Autumn After Dark – a UK entertainment guide

New Year's Eve Fireworks

London lights up in November

As the nights begin to draw in, and a distinctive British chill returns to the air, it’s easy to lament the passing of those long, hazy days spent outdoors in shorts or summer dresses. It often feels like there’s nothing left to do until next year but hibernate, coming out only to celebrate those precious fun filled weeks over Christmas.But fear not! Your summer clothes may be packed away, but the UK is chock full of activities, locations and adventures up and down the country that will help you to enjoy the evenings that are closing in.
Enchanted Forest – Faskally Wood, Pitlochry
3rd – 26th OctoberWhat better way to take advantage of the early darkness than enjoying one of the UK’s most spectacular sound and light shows! Put one every year as autumn unfolds, each event has a different theme that is then explored through choreographed sound and light effects, which unfold as you work your way through the forest. This year’s theme is Elemental, and is all about getting back to nature through the enjoyment of the elements. While the weather is usually an uncontrollable aspect of the show, this year you can expect to be wowed by elemental effects.

The natural backdrop of the forest will be set off by amazing visuals and beautiful design, accompanied by an original music score written specially for the event. You can also expect to be delighted by aerial performance artists defying gravity in the tree tops, and an enchanted story telling yurt. The outdoor catering team also ensures you won’t go hungry, and you can enjoy a hot chocolate or a mulled wine to keep you cosy as you wonder around on a frosty evening.

It’s recommended that you allow between 60 – 90 minuets to fully appreciate the event, and you may want to go around more than once to make sure you catch everything! The show is fantastic for children, although you may struggle to get around the forest path with large buggies.

Illuminating York – York city centre
29th October – 1st November

On a similar theme, you can also brighten up your autumn nights with a visit to York’s annual light festival, Illuminating York. Named as one of the Guardian’s top ten European light festivals, it’s one of the city’s biggest annual events and is not to be missed. Having begun nine years ago, York have been wowing visitors with stunning illuminated art for nearly a decade. With specially commissioned digital art being projected onto various historic buildings, you get to appreciate York’s beautiful architecture as well as seeing some great works of art. Using the latest technology available, 12 pieces of illuminating artwork will be displayed across the city centre.

The main attraction is to be Hidden Worlds, which is being projected onto the York Crown Court Building. Using 3D projection-mapped animation, the art work explores the microscopic and the unconscious. There are also various supporting events and other local attractions that can be taken advantage of while visiting the city, including several tours and trails, so you can enjoy the event over several evenings. Also new for this year is the opportunity to travel further afield to witness the Castle Howard bathed in light.

Lewes Bonfire Night Celebrations – Lewes, East Sussex
5th November

The biggest and best known bonfire night celebrations in the UK have been taking place in Lewes for hundreds of years. Almost always a riotous affair, the event sees six local bonfire societies joining forces with visiting groups. Marching bands also travel to take part in revelries, and the occasion is always marked by costumes and parades, along with a tradition of carrying 17 burning crosses through town. The evening peaks with huge bonfires on the surrounding hills, and spectacular firework displays. As the carnival-like evening can be pretty boisterous, it’s not recommended that you take young children.

Lord Mayor’s Show – London
8th November

While occurring very close to bonfire night, this event comes from a completely different tradition – since the year 1215, the city mayor was expected to travel upriver to Westminster, in order to swear loyalty to the king. What started out as a duty became a major celebration, and now the event sees a flotilla sailing up the Thames, followed by a street procession and a massive firework display. The show takes up a whole day, with the flotilla beginning as early as 8.30 am the procession following at 11 am, and the fireworks taking place at 5.30 pm. It’s a fun and exciting day out for all the family.

So there you have it – you don’t have to stay at home forlornly just because it’s getting dark! Instead, take advantage of the early evenings and experience some of the great night-time events that are happening up and down the country.

The Best Autumn Food and Drink Festivals

iStock_000023362468SmallfoodfestivalThe chilly mornings and darker evenings of autumn often find us turning to comforting, warm food and drinks to get through the day. If you are lacking in inspiration, don’t worry as autumn is the perfect time to visit one of the many and varied food festivals taking place across the UK.

Love Food Festival, Dyrham Park, South Gloucestershire

Making the most of the autumn harvest will be the theme of the Love Food Festival in Dyrham Park, South Gloucestershire on Sunday 28th September. Visitors will have the chance to try local seasonal produce and as well as lots of opportunities to try and buy food and drink, there will be fun activities for the children, a chance to try out survival skills and even a Homemade Competition to show off your own homegrown or homemade seasonal produce. Find out more on the event website.

Melton Mowbray Food Festival

A name synonymous with food, Melton Mowbray hosts one of the largest food festivals in the country. The weekend of 4th and 5th October will see the 11th annual Melton Mowbray Food Festival with over 150 exhibitors showcasing new and traditional food and drink from the local region and from around the UK. Alongside the traditional Melton Mowbray Pork Pies and Stilton, you will find alcoholic ice creams, chocolate kebabs, artisan cheeses to name just a few, which can all be washed down with locally brewed ales. Find out more on the event website.

