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


5 Reasons to Visit Norfolk – Inspire & Explore by

The team recently visited Norfolk to bring you a selection of some of the best things to see and do in this beautiful part of the UK. Feeling inspired? Start your exploration by taking a look at some of the finest holiday cottages in Norfolk today. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great holiday videos.

September Events in the UK

September events

  • Roald Dahl’s City of the Unexpected, Cardiff, 17-18 September. A cast of thousands are set to transform the centre of Cardiff, Dahl’s hometown, to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of his birth. Expect incredible sights, performances, pop-ups and spectacle, culminating in an evening finale!
  • Enchanted Forest, Pitlochry, Scotland. 29 September-30 October. This award winning multi-sensory show offers a magical tour of Faskally Wood with stunning light and sound. The theme of this year’s show  is ‘Shimmer!’ and is bound to sell out so get your tickets bought soon!
  • The Windsor Festival, Windsor Castle, Berkshire. 18 September- 2 October. One of the UK’s most stunning celebrations of music and culture in the stunning environs of the largest inhabited castle in the world (and reputedly, the Queen’s favourite!). Enjoy talks, walks, food and more.
Christie's summer residence ( ref. NT012044)

Christie’s summer residence ( ref. NT012044)

  • Agatha Christie Festival, Torquay, Thursday 15 September. This annual celebration of the ‘Queen of Crime’ – with tea and tours, talks, readings and more – takes place on the writer’s birthday. 2016 is also a special year as it marks 100 years since the publication of her first novel! Celebrate in style by staying at her summer home in Devon with the National Trust and
  • Jane Austen Festival, 9-18 September, Bath. Commencing with the stunning Grand Regency Costumed Promenade – with hundreds of participants in period finery – this celebration of Austen is comprised of walks, talks, workshops, concerts and more all taking place in the beautifully ornate streets of Bath.
  • Wales International Balloon Festival, Llangollen, 17-18 September.  The inaugural Wales International Balloon Festival Great Balloon Race is just one of many airborne attractions colouring the skies over Llangollen in September. Other activities include the Red Devils parachute display team, fireworks and a host of activities on land!
  • Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival, Suffolk. 24-25 September. Taking place near the stunning Suffolk coast, this celebration of local food and drink boasts a stunning setting to complement its fantastic food and drink! Enjoy free children’s activities, hands on cooking workshops and feasting on Suffolk’s finest produce.


  • Spirit of Speyside: Distilled, Elgin Town Hall. 9-11 September.  The world’s best whisky distillers united under one roof for the very first time! Alongside some amazing drams, enjoy coffee, chocolate and much more!
  • Newquay Fish Festival, 16-18 September. Celebrating the Cornish coast and seaside heritage of Newquay, this annual celebration of seafood offers bands, choirs, singers, dancers and pirates to perfectly complement the fantastic food and drink.
  • Bestival, Isle of Wight. 8-11 September. 2016’s instalment of the award-winning boutique music festival promises performances from The Cure, Major Lazer, Hot Chip, Fatboy Slim and more. We still have availability on the Isle of Wight for Bestival weekend, so you can sleep in a comfortable bed and enjoy your own shower too!

World Photo Day – Tips for Taking the Perfect Pic

World Photo Day

How to take better holiday snaps…

So you’ve managed to get everybody in place, the kids are smiling and you’re as positive as you can be that everyone has their eyes open… only to find the finished product is far from great. Here’s how can you make sure those holiday snaps are going to be Facebook worthy and something to be proud of!


We all hope that our holidays are accompanied with plenty of sunshine, but this can cause havoc when taking decent images. Most portraiture photographers will avoid full sun at all costs so it’s understandable to get frustrated when you can’t get the results you’re looking for.  Before you even lift your camera, take a look at the sun’s position and place your subject in the most ideal place, or if it’s a more relaxed shot, move around until the lighting looks good. Open shade is the most ideal as you can capture the brights of the sun without people squinting and details being blown out. Use a beach brolly, a building or even find a tree, but be careful to avoid hotspots from any dappled sunlight. If there’s no shade then backlit images are the next best thing and can give you amazing sun flare and light leaks, so look for the sun being positioned behind the person you’re shooting.

caption pic


Composition can make what would be an ordinary photo look amazing. There are numerous rules you can use including the rule of thirds, which is great when taking pictures on the beach or with far reaching views.

