are home to hand-picked exhibitors offering exclusive gifts that visitors won’t find on the high street – from hand-crafted decorations and festive treats to craft beer and mulled wine.

When? 21 November – 22 December 2019

Also check out: Skate around the city’s covered Christmas Ice Rink (21 November 2019 – 2 January 2020) and marvel at the glittering Christmas tree in its centre; or visit the Ginchester Christmas Market (7 December 2019), a celebration of the region’s diverse spirits including local gin, whisky, vodka and rum.

 

The Victorian Christmas Festival at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, south England

Travel back in time for three days of festive fun at the Victorian Christmas Festival, held in the impressive surroundings of the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. This year marks 20 years of Christmas magic, with the festival home to 120 market stalls selling all sorts of festive treats, an array of Victorian street performers and the chance to meet Father Christmas.

When? 29 November – 1 December 2019

Also check out: Mix up a treat as the Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower hosts two Christmas Cocktail Parties (7 and 13 December 2019); Meet Father Christmas at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum (14 December 2019) and enjoy lashings of festive fun during the That’ll Be The Day Christmas Show at Kings Theatre (18 December 2019).

 

 

Experience Britain’s finest literary festivals

Cheltenham Literature Festival celebrates its 70th anniversary in 2019, with an extensive line-up packed full of icons from the worlds of sport, television, music and literature. But while the household names promise to attract the crowds to Gloucestershire, the festival is just one of many exciting literary events that are set to celebrate writing in what remains of 2019.

Cheltenham Literature Festival

Established in 1949, the Cheltenham Literature Festival is the UK’s oldest annual festival of its type and welcomes more than 600 of the world’s writers, politicians, poets and actors to celebrate the written word. The 70th edition of the ten-day festival will feature around 500 events and workshops, including Book It!, a series of events aimed specifically at families and young children. As the festival falls on the eve of the Rugby World Cup, former Wales captain Mark Warburton will discuss his new autobiography, while England’s cricketing hero Alastair Cook will talk about his time out in the middle. Veteran broadcaster John Humphrys, musical composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, comedian Lenny Henry and Status Quo frontman Francis Rossi are among the others scheduled to be involved.

When? 4 – 13 October

Edinburgh International Book Festival    

Welcoming around 900 authors to a specially created tented village in the centre of Edinburgh, the Edinburgh International Book Festival includes more than 800 events for people of all ages. Nobel and Booker prize-winners are among those to feature on past line-ups, alongside sportsmen and women, illustrators, philosophers, scientists, poets, comic creators, biographers, economists and musicians.

When? 10 – 26 August

Bath Children’s Literature Festival

The Bath Children’s Literature Festival is Europe’s biggest festival dedicated to children’s literature, offering youngsters the unique opportunity to meet the creators of their literary heroes. David Williams and Philip Pullman were among the authors to attend in 2018, while this year’s line-up includes comedian Harry Hill and former England women’s footballer Casey Stoney, alongside authors Chris Riddell, David Baddiel, Jacqueline Wilson, Holly Smale and Chris Ryan. A number of Shaun the Sheep model making workshops and book readings are also included in the line-up. Away from the festival, Bath is a UNESCO World Heritage site with an abundance of splendid architecture to enjoy.

When? 27 September – 6 October 2019

Cliveden Literary Festival

A newcomer to the literary festival scene, Cliveden Literary Festival mixes discussion with a chance to explore the picturesque grounds and Renaissance splendour of the spectacular Cliveden House. Speakers at the 2019 festival include award-winning author, journalist and editor Tina Brown, physicist Brian Cox, Bridget Jones’ creator Helen Fielding, presenter and DJ Chris Evans, prizewinning historian Simon Sebag Montefiore and Gaby Wood, the literary director of the Booker Prize Foundation. A full programme for the festival at the Grade II listed property will be announced in August.

When? 28-29 September

London Literary Festival

The London Literary Festival returns to London’s South Bank Centre for its 13th year in October, bringing together writers, journalists and creative thinkers for 11 days of readings, talks, poetry and performance. The Southbank Centre’s longest running festival, Poetry International, will kick-start proceedings, having been founded by former Poet Laureate Ted Hughes in 1967. Past speakers at the festival have included author Phillip Pullman, US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, poet and playwright Carol Ann Duffy and actor Tom Hanks.

When? 17 – 27 October

Blenheim Palace Festival of Literature, Film and Music

Blenheim Palace celebrates the power of words with an all-encompassing literature, film and music festival in late October. The stately home has welcomed many famous faces to previous festivals, including comedian Gyles Brandreth, TV presenter Alexander Armstrong and politician Boris Johnson. A full programme of events is spread across four days at the festival, embracing a broad range of literary and cultural themes.

When? 24th – 27th October

Kendal Mountain Literature Festival

With a diverse programme of events designed to inspire and entertain, the Kendal Mountain Literature Festival explores the connections between people, landscapes, nature and places. Predominantly featuring authors with ties to nature, landscape and mountain literature, more than 40 shared their work in 2018 and that figure is expected to grow. Set in spectacular surroundings and with a distinctive outdoors feel, the festival seeks to promote positive environmental attitudes and values through the power of literature.

