Fun, Food & Frights – 8 of the Best Autumn Festivals

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness…and festivals! The autumn months offer some of the UK’s most fascinating, tasty, unusual, arty and eccentric celebrations.

All you’ve got to do is slip into the party spirit…

1. Indy Man Beer Convention, Manchester

Beer fest

If you’re an architecture aficionado, or a beer drinker…or both, then Manchester’s Indy Man Beer Convention is the festival for you.  Now in its fourth year and held in the Grade II listed, tiled beauty of Victoria Baths on Hathersage Road, it’s probably your only chance to drink craft beer in an empty and exquisitely elegant Edwardian swimming pool. This celebration of the golden drop has been described as intimate, exciting and forward-thinking and showcases beers from the best breweries in the UK, Europe and the USA.    6-9 October 2016

2. Galoshans Festival, Greenock, Scotland

The town of Greenock lies west of Glasgow, in the Scottish lowlands. For two days, every October its streets revive the traditional celebration of Galoshans. Galoshans is the Scots words for ‘guising’ in which people in the west of Scotland would visit each other’s houses at the end of October to perform a play and perhaps enjoy a ‘treat’ if well received. It’s been credited with originating the American tradition of trick or treating. This year look forward to music, dance, visual arts and street theatre from all over Europe and a Halloween Parade with prizes for your wee ones.  28-30 October

3. Cambridge Jazz Festival, Cambridgeshire

Jazz drum

Every November, the romantic university city of Cambridge hosts 12 days of live jazz music. Though perhaps not best known for its jazz scene, the genre thrives in all its guises here. Cambridge Jazz festival organisers particularly want to banish stereotypes and encourage a new audience, especially young people.  Musicians from around the corner, the country and the world have been invited to perform in the city. Expect more ‘out-there’ performances such as jazz poetry, hip hop and gypsy jazz plus big bands and solo artists.   16-27 November 2016

4. Kendal Mountain Festival, Lake District

It’s an outdoor enthusiast’s dream – a festival that’s all about mountains; films about mountains; exhibitions, sports events and top brand equipment. Plus there’s a load of beer and music thrown in, all against the beautiful backdrop of the southern Lakes. The festival aims to ‘inspire more people to explore, enjoy and represent mountains, wilderness and their cultures.’ This year they’ll be showing 70 films, with an international film competition, high profile premieres and lectures from guest speakers. And, if the weather holds, why not strike further into the National Park to experience some mountain magic for yourself.  17-20 November

5. Slindon Pumpkin Festival, West Sussex


Dear gourd, this is definitely the most unusual festival on our list, perhaps in the whole country! On the southern edge of the South Downs National Park the small National Trust village of Slindon hides a big autumnal secret. For more than 20 years its tiny festival, free to all, has charmed and surprised visitors. The Upton family make amazing art from a vast array of gourds and squashes in remarkable colours; rich reds and oranges, to yellows through to blue hues. The highlight is the huge picture designed entirely from pumpkins and laid out on their barn roof. Previous depictions have celebrated Cinderella, spitfires, dinosaurs and most recently honoured the Shoreham lifeboat.   Throughout October.

6. Bath Children’s Literature Festival, Somerset

Transporting children into weird and wonderful realms, teaching kids to count or lulling them to sleep; children’s books play a huge role in young lives. Bath Children’s Literature Festival aims both to entertain and to get kids really excited about reading!  Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the festival has featured some of the most famous children’s authors and illustrators, including Jacqueline Wilson, Julia Donaldson and Neil Gaiman. 2016 invites David Walliams and Sir Chris Hoy, amongst others. Expect inspiring readings, crafts, games and, if your child’s favourite author is there…a lengthy wait for an autograph!  1-9 October

7. Gwledd Conwy Feast, Conwy


Beginning the festivities with a big bang at its Friday night firework display, the Gwledd Conwy Feast celebrates the best of Wales’ food, music and arts. Marquees resound all weekend with the best music North Wales has to offer. There are cookery demonstrations, entertainment and the most delicious super-fresh, super-local food, such as Conwy mussels, lobsters from the Great Orme headland and charcuterie and cheeses. Add beers, wines and a new Welsh drinks bar and you’ve definitely got a feast on your hands! The setting is cracking too – a medieval castle and picturesque harbour beside the beautiful Conwy estuary.    22-23 October

8. Museums at Night, UK-wide

The nights are drawing in and word turns to tales of spooks and sprites and Halloween. So, what better time to prowl around some of the UK’s premier museums, galleries historic buildings and heritage sights…after lights out? The Museums at Night festival is being celebrated all over Britain, in many different ways. Learn about the art of preserving anatomical specimens in Edinburgh, enjoy a child-friendly Slime and Snakes Halloween Party at Sunderland’s Museum and Winter Gardens, explore Powis castle and gardens after sunset or brave a scary sleepover at The Novium in Chichester, if you dare.   27-29 October


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