Rule of thirds

Rule of thirds

Or try framing the image with trees for example. This works great for more closed in shots and where you want beautiful surroundings without detracting from your subject.

Framing the image

Framing the image – the wall, tree on the right hand side and sunny bokeh give depth and interest but work to lead your eye back round to your subject.

If you’re looking to take pictures of the kids then it’s important to get down to their level. Taking images whilst angling your camera down to the ground won’t usually produce great results so kneel down and move around to find the best perspective. It’s great for seeing the world from a child’s point of view and even works well for taking pictures of your dog.

Low level photography

Getting down to their level

Capture the moment

Capturing the moment is one of the greatest pleasures of photography, especially when it comes to children and families. Instead of choreographing your photos, try having your camera within easy reach so you can react quickly and get that perfect shot. Most cameras now come with a continuous mode, even the camera on your smartphone, which means you can press and hold the shutter button to take multiple images per second. By doing this it means you have a much better chance of getting that perfect image.

Use your camera’s settings

If you have a DSLR camera, don’t be afraid to change your camera’s setting to suit your style. Play around with a bigger aperture to get that beautiful blurry background or bokeh, or try a faster shutter speed to avoid any blur when the kids are running through. A slower shutter speed will give you a soft blur to any movement in your photos, so flowing water for example, but be warned, you will then be in need of a tripod to avoid camera shake from your hand.

It’s not all about DSLRs though. Cameras on smartphones take some amazing images and some come with large apertures, allowing you to capture more light and create that blurry background for a shallow depth of field.

Vicki Andrews is a professional photographer in East Lancashire and North Yorkshire. Take a look at her website for more photography hints and tips. 

Capability Brown’s Greatest Gardens

2016 is the ‘Year of the English Garden’ and marks 300 years since the birth of our greatest gardener. We’re marking the occasion with a delightful directory of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown’s loveliest landscapes…

From humble beginnings, the landscape architect ‘Capability’ Brown rose to prominence by revolutionising the gardens and parklands around many of England’s finest estates. Signature sweeping vistas, serpentine lakes and artful tree plantings; Brown’s work was so naturalistic, garden and countryside were barely distinguishable. His harmonious style influences and endures in many of our most beautiful country houses today…

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire

The lake in Blenheim Palace, blue sky with some clouds at sunset in Oxfordshire, England

A World Heritage Site and one of Britain’s grandest stately homes, the vast 2000 acre parkland around Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire is one of Brown’s most celebrated landscapes. In 1764, Brown’s work was in vogue and he was commissioned by the 4th Duke of Marlborough to transform his estate. The canal became a sinuous lake, while artfully planted trees defined a landscape that would constantly change as the viewer progressed. He also preserved Europe’s oldest collection of ancient oak trees, many of which are now almost 900 years old and still standing. Today, further Blenheim highlights include the wonderful Versailles-inspired Water Terraces, the splendid portrait and paintings collection and stunning Orangery restaurant. The adventure playground, butterfly house and miniature train are a must for families.

Highclere Castle, West Berkshire

Better known as the setting for the wildly popular TV series Downton Abbey, the imposing towers of Highclere Castle in Berkshire sit stunningly in the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Here, from 1771 Brown continued his theme of perfecting nature, smoothing lawns, creating lakes and hills and re-envisioning the formal into the natural. The house and gardens are open to the public on selected dates when visitors may explore both the lavish interior of the house and the elegant grounds, or make like a lady and quaff a champagne afternoon tea.  Downton – we mean Highclere – is about as English as it gets.

Chatsworth House, Derbyshire

Chatsworth house

The great house and gardens at Chatsworth are a jewel of northern England…indeed it’s the true ‘palace of the peak’; famous for its grand facade, striking 300 year old cascade and more than 100 acres of beautiful gardens. Between 1760 and 1764 Brown carried out large-scale landscape works here, transforming working farmland. He altered the course of the River Derwent, planted trees extensively and removed the estate’s formal gardens. His landscape vision endures today – a rolling green idyll, merging seamlessly with the verdant limestone landscape of its Peak District home. Don’t miss its impressive fountains,  wonderful walks through rare trees, sculptures and grazing herds of red and fallow deer.

