As summer reaches its peak, England is all set to celebrate the August bank holiday weekend (Saturday 26 – Monday 28 August 2023) with an exciting line up of events and experiences across the country – many of which are free to attend.
From cultural festivals to lively street parades to outdoor adventures and family-friendly entertainment, here are some ideas to get out and enjoy the long weekend.
Cultural and Culinary Festivals
East Anglian Beer & Cider Festival in St Edmundsbury, Suffolk
23 – 28 August 2023
It’s not every day there’s a beer festival in a cathedral! By kind permission of the Dean & Chapter, the 31st East Anglian Beer & Cider Festival will be held in St. Edmundsbury Cathedral for a third year. For six days, the cathedral will host over 250 real ales, 40 ciders and food stalls, coming alive with a full entertainment programme including a sound stage with performances by bands, folk singers, choirs and solo musicians.
Greenwich + Docklands International Festival, London (Free)
25 August – 10 September 2023
This annual free outdoor arts and theatre festival takes place across 18 days and for 2023 the festival has adopted ‘Acts of Hope’ as the theme, offering uplifting moments for reflection, creativity and celebration. This year the festival programme is bringing together UK and international artists for a series of ground-breaking outdoor theatre, art, dance and circus performances in iconic public spaces across the Royal Borough of Greenwich, East London and the City of London. Take a theatrical journey on a London bus, marvel as illuminated swans perform a water ballet and enter an immersive shipping container with a trampoline for a roof.
Lincoln Steampunk Festival, Lincolnshire
25 – 28 August 2023
This summer the historic city of Lincoln will transcend into a time that never was, filled with retro futuristic technology and cogs galore as the world’s largest steampunk festival graces its streets. Visitors from around the world are welcomed every year to celebrate this alternative industrial-styled event to enjoy a programme of music, art, fashion and comedy. Highlights for this year include a jet pack race, tea duelling, the Wacky Racers, a steampunk market and an asylum costume competition and parade.
Big Feastival Kingham, The Cotswolds
25 – 27 August 2023
Big Feastival takes place on Alex James’ idyllic Cotswolds farm near Kingham and brings together music from the UK’s biggest artists, Michelin starred chefs, award-winning street food and an exciting array of family activities. Sing along to the musical line up on the main stage, dance the night away at the family silent disco, catch DJ sets at the Cheese Hub and enjoy countless performances across the several other music stages across the farm.
Harrogate Food & Drink Festival at Ripley Castle, North Yorkshire
26 – 28 August 2023
The Harrogate Food & Drink Festival is returning to its original location at Ripley Castle this August bank holiday with new additions lined up. The festival offers a mouth-watering array of street food, artisan markets and independent bars along with live chef demonstrations and free entertainment. For the 2023 edition, the festival will introduce new interactive tasting sessions with local experts, as well as activities and entertainment including markets, street food and live music.
Robin Hood Festival and Nottinghamshire Day Festival, Nottinghamshire (Free)
26 – 28 August 2023
Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire has been home to the legend of Robin Hood since the Middle Ages. Each year, the forest, one of Europe’s few remaining ancient oak woodlands, hosts a month-long festival dedicated to the tales and ballads which have spawned countless books, Hollywood movies and theatre performances. The festival comes to a finale on the August bank holiday weekend with the Nottinghamshire Day Festival, a celebration of the county’s culture and heritage. The fabulous Sherwood Outlaws will be in the Forest arena all weekend, pitting Robin and his Merry Band in their eternal feud with the infamous Sheriff of Nottingham and his henchmen.
Fine Food Market at Burghley House, Lincolnshire (Free)
26 – 28 August 2023
Foodie fans are in for a stately treat at Burghley House’s annual summer celebration of food and drink. More than 45 artisan stalls and street food vendors from across the region will set up stalls in the picturesque Chestnut and Stable Courtyards for the free-to-enter Fine Food Market. With one of England’s greatest Elizabethan houses as a backdrop, visitors can also enjoy a wander through the Capability Brown landscaped parkland, also free to enter, which sweeps down to the Georgian stone town of Stamford.
