19th September 2023
8 min read
There’s a whole host of reasons to visit the mainland this Autumn, from cider sleepovers to major cultural events including the Turner Prize 2023. Whether you want to pop over for the day or make a break of it, take a look at VisitEngland’s round-up of some of the best things to do across the country.
Bournemouth Arts by the Sea Festival, Dorset
29 September – 1 October 2023
Bournemouth Arts by the Sea is a celebration of art, culture and the vibrant essence of this coastal town. The event brings together an array of grand spectacles, diverse musical offerings, captivating installations, enchanting dance performances and dynamic street theatre all within a single festival experience. This year’s Arts by the Sea is inspired by the theme of MOMENT which will be reflected in all performances and creatives featured in the festival. Many events are free but some are ticketed.
Autumn Walks and Workshops at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, Hampshire
As autumn unfolds at the award-winning Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, the landscape comes alive with auburn colours and late blooms, setting the stage for a series of captivating workshops and events that celebrate the wonders of nature, creativity and learning. Visitors can embark on a journey of discovery with an expert guide on the Autumn Foraging Walk (13 September) as they explore edible plants and herbs, or perhaps take part in the Gardening for Wildlife Workshop (22 November) to discover the art of creating a wildlife-friendly garden. The Wooden Spoon Carving Workshop (16 September) offers participants the chance to unleash their creativity through the art of whittling, or experience mindfulness in nature at the Garden’s Forest Bathing Experience (ongoing).
RHS Gardens Festival of Flavours, Wisley
11 – 15 October
Visitors will be able to indulge their senses this autumn at the RHS Gardens’ Festival of Flavours events series. Immerse in a world of delectable aromas, vibrant colours and tantalising tastes with a range of gourmet experiences including food stalls offering international cuisines, expert-led cooking demonstrations from top chefs and workshops in culinary skills. Five RHS gardens are hosting Festival of Flavours events this autumn with the closest being at RHS Garden Wisley in Guildford from 11 – 15 October. If you fancy a trip further afield, you can also find the festival at RHS Garden Bridgewater in Salford (8 – 10 September); RHS Garden Harlow Carr in Harrogate (9 – 10 September); RHS Garden Hyde Hall in Chelmsford (29 September – 1 October); RHS Garden Rosemoor in Devon (7 – 8 October).
Look Up Portsmouth
The inaugural Look Up Portsmouth festival took place in the city over the weekend of 9-10 September and featured internationally renowned street artists creating brand new works. Many of the installations are permanent, so there’s still time to follow the trail to experience an incredible outdoor art gallery.
Artists came from Germany, France, Amsterdam and the USA and included names such as My Dog Sighs, Phlegm, The London Police, Hera, Caryn Koh, Sky High, Farkfk, Mister Samo, Alexandra Gallagher, Getting Up To Stuff, Snub23, Epod, Nol, Ooberla and Midge.
Formula Kite European Championships, Portsmouth
19 – 24 Sept 2023
The Formula Kite European Championships will be hosted on Eastney Beach from 19 – 24 September 2023, with the finals taking place on 23 and 24 September. Kiteboarding will make its Olympic debut at Paris 2024 and Europe’s best riders are expected to be in attendance to vie not just for the title of European Champion but also as they aim to qualify their nations for the Olympic Games.
The regatta will continue the legacy of London 2012, offering world-class racing in a city centre location easily watched by spectators. Kite foiling sees riders ‘fly’ above the water on hydrofoils attached to boards, powered by huge kites which can propel them to incredible speeds of more than 35 knots. Eastney beach will provide the perfect viewpoint to watch the high-octane racing, which will take place just a few hundred metres from the shore.
Heritage Open Days, Nationwide
8 – 11 and 15 – 18 September 2023
England’s Heritage Open Days unveil hidden gems and iconic landmarks across the country from the charming villages of the Cotswolds and the historic castles of Northumberland to the bustling streets of London and the coast of Cornwall. Delve into the heart of local communities as doors are thrown open to reveal a world of fascinating stories, captivating architecture, and vibrant traditions. Amongst the locations talking part is Norfolk, which offers the largest programme in the country outside of London, with interactive workshops such as sword fighting, immersive exhibitions and engaging talks.