When? 14 – 17 November

C.S Lewis Festival

Held as an annual celebration of Belfast-born author Clive Staples Lewis, the C.S Lewis Festival explores his legacy via an array of talks, exhibitions, tours, workshops, poetry and film screenings in his former home city. Renowned as the created of The Chronicles of Narnia, Lewis made major contributions in literary criticism, children’s and fantasy literature, and the festival is a recognition of his efforts.

When? November (dates to be confirmed)

Scotland’s Storybook Trail

Young and old alike can embark on a magical adventure from page to place as part of Scotland’s Storybook Trail. The guide to places to visit includes an array of stunning locations with ties to literary figures, characters and more. Meet some of Hedwig’s friends from J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter series at the Scottish Owl Centre or hop aboard the Hogwart’s Express at the Glenfinnan Viaduct. Discover how Braemer and Fidra Islands provided the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island or visit the Crinan Canal in Argyll, said to have influenced Kenneth Grahame’s classic The Wind in the Willows.

When? All year round

Discover the UK’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site

Britain has a new UNESCO World Heritage Site after Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire was granted the prestigious status.

It means the UK is now home to 32 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a list which includes Stonehenge, the city of Bath, Blenheim Palace, Hadrian’s Wall and the Tower of London.

The home of the Lovell Telescope, the world’s third largest steerable radio telescope, Jodrell Bank is a working scientific observatory and a leading tourist attraction.

First used to track the Soviet Union’s Sputnik satellite – the world’s first artificial satellite – Jodrell now operates the UK’s national e-MERLIN radio telescope and is the headquarters of the Square Kilometre Array – a ground-breaking project to build the world’s biggest telescope.

Jodrell Bank’s addition to the World Heritage Site list is in recognition of its outstanding scientific heritage and of its role in the development of radio astronomy.

The Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre acts as a site of inspiration for budding scientists of all ages, while its 35-acre gardens are popular for walks and picnics.

Families can explore scientific theory and discover more about space in the Planet Pavilion, find out about the inner workings of Jodrell Bank in the Space Pavilion and enjoy science shows and exhibitions in the Stars Pavilion.

An exciting array of interactive screens, games and displays explore space, encouraging people of all ages to discover more about the solar system and the extent of the universe.

Telescope Walking Tours take place daily at 3.15pm, with additional tours at 11.45am at weekends, offering visitors the chance to find out more about how the Grade I-listed Lovell Telescope works. The tours last around 45 minutes and are free with general admission to the site.

Other UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Britain include Durham Castle and Cathedral, the Ironbridge Gorge, the old and new towns of Edinburgh, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, the Forth Bridge, the waterfront in Liverpool, Maritime Greenwich and the Dorset and East Devon Coast.

The Best Fringe Festivals in 2019

Whether it’s a celebration of live theatre, dance, arts or comedy, fringe festivals can be found in nearly every corner of Britain. Laugh along with the nation’s finest comedians as they prepare for their major tours, take in the sounds of up-and-coming musicians and discover new takes on some of the finest theatrical works. Packed with live entertainment and clever improvisation, these are the best Fringe Festivals to enjoy in 2019.

Maidstone Fringe

Marking the diversity of new and original music in Kent and the South East of England, Maidstone Fringe returns for a 9th year in 2019. Spread across numerous venues in the town centre, including pubs, clubs and music venues, as well as in cafes and coffee shops, the majority of the musical performances are free to attend. Expect a wide array of music too, with everything from rock, indie and pop-punk to blues, acoustic, folk, dance and hip-hop on the bill for 2019.

When? 1-6 May

Brighton Fringe

England’s largest arts festival, featuring more than 4,500 performances and events, takes place across Brighton, embracing all forms of art and artistic impression. Running alongside the Brighton Festival, the Brighton Fringe includes cabaret, classical concerts, club nights, comedy, theatre shows and a host of exhibitions, as well as street performances and exciting pop-up venues. In 2019, the International Seasons programme is also set to welcome some of the best contemporary performances by artists from France, the Netherlands, Finland, Australia, Iceland, Korea and Sweden, among others, showcasing the event’s global appeal.

When? 3 May – 2 June

Bath Fringe

Incorporating 3 weekends and the weeks in between, the Bath Fringe is a celebration of all the arts, meaning there are few rules regarding what is on. Both the people of Bath and venues in the city have a big say over what is included, with a detailed events list usually published in April.

When? 24 May - 9 June

Plymouth Fringe

An annual celebration of theatre and live performance, Plymouth Fringe welcomes some of the best talent in the South West, as well as others from across Britain. With venues in the city centre and on the waterfront, expect a host of inspiring performances as the Fringe marks its 5th consecutive year.

When? 27 May – 1 June

Ludlow Fringe

Ludlow Fringe is an independent arts, community and culture festival with a focus on inclusivity. Many of its events are free to attend, while prices are capped at £15 on those that are not, to ensure that events are affordable and accessible. Be sure to check out the Annual Ludlow Fringe Art Trail too, a diverse collection of affordable art by local and national artists that is showcased in 25 different pop-up venues and galleries. Featuring paintings, sculpture, photography, textiles, print and jewellery, and much more besides, the quirky venues are all located a short distance from the town centre.

