What to do this May Day bank holiday weekend

The spring bank holiday is the first genuinely warm weather break of the year, so don’t waste it writes How To Spend It magazine's Jonathan Futrell. Take inspiration from our 11 stores, each in a different location around the country, and discover local not-to-be-missed events. When you’ve finished shopping, slap on some sunblock and get out there and join in the holiday fun. But take a brolly just in case; this is England and, well, you never know. 

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Tunbridge Wells

Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is said to have enjoyed the Drunken Garden (above), four miles from the town centre at 17th century manor house Groombridge Place. This bank holiday (May 2-4) Wild Adventure is a test for kids - and adults - with zip wires, rope swings, a canal boat voyage to the Enchanted Forest and outdoorsy games like hunting for bugs and archery classes. Tickets online: £30.55 (families), £8.95 (adults), £7.70 (children). 


There are still some tickets left for the City Sound Project (May 2 and 3) highlighting the best of modern urban music - DJs and live acts - at various venues within the city walls. For a calmer - and quieter - experience make for the beautiful Mount Ephraim Gardens, near Faversham, where the annual Pat A Lamb event is happening Sunday and Monday (May 3 and 4). Craft demos, falconry, archery, face painting, a nature trail - and cuddling woolly lambs! There is also a busy weekend program at The Beany House of Art & Knowledge (admission free), which includes the chance to make and fly your own exotic bird. It only costs £1 in the Explorers & Collectors Gallery, and it’s open to all ages. 



If the weather’s fine this Sunday, join the Bluebell Trail and Cream Tea Experience at the city’s High Woods Country Park. The walk sets off at 11am. It’s a leisurely two miles and at the end of it - you guessed it - there are scones with lashings of jam and cream for a reward. Tickets £5 (adults), and £3 (children).


A short drive from the town centre - passing Hampton Court and Bushy Park - Kempton Park Race Track holds a Bank Holiday Family Fun Day. Jump racing, face painting, pony rides, balloon modeling and a screening and sing-a-long of Disney’s Frozen - and a meet-and-greet with key characters - is sure to keep the little ones amused. Tickets £12 (adults), under 18s (free).



East Midlands’ car lovers are in for treat this bank holiday with the annual Donington Historic Festival (May 2, 3 and 4), a pedal-to-the-metal celebration of the glory days of motor racing. Expect pre-WWll sport cars, 70s and 80s super cars, historic kit cars, races, celebrity car buffs and vintage military vehicles. Day tickets £20. Weekend tickets £32 and £45.

Bond Street and Brent Cross


First stop a blast of caffeine at the London Coffee Festival at the Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane (May 1 to 3), tickets from £20. Having allowed the world’s hottest baristas to put some lead in your pencil, make for Street Feast, Dalston, for a plate of some of the hippest and tastiest street food on sale. Tickets free (before 7pm), £4 thereafter. Then wind down at Canalway Cavalcade (May 2 to 4) on the Grand Union Canal, Little Venice, an annual event since 1983 with more than 100 weird-and-wonderful boats.


With one of the busiest bank holiday programmes: The Boiler Shop Steamer, behind Newcastle Central Station, blends music and street food (May 2 to 4), tickets £6 (after 6pm). You can also be transported back to the war years, with an authentic 40s fete of fashion, food and entertainment 14 miles north west at Belsay Hall (May 3 to 5). However, the forever thirsty may just want to head straight for the Gateshead Beer Festival (May 2, 3 and 4) which features 150 varieties of ale. Tickets £10.

Windsor and Bracknell

Feeling arty? Wave goodbye to royal Windsor and head for Henley where the Free Bank Holiday Art Extravaganza Henley Arts Trail (May 2 to 4) combines paintings, drawings, jewellery, textiles, ceramics, glass, sculpture, papier-mache, leatherwork and photography, while taking in some of the loveliest countryside the Thames Valley has to offer. Journey from Henley, via Shiplake, Wargrave, and Waltham St.Lawrence. On the morning of May 2 there’s also a Farmers' Market on St.Leonard’s Road - between East Berkshire College and The Firestation Centre for Arts and Culture.


FEATURE IMAGEtulip festival

For sheer botanical exuberance you can’t beat the Cascade of Colour and Beauty Tulip Festival at Burnby Hall Gardens every day until May 9. You can enjoy 14,000 tulips blooming in 30 varieties. Tickets £4.80 (adults), £2.60 (children). Those with the two-wheel bug can’t miss the Tour de Yorkshire (May 1 to 3), with some of the world’s fastest cyclists, including former Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins, all in the boldest lycra, hurtling through the most gorgeous countryside.

By Jonathan Futrell