Celebrate Bonfire Night in Britain

November means big bangs, blazing bonfires and fizzing fireworks across Britain, as towns and cities remember, remember, the fifth of November! Wrap up and embark on a fiery journey into history at these flaming events that commemorate Guy Fawkes Night – the failed Gunpowder Plot and the conspirators’ attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. Expect fireworks, light shows and an abundance of other entertainment all over the country.

Alexandra Palace, London

Offering spectacular views across London in addition to a breathtaking fireworks showpiece, the annual fireworks and bonfire show at Alexandra Palace is fun for all the family. From a stunning laser show and huge bonfire to live music, a German beer festival, funfair and an abundance of street food, it’s best to arrive early to see all the action. Tickets are £9.50 for adults, £7.50 for children and £2.50 for those aged 10 and below. Access to the beer festival or ice skating is at an additional cost.

When? 1-2 November

Crystal Palace Park, London

The green space of Crystal Palace Park is illuminated for Guy Fawkes Night, with two shows across the evening. Expect more colour and less bangs during the earlier children’s show, before the main event rounds off the evening, with all proceeds going to charity. Tickets must be purchased online in advance.

When? 5 November (7pm children’s show, 8.30pm main family show)

Battersea Park, London

Expect a bang at the annual firework display in Battersea Park to mark Guy Fawkes Night, which attracts mammoth crowds year after year. Arrive early to grab a great viewing spot as the park fills up quickly. An exclusive after party in Battersea Evolution follows the show for those aged over 18. Earlybird tickets from £7 plus booking fee. Afterparty tickets must be purchased alongside a regular ticket.

When? 2 November

LEGOLAND Fireworks Spectacular, Berkshire

Watch as the sky over LEGOLAND Windsor comes alive with colour as the theme park’s Fireworks Spectacular returns for another year. LEGOLAND also gets a makeover for Halloween as part of Brick or Treat, promising plenty of child-friendly thrills and frights! Tickets start from £36 and include access to numerous spooktacular activities, as well as to more than 55 rides, live shows and attractions.

When? 19-20, 25-26 October and 1-2 November (Brick or Treat from 17 October - 2 November)

The Tar Barrels of Ottery St Mary, Devon

The town of Ottery St Mary marks Guy Fawkes Night like no other, as its townspeople lug flaming barrels of tar through the streets, a tradition dating back hundreds of years. Although the origins of this annual pastime are unknown, many link it back to historical events including the gunpowder plot in 1605 and as a warning for the approach of the Spanish Armada less than 20 years earlier. The locals remain fiercely proud of the tradition and a 30-foot bonfire, fireworks and a fairground add to the fun. Just remember to stand well back from the evening tar barrel procession!

When? 5 November

Sparks in the Park, Berkshire

The grounds of the Grade II-listed stately home at Swallowfield Park in Berkshire are illuminated for Bonfire Night with a spellbinding firework display. A huge bonfire adds to the Sparks in the Park celebrations, with visitors able to sample a dazzling array of live music, food and drink in addition to the bright lights and loud bangs at this family-friendly event! Tickets are sold online from early September.

When? 2 November

Leeds Castle Fireworks Spectacular, Kent

Celebrate the 900th anniversary of one of Kent’s showpiece castles at the Leeds Castle Fireworks Spectacular. The castle has promised to take visitors ‘around the world’ on a themed evening featuring stunning pyrotechnics and the ‘biggest firework display in the south east of England’ featuring an incredible 25,000 starbursts! Explore the castle’s maze and falconry displays during the afternoon against a backdrop of live music and performers, before tucking into a variety of delicious food options as the fireworks get underway!

When? 2-3 November

Fantastic fireworks at Longleat, Wiltshire

The night sky is filled with bold autumnal colours as the grounds of Longleat are illuminated on the weekends leading up to Bonfire Night. Come face-to-face with lions in the safari park, see England’s only koalas in Koala Creek and tackle the newly renovated Adventure Castle before exploring the stately house and gardens. The fireworks coincide with the Great British Autumn, a set of family-friendly events to mark the October school holidays that includes pumpkin carving for Halloween, owl displays and ride-on tractors. Entry to the fireworks is included with a day ticket or annual pass.

