Britain’s Best Easter Events and Activities 2017

Bluebells

Birdsong, bluebells, lambs and lighter evenings – the return of spring is always joyful. From the dawn chorus and Easter bonnet parades to beautiful blossom in Kent and chocolate heaven in York, our country has so much on offer to enjoy and explore.

So, make the most of the sunshine (and showers) with our guide to the most relaxing, adventurous and eccentric events this Easter…

Easter Dog Races, St Agnes, Cornwall

Cornwall beach

Clinging to the wild north Cornwall coast, on Easter Sunday, 16 April, gorgeous St Agnes’ golden beach holds one of the UK’s more eccentric events. The annual Easter Dog Races see a gang of assorted dogs chase a man dressed as a bunny along the sands. Give your own pooch a shot; have a flutter on the winner, or simply enjoy the spectacle. www.stagnessurflifesavingclub.co.uk/annual-dog-racing-on-the-beach-on-easter-sunday

Survival skills at Wray Castle, Cumbria

Most parents feel like they need a survival course to cope with the holidays, but this free event is a dream for your budding Bear Grylls. Under the eye of a ranger, kids learn basic survival skills and build their own shelter, whilst you enjoy the castle’s gothic grandeur. 8, 13, 20 and 22 April. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wray-castle

Chocolate heaven, York

At the centre of our love affair with chocolate, the city of York’s chocolate heritage dates back to the 18th century with the iconic producer Rowntree. Check out York’s Chocolate Story and their new exhibition celebrating local confectioner Terry’s, or gaze at the gorgeous, hand-crafted eggs at Bettys tea room. www.yorkschocolatestory.com

Flowering fruit orchards, Kent and nationwide

Apple Blossom

The pastel prettiness of fruit trees bursting into bloom is a heart-lifting joy of spring, and nowhere does it happen more dramatically than in the orchards the ‘Garden of England’, Kent. Brogdale Farm, near Faversham, is home to our National Fruit Collection and by mid to late April both the cherry and apple trees should be at their beautiful best. www.brogdalecollections.org

Easter ‘Eggs’travaganza, Eden Project, Cornwall

The world-famous biosphere with its indoor/outdoor capabilities is the ideal location for an unpredictable English Easter day out. And Eden has gone all out on the egg theme. From 1-17 April, egg-spect (couldn’t resist) games such as ‘Nest Ball’ plus a huge ‘Egg-scramble’ course and an egg hunt. www.edenproject.com

St Georges Day Charity Festival, Lytham St Annes

On the Lancashire coast, near Blackpool this lively festival offers busking, a tea dance, a choir competition, comedy and a St George’s Day lunch, ball and parade all in aid of local charities. The streets of the seaside resort fill with music and laughter from 19-23 April. www.stgeorgesdayfestival.com

Wildflowers and seabirds, RSPB South Stack Cliffs, Anglesey

Anglesey seabirds

Spring is a wonderful time to visit the stunning South Stack Cliffs, a protected seabird colony, just off Holy Island, Anglesey. Listen out for skylarks, spy on breeding seabirds and experience an explosion of floral colour carpeting the heathland cliff tops. http://www.rspb.org.uk

Sub-tropical colour at Inverewe Garden & Estate, Scottish Highlands

Heading to the highlands, doesn’t usually take you towards warmth but the Gulf Stream around the National Trust for Scotland’s gardens at Inverewe creates a clement micro-climate where you can marvel at mountains whilst walking amongst swathes of sub-tropical colour. www.nts.org.uk/Property/Inverewe-Garden-and-Estate

Dawn chorus, nationwide

The dawn chorus actually begins in the dark with birds singing whilst they wait for the light to help in their search for food. Set the alarm to enjoy it in parks, gardens and woodlands all over Britain. Alternatively, head to the RSPB’s Wood of Cree – the largest ancient wood in southern Scotland – or to its Minsmere reserve in Suffolk for a guided walk. www.rspb.org.uk

Lambing, nationwide

Easter lambs

Nothing says spring quite like a gambolling little lamb. At Tatton Park, Cheshire they’re having a special, open Lambing Week from 8 -17 April. You can feed orphaned lambs on an organic farm in the Brecon Beacons on various April dates and at Doonies Rare Breeds Farm near Aberdeen you can enjoy a bevy of rare breed babies. events.tattonpark.org.uk; www.gooddayout.co.uk/experiences/lambing-organic-farm; www.dooniesfarm.co.uk

