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United Kingdom > Culture and festivals > Britain’s free events July to Dec.

Britain’s free events, sorted by region and month. Part 2: July to December.

July 

North-east England: Sunderland International Air Show, Sunderland

Sunderland Air Show is one of the largest free air shows in Britain, and includes flying displays from the RAF Red Arrows, fairground rides and military exhibitions. Held along the city's coastline at Roker and Seaburn, you can explore the beach while enjoying the entertainment from above.  

 

When: July 2017. Web: sunderland.gov.uk  

 

Where: Sunderland is on the north-east coast of England, It is a four-hour train journey from London, and a 30-minute journey from Newcastle upon Tyne by car or train. 

 

North-west England: Liverpool International Music Festival 2017  

Liverpool International Music Festival includes a free element hosted at Sefton Park. This part of the festival sees household names and up-and-coming acts perform annually in July.  

When: 20 – 23 July 2017. Web: limfestival.com 

 

Where: Liverpool is on the north-west coast of England. It is just over two hours by train from London and is a 50-minute journey by train from Manchester.  

 

August 

  

South-west England: Bristol International Balloon Fiesta  

The spectacular Bristol International Balloon Fiesta sees more than 150 hot air balloons take to the skies at dusk and dawn from Ashton Court Estate’s beautiful grounds; making it Europe’s largest hot air balloon event. The free four-day event is an incredible spectacle and attracts hundreds of thousands of people each year. Visitors can also enjoy helicopter and balloon rides and family entertainment, including acoustic music and fairground rides.  

 

When: August 2017. Web: bristolballoonfiesta.co.uk  

 

Where: Bristol is in the south-west of England, and is a one hour and 45-minute train journey from London and a 90-minute journey from Oxford by train or car.  

 

South-east England: Notting Hill Carnival, London  

Growing in popularity and in size each year, the Notting Hill Carnival is the biggest street festival in Europe. Originating in 1964 as a way for Afro-Caribbean communities to celebrate their cultures and traditions, the carnival is an amazing array of sounds, music, color and solidarity.  

 

When: August 2017. Web: thenottinghillcarnival.com 

 

Where: Notting Hill is located in west London. Its nearest London Underground Stations are Holland Park and Notting Hill Gate, though it is suggested to check travel information before the event.  

 

Midlands, central England: Leicester Caribbean Carnival  

Explore the streets of Leicester and see the Leicester Caribbean Carnival, where costumed bands perform, vibrant floats parade through the streets and the Carnival Village is yours to explore with a funfair and children’s play area.  

 

When: August 2017. Web: leicestercarnival.com  

 

Where: Leicester is in located in central England’s Midlands region, and is a 50-minute train journey from Birmingham, and a 70-minute journey from London by train.  

 

West Scotland: Edinburgh Fringe Festival  

The largest arts festival in the world, Edinburgh Fringe Festival is an inspiring celebration of the best performance and entertainment from every corner of the globe, located in a variety of venues, from local pubs and quirky haunts to professional performance spaces.  

 

When: August 2017. Web: edinburghguide.com  

 

Where: Edinburgh is located in the west of Scotland, and is a 75-minute journey by plane from London.  

 

September 

  

Scotland: Doors Open Days  

Every weekend during the month of September, buildings, places and spaces that are usually closed to the public open their doors and give visitors the unique opportunity to explore these usually hidden gems. Discover architecture, secret spots and intriguing histories in locations that only open once a year, some of which only open once in a lifetime.  

 

When: Throughout September. Web: doorsopendays.org.uk  

 

Where: Various locations in Scotland.  

 

Lancashire, north-west England: Blackpool Illuminations  

Back for 2016, the Blackpool Illuminations are promised to be bigger and even better than before. Explore the seaside town of Blackpool while experiencing a dazzling combination of light and sound along the six-mile illuminated display, which beautifully lights up the coastal skyline.  

 

When: 2 September – 6 November 2016. Web: illuminations.visitblackpool.com  

 

Where: Located in Blackpool, Lancashire, which is a seaside resort on the north-west coast of England. Blackpool is just under three hours from London by train, and is a 75-minute drive from Liverpool.  

 

The South Downs National Park, south-east England: Country Walking Festival  

Put your walking boots on for nine days of activities showcasing the sights, sounds and tastes of the South Downs National Park and surrounding areas. England’s newest national park, the South Downs is home to the famous Seven Sisters chalk cliffs, as well as Beachy Head. The festival features more than 60 guided walks, many of which are free of charge. Booking is essential.  

 

When: 24 September – 2 October. Web: sussexwalkingfestival.org.uk   

 

Where: Various locations. The South Downs are easily accessible from London, with car journeys taking around two hours. A number of train routes are also available, with journeys taking approximately one hour 30 minutes.


 

October  

 

South-west England: Falmouth Oyster Festival  

One of Cornwall’s biggest specialist food festivals, Falmouth Oyster Festival celebrates the start of the oyster dredging season, the native Fal Oyster, and the diversity of Cornish seafood. Enjoy four days of feasting, cooking demonstrations from top chefs, live music, real ale and wine bars, and craft stalls. Keep an eye out for the Working Boat race and Grand Oyster Parade too.  

 

When: 13 – 16 October 2016. Web: falmouthoysterfestival.co.uk  

 

Where: Falmouth is on the south-coast of Cornwall in south-east England. It is a five-hour journey by car from London, and just over a three-hour journey from Bristol.  