Burghley House, Lincolnshire

Burghley in Lincolnshire, one of England’s greatest Elizabethan houses is regarded as Brown’s most important commission. His work here, close to the pretty riverside town of Stamford, took him 25 years to complete. He managed the beautiful vistas at Burghley, solved their drainage issues with a serpentine lake, and created the recently restored ha-ha – a small wall designed to keep the deer out of the garden whilst giving an uninterrupted view from the house to the parkland – a Brown signature feature . Notably, Burghley House (the architecture of which Brown also influenced) owns one of only two known portraits of the man, and it is displayed in their state rooms. This year, the house is hosting a range of specialist talks and walks with an exhibition dedicated to Brown’s legacy.

Hampton Court Palace, London

Hampton Court Palace

Brown’s illustrious career lifted him far above his lowly birth and in 1764 he was  appointed as Chief Gardener at Hampton Court Palace by King George III. The land agent’s son moved to live within the palace walls. Capability’s most dramatic legacy here is the Great Vine.  Planted  in 1768  it’s the world’s largest grape vine. It  still bears fruit and every September the sweet black grapes are available to buy in the palace shops. Today, Hampton Court’s many highlights include the royal Chocolate Kitchen, the Privy Garden and the maze. This year there’s also a special exhibition – ‘The Empress and the Gardener’; a fascinating collection of drawings from the time Capability was in charge. They provide a rare and  important record of life at Hampton Court in London towards the end of the 18th century.

Harewood House, West Yorkshire

The rolling swathes of green created by ‘Capability’ inside Harewood House’s boundaries are so inspiring that they were captured by another celebrated and particularly English luminary, the painter JMW Turner. The beautiful, Grade I listed, deer-grazed parkland at Harewood in Yorkshire, now patrolled by wheeling red kites, has survived largely unchanged since Brown spent six years creating it. The great curving sweeps of the carriage drive and the 32 acre serpentine lake are key Brownian features and still delight the eye today. Harewood House is celebrating their Capability connection with a series of guided walking tours and a new ‘Art of Landscape’ exhibition, exploring his cultural influence.

Audley End, Essex

Audley End Stately Home

It may not be hugely famous, but Audley End in Essex is one of England’s finest Jacobean houses, surrounded by a gorgeous example of Capability Brown’s work. By the banks of the river Cam (canalised by Brown to make a slim-line, gently curving lake) and protected by wooded slopes, this magnificent building enjoys a glorious position in  unspoilt English countryside. As sumptuous as any royal palace, (it was in fact bought as a country residence by Charles II) it is preserved in its majesty today by English Heritage.  Art aficionados will be wooed by the wonderful collection of Old Master paintings hanging inside, including a Holbein, and the striking Jacobean oak screen in the Great Hall.

Dinefwr Park, Carmarthenshire, Wales

A Site of Special Scientific Interest and the only parkland National Nature Reserve in Wales, Dinefwr is a beautifully diverse habitat of woodlands, wildflower meadows and beautiful bogland. Pertinently, it is also a historic house set in an 18th-century landscape park and medieval deer park with the only Capability Brown garden open to the public in Wales. The Park’s socialite owners commissioned Brown in 1775 to recreate the kind of undulating and idyllic gardens of their fashionable friends in London, and the tidy landscape was duly naturalised. Special tercentenary Capability Brown Walks this year are being organised by its custodians, the National Trust.

Into the Wild – Celebrating Britain’s National Parks

We are blessed in Britain with 15 national parks, our country’s ‘breathing spaces,’ and every summer we celebrate them during National Parks Week.

Whatever the weather, or season take time out in our beautiful, protected wild places and enjoy the very best of our countryside, heritage and wildlife…

Yorkshire Dales

Yorkshire Dales

The Vikings called them ‘dalr’, meaning valleys and today we worship these same rolling dales. The glorious mosaic of green, criss-crossed with dry-stone walls of the Yorkshire Dales is home to the Tour de Yorkshire and punctuated with picture-perfect villages. Feast on famous Wensleydale cheese, delight in the purple haze of August heather, bike along routes trail-blazed by the world’s greatest cyclists and recharge your batteries with, according to locals, the best cup of tea in England. Don’t miss the limestone majesty of Malham Cove and the drama of Hardraw Force waterfall. Children will love jumping the cracks in limestone pavement, or crossing the stepping stones at Bolton Abbey, before screaming for ice-cream from nearby Billy-Bob’s Parlour.