‘Where is Peter Rabbit Treasure Trail?’,   Bowness-on-Windermere, Lake District

How very 2017. A digital Easter Egg hunt organised by The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction, where families search for ceramic eggs hidden in secret locations in the Lake District to win lovely prizes. You’ll need a car and a Smartphone and probably some excitable children. The Treasure Trail goes live on 12th April.

www.hop-skip-jump.com/events/event/peter-rabbit-treasure-trail-2017

Vintage festival, Great Central Railway, Loughborough, Leicestershire

A must for vintage vehicle fans of all ages, Great Central Railway’s Easter Vintage festival runs from 14 to 17 April with a traditional country fair at Quorn & Woodhouse station. There’ll be big wheels, vintage cars, traction engines and more, plus real ale and live music to keep the less enthusiastic happy!  www.gcrailway.co.uk/special-events/easter-vintage-festival

Spectacular sunbathing, Three Cliffs Bay, Gower Peninsula, Wales

Three Cliffs Bay on Gower

Located in one of the most magnificent areas along the Gower & Swansea Bay Coast Path, the view over Three Cliffs Bay beach, and, of course, its trio of striking limestone cliffs is often cited as Britain’s best.  Walk amongst wildflowers in crystal clear light or simply recline in spring sunshine and take it all in.  www.visitswanseabay.com/listings/three-cliffs-bay-beach  

Dyfi Osprey Visitor Centre, mid Wales

A lesser known herald of spring, Ospreys return to our shores in March after wintering in Africa and were reintroduced to this part of Wales in 2011 for the first time in 400 years. Only open April to September, the Dyfi Osprey Centre has a 360degree observatory and is accessible to wheelchair users. www.dyfiospreyproject.com

Ducks and Easter Bonnets, Nunney, Somerset

Centred around its commanding castle, the village of Nunney holds its annual Easter Bonnet parade and duck race this Easter Sunday, 16 April. There are prizes for the best decorated bonnets and a sea of yellow duckies ‘race’ down the picturesque Nunney Brook, all in aid of local, community projects. www.visitnunney.com/easter-sunday-bonnet-parade-duck-race

Bluebells, nationwide

From the middle of April, our woodlands, glades and gardens are graced with a striking lilac-blue carpet of bluebells. Of particular note is Hinton Ampner, Hampshire where you can picnic and recline on ‘sofas’ carved from fallen trees amidst the flowers, and the parkland National Nature Reserve of Dinefwr Park and Castle, Carmarthenshire. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hintonampner; www.nationaltrust.org.uk/dinefwr

10 Marvellous Experiences for Mother’s Day

With Mother’s Day fast approaching, loving sons and daughters around the country are searching for new and unusual ways to make 26 March extra special for their mums. If you’re still struggling for ideas, here’s our guide to the top 10 experiences in Britain to spoil your mother for Mother’s Day. We hope it gives you some inspiration!

1. Start with a slap-up brunch in Manchester

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Does your mum loves a full English breakfast? How about a sophisticated Eggs Benedict, some healthy porridge and fruit, or perhaps an indulgent short stack of pancakes? Whatever she’s into, brunch is always a great way to get your Mother’s Day off to a good start. Manchester is something of a hub of brunch spots, from traditional greasy spoons to trendy little cafes. Recently refurbished celebrity hangout the Koffee Pot is known for its big breakfasts and mugs of tea, Moose Coffee is the place to head for pancakes, and Home Sweet Home does a mean Eggs Benedict. Albert’s Shed is great for canal-side dining, whilst North Tea Power do a great coffee and some lighter brunch options.

2. Sample a slice of culture in Norwich

Is your mum a culture vulture? Did you know that Norwich is the first (and so far only) English city to be declared a world UNESCO City of Literature? The award recognises this East Anglian city’s literary heritage, along with its ongoing commitment to culture. For anyone who loves culture and the arts, Norwich is a fantastic destination, and boasts a huge range of galleries, museums, theatres and music venues throughout the city. Head a little further out, and you have the glorious Norfolk countryside and coast to enjoy too!

3. Experience a Victorian Highlands spa town

Proving that southern England doesn’t have a monopoly on spa towns, the charming town of Strathpeffer – some 20 miles north of Inverness – is a magical hidden gem. For the Victorians, this Scottish hideaway was the location of invigorating spa baths and even a peat bath. Today it’s a conservation village, and you can take your mum to the historic pump room to learn about the town’s history. Once you’ve had your fill of quaint Victorian charm, you can enjoy the natural beauty of the surrounding hills, or discover the nearby Pictish hill fort.