When? 25-26 October, 1-2 November (Great British Autumn, 26 October – 3 November)

Chatsworth House, Derbyshire

Wrap up warm and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landings – as well as Bonfire Night – in the glorious surroundings of Chatsworth House. With two dazzling firework displays, including one specifically for children, and an array of entertainment and delicious food, the family-friendly show has something for visitors of all ages. Tuck into a delectable hog roast or indulge in sweet treats before the fireworks take visitors on ‘an extraordinary voyage into space’. Tickets cost £16 for adults and £11 for children aged 4-16.

When? 2-3 November

Penrhos Beach, Holyhead, Anglesey

Rockets and fireworks explode over Holyhead Bay as the Welsh island of Anglesey celebrates Bonfire Night with a bang! Crowds flock to Penrhos Beach for the show, where there’s also a funfair, local music and seaside rides to keep children entertained before the fireworks begin! Watch as the bonfire roars into life and the lights from the pyrotechnics glisten across the sand – it’s a sight to behold!

When? 5 November

Wynyard Hall, County Durham

Celebrate Bonfire Night in 150 acres of stunning historical landscape at the Wynyard Estate in the picturesque Tess Valley. Dating back to 1230, the estate on the outskirts of Durham was transformed into a striking four-star hotel in 2008 and is all set to mark the occasion in style. As well as the bright lights and fireworks, there’ll be plenty of entertainment and fairground rides to keep all of the family amused.

When? 3 November

Winchester charity bonfire and fireworks, Hampshire

Winchester’s largest annual charity event returns with a bang in 2019 to mark its 61st year! Alongside roaring fireworks and a gigantic crackling bonfire, there’ll be ample opportunity to take in the city’s magnificent architecture as a huge procession weaves its way through the city’s historical core. Tickets go on sale from early September.

When? 9 November

Six of the best English country gardens

An English country garden is a sight to behold and there are plenty within an hour’s journey of central London that can easily be visited on a day trip. Here are just a few suggestions of some of the best late summer season gardens to visit before autumn sets in.

 

RHS Wisley, Surrey

The Royal Horticultural Society has a wonderful gem in the heart of Surrey with its gardens at Wisley – there’s a rich variety of areas to visit and it’s a garden that continues to evolve. Last year saw the opening of its new Exotic Garden, a beautiful showcase of plants with a tropical look but which can grow well outdoors in a typical British summer climate. You’ll find a dazzling array of flowers, palms and dahlias, which look their very best up until late summer. Discover pretty mixed summer borders, as well as visit the exciting, vibrant displays at the Trials Field, designed to inspire visitors and demonstrate good environmental practice. The many roses at Wisley are in stunning bloom and August is also a great month to view the vivid blues of Agapanthus. Garden lovers should put the 4-9 September in their diaries for the RHS Wisley Flower Show; expect to see a Flower Bus, Anita Nowinska’s exhibition of floral artwork and more than 100 dahlia exhibitors.

Getting there: Take the train from London Waterloo to Effingham Junction (45 minutes) then a taxi to Wisley (ten minutes).

 

National Trust Cliveden, Berkshire

The numerous, magnificent gardens of Cliveden – ranging from the Water Garden, Walled Garden, Round Garden, the Long Garden, the Parterre and all the spectacular garden sculptures – are maintained by the National Trust and are as glorious to visit in the late summer months as they are early in the season. All summer long there’s a riot of colour and scents from its Rose Garden, where more than 900 roses bloom until September. The Rose Garden was recreated just four years ago, based on an original 1950s design by famed garden designer Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe, and include various elements of the gardens’ original 18th-century wilderness landscape. A lovely way to top off a trip to Cliveden’s gardens is by booking tickets to an event in its formal gardens. Bring a picnic hamper and enjoy performances ranging from a new adaptation of a David Walliams novel to a reworking of a classic Sherlock Holmes case. And while the historic Cliveden House, on the wider estate, is now a luxury hotel, you can buy a ticket for a short-guided tour available three afternoons a week until the end of October.

Getting there: Take the train from London Paddington to Bourne End, (50 minutes) then walk a pleasant two miles through countryside to Cliveden.

