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Best things to do for May bank holiday in the UK 2024

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With a bonus day off from work and school coming up on Monday 6 May for the May Day bank holiday, you might be thinking about how to make the most of it. While jetting off on a city break or spending a few days somewhere warm with a beach may sound ideal, if you’re staying home in the UK there are still plenty of ways to make the long weekend feel like a mini holiday.

(Pixabay / Jakob Strauss)

After a long winter, the weather in May should be a little sunnier, making it the perfect time to explore some beautiful UK towns and villages that you might not have visited before. Local communities often organise fairs and parades for the bank holiday weekend with free entertainment, so you can socialise and dance without having to spend too much.

It’s also the time of year that nature comes out of hiding, making the weekend a good time to visit some of the UK’s natural beauty spots. From marine life to birds, May is ideal for wildlife watching.

Here are 10 fun ways to make the most of your bank holiday time off in the UK.

Brixham pirate festival, Devon

Ahoy me hearties! Thousands of pirates converge in Brixham in early May (Brixhampiratefestival.com)

The Brixham Pirate Festival began in 2002 when locals decided to create an event to liven up one of the quietest bank holidays of the year.

Now attracting thousands of visitors each year, the action takes place around Brixham quay from 4-6 May. Wander around the harbour and discover all sorts pirate antics taking place, including live sea shanty music, street performers, balloon modelling, historical re-enactments, fancy dress competitions and themed food and drink offerings. Feel free to dress up as a pirate (an awful lot of people do) and travel to Brixham by boat from Torquay and Paignton for the most authentic arrival.

Tickets: Free – just turn up, brixhampiratefestival.com

Bempton cliffs puffin-watching, East Yorkshire

See puffins up close at the Bempton Cliffs nature trail (Unsplash / Jonny Gios)

The huge white chalk cliffs at Bempton are impressive at any time of year, but visit in May and you’ll find them transformed into England’s largest seabird city. Here puffins, gannets, kittiwakes and guillemots live life on the edge, and watching them go about their business is like watching a live David Attenborough documentary.

Park at the Bempton cliffs visitor centre (where there are toilets) and choose from one of two trails. The Cliff Top Trail is two miles long and takes around 90 minutes to complete. You’ll pass through clifftop habitats and have six viewpoints overlooking the North Sea and 400ft cliffs. The nature trail is half-a-mile long, taking you through the scrub and grassland habitats of the reserve, and includes great opportunities to spot the smaller birds. You can also book VIP guided tours for some expert commentary along the way.

Tickets: Trails free, guided tours are £55 for two adults, RSPB.org.uk

Digger Dance at Cockfields farm, Greater Manchester

Diggers dancing is the highlight of bank holiday weekend at Cockfields farm (Facebook – Cockfields Farm)

If you’ve got a digger fan in the family – young or old – the Digger Dance is well worth a watch. From 4-6 May, see skilled operators choreograph their diggers to dance in perfect harmony with lively music, creating a spectacle that will captivate audiences of all ages.

After the show, experience all the fun of the farm with an animal meet-and-greet with guinea pigs, meerkats, snakes and lizards, and feeding goats and sheep. Your ticket will also include unlimited fairground rides and use of the indoor and outdoor play areas.

Book before 24 April for “early bird” tickets, otherwise prices will increase by £6 closer to the event.

Tickets: From £18.95, cockfieldsfarm.com

Crabbing in Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk

A great way to introduce children to marine life, crabbing is a fun (and affordable) activity for the whole family. Norfolk is ideal for crabbing because of its estuarial and creek waters that the little blighters like inhabiting.

All you need is a bucket filled with sea water, a line and some ham or bacon, or you can rent an eco-friendly crab-catching kit for just £1 from The Gilly Hut on the Wells beachfront (that includes a net and buckets). Feeling peckish? Visit the shellfish stall on the quay for freshly dressed crabs and little pots of cockles, whelks, prawns, shrimps and rollmops.