4. Delight in some fine art in St Ives

st ives

The seaside town of St Ives, Cornwall, has long served as both home and inspiration to some of the world’s leading artists, including Ben Nicholson, Naum Gabo and – perhaps best known – Barbara Hepworth. Today, St Ives remains a thriving hub of art and is the perfect mother’s day destination if your mum is a fan of the visual arts. Tate St Ives and the Barbara Hepworth Museum are not to be missed. You’ll also find a host of galleries and buzzing workshops thriving in this delightful town, including the New Millennium Gallery, the Uys Gallery, ArtSpace Gallery and the Porthminster Gallery.

5. Grab a Sunday market bargain in North Yorkshire

Shopping may not be everyone’s favourite pastime, but if your mum loves hunting out a few hidden gems in a Sunday market, why not take her to the largest one in northern England? The racecourse at Catterick, North Yorkshire, is home to a massive Sunday market with a fun, fairground atmosphere. You can buy just about anything here, from fancy cheeses to stylish clothing and electronic gadgets. Then, when you’re done with the market stalls you can choose an indulgent treat from one of the huge range of caterers, from chilli sausages and hog roasts to ice cream and doughnuts!

6. Explore the great outdoors in South Wales

If your mum loves getting outdoors and enjoying some spectacular scenery, she’ll love a mother’s day trip to the Brecon Beacons National Park in south Wales. Along with landscapes that offer some of the most extraordinary natural beauty in Britain, you can also discover something of the region’s magnificent industrial heritage, ancient ruins and mysterious caves. For a lakeside nostalgia trip, head for the Brecon Mountain Railway. Take your mum to see the amazing waterfalls, explore the Blaenavon World Heritage Site, or experience the magical beauty of Llanthony Valley.

7. Take high tea in style in the Lake District

What more traditional way to spoil your mum that with the elegance of taking afternoon tea? Enjoy delicate, finger cut sandwiches, freshly baked scones with real clotted cream, the finest teas and perhaps even a glass of Champagne. There are lots of city locations for afternoon tea, of course, but the restaurants and cafes of the Lake District offer a special combination of high tea and stunning views. For a choice of beautiful and luxurious lakeside locations head for Coniston, Windermere, Ambleside, Ullswater or Derwent Water.

8. Discover the gardens and parks of the Peak District

Buxton Gardens

For glorious gardens, stately homes and picturesque parkland it’s difficult to beat the gorgeous Peak District. From the magnificent Chatsworth to Lyme Park, Rode Hall, Calke Abbey and the Pavilion Gardens, there are some fantastic places to explore in Derbyshire and the surrounding areas. For a Mother’s Day treat, the Heights of Abraham offers a fabulous cable car journey across the Derwent Valley.

9. Search for sun in Sussex

March is not necessarily the best time of year to head down to the sea, but if your mum is keen on a bit of early seaside fun it makes sense to head to the place that claims it’s the sunniest place in Britain. Eastbourne, in East Sussex, offers dazzlingly white shingle beaches, grand Victorian terraces and some good old fashioned pub grub.

10. Go potty with the National Trust

With heritage locations throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland you won’t have to travel far to treat your mum to a National Trust experience. Whether it’s daffodil potting at Gibside, Tyne and Wear, snowdrop planting in Somerset, afternoon tea or a quiet wander around the grounds, a special, tranquil time for two is guaranteed!

The Best Holiday Reads – as chosen by you!

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We asked you to recommend your favourite holiday reads for World Book Day and you did not disappoint! There’s a great selection, from old classics to contemporary thrillers; travelogues, biographies and much more. So much good stuff, in fact, that we decided to compile the list into a word cloud to inspire others.  Maybe your next holiday read is in there somewhere?

Congratulations to  Joanne Darnell who won our Book Day prize draw and wins a Waterstones voucher too.

Happy reading!

March Events in the UK

With spring approaching there are plenty of opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy the beauty of Britain in bloom. But even if the weather lets us down, there’s more than enough to enjoy in March.

Take a look at a few of our picks for the best events and activities throughout the month.

Words by the Water, Keswick: 3-12 March

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There are few more scenic settings for a celebration of words and ideas than the shores of Derwentwater in the Lakes. Similarly, there are few better festivals bringing together the brightest and best from the worlds of comedy, journalism, politics and literature. The 2017 festival line-up offers appearances from Melvyn Bragg, Vince Cable, comedian Mark Watson and a host of special events taking full advantage of the stunning scenery. https://www.theatrebythelake.com/words-by-the-water-festival.