 

Hatfield House & Gardens, Hertfordshire

History emanates from every corner of Hatfield House, the home of the seventh Marquess and Marchioness of Salisbury and their family; the estate has been in the Cecil family for 400 years. As well as the chance to see some of the finest examples of 17th-century architecture in the country, visitors will find Hatfield’s gardens just as impressive. Explore the roses and herbaceous plants in the West Garden, designed more than 100 years ago, and the Sundial Garden that was commissioned to mark Hatfield’s 400th anniversary in 2011. It’s also a wonderful place to discover contemporary sculpture set within the gardens – the new ‘Renaissance’ water sculpture by renowned sculptor Angela Connor, sits on the North Front of the House – as well as attend performances during its summer Theatre in the Park programme. Look out for the unique event on 1 September when the Urban Soul Orchestra performs classic Ibiza anthems in this gorgeous setting.

Getting there: Take the fast train from London Kings Cross to Hatfield, (20 minutes) and walk 15 minutes from the station to Hatfield House.

 

Leeds Castle, Kent

Leeds Castle is perhaps one of the most attractive castles in England – and its gardens are just as spectacular; there’s more than 500 acres of stunning parkland and formal gardens. Its Culpeper Garden – named after the 17th-century owners of the castle – is a fine example of an English country garden, an informal layout with roses, poppies and lupins creating a wonderful colourful display. Its Woodland Garden runs alongside the River Len and is currently being redeveloped to create six magnificent individual gardens to explore. Visit in September (15-20) for its Festival of Flowers; discover floral displays inside the castle and around the rest of the grounds, all themed around ‘Ladies Day’ in 2018. Admire the creativity of award-winning floral designers, participate in floral workshops and watch specialist talks and demonstrations. Fortunately, if you like what you see, your admission ticket allows you to visit as many times as you like over 12 months, so it’s worth returning to admire the gardens in different seasons.

Getting there: Take the train from London Victoria to Bearsted (one hour) and take the coach shuttle service from the station to the castle, which runs between April and September.

 

Eltham Palace & Gardens, south-east London

Eltham Palace has an illustrious history; starting life as a medieval palace, it became a Tudor royal residence and was turned into an Art Deco mansion created by millionaires Stephen and Virginia Courtauld in the 1930s. The palace is a must-visit, yet so are its 19 acres of historic gardens, which, like the home, boast a mix of medieval features in its landscape. Late summer is all about its long herbaceous border that encircles the medieval palace, which becomes a riot of purples, yellows, blues and coppers. It’s also home to 18 different varieties of oriental poppy plus a huge assortment of peonies and clematis. Wonderful scents arise from the plentiful roses in the Rose Garden and the Rose Quadrant, which include several historic rose varieties; late summer is also the perfect time to see the wildflower meadows and colourful dahlias.

Getting there: Take the train from London Charing Cross to Mottingham (25 minutes) and then walk to the palace (ten minutes).

 

RHS Garden Hyde Hall, Essex

Set in 360 acres of land, RHS Garden Hyde Hall was donated to the RHS in 1993 by renowned gardeners Helen and Dick Robinson and is in one of the driest parts of the UK, with an average rainfall of just 600mm. Hyde Hall's Clover Hill is a patchwork of colour, with vast swathes of grasses and herbaceous perennials flowing through its landscape. There are plenty of horticultural highlights; Hyde Hall holds the national plant collection of Viburnum, numbering around 250 accessions; the Dry Garden is one of breathtaking beauty even where there is very little rainfall. Don’t forget to visit the Global Growth Vegetable Garden, which opened last summer and features unusual fruit and vegetables from around the world. Plans for next year include the Big Sky Meadows, an ambitious planting project to create up to 50 acres of perennial meadowland.

Getting there: Take the train from London Liverpool Street to Chelmsford (30 minutes) and take a taxi or bus to Hyde Hall (20 minutes).

60 minutes to Royal

Central London is packed with attractions that celebrate all things royal. But hop on a train and within an hour, you could be enjoying a fabulously royal day out. Here are some of the ways you can spend a day soaking up royal history and events, from past to present.