 

North-west England: Lakes International Comic Art Festival, Kendal  

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival takes over the town of Kendal on the edge of the Lake District for three days of celebration. Meet international comic artists and creators, watch live drawings, and see films, exhibitions, comic trails, workshops, performances and master classes. There is also a free family zone and a special focus on Beatrix Potter in 2016 for her 150th anniversary.  

 

When: 14 – 16 October. Web: comicartfestival.com  

 

Where: Kendal can be found in Cumbria in the north-west of England. Kendal is nearly a four-hour journey by train from London, or two-hour car journey from Leeds.  

 

Northern Ireland: Ghosts in the Glens Storytelling Festival  

Based in Cushendall, this storytelling festival celebrates the rich cultural heritage of the Glens of Antrim. Join local storytellers and musicians, as well as featured guests from the rest of Northern Ireland, while being inspired by the natural beauty, heritage and history of the area.  

 

When: 28 – 30 October 2016. Web: ghostsintheglens.com  

 

Where: Cushendall is located on the north-east coast of Northern Ireland. It is a 60-minute car journey from Belfast, which is a 75-minute flight from London.  

 

November  

 

South-west England: From Darkness to Light, Salisbury Cathedral  

Attended by thousands of visitors every year, Darkness to Light at Salisbury Cathedral is one of the most popular services of the Cathedral's year. The Advent Procession starts with the Cathedral in total darkness and silence, before the Advent Candle is lit and the evening progresses to a culmination of beautiful music and readings.  

 

During the service two great processions move around different spaces in the building which, by the end, is illuminated by almost 1,300 candles. The service lasts approximately 65 minutes.  

 

When: November, date to be confirmed. Web: salisburycathedral.org.uk  

 

Where: Salisbury Cathedral is in Salisbury, Wiltshire. Wiltshire is in the south west of England, and is 90-minute journey by train from London.  

 

East England: Cambridge Jazz Festival  

Each November Cambridge plays host to the Cambridge Jazz Festival with live music that spans 12 days of entertainment. With more than 200 musicians, and 80 events in 18 venues celebrating the multiple genres of jazz, there's an abundance of both ticketed and free events to enjoy. Immerse yourself in the gypsy jazz, Latin, soul and funk, and jam sessions, as well as getting involved with films, speakers and workshops.  

 

When: 16 – 27 November. Web: cambridgejazzfestival.org.uk  

 

Where: Cambridge is in the east of England, and is a 60-minute train journey from London, or a 90-minute journey by car.  

 

Southern Scotland: St Andrew’s Day Celebrations, Edinburgh  

Help commemorate Scotland's patron saint, St Andrew, in Edinburgh this November. The garden in St Andrew's Square will host a programme of kids’ activities and live music throughout the day in the Speiegeltent and on the main stage. There will also be activities on the ice rink. Keep a look out for the free ticket giveaway from Historic Scotland (www.ticketgiveaway.co.uk), where tickets for attractions, including Edinburgh Castle, are given out.  

When: 30 November. Web: edinburghguide.com  

 

Where: The celebrations take place in St Andrew’s Square in Edinburgh. Edinburgh is in west Scotland, and is a 75-minute journey by plane from London.  

 

December  

 

East Midlands, central England: Winter Wonderland Christmas market, Nottingham  

Located in Nottingham’s Old Market Square, the Winter Wonderland Christmas market has Victorian-style market cabins offering an array of Christmas gifts, seasonal food and drink, crafts, and festive trinkets. You can also enjoy a drink at the winter bar while watching the live music from the traditional bandstand, or try the new Ice Bar for 2016 where guests can expect ice glasses and ice furniture!  

 

When: December, dates to be confirmed. Web: nottinghamwinterwonderland.co.uk 

 

Where: Nottingham is located just north of England’s Midlands region, and is an hour and 40-minute journey from London by train, and an hour’s journey by car from Birmingham.  

 

South England: Winchester Christmas market  

Formerly known as England's capital city, the ancient city of Winchester can be found in the south of England in Hampshire and is steeped in history. Winchester's Christmas market has been deemed one of the best in Europe for its unique location: wooden chalets line the Cathedral's historic Close and surround a real open-air ice rink. The exhibitors are hand-chosen, and the market is inspired by traditional German Christmas markets.  

 

When: 17 November – 22 December. Web: winchester-cathedral.org.uk  

 

Where: Winchester is in the south of England, and is an hour train journey from London, or an hour and 45 minutes by car.  

 

South-east England: Christmas Day Concert, Eastbourne  

Take a trip to Eastbourne this winter for the biggest Christmas Day party in Britain. See the iconic Eastbourne Bandstand come to life with festive concerts and live musical entertainment from the Eastbourne Silver Band and The Ray Campbell Dance Band. Party-goers can afterwards take bracing walks along the promenade and stop off at the Western View Café for hot chocolate and mince pies.  

 

When: 25 December 2016. Web: visiteastbourne.com

Where: Eastbourne is on the south coast of England, and is an 80-minute journey by train from London, or a two hour and 20 minute journey by car.

Adapted from VisitBritain August 2016.

See also: Britain's free events January to June.


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Find here Britain's free events sorted by region and month. Part 2: events of the second half of the year. Travel guide to the United Kingdom.