Glasgow International Comedy Festival: 9-26 March

One of the highlights of the comedy calendar, Glasgow’s Comedy Festival is where you can see upcoming stars alongside a wealth of renowned performers. The 15th festival offers such luminaries as Jimmy Carr, Stewart Lee, Al Murray and Russell Howard with plenty more unique events taking place in venues around the city. Choose from live podcast recordings, music performances, film commentaries and more!  http://www.glasgowcomedyfestival.com/

Cardiff Children’s Literature Festival: 25 March – 2 April

The hometown of Roald Dahl seems like the perfect place for a celebration of children’s literature. And since the recent Dahl-inspired City of the Unexpected is still fresh in the mind, you, and your young readers, can expect quite a time in Cardiff. The 5th festival features a host of readings and workshops, featuring a who’s who of literary talent, including Nick Sharrat, Andy Stanton celebrating the tenth anniversary of his creation Mr Gum, Holly Smale and more. Whether you’re with a budding writer or devoted reader, there’s plenty for the family to enjoy. http://www.cardiff-events.com/cardiff-childrens-literature-festival/

Marmalade Festival 2017, Penrith, Cumbria: 18-19 March

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Join the town of Penrith in Cumbria as it goes orange for the international celebration of Paddington’s favourite condiment! The Penrith & Dalemain Mansion will be hosting the majority of the demonstrations, with talks, exhibitions, tastings, music and awards. Meanwhile Penrith town centre will be celebrating marmalade with street entertainers, magicians, musicians, dancers, storytelling, stalls and much more. There are free buses between the venues and, such is the prestige of the event, Virgin Trains’ service will be transforming into the West Coast Marmalade Line for competition entries – where they will be met by Paddington himself at Penrith station.  https://www.dalemain.com/marmalade-festival/

Mother’s Day with the National Trust, various locations: 26 March

Treat your mum to a special day out with a host of events and activities taking place in National trust locations throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Whether you fancy high tea and a peaceful stroll, getting green fingers by potting daffodils and planting snowdrops or just taking the time out to appreciate hundreds of gorgeous heritage locations throughout the land, there’s plenty to show your mum how much you appreciate her. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/mothers-day-events

Cheltenham Festival,  Gloucestershire: 14-17 March

One of the UK’s most popular racing events on one of its most popular courses, Cheltenham is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the racing calendar. Four days of equine events open with the most important hurdle race of the season: the Stan James Champion Hurdle. The second day is the ever-popular Ladies Day with a St Patrick’s Day special on the Thursday. Finally, the 17th offers Gold Cup Day, arguably the best day’s racing of the year! http://cheltenham.thejockeyclub.co.uk/events-tickets/whats-on/the-festival

Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival: 16-19 March

Bristol International Jazz & Blues Festival 2016.

Bristol’s musical heritage is justly celebrated with pioneers Massive Attack, Portishead and Tricky creating a whole new musical genre. The city has continued to be one of the key arts and culture hubs of the UK, cultivating a thriving jazz and blues renaissance in the process. Enjoy over 40 workshops, dances and live performances at the Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival with artists like Macy Gray, Mud Morganfield (son of Muddy Waters) and more gracing the stage. http://www.bristoljazzandbluesfest.com

Borderlines Film Festival 2017,   Herefordshire, Shropshire and the Borders: 1-12 March

Celebrating 15 years of exclusive film screenings and events in lovely rural settings, Borderlines goes from strength to strength. This year’s offerings include screenings of Oscar darlings: Moonlight, La La Land, Jackie, Fences and more alongside one-off screenings of Cuban cinema and a chance to see sneak peeks of a number of films before they go on general release. With a wealth 0f lovely locations on offer, there are few better places to stretch your legs afterwards too! www.borderlinesfilmfestival.co.uk

York Literature Festival: 16-30 March

One of the UK’s most prestigious literary events, the York’s festival of the written word places and emphasis on literature, spoken word and poetry with diversions into music, comedy, film and theatre. In short, it’s a one stop shop for wonderful cultural events. Enjoy events and appearances from Michael Palin, Sue Perkins, Mark Gatiss, Michael Faber and more in a glorious historic setting. There’s much to enjoy for literary lovers and budding writers and novelists. http://www.yorkliteraturefestival.co.uk.