 

Richmond Park, Richmond upon Thames

Richmond Park, a former hunting ground of Henry VIII, is still home to red and fallow deer, as well as some 2,500 acres of hills, woodland and grassland. A walker’s paradise, the protected Royal Park is the perfect place to escape the hustle of central London and is just 45 minutes away.

 

Hampton Court Palace, Richmond upon Thames

Gone are the days of musty museums and dull exhibits, as visitors will find at Hampton Court Palace. The Palace’s Time Explorers digital app allows you to step back in time via an interactive adventure that keeps everyone engaged, from the young to the young-at-heart. Discover fascinating stories of life in the Tudor court and keep your eyes peeled for haunted sightings of two of Henry VIII’s wives, Jane Seymour and Catherine Howard.

 

Hatfield House, Hertfordshire

A place with significant historical significance, Hatfield House is an unmissable royal attraction, 20 minutes by train from central London; it was here in 1558, in the Old Palace, that Elizabeth I learned she would become Queen. From 31st March 2018, you can tour the halls, gallery, library and chapel; the Grand Staircase is particularly impressive.

 

The Chalybeate Springs, Royal Tunbridge Wells

Tunbridge Wells received its ‘Royal’ prefix in 1909, when King Edward VII realised how popular Tunbridge Wells was with royal ‘holidaymakers’ including his mother, Queen Victoria. Members of the aristocracy would take the short journey from London to experience the curative waters at the Chalybeate Spring. Follow in their footsteps for some hydro-healing before wandering the colonnaded walkways of The Pantiles and its independent shops, galleries and restaurants.

 

Opera House, Royal Tunbridge Wells

For pre-dinner drinks, visit the Opera House pub. Originally built as an opera house in 1902 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, it became a cinema in 1931 before it was transformed into a bingo hall then a pub. You can still see the stage, grand balcony and original stalls and the pub even returns to its theatrical beginnings with opera performances twice a year.

 

Windsor Castle, Berkshire

Even today, Queen Elizabeth often spends weekends at Windsor Castle while the county of Berkshire was the childhood stomping ground of the Duchess of Cambridge. Tour the castle’s state rooms and grounds — you’ll see more of this area when the location plays host to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding this May.

 

Eton College, Berkshire

Eton College is where Princes William and Harry were educated, but the jury is out on whether Prince George will be enrolled here too. On Sunday afternoons, the college opens up its exhibition spaces — the Natural History Museum, Eton Museum of Antiquities and Museum of Eton Life — with collections of rare books, art, manuscripts and specimens. Start with the Museum of Eton Life which presents the college’s history and traditions across six centuries.

 

Royal Ascot, Berkshire

Visitors who like the odd flutter should book tickets for one of the race meetings at Royal Ascot, one of Great Britain’s leading horse-racing courses and just six miles from Windsor Castle. The course maintains a close association with the Royals, frequented by the Queen each year for the Royal race days in June and July.

 

See also:

Book a VIP Gondola on the Royal Windsor Wheel for aerial views of Windsor Castle.

Visit Windsor Great Park, the Royal Park home to award-winning gardens, ancient forest and woodland walks.

Explore the 14th-century Penshurst Place and Gardens, Kent once used as a hunting lodge by King Henry VIII.

Discover the beautifully located Leeds Castle in Kent, once used by King Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and the private home of six of England’s medieval queens.

Eight of the best: hotels with great sporting facilities

Planning a post-Christmas detox? What is a better way than starting a new year with getting loads of essential endorphins pumping round your body? Many of Britain’s hotels boast high-quality sport offerings, from multi-facility all-rounders to single-discipline specialists. Book a stay at one of the following, and get 2018 off to a sporty start.

 

Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa, Wiltshire, south-west England

Whereas most hotel stables offer only gentle trots, luxurious Lucknam Park’s Equestrian Centre is far more comprehensive. Some of its 35 horses cater to proficient riders hoping to improve their jumping or dressage amid a full-size arena, while specialist clinics are led by world-leading showjumpers. The Palladian mansion is just as venerable, boasting a Michelin-starred restaurant and gloriously landscaped gardens. Bath’s famously restorative waters are within day-trip reach.