Newcastle Mela at Exhibition Park, Newcastle (Free)
28 – 29 August 2023
Newcastle Mela is a free family-friendly two-day event based around Pakistani, Bengali, Indian and other South Asian cultures. Newcastle Mela has been taking place for over 25 years and is one of the most vibrant and popular multi-cultural events in the North East. With entertainment, performances and food stalls, the event offers an opportunity to experience the music, cuisines and crafts associated with these communities.
Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Festival, Shropshire
28 August – 17 September 2023
Events will take place at venues throughout the Ironbridge Gorge Unesco World Heritage Site, kicking off with the Coracle Regatta and Coronation Coracle Drift on Monday 28 August. This festival celebrates the history and culture of the town and will include walks, talks and trails, arts, music and poetry.
Carnivals and Street Parades
Hereford River Carnival, Herefordshire (Free)
25 – 26 August 2023
Hereford River Carnival has grown to become Herefordshire’s biggest community event – and it remains entirely free for the public. The event typically attracts 20,000 people to sing, dance, make masks and carnival costumes, eat great local food and have fun on the Wye. This year’s theme is ‘Make Waves’ with the aim to bring the seaside to Hereford through music, dance, sport, arts, crafts and old-fashioned games.
Cornwall Pride in Truro, Cornwall
This year, Cornwall Pride in Truro will feature a performance stage with live entertainment all afternoon and into the evening including drag queens and drag kings, fabulous cabaret singers and musicians. The pride parade will march through the town centre of Truro with the world’s largest Pride flag, before LGBTQ+ acts from across Cornwall take to the stage. All of Cornwall Pride’s entertainment will be family friendly and food and drink stalls will offer refreshments through the day.
Southampton Pride, Hampshire (Free)
Southampton Pride, the biggest and highest attended LGBTQ+ event in the region, returns to the city centre for the eighth year. Headliners and performers include RuPaul’s Drag Race UK star The Vivienne, Liberty X and Aura Jay alongside the best local talent. This year Southampton Pride will reveal its brand-new identity, focused on the grassroots activist movement and local community, putting both back firmly at the centre of the celebrations.
Manchester Pride, Manchester (Free options)
25 – 28 August 2023
Rocking rainbow-flag capes and glittery face art (biodegradable, please!), Manchester Pride is a loud and proud celebration of LGBTQ+ people, culture and expression. There will be a variety of events – some free, some ticketed – dedicated to queer people and their allies. Choose from the lively outdoor Gay Village Party, family-friendly festivities centred around fun, wellness and learning, and a candlelit vigil to honour those who have been lost to HIV and AIDS. The highlight of the weekend is The Parade, a colourful procession of thousands of people marching together for equality.
Live Music, Performing Arts and Exhibitions
Friday Late: Windrush 75 at the V&A, London
25 August 2023
Commemorating the momentous 75th anniversary of the Windrush arrival in the UK, this celebration of Black British artists, musicians and creatives invites you to explore the multifaceted story of migration and its impact on Britain’s history. Visitors to the V&A Museum will enjoy captivating performances, engaging workshops, thought-provoking installations, and an eclectic mix of music that will pulse through the museum after hours.
Kynren – An Epic Tale of England at Flatts Farm, County Durham
26 August 2023
Travel through time and watch legends come to life at the UK’s ‘must-see’ spectacular outdoor live action show hosted at Flatts Farm in Bishop Auckland. Kynren – An Epic Tale of England is a multi-award-winning outdoor theatre spectacular with a cast and crew of 1,000 volunteers who take audiences on an immersive journey through 2,000 years of history, myth and legend. Rebellions, wars, magic, majesty, celebration and heartache are vividly brought to life. Kynren returns for seven spectacular shows in summer 2023, including Saturday 26 August.
Norwich Summer Sessions, Norfolk (Free)
27 August 2023
Starting on Sunday 30 July and repeating weekly until Sunday 3 September, Norwich Summer Sessions offers a free series of afternoon entertainment across five stages throughout the city. To mark the tenth anniversary, there will be a return to the popular location of London Street with Covent Garden entertainers, while four other stages nearby will create a festival atmosphere in Norwich. The programme includes a range of national and local acts, with a performer from each of the last ten years returning to bring the streets to life.