Tickets: Free, wellsguide.com

BBC Gardeners’ World Spring Fair, Hampshire

Brighten your mind with garden inspiration at beautiful Beaulieu (BBC Gardener’s World Live)

Set in the beautiful grounds of Beaulieu, the BBC Gardeners’ World Spring Fair is the place to visit for garden inspiration and advice. There are show gardens to walk around as well as workshops and talks during the event that runs from 3-5 May.

The Get Growing stage promises expert-led talks from recognisable faces, including influencer Jason Williams (aka Cloud Gardener UK), flower farmer Kim O’Brien, mushroom growers Caley Brothers, and chefs from The Pig and Lime Wood hotel. Meanwhile, a Plant Expert Workshop Marquee will host a range of practical activities designed to make you a better gardener.

Tickets: From £16.50,bbcgardenersworldfair.com

Spring afternoon tea sightseeing bus tour, London

Nibble scones and pastries while London whizzes by out the window (Brigit’s Bakery)

Indulge in a one-of-a-kind afternoon tea experience served on an old Routemaster bus as you take in the sights of London. Departing from Victoria station, you’ll see Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, the Globe Theatre and other London landmarks while feasting on sandwiches, scones and pastries.

The menu has had an upgrade for spring to include refreshing treats such as lemon and lime sable with whipped ganache and a carrot cake cupcake with cream cheese frosting. You can also pre-order prosecco and champagne to add some extra sparkle to the May Day celebrations.

Tickets: Children £35, adults £45, b-bakery.com

Llandudno Victorian extravaganza, Conwy

Traditional fair rides are part of the Victorian-themed weekend in the North Wales seaside town (Visit Conwy)

Every May Day bank holiday weekend, Llandudno plays host to a Victorian Extravaganza featuring a Victorian street fair, old-time fair rides, fun stalls, steam engines, people dressed in Victorian costume and street entertainment.

It’s on from 4-6 May with a parade every day at midday of musicians, steam engines and people dressed in Victorian costume. From a helter skelter to a traditional carousel, the rides are suitable for all members of the family from toddlers to grandparents.

Tickets: Free, llandudno-extravaganza.com

Seafood festival, Edinburgh

Teddy Lee will be giving cooking demos in Edinburgh (St James Quarter)

Calling all foodies! Get yourself to Scotland’s capital city to enjoy fresh Scottish seafood cooked by world-famous chefs. From 4-6 May, St James Quarter will host a pop-up market. Highlights include smoked fish from Harris & Lewis, macaroons from Lozzie Bakes, Isle of Mull Seaweed Chutney, and coastal-inspired skincare from Seaweed Organics, bringing visitors a whole host of sea-themed treats.

Scotland’s best chefs will also show off their cooking skills over the weekend. This year’s line-up on the Cloudy Bay-sponsored seafood stage includes John Maltby (SUSHISAMBA), Teddy Lee (Maki & Ramen), Sandy Browning (Ka Pao), Jimmy Lee (Salt & Chilli and Leith Woks), and Max Terheggen (Duck & Waffle).

Tickets: Free

The Wave opening weekend, Bristol

The Wave summer season starts on the May bank holiday weekend (The Wave)

Surf’s up for the summer from 3 May and there will be an extended weekend of live music and great food at The Wave from 3-6 May. It’s an inland surfing experience, meaning that you don’t have to drive to the coast to cool down in water on a hot day.

During the bank holiday festivities, you’ll be able to try out some of the surfboards from the board room to whet your appetite and see if you fancy coming back later in the summer. From May, The Wave will be open seven days a week from dawn to dusk.

Tickets: Free, thewave.com

Merry May Day, Holywood, County Down

Always a popular family day out, the Merry May Day celebrations, which take place on 6 May, have become a long tradition in the bustling town of Holywood.

The whole family can enjoy funfair rides and a lively maypole programme that runs throughout the day. You can also browse the bric-a-brac stalls and watch musical performances from local bands.

Tickets: Free, visitbelfast.com

Read more: Best UK hotels

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