Wales: Travel Highlights for St David’s Day

St David’s Day is the feast day of the patron saint of Wales. Falling on 1st March every year, the day of his passing in 569, it’s a great time to celebrate all things Welsh, and has been a national day since the 1900s.

Spring is a good time generally to travel to Wales – all the flowers are starting to come out, but the high summer crowds have not arrived. The weather is often ideal for walking, biking and getting about in the crisp but not freezing air as you absorb all that this spectacular part of the world has to offer. It’s a time of year when colours look gorgeously fresh as well, so it can feel very energising.

What to visit…

The Gower Peninsula

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The Gower Peninsula was the UK’s first place to become an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1966. Surrounded by the Atlantic and the Bristol Sea, Gower’s truly spectacular landscape is dotted with castles, prehistoric stones, churches and other reminders of Wales’s rich past. All these are set against a breathtaking backdrop of beaches, valleys, woodland and stunning clifftop views.

Mumbles

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Mumbles is often referred to as the Gateway to Gower, as it marks the start of this stretch of coastline. It is a popular area of Swansea and an old haunt of Dylan Thomas. Cosmopolitan yet cosy, and with some great shopping and eateries, Mumbles is a fantastic area to visit because there are lots of things to see and do. There is a lighthouse that was constructed in 1794, a Victorian pier, Oystermouth Castle, and incredible sea views.

Pendine Sands

pendine sands

This is a glorious seven mile stretch of beach on the Welsh south coast, along the shores of Carmarthen Bay. It reaches from Gilman Point at its western end to Laugharne Sands in the east. Pendine village itself is nearer the western end. Used as a track for motorbike and car racing in the early 1900s, the beach has been described as “the finest natural speedway imaginable,” and it was used as a firing range in the Second World War. The Museum of Speed is open in Pendine village in the summer.

Caerphilly Castle

caerphilly castle

Used as the backdrop for the popular TV series Merlin, and offering free entry on St David’s Day, Caerphilly Castle is one of western Europe’s great medieval fortresses, and the continent’s second biggest castle. It’s famous for its great hall, gatehouses and ‘leaning’ tower, and is surrounded by extensive artificial lakes. Work on building it began in the 13th century – as part of Gilbert de Clare’s campaign to conquer Glamorgan.

Fairbourne

Sunset and reflection on baech at Barmouth, Wales UK

This delightful village and seaside resort is on the coast of Barmouth Bay, in Gwynedd, south of the River Mawddach estuary and surrounded by Snowdonia National Park. The area boasts a two mile Blue Flag beach of golden sands, is accessible for wheelchairs and prams, and the beach is fronted by tank traps known as Dragon’s Teeth, which date back to World War II. At the same time, the popular narrow-gauge Fairbourne Railway links the village with Penrhyn Point in the warmer months, and the Barmouth Ferry leaves from the seaward end of the railway.

Caernarfon

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The royal town of Caernarfon has been inhabited continuously since pre-Roman times, and is dominated by Edward I’s medieval fortress, where Prince Charles had his investiture as Prince of Wales in 1969. The castle is probably the most famous in Wales, thanks to its commanding presence and sheer scale. The town itself has everything a visitor could need, with plenty of good places to eat and stay.

Cardiff

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There are so many reasons to visit and enjoy the Welsh capital and its line-up of unique attractions, from its quality shops to the enticing blend of modern architecture and historic buildings. Cardiff Bay has entertainment for everyone. Stroll around Bute Park, take in Cardiff Castle, and visit the Doctor Who Experience – or perhaps you’ll be lucky enough to catch a show at the Millennium Centre?

Easy to get to and around, Cardiff really is a city with something for everyone.

Snowdonia National Park

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Located on the west coast, Snowdonia National Park covers over 820 miles of diverse landscapes, and is Wales’s biggest national park. It’s also home to the highest mountain to be found in Wales, as well as the biggest natural lake and an array of beautiful villages, such as Betws y Coed and Beddgelert.

This is also a great place to immerse yourself in Welsh history and culture, since over half the population is Welsh-speaking.

Other highlights

Ystradfellte

With so much to take in and experience in Wales, these highlights are just the start! From the waterfalls at Ystradfellte to Dylan Thomas’s house at Laugharne, from the Pembrokeshire coastal path to the red stone walls of Powys Castle and the majesty of Tintern Abbey – there’s something new to experience each time you visit.