Lazy Jazz Sundays at Polesden Lacey, Surrey
27 – 28 August 2023
The 1,600-acre Polesden Lacey National Trust estate invites visitors to lay down their rugs on the South Lawn and relax with a picnic listening to wonderful live music every summer Sunday through to the end of August and also includes August bank holiday Monday. Performances over the weekend include The 101 Trio (27 August) and Jaz2 (28 August).
Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility at Stourhead, Wiltshire
27 – 28 August 2023
Picnic in the beautiful garden of the National Trust’s Stourhead in Wiltshire this bank holiday weekend and enjoy a night of magical theatre under the stars. The Chapterhouse Theatre Company will bring Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility to life with Elinor and Marianne Dashwood making their first forays into the exciting world of Regency society. This lively tale follows the sisters as they fall in love, make mistakes and experience heartbreak for the first time in their quest to find a balance between sense and sensibility.
Surrealist Picnic in Chiddingly, East Sussex
27 August 2023
This annual Surrealist Picnic takes place within the sculpture garden of Farley’s House and Gallery in Chiddingly each August bank holiday Sunday. The fun event includes live jazz, surreal performance and dance and invites guests to slip on a surreal costume, bring along creative picnic food and let their imaginations run wild.
Rooted at Wakehurst Place, West Sussex
7 July – 17 September 2023
Rooted at Wakehurst Place is an immersive exhibition and experience featuring spectacular outdoor art and events inspired by trees. Visitors have a chance to discover an incredible range of large-scale artworks as they wander across the grounds and amongst the trees. Wakehurst is working with some incredible artists to create outdoor installations which uncover the phenomenal power of these woodland wonders.
Krakenhaus at Muncaster Castle, Cumbria
25 – 27 August 2023
Krakenhaus Micro-Festival brings a combination of live music, talks and guided walks to Muncaster Castle on the western edge of the Lake District. Festival goers are entitled to access all the facilities at no extra charge, including the castle and its grounds, play areas, maze, cafe, gardens and the birds of prey flying displays at the castle’s Hawk and Owl Centre. Outdoor festival activities include walks to discover the Burnmoor Stone Circles and Muncaster Fell and traditional Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling. Day tickets are still available for this popular, dog-friendly experience.
Discovery Walks at The National Arboretum, Gloucestershire
26 August 2023
Take the path less travelled and delve a little deeper into the captivating trees at Westonbirt with one of The National Arboretum’s Discovery Walks which take place each Saturday morning from 22 July to 30 September 2023. Home to 2,500 different species from around the world and five national tree collections, the arboretum plays a vital part in research and conservation. Each Discovery Walk is approximately 1.5 hours and features a different specialist theme each week.
RSPB Puffin and Gannet Cruises from Bridlington Harbour, East Yorkshire
26 August 2023
This three-hour RSPB cruise first sails to the cliffs where gannets can be seen with their fluffy chicks on their nests and then heads out to sea to marvel at gannets diving around the boat for hand-thrown mackerel. With an enormous six-foot wingspan, the gannet is the UK’s largest seabird and is a sight to behold. It is also possible to see puffins at sea during the cruise, as well as skuas and other migrating seabirds. RSPB volunteers are on board and the running commentary gives an insight into the seabird spectacle. The Yorkshire Belle boat has indoor and outdoor seating, toilet facilities, and drinks and snacks are available from the bar.
Dartmoor Wheelchair Offroad Festival, Devon
27 August – 2 September 2023
Dartmoor delights walkers because, while trails are there to be followed, the lack of barbed wire and other barriers create a profound sensation of freedom. The Dartmoor Wheelchair Offroad Festival, organised by two local users of all-terrain mobility scooters, has been running since 2018. The six free wheelchair accessible walks taking place each day of the festival explore Dartmoor’s industrial history, bronze age antiquities, Victorian railway builders and a ruined haunted mansion.
Something a Little Different
River Cruise & The Beatles Story, Liverpool
Launched summer 2023
For summer 2023, Mersey Ferries and The Beatles Story have relaunched the joint River Explorer Cruise and The Beatles Story day trip. Set sail on a 50-minute cruise to see Liverpool and Wirral’s historic, picturesque waterfront while learning about Mersey Ferries connection to The Beatles and their four performances on The Cavern Club’s famous Riverboat Shuffle Cruises in 1961 and 1962. Located just a short and scenic walk from Liverpool Gerry Marsden Ferry Terminal is The Beatles Story exhibition at The Royal Albert Dock. Travel back to 1960s Liverpool and beyond on an immersive journey through the lives of the world’s greatest band. Walk through replicas of key locations and moments from the band’s career including Hamburg, The Cavern Club and Abbey Road Studios.