When? 15-30 June

Guildford Fringe

Now in its 7th year, the Guildford Fringe is a multi-arts festival that features comedy, poetry, theatre, music, visual arts, workshops, burlesque and an abundance of family-friendly shows. Gag House Comedy Superstars kicks-off proceedings on 28 June, featuring comedian and actor Hal Cruttenden, Paul Sinha from TV’s The Chase and Susan Murray. Around 125 events made up the 2018 Guildford Fringe, and its organisers are expecting even more for 2019.

When? 28 June – 28 July

Greater Manchester Fringe

A multi-venue arts festival packed with comedy stand up, dance, magic shows, orchestras, new writing and a wealth of other art forms, the Greater Manchester Fringe provides a stage for performers to showcase their skills. It often acts as a platform for productions too - many past shows have moved onto the region’s established theatres including the Lowry Theatre, the Royal Exchange and the Bolton Octagon, or have embarked on nationwide tours. Now in its 8th year, a full programme of events for 2019 will be released at the start of May.

When 1-31 July

The Great Yorkshire Fringe

As part of its 5th anniversary celebrations, the Great Yorkshire Fringe is set to expand across York in 2019 to feature even more cultural venues. The historic city’s well-known thoroughfare, Parliament Street, will be transformed into an exciting festival hub offering everything from comedy and cabaret to music, theatre and fun for all the family. Performances from comedian Henning Wehn and writer, broadcaster and actor Gyles Brandreth already feature on the bill for 2019, as well as Austentatious: The Improvised Jane Austen Novel, an entirely improvised performance showcasing Jane Austen’s work in a new light.

When? 18-28 July (20 July, Austentatious: The Improvised Jane Austen Novel; 21 July, Gyles Brandreth; 27 July, Henning Wehn)

Llangollen Fringe

Final details for the 2019 Llangollen Fringe are yet to be announced, but the celebration of music, dance, film and art will return to the small town of Llangollen, in North Wales, this year. With an eclectic mix of musical and artistic talents on its bill each year, the festival is town centre based, providing easy access to pubs, restaurants and car parks. Taking centre stage is the Victorian Llangollen Town Hall, which boasts its own 300-seat capacity theatre.

When? 19-28 July

Reading Fringe

Designed to support emerging artists and to provide a platform for them ahead of the world famous Edinburgh Fringe, the Reading Fringe welcomes acts to the town from all over the globe. With venues spread across the town, the theme for 2019 is ‘Into the woods – and beyond’, an exploration of what it means to be part of an ecosystem and a consideration of what the future holds for Earth.

When? 20-28 July

Ventnor Fringe

A multi-award winning arts festival on the Isle of Wight, the Ventnor Fringe includes an array of exciting venues in the eclectic hillside town. Alongside cabaret, music, theatre and art, visitors can also expect to see pop-up cinemas, basement bars and mystery tours.

When? 23-28 July

Camden Fringe

From its origins in 2006 as an alternative to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Camden Fringe provides performers with a chance to try out new and untested material. Encompassing all forms of performing arts, the Fringe welcomes both ambitious newcomers and experienced performers as they deliver new writing, sketch comedy, poetry, improvisation and everything in between. A full programme of events is expected in spring 2019.

When? 29 July – 25 August

Edinburgh Fringe

Renowned around the globe as being a platform for creative freedom, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the single biggest celebration of arts and culture in the world. Welcoming the finest performers to the Scottish capital, from the biggest names in show business to emerging stars, and covering all sorts of art forms, the festival features more than 50,000 performances each year. More than 300 venues provide the stages, alongside street events and market stalls, showcasing theatre, dance, comedy, cabaret, children’s shows, musicals, opera, exhibitions and speech – if it’s a form of art, it’s probably on the bill somewhere.

When? 2-26 August

7 of the best Christmas markets and winter activities

Twinkling lights, mulled wine, festive atmosphere and fabulous gifts – Britain’s Christmas markets are back this year bigger and better than ever before. Set in some of Britain’s loveliest cities, a visit to a Christmas market is equal parts shopping experience, equal parts destination discovery.

Bath Christmas Market, south-west England (22 November – 9 December)

There’s a lovely historic-ambience-meets-winter-style at Bath Christmas Market, as more than 200 pop-up chalets set up on Bath’s pretty Georgian streets. Visitors can expect a real treasure trove of gifts to take home, whether that’s jewellery, homewares or decorations. Last year more than 80% of stallholders came from Bath and south-west England, while 99% of all products were handmade in Britain or abroad with Fairtrade certification, so this is very much an eco-savvy shopping experience. There’s always new stalls to explore as well as the perennial favourites, while you can fill empty bellies with a range of food sold from The Lodge in the heart of the market.

Also check out: Bath on Ice, the festive ice rink that runs from 16 November – 6 January 2019, and Glow in the Dark mini golf; a Christmas Trail at Prior Park Landscape Garden during December; and Shoppers’ Carols at Bath Abbey on various dates throughout the festive season.

 

Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market, central England (15 November – 23 December)

A firm favourite on Birmingham’s Christmas calendar, this yuletide market is the largest authentic German Christmas market outside of Germany or Austria, and you can peruse all the lovely stalls right up until just before Christmas itself. Expect a fine range of traditional gifts and products on its 120 stalls and get into the German spirit while feasting on schnitzels, bratwursts, gluhwein and weissbeer. While you may be getting a flavour of Germany in the middle of Birmingham, a huge draw is its location in Victoria Square and the programme of live music that’s set to bring the party atmosphere to festive shopping.