Getting there: Taxis are readily available at Bath and Chippenham’s rail stations, both of which welcome regular, 90-minute services from London Paddington.

 

Carden Park Hotel, Cheshire, western England

Two professional golf courses stretch away from this 196-room country hotel in western England, with PGA professionals including Garry Houston among the tutors. Carden Park’s 405 beautiful hectares (1,000 acres) also contain an archery area, full-sized football pitch, aerial ropes course and two tennis courts. The award-winning Carden Spa soothes any overused muscles. If you can tear yourself away, nearby Chester has a magnificent cathedral and one of Britain’s best zoos.

Getting there: Manchester’s international airport – to the north – is a 50-minute drive away.

 

The Vale Resort, Glamorgan, Wales

If it’s good enough for Gareth Bale… Wales’ national footballers trained at The Vale before their semi-final run at 2016’s European Championships, and Bale’s Real Madrid have also used the seven DESSO, 3G indoor and outdoor pitches – just as guests of the on-site four-star hotel can. The same goes for Wales’ largest spa, a gigantic gym geared for professional athletes and two 18-hole championship golf courses, plus academy and pro shop. Cardiff’s castle and filming locations for popular TV drama Sherlock are less than ten miles away.

Getting there: The Vale’s a 20-minute drive from Cardiff, and 25 minutes from Cardiff Airport.

 

Hilton at St George’s Park, Staffordshire, central England

England’s footballers, meanwhile, train at the National Football Centre in central England before international home games – and stay, just like you can, at the accompanying Hilton at St George’s Park. As state-of-the-art as you’d imagine, facilities include a FIFA-standard pitch and a dedicated area for goalkeepers. The hotel’s Health Club and Spa features a 17-metre (56-foot) pool. Rather less athletically-minded, this part of Britain is famous for its centuries-old beer-brewing.

Getting there: London is a two-hour drive, while Birmingham Airport is just 25 miles south.

 

Crowne Plaza Belfast, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland

As the only Northern Irish hotel to promise ‘sporting excellence’, no wonder the Crowne Plaza receives so many visiting sports teams. Its on-site health centre stars a large pool and can rent out bikes, while local partners include rugby, cricket, Gaelic football and hockey clubs, with all those sports possible to arrange. Ditto sea-kayaking. Some guests work up an perfectly-adequate sweat merely exploring Belfast, and especially its Titanic Experience.

Getting there: The George Best Belfast City Airport has daily services from London.

 

Coworth Park, Berkshire, south-east England

Polo is a quintessentially English game, played on horseback. In grounds managed by the prestigious Guards Polo Club, southern England’s Coworth Park can promise two international polo fields, a devoted teaching paddock and a Polo Academy overseen by professional player Ebe Sievwright, open to guests of all levels. Part of the Dorchester Collection, Coworth Park is close to the famous Ascot racecourse.

Getting there: Coworth Park is located just east of London, with regular trains from Waterloo to Sunningdale, five minutes away.

 

Old Course Hotel, Fife, Scotland

Scotland’s St Andrews is considered the home of golf – and homestays are possible. Situated beside its namesake’s 17th hole, the Old Course Hotel splendidly gazes across the links to West Sands Beach and the North Sea. Awarded five red AA stars, it includes classical suites designed by French maestro Jacques Garcia. As St Andrews is publically-owned land, anyone can play the iconic courses – but reserve ahead, as demand is understandably high. Known for its castle and independent stores, the university town of St Andrews is within strolling distance.

Getting there: From Edinburgh, it’s an hour’s drive north or 55 minutes by train to Leuchars – four miles away.

 

The Manor House & Ashbury Hotels, Devon, south-west England

Neighbouring properties, the Manor House and Ashbury Hotels combine into a sports behemoth. Seven golf courses, 99 holes and over 400 buggies are the chief brag, but extensive tennis, squash, badminton, bowls and snooker facilities make for excellent support acts, as does a synthetic curling rink. Lessons are possible in all. Leave time to explore your surrounds, though: mysterious Dartmoor begins less than a mile to the west.

Getting there: Devon is in south-west England. Both hotels are a four-hour drive from London.