Torchlit Summer Evenings at The Roman Baths, Somerset
22 July – 31 August 2023
Bath’s famed Roman Baths offers visitors an after-hours experience during the summer with the attraction staying open until 10pm every day from 22 July – 31 August 2023. Guests can look around the fascinating displays in the museum then take in the magical atmosphere with al fresco drinks from the pop-up bar beside the torchlit Great Bath or indulge in a summer evening dining experience in the Pump Room Restaurant.
The Henley Craft Show at Stonor Park, Oxfordshire
25 – 28 August 2023
Set in the grounds of Stonor Park, The Henley Craft Show hosts over 200 independent stall holders in marquees and outdoor markets. Artisan products available include handmade jewellery, homewares and clothing created by talented small businesses. There’s also street food and drink stalls, fairground rides, live musicians and falconry displays.
Amazing Accrington Soapbox Challenge, Lancashire (Free)
26 August 2023
The eagerly anticipated Soapbox Challenge will return to Accrington town centre this August with wacky racing, entertainment and local food stalls. As well as encouraging people to join in the challenge, Amazing Accrington Soapbox Challenge invites spectators to watch the amazing creations others have made as they whizz down the course, which includes chicanes, jumps and water blasters. Last year’s event attracted over 15,000 people to the town.
East Bristol Brewery Trail, Bristol
26 – 27 August 2023
Seven East Bristol breweries will open up their taproom bars once again for the August bank holiday weekend in what has become one of Bristol’s most popular beer events. The trail includes Arbor Ales, Dawkins Ales, Good Chemistry Brewing, Left Handed Giant Brewing Co, Little Martha Brewing and Moor Beer and Wiper & True as well as in-brewery pop-ups from some of Bristol’s best street food businesses. The two-day event, which started in 2016, offers a chance to meet the local brewers, sample beers and explore the area. Each brewery will serve a range of their own beers from keg, cask, can and bottle with brewery tours, DJs and live music across the weekend.
Summer of Play at the Eden Project, Cornwall
22 July – 3 September 2023
For 2023 the Eden Project launched Summer of Play which will be in full swing for the August bank holiday weekend. Offering up a fun-filled programme which has creativity, imagination and outdoor play at its heart, Eden Project’s gardens and Biomes will provide a stunning backdrop for the whole family to get playful. At the centre will be the new adventure playground area, Nature’s Playground, one of the biggest outdoor play areas in South West England.
PADDINGTON LO-COMMOTION at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
4 July – 3 September 2023
This Summer, join PaddingtonTM in an immersive outdoor adventure staged across the beautiful grounds of Blenheim Palace. PADDINGTON LO-COMMOTION is the perfect day out for families who love to immerse themselves in live performance, puppetry, and outdoor adventure. The show will take audiences on foot through the UNESCO World Heritage Site to meet their favourite characters from the Paddington stories and search for ‘buried treasure’. There will also be an opportunity to hop on board a real locomotive. At the end of the 55-minute adventure, families can enjoy free arts and crafts-based activities, and visit the Paddington gift shop, as well as delicious food and drink at the many restaurants and cafés around Blenheim Palace.
Clash of Romans, Chesters Roman Fort and Museum – Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland
26 – 28 August 2023
Watch the Roman Empire’s finest soldiers compete in an intense show of strength and skill at Chesters Roman Fort and Museum. Visitors are encouraged to pick a side and cheer them on – but remember, only one will emerge victorious. Afterwards, guests can explore the living history camp and meet the Romans to find out more about life in the empire.
Ryde Carnival, Isle of Wight (Free)
26 August – 2 September 2023
The UK’s oldest carnival, dating backing to 1887, Ryde Carnival is an all-inclusive and joyous series of parades of colour and light marking the end of summer. Three parades will take place across the week, with the Main Carnival on 31 August, the Illuminated Carnival on 2 September and a Children’s Carnival Day on 26 August, which will include various activities and culminate in a Children’s Parade along Ryde’s high street.