Also check out: Birmingham Cathedral’s new outdoor market and Santa’s Grotto plus a full programme of music and film events during the festive season; outdoor skating at Ice Rink Birmingham plus the Big Wheel Experience from 15 November to 27 January 2019; a new event for 2018 (14 – 22 December), Enchanted Weston is an illuminated, after-dark experience in stunning parkland with live music and food.

 

Edinburgh Christmas Market, Scotland (16 November – 5 January)

Even if you pay a visit after Christmas you’ll still get the chance to enjoy some festive treats as Edinburgh’s Christmas market continues – as part of Edinburgh’s Christmas, a six-week programme of entertainment in the city centre – until early January. While it’s not open Christmas Day it is open until 8pm on Christmas Eve so bring plenty of bags to fill up with treats such as arts and crafts, foodie treats and traditional or bespoke Christmas products. The market itself takes place in East Princes Street Gardens, so you’re guaranteed some gorgeous views of Edinburgh Castle in the background and you’re close by to some of the city’s major attractions.

Also check out: The Big Wheel and funfair rides on East Princes Street Gardens; performance company the multi award-winning La Clique with its show La Clique Noel Part Deux; and 24 Hours of Advent, a real-life advent calendar where Edinburgh opens its doors from 1 – 24 December to showcase the city’s unique buildings. 

 

Belfast Christmas Market, Northern Ireland (17 November – 22 December)

Set against the backdrop of one of the Northern Ireland capital’s most iconic buildings, Belfast City Hall, this yuletide market returns in 2018 with its enviable mix of artisan products and stalls groaning with tasty treats from international cuisines in its outdoor food court. Indulge in crepes, a hog roast, Gluhwein and continental cheeses but make it a truly Northern Irish experience and visit Lavery’s traditional Irish bar for some fantastic live music to really get you in the Christmas spirit. Kids will love to take a ride on the vintage carousel or zip down the helter skelter as well as a trip to visit Santa in his magical grotto.

Also check out: Festive Fables at arts and culture hub The Mac (16 – 24 December) for festive storytelling; Christmas Wonderland at outdoor adventure centre The Jungle throughout December; and The Music Box at Belfast Waterfront, a festive music show celebrating its tenth anniversary this year.

 

South Bank Winter Festival, London (9 November – 27 December)

The popular Winter Market returns to London’s Southbank Centre, a seasonal pleasure that sits alongside a range of family shows and festive fun as the banks of the River Thames become a winter wonderland. All along the South Bank are strings of decorations and cute wooden cabins lit up with fairy lights will sell Christmas gifts, from the quirky to the traditional, as well as mince pies, spiced cider and steaming mugs of mulled wine and hot chocolate. Global cuisines are available too, in the form of festive treats to gift or to eat there and then. Make sure you grab a selfie by the huge Christmas tree!

Also check out: As you’re in one of the capital’s cultural hotspots, book onto one of the fantastic performances available at the Southbank Centre, from Christmas concerts and choir performances to the fairy tale spectacle of Rumpelstiltskin (13 December – 6 January 2019) and Belle Epoque (turn of the century) circus entertainment with Circus 1903 (19 December – 5 January 2019). There are also a number of workshops such as the Winter Knees Up, storytelling and music for all generations.

 

Cardiff Christmas Market, south Wales (15 November – 23 December)

Set across five streets of Cardiff’s pedestrianised city centre, Cardiff’s Christmas Market will be in full swing from mid-November, leaving plenty of time to find the perfect gift among its stalls. Its ethos is hosting stallholders selling original, hand-made products and artists and crafts people selling their work. There are plenty of food and drink options available among the 200+ stallholders and there’ll be music, festive lights, entertainment transforming the streets.

Also check out: Once you’ve shopped you’re in the perfect location to head over to Cardiff’s Winter Wonderland (15 November – 6 January), including an undercover ice rink and Santa’s Grotto, which will be in the spectacular setting of Cardiff Castle; unique Santa Tours at the Principality Stadium (dates TBC); and choose from four Christmas ballets at St David’s Hall (19 – 31 December).

 

Manchester Christmas Markets, north-west England (9 November – 22 December)

Not one, not two, not even three but TEN locations will be hosting Manchester’s award-winning Christmas markets, meaning wherever you are in the city you won’t be far from festive gifts and delicious food and drink stalls selling traditional bratwurst, hog roast, paella and much more. There will be more than 300 stalls and chalets across the city; follow the market trail as you pick up jewellery, toys, plants, bags, homeware and quirky, fun gifts. Each has its own character; as well as the traditional style market there will be a French market, a German market, a World Christmas market and a dedicated Arts & Crafts market.

Also check out: Winter Funland, which will be held at an indoor venue and include fairground attractions, ice rink, circus and other fun performances (7 December – 1 January 2019); Manchester orchestra Halle’s Christmas music extravaganza at Bridgewater Hall (21 December); and visit Ice Village Manchester, the UK's biggest-ever ice attraction which will include an Arctic Bar, Santa's Grotto and ice rink (9 November – 5 January 2019).

