The skies will be illuminated with a kaleidoscope of colours come the 5th of November. Here’s a guide to some of the best Bonfire Night celebrations in the UK and other autumnal festivals happening around the start of November. If you fancy celebrating with something a little more exciting than a few sparklers in the back garden, take a drive to these towns and cities that will be going the extra mile on Bonfire Night.
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A is for Autumn
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Nothing says autumn quite like a bonfire party. But the chilly nights and crisp golden days are also celebrated with a few other special seasonal activities across the UK. The annual Bath Heritage Open Week, in Somerset, can be a fun day out. You’ll get exclusive access to some of the city’s most beautiful Georgian buildings as they open their doors to the public for one week only.
Or check out the annual Slindon Pumpkin Festival in West Sussex. If you’ve ever wondered whether vegetables could be considered art, this family-friendly festival is sure to convince you. You’ll find themed displays, such as pumpkin mosaics, and local handicrafts on offer.
This November, Londoners will be treated to the Lord Mayor’s Show to welcome in the new Mayor in the traditional way – with a huge carnival. Head to the capital to catch live music and dancers dressed in vibrant costumes as they parade through the streets, plus a floating river pageant. And of course, no November celebrations would be complete without fireworks.
B is for Bonfire
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By way of celebrating the fact that the Houses of Parliament were saved from being demolished in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, roaring outdoor fires will be lit across the country. Lewes, however, takes the idea of a Bonfire Night festival to another level. Pirates and parades are intermingled with the pyrotechnics.
Lewes Bonfire Celebrations, the biggest 5th of November celebrations in the world, draw on history to take you back in time for a unique carnival full of costumes, marching bands, fireworks and tradition. Around 30 different groups of revellers, known as Lewes Bonfire Societies, take to the streets in parades.
Each society represents different groups in the area’s history dating back to the 1850s, such as Vikings, soldiers and pirates. Their colour-coded costumes reflect this as the “rival” societies wander through the streets holding fire torches. This is accompanied by fireworks displays and a huge bonfire.
C is for City
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You can find some spectacular fireworks displays in the UK’s various cities. London offers up the famous hilltop Ally Pally fireworks that snap, crackle and pop over the twinkling skyline of the city in the distance. You’ll also find an ice rink, street food, and activities such as a classic funfair at the picturesque Alexandra Palace setting throughout the two-day Fireworks Festival.
Or head to Midsummer Common in the heart of Cambridge, which attracts around 25,000 people a year. As well as hosting one of the largest fireworks displays in England, Cambridge Bonfire Night also has a funfair and a bonfire. This fantastic free event has been going strong for around 20 years now.
D is for Darkness
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Shorter days coupled with this year’s new moon around the bonfire weekend in early November provides ideal conditions for looking up at the skies. As well as making fireworks shine more brightly, the dark sky provides the perfect opportunity for a few other nocturnal activities.
The Isle of Wight Planetarium hosts Stargazing Weekends around the time of the new moon, both before and after Bonfire Night. You can learn more about the stars as well as having the chance to locate the twinkling dots in the inky night sky with the help of the planetarium’s powerful telescopes.
Or wrap up warm for a magical evening of owl-spotting just before the Bonfire Night celebrations kick off. Owls by Moonlight, at the Hawk Conservancy Trust in Hampshire, offers an enchanting experience for all the family. You can learn more about the local wildlife and get a rare chance to see these magnificent nocturnal creatures in action.
E is for Eating
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Barbeques and bonfires go hand-in-hand. So perhaps it’s not just a lucky coincidence that British Sausage Week falls around the same time as Bonfire Night? The flame-grilled favourite is celebrated with events like Harwich Sausage Festival in Essex. Here you’ll find farmers offering tasters as well as a sausage-throwing competition.
But November’s food festivities aren’t just for the carnivores. If you prefer to chomp on a meat-free hotdog while gathered around the bonfire, you might be pleased to hear that there are also some Vegan Food Festivals happening around this time of the month too. These include Bournemouth Vegan Fair.
For those of you who’d like to fuel up for an evening of fireworks with a sit-down meal rather than street food, head over to the New Forest where you can sample delicious local flavours with a contemporary twist. Foodies can get their fill at Food & Drink Festival Week with a selection of tasting menus from the area’s top restaurants and hotels.
F is for Fireworks
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From small village fêtes to huge pyrotechnic displays, fireworks shows come in all manner of sizes. As well as traditional displays, many events offer some fun extras and are worth traveling a little further for. Kaboom at Castle Howard in York is an extravaganza of fizzing fireworks with three displays that have incorporated motorised gliders into their past shows. A party atmosphere is teamed with film screenings, live music, family rides and food stalls.
Try Chatsworth Bonfire and Fireworks in Derbyshire, where a customary bonfire is accompanied by two extravagant fireworks displays, stilt-walkers and live music. This year’s Frozen theme for the kid’s fireworks will be accompanied by ice sculptures decorating the grand Chatsworth House garden setting.
Or if you like your fireworks with a fabulous view and a bit of history, make your way to the banks of the River Tyne for Fireworks at the Fort. You can take a look around the museum at the Segedunum Roman Fort before finishing your night with a bang. Head outside to admire the fireworks as they explode in the skies above Hadrian’s Wall, with the colours dancing off the surface of the river.