The Chocolate Show, London

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The Chocolate Show is a food festival with a difference. Completely dedicated to all things chocolate, the best UK and international chocolate companies will be ready to tempt you with wonderful chocolate treats. Taking place at Olympia West in London from 17th to 19th October, there is even the chance to see the highly acclaimed chocolate fashion show, which sees chocolatiers and fashion designers join forces to create amazing chocolate inspired couture outfits. Find out more on the event website.

Hamper Llangollen, North Wales

In North Wales Hamper Llangollen is described and the ‘heavyweight’ of the Welsh food festivals. Held in Llangollen on 18th and 19th October, this is a food and drink festival where over 100 exhibitors offer a wide range of food and drink for visitors to sample and buy. Here you will find that it certainly isn’t just about the food and there is a dedicated beer tent featuring locally brewed ales. Find out more on the event website.  

Lincolnshire Sausage Festival, Lincoln Castle

Dedicated to the Lincolnshire Sausage, this festival will take place on 25th October and there will be sausages to sample, eat or take home. With chefs on hand doing cookery demonstrations, there should be plenty of inspiration and recipes to transform the Lincolnshire sausage into a family favourite. Find out more on the event website.

Bramley Apple Festival, Southwell, Nottinghamshire

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The market town of Southwell in Nottinghamshire was where the Bramley apple was first propagated over 200 years ago and it now hosts an annual festival of food and drink to celebrate the heritage of this much loved apple. With fun and craft activities, cookery demonstrations and much more, each sticking to the apple theme this is a food festival with a difference. Find out more on the event website.

Dartmouth Food Festival

Dartmouth Food Festival is the perfect food festival for the whole family to enjoy. From 24th to 26th October there is plenty to see and do with cookery demonstrations, food and drink seminars, tasting and the chance to see top food writers and celebrity chefs. There is even a festival for children with lots of fun activities to keep the little ones entertained. Find out more on the event website.

The Good Food Show, Birmingham

The ultimate food and drink experience can be found at the NEC, Birmingham from 27th to 30th November with celebrity chefs, demonstrations, endless shopping opportunities and lots of inspiration. Find out more on the event website.

Botany Bay Christmas Food and Gift Festival, Chorley, Lancashire

With Christmas on the horizon, the Botany Bay Christmas Food and Gift Festival in Chorley, Lancashire on Sunday 30th November is the place to visit. The five floors of the Botany Bay mill have been transformed into a Christmas food and drink shopping bonanza with street entertainment, carol singing, fairground attractions and cookery demonstrations all to get you in the mood for the festive period. Find out more on the event website.

There is nothing better than a food and drink festival to tempt your taste buds or offer inspiration and new ideas for seasonal produce and there are lots to choose from. Whichever you choose, you can guarantee a fun day out for all the family and you might get to try something new and delicious for the coming season.

Find accommodation nearby on the cottages4you website.

Late Summer Savings in France

A  selection of savings on lovely holiday properties over the Channel – with availability from this weekend! Enjoy villas with private pools on the Côte d’Azur, traditional holiday homes in Normandy and much more.

Find links to the properties with more pricing and availability info on each picture caption. Check out more French savings on our website.

Cottage of the Week – Little Thatchings, Oxfordshire

Our new featured property is located in the pretty little village of Warborough in Oxford, perhaps better known to TV viewers as the filming location for Midsomer Murders. Thankfully, real life in Warborough is far more relaxing (and safer!) than its portrayal on screen, which should allow you plenty of opportunity to explore and enjoy one of the UK’s most stunningly scenic regions.

The property itself isn’t short of beauty and tranquility. Nestled in its own garden just off the village green with secret seating areas and a small orchard, it has been delightfully furnished in ‘Arts and Crafts’ style with original beams (some originating from ships of the Spanish Armada which were broken up at The Wharf just down the road) and many more attractive features.

You’re also perfectly located to enjoy a range of quintessentially English locations and activities including Oxford, Blenheim Palace, Henley, Windsor, Stratford, The Cotswolds and London with numerous gastro pubs, restaurants, markets and antique shops in the surrounding area.

Take a look at the latest pricing, availability and make a booking on the property’s listing on cottages4you.

cottages4you’s Summer Entertainment Guide

Whether you’re on a proper holiday, or perhaps planning a few days away before the kids go back to school, there is so much to enjoy right across the country this summer. But summer activities don’t have to mean long queues in the scorching sun (or pouring rain!) there are a host of fun activities for the family that are off the beaten track, or not as well known as some. Take a look at out guide below for inspiration.

Life’s a beach!

