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Autumn covers September, October and November. It is harvest time – watch out for food festivals. It is Keats’ “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” when the last flowers of summer gradually start to die away, apples are ripe, the leaves turn, and the nights draw in. In fact, though Autumn is prone to falling temperatures and mists, sunny days are not uncommon and early September, in particular, can be clear, warm and bright with flowers. It’s by no means guaranteed (of course), but an ‘Indian Summer’ (an expression probably North American in origin), is a good time to see Britain. That said, storms and high winds are common toward the end of the season.
So what happens during autumn in Britain? Here is a selection of notable dates and events for September, October and November. Wherever possible, a link takes you to another website or page for more information.
September in Britain
Blackpool illuminations – Blackpool Illuminations is an annual light show in the north-west seaside town of Blackpool. The first one took place in 1879. The lights are generally on for 66 days from September to November and stretch over 6 miles along the promenade. Visit Blackpool’s website
Royal Highland Gathering – The Braemar Gathering is always held on the first Saturday in September in The Princess Royal and Duke of Fife Memorial Park in Braemar, Scotland. The gathering dates back at least 900 years, but has been run in its present form since 1832. It is regularly attended by the reigning Monarch and members of the Royal Family and crowds come to acclaim the Monarch as Chieftain of the Braemar Gathering. The Braemar Gathering website
International Sheepdog Trials – sheepdog trials are held throughout the UK from February to October. The international trials (and, confusingly, the world trials too) are normally held in mid-September. There is a full diary of events on The International Sheep Dog Society website.
15 September is Battle of Britain Day. There may be local events, or memorial services, and the day is likely to be marked at air museums. What is Battle of Britain Day?
Harvest Festivals – Celebrations for successful harvests take place all over the world and are ancient in origin. Harvest Festivals take place all over the UK in churches, but also at some farms and parks in the autumn, usually during September or early October.
Heritage Open Days. Open Doors, or Heritage Open Days, during which the doors are thrown open to historic monuments and buildings, in particular those normally closed to the public, take place across Europe in September. Heritage Open Days in England Heritage Open Days in Wales Heritage Open Days in Scotland
Britain in October
Nottingham Goose Fair – The Nottingham Goose Fair is a travelling funfair that takes place during the first week of October. It dates back to the 13th century, possibly earlier, was named for the geese that were its main feature (doh!) and once had a reputation for its cheese. These days, it is noisy, brash and everything else you’d expect a 21st century funfair to be. Not my cup of tea, but it’d be boring if we were all the same. Details on Visit Nottinghamshire’s website
London Film Festival – the BFI London Film Festival has been organised by the British Film Institute since 1953. It is the UK’s largest public film festival and features more than 300 films and documentaries from all over the world. It normally takes place in the second half of October. BFI’s website
14 October is the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The Battle of Hastings, as any self-respecting school pupil will tell you, was a game-changer.
21 October is Trafalgar Day – the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. It is not widely remembered, but you’ll find out all about Trafalgar if you visit HMS Victory.
Bramley Festival – the Bramley Apple was first grown in the Nottinghamshire minster town of Southwell and the Bramley Festival celebrates this. There’s a food and drink fair in Southwell Minster itself and events throughout the town. Find out about the tale of the Bramley apple. Find out about the festival itself from Visit Nottinghamshire.
BST (British Summer Time) ends. The clocks go back 1 hour to GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) at 2am on the last Sunday in October.
Heritage attractions – many heritage attractions close for winter in the autumn and 31 October is often the last full day of visiting until the following March.
31 October is Halloween. Look out for witches, ghouls and things that go bump in the night. It is also the feast of Samhain (pronounced sah-win or sow-en), the last night of the year in the ancient Celtic calendar, and the end of summer with all its lightness and bounty. Here’s a bit about the origins of Halloween.
November in Britain
London to Brighton Rally – The London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, the longest-running motoring event in the world, first took place in 1896. Hundreds of cars – all of which have to have been built before 1905 – enter. It normally takes place on the first Sunday in November, starting at sunrise from Hyde Park, London and mostly follows the old A23 road to Brighton 54 miles (87 km) away. It is not a race. Veteran Car Run website
5 November is Guy Fawkes’ Night (aka Bonfire Night) – a commemoration of the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot on 5 November 1605, when a group of Catholic terrorists attempted to blow up Parliament and launch a coup d’état. Guy Fawkes was one of the conspirators, discovered among barrels of gunpowder in the cellars before Parliament assembled. The modern celebration utilises fireworks. Traditionally, an effigy of Guy was burned on a bonfire, but this is less common now – though effigies still figure hugely at some public events, such as the one in Lewes, East Sussex – which claims to be “the biggest celebrated Fifth November Event in the world.”
State Opening of Parliament – The State Opening of Parliament marks the formal start of the parliamentary year and the Monarch’s Speech sets out her government’s agenda for the coming session. It is the only regular occasion when the three constituent parts of Parliament – the Sovereign, the House of Lords and the House of Commons – meet. The event is full of tradition, ritual and symbolism. Though not an open public event, the arrival of the monarch can be witnessed. It takes place on the first day of a new parliamentary session – traditionally in November, but more recently in the Spring, or following a general election. Here’s a bit about it on the UK Parliament’s website
Lord Mayor’s Show. The Lord Mayor of London’s Show takes place on the second Saturday in November in the City of London. It dates from medieval times and includes an enormous, and varied, procession – which is well worth watching. Here’s the Lord Mayor’s Show’s website
11 November is Armistice Day when 2 minutes silence is observed at 11am in memory of the fallen of all nations. Remembrance services are held all over the country on the Sunday closest to Armistice Day. The National Service of Remembrance is held in Whitehall, London.
Regent Street Christmas Lights – among the many streets in Britain, and around the world, that have elaborate light displays as Christmas approaches, London’s Regent Street has to be among the best known. The lights are switched on by a celebrity of some sort around the middle of November. Far too soon in my opinion, but there you go.
27 November is Lancashire Day, celebrating the old county of Lancashire, whose county town is (obviously) Lancaster.
30 November is St Andrew’s Day, an official Bank Holiday in Scotland. Find out about St Andrew.
If you spot any errors in these details, or want to suggest an autumn event you feel has been missed, please get in touch using the contact page.