Michelin Guide 2019 – ten winning British restaurants you have to eat at

The MICHELIN Guide has spoken; Britain & Ireland welcomed three new two-star restaurants and 21 new one-star establishments to the 2019 guide, bringing the destination’s total to an incredible 155 one-Michelin star restaurants, 20 two-star, five one-star and 143 Bib Gourmands. We take a look at ten of the first-time winners in their categories, demonstrating how Britain continues to be a must-visit gastronomic destination thanks to its ever-evolving culinary scene.

Two Stars

Core by Clare Smyth, London

As Chef Patron at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Clare Smyth was the first and only female chef to run a three-star Michelin restaurant in Britain; and now, with her debut restaurant Core gaining a coveted two stars it may not be long before she’s doing the same with her own restaurant. It might be located in the well-heeled London neighbourhood of Notting Hill but Core veers away from being showy or stuffy and is instead informal and welcoming. The key focus is on gourmet meals created from sustainable ingredients from UK producers and farmers, and include dishes ranging from Sharpham Park spelt, morels, asparagus and wild garlic to duck and nectarine with thyme, honey and Timut pepper.

Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs, London

Tucked away at the back of Bubbledogs – a restaurant where hot dogs are paired with Champagne – in London’s elegant Fitzrovia is a discrete entrance that will lead you into Kitchen Table, which has been awarded two Michelin stars. And with just 20 seats there’s plenty of interaction between customers and chefs, led by Head Chef James Knappett, who will talk through and serve a daily changing menu created from sourced and foraged British ingredients. Its 12-course tasting menu is influenced by Knappett’s previous roles at noma and Per Se but remains true to British traditions and flavours. Sandia Chang, James’ wife, is general manager and sommelier, selecting a wine list with more than 100 choices, including wines made by small producers.

Mark Birchall’s Moor Hall, Lancashire, north-west England

When Lancashire born-and-bred Mark Birchall became Chef Patron at Moor Hall, a luxury restaurant with rooms in the beautiful Lancashire countryside (only 30 minutes from Liverpool), he brought with him his vast experience gained as Executive Chef of the two-Michelin star L’Enclume in Cumbria, and from his role at three-Michelin star El Celler de Can Roca in Girona. Home-grown ingredients and produce inspired by the countryside surroundings are an important focus for Mark, who creates menus of modern British cuisine. Sample menus feature creative dishes such as turnip and crab with anise hyssop and sunflower seeds, and Westmorland chicken, hen of the woods, with candisa cabbage in ham fat.

One Star

Brat, London

Proving the Shoreditch scene is still attracting the cool chefs, Brat was opened earlier this year by ex-Kitty Fisher’s chef Tomos Parry, who has brought a bold blend of Welsh and Basque cuisine to east London. So how does that translate onto a menu? Gorgeous dishes such as Herdwick lamb, pork and laverbread salami, wild rabbit with blood sausage and beans, and whole turbots.

Roganic, London

What first opened as a two-year pop-up in Marylebone is now a firm fixture in London’s culinary scene. Owned by top British chef Simon Rogan, it brings elements of L’Enclume – Rogan’s two Michelin-star restaurant in the Lake District – to the capital and is run alongside its development kitchen and eight-seat chef’s table Aulis London. Expect to find the best produce from the UK used in its dishes – including from Rogan’s ‘Our Farm’ in the Lake District – that feature on its long and short tasting menus. The dishes may list just a few ingredients (such as ‘almond, scallop, apple’ or ‘tomato, seatrout, farm offerings’) but you know they will be of the highest quality and be part of something spectacular. (Simon Rogan’s Rogan & Co in Cumbria was also awarded a Michelin star in this year’s guide.)

Chris Simpson’s Gidleigh Park, Devon, south-west England

When Chris Simpson joined luxury country house hotel Gidleigh Park at the start of the year, he came with an outstanding CV, having worked as as Head Chef at Restaurant Nathan Outlaw in Cornwall for seven years, which has held two Michelin stars since 2011. Taking a modern approach to classical cooking, Chris is a keen advocate of using local ingredients to create his inspirational dishes, which are refined, yet simple. As well as à la carte, there are two seven-course tasting menus (one of which is vegetarian), that feature beautiful dishes such as Cornish turbot with leeks, purple sprouting broccoli and caviar hollandaise.

Olive Tree, Bath, south-west England

Located below the gorgeous boutique Queensberry Hotel in the historic city of Bath, The Olive Tree is headed up by Chris Cleghorn who, during his career, has worked under the guidance of three Michelin-star chefs, including Heston Blumenthal. Now, at The Olive Tree (which also has three AA rosettes for culinary excellence), he delivers a regularly changing menu created from local produce, menus that feature either five or seven dishes, known as The Five or The Seven, as well as the Vegetarian Seven, the Vegan Seven and the Dairy Free Seven.

Salt, Stratford-upon-Avon, west England

Run by Paul Foster and his wife Rhiain, Salt was created after they launched a crowdfunding campaign for Paul to fulfil his dream of having his own restaurant. They’re now the proud owners of fine-dining establishment Salt, which focuses on using top-quality, seasonal produce. Come Friday or Saturday evening to experience either its creative five- or eight-course tasting menu, while the à la carte during the week is equally innovative. Choose from starters such as St Austell mussels with confit tomato, tomato juice, basil, samphire, mains such as roast partridge with salt-baked celeriac, black shallot pureé and grelots and desserts such as quince and rose geranium custard tart with a celery sorbet.