Turner Prize 2023, Towner Eastbourne, East Sussex
28 September 2023 – 14 April 2024
As the centrepiece of its centenary celebrations in 2023, the Towner Eastbourne gallery will host the Turner Prize 2023 with an exhibition of the four shortlisted British contemporary artists presented from 28 September 2023 to 14 April 2024. The winner will be announced on 5 December 2023 at an award ceremony in Eastbourne’s Winter Gardens. Turner Prize 2023 is part of ‘Towner 100’ – the gallery’s year-long centenary celebration of arts and culture across Eastbourne.
Walk the Chalk, East Sussex
20 – 24 September 2023
In celebration of the King Charles III England Coast Path, a free four-day festival will grace the tops of Seaford Head featuring workshops, performances and artworks along with a series of guided walks where ramblers will learn about the flora, fauna, geology, history and folklore of the area. South Hill Barn will host the Living Coast Undersea VR Experience where participants can ‘dive’ into Seaford Bay’s waters to discover the diverse marine wildlife of the area. There will also be a brain-teasing treasure hunt and live music from acts including a ukulele band, a community orchestra and Sussex folk-music band.
Queer Nature at Kew Gardens, London
30 September – 29 October 2023
Discover Queer Nature at Kew Gardens this autumn—an exhibition exploring the vibrant world of plants and fungi through a queer lens. This pioneering event celebrates the queer beauty of flora and fungi, uncovering their stories beyond the binary through arts, science, horticulture and LGBTQ+ communities. Kew transforms the Temperate House into a haven of wonder, featuring suspended art by Jeffrey Gibson, a specially designed garden by Patrick Featherstone in collaboration with Kew’s Youth Forum, and a multi-media installation amplifying the voices of contributors.
Taste East Devon Food Festival, Devon
9 – 24 September 2023
The Taste East Devon Food Festival unites the region’s finest venues, chefs, producers and restaurants, such as the renowned River Cottage, THE PIG-at Combe, and Darts Farm, in a celebration of the exceptional local gastronomy scene. Festival events include; Darts Farm’s City to Sea Taste Trail (9 September) which features a culinary cycling adventure along the Exe Estuary trail; Coldharbour Farm Shop and Field Kitchen’s Taste East Devon inspired Pop-up Farmers Market (9 September); and Blackberry Honey Farm’s A Taste of Honey event (16 September) which features honey tastings, honey cream tea and a tour of pollinator gardens. The festival will end with Heron Farm’s Party in the Vineyard (24 September), a family-friendly celebration within a walled garden.
Taste of Scilly Festival, Isles of Scilly
15 – 24 September 2023
This September, Taste of Scilly Festival offers 10 days of food and drink events celebrating local flavours and a host of island specialities. Events – including island hopping safaris, local food markets, a brand-new Cider & Ale festival and wine tastings and talks – offer an opportunity to sample produce grown, caught or produced on the isles. This year the event is bigger and better than ever before, featuring gin tasting collaborations, pub takeovers and beach BBQs.
Discover Rutland Food & Drink Week
23 – 30 September 2023
Rutland is known as the ‘County of Good Taste’ and its upcoming Food & Drink Week offers an opportunity for visitors to discover excellent local suppliers and businesses. Visitors are encouraged to eat their way around the county during the seven-day event, enjoying Rutland Food Week set menus along with various culinary events and festivals. Highlights include; Rutland Food & Drink Festival at Market Place and Mill Street (24 September), Oktoberfest 2023 at The Grainstore Brewery (29 September to 1 October) and Rutland Grape Grazing Festival at Mallard Point (30 September).
Aviva Studios, Manchester
Opening October 2023
Manchester’s Aviva Studios, the home of Factory International, is a hotly anticipated cultural space opening on the old Granada Studios site which aims to capture the depth and creativity of the city. Representing the largest investment in a national cultural project since the Tate Modern, Aviva Studios will host everything from concerts, theatre, music and opera to major exhibitions. The opening production will be Free Your Mind, a large-scale immersive performance directed by Danny Boyle, based on The Matrix films, and presented across the huge building’s ultra-flexible spaces (18 October – 5 November 2023).