For a true sense of space, lose yourself in the largest national park in the UK, in the heart of the Scottish highlands. Home to our highest mountain range and most extensive native Caledonian forest, dominated by striking Scots pines, the Cairngorms is a place to challenge yourself. This might be through hiking, climbing or simply searching for true wilderness and perhaps an elusive pine martin or reindeer. Yes, really. The only place in the UK place guaranteed for skiing, the Cairngorms transform into a snowy arctic expanse in winter. And don’t forget the Scottish hospitality – a wee dram of whisky goes down rather well after a day in the mountains. Cheers!

Brecon Beacons

Brecon Beacons

The singular geology of the Brecon Beacons makes this place stand out. Part of the park is an internationally recognised Global Geopark, and its flat-topped escarpments plunge into glacial valleys and lakes. Red sandstone peaks near Brecon in mid Wales give way to the Black Mountains, and the park boasts the highest peak in south Wales, Pen Y Fan. It’s also a Dark Sky Reserve, making it as beautiful by night as by day. Wild Welsh mountain ponies can be spotted in upland areas and you can also wander or horse ride over countless miles of accessible tracks and paths. Red kites are beloved as Wales’ unofficial national bird and you can view these magnificent raptors jostling for food at the Red Kite Feeding Centre.



In the far north east stretching towards the Scottish border is Northumberland National Park; the largest Dark Sky Park in Europe and one of the best places in Britain to gaze upon our solar system. Hadrian’s Wall meanders east to west across the country and in Northumberland, the last outpost of the Roman Empire’s northern frontier; it snakes along the national park’s southern boundary. Take a walk with a knowledgeable volunteer guide and learn about both natural and human history.  If your kids would rather be at a farm park than a National Park, delight them with the Hethpool Wild Goat Walk, taking in an exciting waterfall and affording the best chance to spot the comic, shaggy Cheviot goats.

Loch Lomond & the Trossachs

 Loch Lomond

A city-dweller’s escape providing fantastic opportunities for fishing, boating and(if you’re brave or mad!) swimming. Within striking distance of Stirling, Edinburgh and especially Glasgow – it’s less than an hour from the city – Loch Lomond & the Trossachs is one of Scotland’s most accessible playgrounds.  You can mountain bike, walk part of the 96 mile West Highland Way or simply paddle along the bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond itself – Britain’s largest inland stretch of water. Summer brings Highland Games and the melodic sounds of traditional pipe bands. For those in search of serenity, try the calming ponds and towering trees at Benmore Botanic Garden.

Norfolk Broads

Norfolk Broads

A watery wonderland in one of Britain’s driest places, the Broads are our largest protected wetland. 60 broads (wide, shallow lakes created by flooded medieval peat pits) and seven rivers are visited by eight million people every year.  Despite this, the combination of fen, woodland and grazing marshes feel like a tranquil getaway and the unique habitat allows our rarest wildlife to thrive. The swallowtail butterfly lives only here, bitterns and marsh harriers are on the increase and water shrews may be glimpsed. Boating is the Broads’ other major draw, with a choice of glamorous cruisers and waterside eateries. Choose a canoe or paddle-board and you can explore all but its very smallest streams.



Pembrokeshire is our only truly coastal nature reserve. And what a coastline! It’s well loved for sandy, safe beaches, abundant wildlife and impossibly pretty shores. If you’re visiting between April and October, beat a different path to Pembrokeshire’s islands. Mostly uninhabited, these remote places support populations of puffins, manx shearwaters and gannets. Take a sea safari, particularly if you have a soft-spot for seabirds. Back on dry land, walk parts of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path and drink in ancient heritage with its castles and Iron Age forts. Look skywards for choughs and skylarks and out to sea for basking sharks and unbelievably orcas, who return annually to this wonderful bit of Wales.



Exmoor’s diversity is special, with a sense of wilderness so hard to find in densely populated southern England. The name is synonymous with moorland yet one of the park’s most celebrated features are its dramatic sea cliffs, sweeping into the Bristol Channel and the highest in England. Exmoor is edged by a spectacular coastline to kayak, walk or windsail and is also home to orchards, cider farms and swathes of ancient woodland, splashed bright in spring with bluebells.  Though the landscape has been shaped by farming over millennia, this quiet park is a wonderful place to feel alone. Apart from the ponies, of course: you’ll always be pleased to see them.