The only crowds on the Farne Islands

The only crowds on the Farne Islands

The busiest beaches are thriving with noise but perhaps lacking a bit in space to enjoy yourself. However, there are many terrific and quieter places to enjoy sand and sea. How about Northumberland? Starting with the sweep of Bamburgh and its stunning castle, through Seahouses where you can take a boat trip out to the Farne Islands, right down to the busier end of Whitley Bay and Tynemouth, there are beaches to be enjoyed and space to do your own thing.

At the other side of the country, you’ll discover Britain’s first area of outstanding natural beauty on the Gower Peninsula. Starting just outside Swansea, you can immerse yourself in so many activities, from kite flying to pony trekking, kayaking to wind surfing. Add a wealth of caves and castles, stunning beaches and clambery walks, and you’ll return each night to your handy self-catering accommodation in a state of pleasant exhaustion!

Fun with a theme

The top theme parks, such as Alton Towers, Legoland, Chessington World of Adventures and Blackpool Pleasure Beach, are so well known. There are many others to enjoy as well. At Malton in North Yorkshire you’ll enter the amazing world of Flamingo Land. Established as both a zoo and theme park more than forty years ago, it offers a wealth of fun experiences such as Being a Zookeeper or Animal Trainer, intimate encounters with everything from sea lions to giraffes (not forgetting meerkats) as well as adventure rides from Cable Car to Cliff Hanger.

Another great choice would be Drayton Manor in Staffordshire (near Tamworth). There you’ll find almost three hundred acres of fun packed activities with extremely damp and thoroughly scary rides, including a highly unusual stand-up roller coaster. There’s a brand new 4D cinema (it’s 3D with added water and wind!) and the chance for the littler ones to enjoy Thomas Land – named after a tank engine you may just have heard of.

A celebration of festivals

Fun at the festival in Edinburgh

Fun at the festival in Edinburgh

If there’s one thing we do know how to do here in the UK it’s how to enjoy a good festival. The music circuit is well-established by now, with annual events such as the Cambridge Folk or Reading and Leeds Festivals. Of course, each August Edinburgh offers thousands of cultural treats and many more not-so-highbrow events.

Away from music, there are also so many other festivals to enjoy across the rest of the summer. Food-wise for example, on August Bank Holiday the largest fish festival in the UK is held at Newlyn in Cornwall. Apart from great fresh tastes, you can enjoy the unique sight of teams in the Lugger Rowing Championships – a serious row while competing for the legendary Gold Pilchard Award. At the end of that week Jamie Oliver and Alex James get together again to present The Big Feastival held on Alex’s own farm deep in The Cotswolds. Add music, demonstrations and a vintage funfair and you have a feast of fun!

The call of nature

Kids and nature seem to have an affinity. Whether they are splashing around in rock pools, getting cuddly with tame specimens in petting zoos, or looking out for unusual wildlife in woodlands, their interest is always infectious. Our country offers some great opportunities to commune with nature. Imagine watching the soaring glory of sea eagles on the Isle of Mull, swooping red kites in Grizedale Forest in Cumbria, or looking for a close encounter with rare red squirrels in parts of Northern England.

In Scotland, you can look for a friendly bottlenose dolphin encounter during a boat trip on the Moray Firth, before spending a fun day at nearby Aviemore or in the stunning Cairngorms National Park.

Trusted entertainment

If we’re proud of our history, we can also make sure we have some fun with it too. The National Trust run a terrific series of events throughout the summer at many of their properties. Think how the kids would enjoy watching bats emerge at dusk on the Penrose estate, a Nature Night Walk at Godolphin House, or the chance to build a family den at Trengwainton – all in Cornwall.

At Woolsthorpe Manor in Lincolnshire – home of Sir Isaac Newton – you could be part of a glorious bug hunt in his orchard (he probably won’t turn up in person though). Fab Friday (8th August) is Archery Day at Rockingham Forest at Lyveden in Northamptonshire.

There’s so much more!

Cromer. seaside town in Norfolk, England

Lovely Cromer

Of course all of these terrific ideas do no more than scratch the surface of the huge number of events and locations spread across the United Kingdom in the next few weeks. We offer so many family-friendly self-catering choices from Cornwall in the south west to Wick in the far north of Scotland; Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons in Wales to Cromer in Norfolk. This means that, no matter how you want to spend your precious family time, you can site yourself close and convenient for wherever you wish to be. If history is your thing it might be Warwick or Leeds Castle, or stately homes from Chatsworth to Cragside (first home of hydro-electric power in the UK).

You might fancy lunch in a genuine treehouse during a visit to Alnwick Castle (part of a certain wizard’s adventures were filmed there). How about a glorious day watching the penguins strut their stuff at Edinburgh Zoo? Or perhaps a family cycle on the Olympic road race route over Box Hill would be an unforgettable piece of family bonding with views (and inclines!) that may leave you breathless.

Whatever excites your family, wherever you’d like to be throughout the rest of our British summer, don’t forget to register for our Big Kid Bingo competition. Not only can you enjoy a host of fun family activities but if you complete your card you’ll be entered into a prize draw to win £1,000 cottages4you voucher. Start playing now on our Facebook page.