Fordwich Arms, Canterbury, Kent, south-east England

One of the few pubs to have gained a Michelin star this year, the Fordwich Arms is located in Fordwich, Britain’s smallest town. Chef patron Daniel Smith – who’s also been awarded The Observer’s Young Chef of the Year – showcases the best of Kent’s seasonal ingredients throughout all his menus. Starters include native lobster, butternut squash with pumpkin seed and orange and mains of venison sourced from a local farm with celeriac, damson and smoked bone marrow. There are also tasting menus and short tasting menus for vegetarian customers. The food is complemented by the restaurant’s lovely surroundings, with views over the River Stour.

Bulrush, Bristol, south-west England

Chef George Livesey opened this independent restaurant after a career in several high-end establishments, such as St John Restaurant, Roux Fine Dining under Dan Cox, Club Gascon and White Rabbit in Dalston, London. Mid-week customers can choose from à la carte and an eight-course tasting menu while Friday and Saturday evenings are about the show-stopping nine-course tasting menu. This is where you’ll find dishes such as starters of Highland grouse with cherries and sunflower seed and creative desserts such as butternut squash ice cream with hops, blackberries and cornflake crisp.

Find the full list of Michelin-star restaurants in Britain and Ireland here.

48 hours in… Bath

A whimsical mix of cobblestone streets, historical sites and romantic architectural styles, Bath is a British city famed for its history and natural hot springs. It’s also the only destination in the UK where the entire city is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site

 

Time to check in:

The Gainsborough Bath Spa is a stunning five-star luxury hotel with a unique twist. Built in a Regency architectural style, it centres around its own naturally-heated pools with direct access from several rooms — meaning you can run your bath with the mineral-rich thermal waters.

 

Day one:

 

09:00 Hit the spa

Any weekend in Bath must start with a visit to the Thermae Bath Spa. Arrive early to beat the crowds and make your way to the open-air rooftop pool, where you can bathe in mineral-rich waters heated to 33.5-degrees Celsius, all the while enjoying panoramic views of Bath. 

 

11.30 Try the healing waters

Once you've dried off, it's a short walk to the Roman Baths, one of the city’s best-known historic attractions. You can no longer bathe in these waters, as they haven't been treated, but you can tour the site and learn about its fascinating history. Visit the Pump Rooms afterwards for a bite to eat, and to sample treated mineral-rich spa water, which is thought to have healing properties. 

 

14:00 Get crafty

After lunch, try some glass-blowing at Bath Aqua Glass where you can watch a demonstration from the experts before trying to blow your very own glass bauble.

 

16:00 Fashion through the ages

Style your way through the Fashion Museum and its collection of historic clothing, including replica Georgian and Victorian outfits that visitors can try on. On the first Saturday of each month, the museum also runs a sketching class (free with museum entrance — sketchbooks and pencils included).

 

20:00 IN FOR A LAUGH

Book a space on the Bizarre Bath Comedy Walk. This popular hour-and-a-half walking tour departs each evening at 8pm and offers a lighthearted, alternative look at the heritage city. Prepare for stunts, jokes, and lots of laughs. 

 

Day two:

 

10.00 City tour

After breakfast, jump on a 'hop-on, hop-off' City Sightseeing bus for a relaxing tour of the city's must-see attractions, including Bath Abbey, the Abbey Cemetery, and the architectural splendour of Bath’s Royal Crescent

 

12.30 Bath baked delights

You'll have worked up an appetite, so stop for lunch at Sally Lunn's famed ‘eating house’, one of the oldest buildings in the city and home to the famous Bath Bun. It’s named after a French girl called Sally (real name, Solange) who worked in the bakery kitchen in the 1660s and created a soft, fluffy brioche-style bread that locals fell in love with. Today, the 'Sally Lunn Bun' — still made from the original recipe — can be enjoyed with a selection of sweet or savoury toppings.

 

14.30 Tea and talks

Pop into the Jane Austen Centre and learn all about Bath's most famous former resident. Enjoy the talks, displays and activities centred on the author’s celebrated works, then stop for a cup of tea at the Regency Tea Room, where staff serve you in period costume. 

 

17:00 Bridging the gap

Wander along Pulteney Bridge, considered one of the most beautiful bridges in the world and one of just a handful with shops built into the design — there are worse places to browse for gifts than among these specialist shops and boutiques. 

 

Head home, happy, refreshed and relaxed. 

 

How to get here:

Bath is in the county of Somerset, south west England. The city is approximately a two-and-a-half hour drive west of London, or one-and-a-half hours by train from London Paddington. The nearest airport is Bristol, which has direct links to 25 European countries; shuttle buses run from the airport to the centre of Bath.

7 British festivals foodies should visit in 2018

Let the British food festival season begin! Come for the amazing food and world-renowned chefs and stay for those extra twists that deliver true British style. We pick seven to have on your radar this summer.

 

Pub in the Park, various locations

When and Where: Bath, south-west England (8-10 June), Tunbridge Wells, south-east England (6-8 July), Knutsford, Cheshire, north-west England (7-9 September)

Why: There’s nothing quite as quintessentially British as the pub and world-renowned chef Tom Kerridge – owner of the first pub, the Hand and Flowers, to be awarded two Michelin stars – is bringing the pub, first-class food and music to the great outdoors this summer. Sample dishes from top British pubs, including the Hand and Flowers and Tom’s other Michelin-starred pub The Coach, while dancing the night away to Razorlight, Jamie Cullum and KT Tunstall.