Disney100: The Exhibition, London
13 October 2023 – 2024
Celebrating 100 years of The Walt Disney Company, a ‘once in a lifetime event’ will be hosted in London filled with iconic characters and stories that have captured the hearts of millions both young and old. Disney 100: The Exhibition is the largest showcase from The Walt Disney Archives ever created and will go on tour around Europe, hitting England’s capital at ExCel London. Fans will be able to wander 20,000 square feet of Disney memorabilia across ten imaginatively themed galleries that will take them on a journey through 100 years of Disney history.
Electric Medway Festival, Kent
27 – 29 October 2023
Discover the fusion of art and technology at the Electric Medway Festival, where three days of cutting-edge digital experiences await. Visitors will be able to immerse themselves in VR cinema, augmented reality history trails and live electronic music – all set against the backdrop of Medway’s everyday spaces. This dynamic festival, now in its fourth year, showcases local artists and young talents, boldly capturing the spirit of Medway’s neighbourhoods. From street projections to 3D model scanning, this electrifying event brings creativity to life in unexpected places.
10 November – 1 December 2023
As one of the UK’s most renowned and longest running LGBTQ+ arts and culture festivals, Homotopia promises an extraordinary experience that transcends boundaries and ignites the spirit. From captivating performances and thought-provoking exhibitions to engaging workshops and enlightening discussions, the festival’s line-up is a true testament to the diverse talents and voices within the LGBTQ+ community. Homotopia offers a rich events programme for festival goers who are passionate advocates, lovers of the arts or simply seeking an inclusive space to connect and celebrate.
The Cider Cycle Circuit and Cider Sleepovers, Herefordshire
Experience the ultimate cider adventure in Herefordshire with Cider Sleepovers and the Cider Circuit – Visit Herefordshire’s latest cycle trail. Cider enthusiasts will be able to immerse themselves in the heart of cider country, indulging in autumnal exploration and apple-infused delights. During Cider Sleepovers, guests can expect charming orchard accommodation for a peaceful night’s sleep in the country followed by a hearty breakfast to kick start the day. For adventurous spirits, the new cider circuit offers scenic cycle routes which wind through orchards, cider houses and quaint villages. Along the way, cyclists can enjoy tastings of scrumptious cider, offering a glimpse into the region’s apple growing heritage.
Fungi Festival at Emmetts Garden, Kent
6 – 29 October 2023
Emmetts Garden in Kent will host a month-long Fungi Festival in October, including talks, tours, cooking demonstrations and a market – all inspired by the weird and wonderful mushroom species found in their grounds.
Featuring artisans from across England, the Fungi Fair will kick off the festival showcasing an array of fungi-related produce and goodies including hand-crafted jewellery, charming home decor, ceramics, textiles, toys, and even mushroom growing kits. For fungi fans who want to take a deeper dive, there will also be an exciting programme of expert talks and workshops.
The Season of Dark Skies Festivals, Nationwide
As the nights draw in, autumn is a prime time to embrace the dark evenings and gaze up to the stars at one of England’s many dark skies festivals. The Scilly Dark Skies Week (30 September to 6 October) will celebrate the grassroots of astronomy with talks from world-class astrophotography practitioners and astronomers. Exmoor’s Dark Skies Festival 2023 (13 to 29 October) will offer festival goers star-themed events across the National Park including dusk wildlife safaris, yoga under the stars and e-bike night rides. In the northeast, the North York Moors National Park will host a number of activities for the Dark Skies Fringe Festival (27 October to 5 November). The location is recognised as an International Dark Sky Reserve. Further north in Durham, the North Pennines Stargazing Festival (20 October – 5 November) will host stargazing suppers, talks, tours and wildlife spotting.
Autumn and Winter Road Trips, Yorkshire
Autumn and Winter 2023
From driving, sailing and wildlife-spotting to bikes, hikes and walks, the team at Route YC is encouraging visitors to create their own outdoor adventure around the Yorkshire coast and countryside this autumn. Route YC has created a series of suggested themed itineraries and a choice of three-, five- and seven-night stays to help explore the coastal region off-season. Visitors can look forward to a range of special retreats on the coast or in the countryside with itineraries that feature local food and drink, cosy log fires and breath-taking views.