While gardens and green spaces become riotously colourful in spring, glitter is the must-have accessory for the music festivals circuit and PIMMS reigns strong during summer’s sporting events, autumn and winter also pack in the parties all over Britain.
Britain is a nation of food lovers and festival lovers. What happens when these two passions meet? Some of the most fun, tasty and interesting weekends of the year. It just so happens that two of Britain’s best food festivals take place in September: Ludlow Food Festival sees the central England market town’s castle become a hotbed of culinary activity, while in Wales, the vibrant town of Abergavenny transforms into a gastronome’s paradise.
Autumn and winter are especially delicious, with restaurants across the nation serving up seasonal fayre (think pumpkins, forest fruits and sloe gins). As for the dessert selection? Those craving something a little sweeter can warm up with an ultra-rich dairy-free hot chocolate, then continue their appreciation of the cocoa bean with gelato, cakes and truffles at the Chocolate Ecstasy Tour in Brighton.
2. Nocturnal adventures
When the nights get longer it’s time to peruse what’s on at the fantastic theatres across the country. HOME is Manchester’s contemporary cultural venue; Everyman and Playhouse in Liverpool is renowned for brilliant, forward-thinking theatre and another regional favourite to add to the list is Birmingham’s REP. #LondonIsOpen and there’s always something interesting on at the National Theatre and the West End. Score last-minute seats at the TKTS booth in Leicester Square for many of the critically-acclaimed shows.
When the nights draw in, pub windows steam up. Head to the Bridge Tavern in Newcastle, located under the Tyne Bridge this popular meeting spot is also home to great live music. In Glasgow, the cultural quarter Merchant City is where it’s at - Tobacco Lords once had their warehouses here, but today they’re transformed into cool, boutique bars and restaurants.
3. The beautiful game
Football, and all its long-standing traditions, are deeply entrenched in British culture. It’s a busy time for Premier League fans between August and May (that’s 380 matches in a season – phew), biting their nails as their teams climb the ladder – or slide down the table. You can experience the very best this beautiful game has to offer with packages for selected clubs, including accommodation, with Thomas Cook Sport, or go behind the scenes at your favourite club on a stadium tour.
4. Hunker down at these super-cosy hotels
After a brisk winter walk in the countryside nothing is more relaxing than returning to a country house hotel, cosying up in front of an open fire for a G&T and then heading into the dining room for a deee-licious meal. Followed by flopping into your luxurious four-poster bed for good night’s sleep. Here are 8 gorgeous places to stay in Britain that are the hospitality equivalent of a big bear hug!
5. Shorter days = longer nights = more time to party
Celebrate Halllowe’en in Whitby, north-east England, which is famous to all horror-lovers for its links to Count Dracula. Did you know the author, Bram Stoker, wrote the book while living in the town? "Remember, remember, the fifth of November”. Why? It’s Guy Fawkes Night (also known as Bonfire Night). Lewes in southeast England, is home to the biggest celebrations of their kind in the world, with parades, firework displays and up to 80,000 visitors in a town with a population of just 16,000.
See out the old year and open your arms wide to embrace the new – and new-found friends – at Hogmanay, Scotland’s famous New Year’s Eve party. Its origins hark back to wild Viking parties and these days it involves all-night revelries across Scotland. Edinburgh's party lasts for three days instead of just one and includes the loudest Auld Lang Syne you’ll ever hear at midnight.
6. A jolly good time
As summer begins to draw to a close, it is finally safe to unleash the excitement that comes with Christmas. Come November, Britain is busting with festive markets where wooden chalets adorn the streets and mulled wine is the order of the day. There’s nothing like strapping on your skates and gliding across the ice in the open air, under the stars, on the grounds of some of Britain's most beautiful palaces and castles. In London, favourites include the Natural History Museum, the Tower of London and Somerset House, where you’ll find a handy ski lodge-themed Fortnum and Mason café on site, perfect for a warming hot chocolate post-skate.
For a traditional winter Christmas experience visit Chatsworth, the stately home in the Peak District. Here ‘deck the halls’ has a literal meaning, with each room at the grand historic property lavishly decorated according to a festive theme. Warner Bros. Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter, just a short journey from London, gets a festive makeover with a sprinkling of snow covering the Hogwarts model, a great feast is laid on the tables of the Great Hall and special-effects fires light up the Gryffindor Common Room. Hogwarts in the Snow runs from 18th November 2017 – 28th January 2018.
7. Wrap-up a Christmas bargain
Britain is a great shopping destination at any time of year, but the cities and towns really sparkle at Christmas. London’s Oxford and Regent Streets twinkle with lights, major department stores Selfridges, Harrods and Liberty unveil impressive window displays, and markets sell all manner of festive treats. Following a lull while people eat roast turkey and pull bon-bons, the stores become packed again as they throw open their doors for the famous January Sales (which actually start on Boxing Day, 26 December).
8. A wee tipple to warm the cockles of your heart
21st October is National Apple Day and we Brits really do like them apples! Apple festivals will take place across the country, there are even ‘apple days’ at National Trust properties and a dedicated Cider & Music festival in Cornwall.
There’s nothing like sipping on a wee dram o’ whisky, Scotland’s national drink, to warm you right up. Did you know you can even knock up your own version of a whisky cocktail in Edinburgh? DINE offers cocktail masterclasses, which delve into the ‘Scottish nectar’ and teach you how to make classic whisky cocktails.
9. Celtic Connections
Voted one of the friendliest cities in the world, Glasgow is a stylish mix of arts, culture and unique Celtic charm. For 18 days from the end of January to the start of February, this UNESCO city becomes especially exciting when artists from around the world descend for the winter festival, Celtic Connections.
One of the most prestigious awards in visual arts, the Turner Prize, unveils its annual exhibition in September for the public to view the shortlisted contenders ahead of the winner announcement in December. This year’s exhibition will be shown at Hull’s (the UK’s City of Culture for 2017) recently refurbished Ferens Art Gallery.
Britain’s seasonal colours are irresistibly Instagrammable. If you’re looking for where’s best to see the dazzling displays of colours, head to Sheffield Park in south-east England; where the garden was planted specifically for autumn. The splendour of Winkworth Arboretum in Surrey also comes to life with rich, blazing colours. Here you can enjoy a 4km ramble through the woodland to the top of Hydon’s Ball, where the views are equally as spectacular. It’s time to prepare for an #autumnleaves onslaught!
When it does start rain, head straight for ‘Waterfall country’ in Wales’ Brecon Beacons National Park. It’s particularly spectacular after a downpour when the falls thunder forth with an exciting force. One not to miss is Henrhyd Falls – south Wales’ tallest waterfall. It played the role of entrance to the Bat Cave in The Dark Knight Rises. You can even walk behind the curtain of water for a super-sensory experience.