Getting there: Bath can be reached in 1.5 hours by train from London, Tunbridge Wells in one hour and Knutsford in three hours.

 

Port Eliot Festival, Cornwall

When: 26-29 July

Where: Port Eliot estate, St Germans, Cornwall, south-west England

Why: There’s plenty of chefs, stalls, locally-sourced and sustainable produce, international food and cookery demonstrations here that celebrate the rich and diverse food culture of Cornwall and south-west England. Yet as the festival is located in stunning 6,000 acres of countryside it’s a perfect opportunity to indulge in unforgettable outdoor activities, from wild swimming to foraging walks. This year’s food-demo focus concentrates on up-close-and-personal experiences in the estate’s centuries-old Big Kitchen and the Open Fire Stage. Oh, and there’s a baking masterclass with Desperate Housewives and Superman star Teri Hatcher.

Getting there: take a direct train from London to St Germans, which takes just under four hours.

 

Foodies Festival Edinburgh

When: 3-5 August

Where: Inverleith Park, Edinburgh, Scotland

Why: Because you’ve always wanted to take part in cream-pie throwing, chilli eating and cheese-stretching competitions! Quirky activities aside, this touring festival (which travels to six other British destinations) brings everything a foodie could ask for to a festival, from Kombucha workshops to Prosecco and Parmesan masterclasses, artisan and street food stalls, a Gin Station and a Tequila Shack. Plus, you’ll see top bands such as The Hoosiers and Toploader perform.

Getting there: The park is a ten-minute taxi or bus ride from Edinburgh city centre.

 

Isle of Wight Garlic Festival

When: 18-19 August

Where: Sandown, Isle of Wight, south England

Why: Ever fancied trying garlic fudge? Or how about sampling garlic popcorn or ice cream? The Isle of Wight, off the coast of south England, is famous for its garlic so it makes perfect sense for the island to host an entire festival to the ‘stinking rose’. Find out just how good garlic is for health, learn various ways to cook with it and how best to grow it. A new theatre kitchen has launched for this year where cooking demonstrations will take place and the whole charm of the festival is further boosted with live music, art, craft and food stalls, a huge funfair and children’s entertainers.

Getting there: Take the 45-minute ferry crossing to Fishbourne from Portsmouth Harbour (2 hours from London by train).

 

The Big Feastival, Cotswolds

When: 24-26 August

Where: Alex James Farm, Kingham, Cotswolds, central England

Why: Launched by Alex James of Britpop legends Blur, and taking place on his Cotswolds farm, The Big Feastival has earned its place as one of the food festivals to visit, thanks to both its impressive line-up of top chefs – which this year includes Marco Pierre White, Raymond Blanc, Mark Hix and Pierre Koffman – and stellar musical talent. Cheese is a big draw for this festival (Alex James makes his own); cheese lovers should head to the double-decker cheese hub with its award-winning artisan cheeses and all-day cocktail bar, and – new for 2018 – The Cheese Bar and The Cheese Truck where you can feast on huge stacks of British cheeseboards and grilled cheese sandwiches. When you’ve eaten your fill, dance off the calories to music from Basement Jaxx, Craig David, and Paloma Faith.

Getting there: The nearest train station is Kingham, 1.5 hours from London

 

Great British Food Festival, Wiltshire

When: 25-27 August

Where: Bowood House, Wiltshire, south-west England

Why: It’s a foodie paradise set in the grounds of a beautiful English stately home in the heart of the Cotswolds. Another touring festival, the Great British Food Festival comes to the breathtaking Bowood House, which gives visitors the opportunity to team a love for food with a love for history. Along with talks, stalls and cooking demonstrations, there’s also the chance to take part in some quirky British challenges – why not see if you can beat the record of eating a 74.5 inch sausage followed by a pint of cider in less than six minutes six seconds!

Getting there: the train takes just over an hour from London to Chippenham; Bowood House is then a 15-minute taxi ride from there.

 

Abergavenny Food Festival, Wales

When: 15-16 September

Where: Abergavenny, south Wales

Why: Set in a pretty medieval market town, this is one of Britain’s most well-established food festivals – 2018 marks the 20th year since the first took place –– and it’s a great festival to visit for combining a passion for food with a sense of adventure. There’s a diverse selection of forages and tours operating as part of the festival, taking advantage of the bountiful Welsh countryside. Forage for seafood or for gin botanicals or book onto tours of nearby vineyards and distilleries. The popular ‘Cooking Over Fire’ area will return to the town’s historic castle featuring Hang Fire BB, while the demo stage will host Welsh chef legends such as the Michelin-starred chef Gareth Ward from Ynyshir Hall, and James Sommerin from his eponymous restaurant in Penarth, Cardiff.

Getting there: Trains take 2.5 hours from London to Abergavenny or 45 minutes from Cardiff.

15 incredible ways to celebrate World Gin Day in Britain

Shaken or stirred, with tonic or in a cocktail, the popularity of gin continues to boom and, with more than 160 gin brands across the UK according to the Gin Guild, plus a host of boutique distillers opening, Britain continues to lead the gin revolution. As World Gin Day celebrates its ten-year anniversary on 9 June with a four-day festival in London, make sure these British gin experiences are on your to-do list.

 

England

Stay at Britain's first gin hotel, Portobello Road Gin’s Distillery hotel, London

Book into The Distillery on Portobello Road; this gin lovers' paradise is home to two gin bars, stocking a huge range of gins (including the famous Portobello Road Gin) and the Ginstitute, the hotel's gin museum and blending room, which runs masterclasses showing you how to make your own gin blend.

 

Embark on a Gin Journey tour, London, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Newcastle

The Gin Journey takes its guests in a chauffeur-driven carriage to five bars in your city of choice, including a local gin distillery, with samples of specially selected premium gin in each. Other tours on offer in London include ‘The Gin Masters Masterclass’ for a chance to learn all about the various styles of gin and its manufacturing from a master distiller.

 

Head for London’s largest collection of gin, London

Featuring more than 500 gins and 30 tonics the Gin Bar at Holborn Dining Room is seriously impressive, offering the discerning gin lover more than 14,000 possible gin and tonic pairings, plus new gin cocktails.

 

Order gin from a ‘Bath’, Bath

The Canary Gin Bar in the south-west England city of Bath, is a haven for gin-lovers due to its vast collection of the spirit on offer. A micro-distillery has also been launched at the bar and has created its very own type of gin, ‘Bath gin’.

 

Enrol in gin school, Leicester
Join the Gin Experience at the 45 Gin School in Leicester and tour the home of Burleighs London Dry Gin, before selecting and distilling your choice of botanicals and bottling your own 70cl bottle of gin, under the guidance of a master distiller.

 

Feast on cake and gin, London

Hayman’s English gin makers and Brigit’s Bakery have joined forces to offer a Gin Lovers Afternoon Tea Bus Tour of London. Tours on the charming, vintage Routemaster bus take in some of London’s most iconic landmarks as a bespoke B Bakery Afternoon Tea is served with Hayman’s Gin infused treats and three seasonal Hayman’s Gin cocktails.

 

Scotland

Indulge in gin pamperingm, Glasgow

Created by the people behind Glasgow’s first dedicated gin bar – Gin71 – the Gin Spa is the world’s first botanically inspired day spa. Find bespoke treatments using the bar’s passion for gin mixed with natural botanical ingredients and sip on a complimentary gin cocktail that comes with every treatment.

 

Venture to the far north for gin, Shetland

Take a tasting tour at the UK’s most northerly gin distillery; the Saxa Vord Distillery on the Shetland Isles. Its recipes infuse gin with either locally harvest apple mint or bladderwrack seaweed to give it a unique Shetland twist.

 

Sail on a gin cruise, Edinburgh

The people behind Edinburgh’s Juniper Festival, Scotland’s first-ever gin festival, now offer special gin tasting events on board its Juniper Cruise. Heading out from Edinburgh on the Lochrin Belle canal boat, its two-hour tasting session teaches guests about gin’s fascinating history while sampling five Scottish gins. Cruises run until November and the Juniper Festival itself takes place at Summerhall, Edinburgh, between 1-3 June.

 

Gin along the North Coast 500, Caithness

Ask someone else to drive this stunning road trip along 500 miles of the far north of Scotland as you’ll want to stop by these two gin distilleries en route and sample the goods. Head to the new visitor centre of the Dunnet Bay Distillery, in Caithness, to discover tales of illicit distilling and the history of prohibition in the local town of Wick, before sampling its flagship gin Rock Rose. Further along near Inverness is the intriguing Glen Wyvis, 100% owned by the local community with a new distillery that aims to be 100% powered by green, renewable energy.

 

Mix gin with chocolate, Perth

The Perth Chocolate and Gin Street Festival, an hour north of Edinburgh, is a haven for those with a passion for chocolate and a love for gin. Coming to the city this November (17-18), there’ll be gins to try from all over the UK and a chance to see how well the two products go together in the chocolate and gin pairing event.  

 

Wales

Buy biosphere-inspired gin

Taste and take home the unique Pollination Gin, distilled by the family run Dyfi Distillery, located in the UNESCO World Biosphere of Dyfi in north-west Wales, on the edge of Snowdonia National Park. It’s produced in very limited small batches, made from foraged botanicals from within the biosphere, pure grain spirit and locally drawn spring water, making it a special gift to take home.

 

Sample sea-inspired gin

Fans of seafood should put this on their must-try list; a small batch gin made with a variety of botanicals infused with seaweed from the Welsh coast, Dà Mhìle Seaweed gin is pretty special. Find out more of how this unusual gin is made with a tour of the distillery near Ceredigion in west Wales, two hours from Cardiff.

 

Northern Ireland

Take Northern Ireland’s very first gin tour

The Belfast Gin Jaunt launched last year and takes guest to five bars to try seven different gins – including three distilled locally – starting at a Victorian Gin Palace and finishing three hours later at the city’s famous Cathedral Quarter.

 

Explore Northern Ireland’s first craft gin

Find out the fascinating story of how Northern Ireland’s first craft gin – Shortcross Gin – came about in a tour of its distillery on the Rademon Estate in County Down, one of Ireland’s oldest historic estates located just half an hour from Belfast. And, of course, the essential tutored tasting of the end product.