Celebrate spring with a long Easter weekend in the United Kingdom, when there are loads of things to do all over the country and the weather is perfect for outdoor adventures.
The Easter bank holiday is the first of the warmer seasons and lasts four days, which includes both Good Friday and Easter Monday in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland; however, Scotland does not observe a legal holiday on Monday. While many offices and government buildings will be closed over the weekend, almost everything else remains open in the United Kingdom since most service businesses offer sales, deals, and special meals for the holiday. As a result, you'll have no shortage of fun activities to enjoy when you visit the United Kingdom over Easter weekend.
When it comes to Easter traditions, Americans aren't the only ones that host egg hunts and rolls. Luxurious estates, sprawling lawns, and elaborate gardens across the United Kingdom host special Easter egg hunts and rolls throughout the holiday season each year.
Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, for instance, is transformed into a holiday wonderland over the four-day Easter weekend each spring. Featuring an Easter Bunny Walkabout, fairy stilt walkers, a puppet show, archery workshops, and a performance by Punch and Judy, this event is sure to delight the whole family.
Alternatively, head out to the award-winning West Dean Gardens in Chichester over the holiday weekend to walk along a traditional Easter trail. On your walk, indulge your senses in over 500,000 spring bulbs while kids hunt for eggs, and afterward, stop by a special arts and craft activity with a tutor from the West Dean College of Arts & Conservation.
During Easter weekend, which usually falls in mid-spring, the woodlands of the United Kingdom are carpeted with daffodils and camellias. Meadows and riverbanks across the country sprout crocus and iris and the smells of fresh flowers permeates the warm air. Meanwhile, parks and gardens in the cities are blooming with magnolias, rhododendrons, and azaleas.
Many of England's best gardens open for the season on Easter weekend and quite a few have special displays and events scheduled this year. At the famous Sissinghurst Castle Gardens in Kent, England, there's the added bonus of chocolate Easter eggs hidden around the gardens. In Wiltshire, head to the Bowood House and Gardens this Easter for the Big Spring Adventure, a scavenger hunt set up by the Easter bunny each year.
With 150 artisan food and drink exhibitors, live entertainment, demonstrations by celebrity chefs, and a free cooking academy for kids, the Chester Food, Drink, and Lifestyle Festival is the biggest event of its kind in the United Kingdom. Running from Easter Saturday through Easter Monday, this annual celebration of English culture also features overnight camping at Camperfest on the Chester Racecourse as well as a Canine Capers dog show and free cooking classes for kids.
Each year on Easter Monday, the tiny historic village of Mells—famous for its association with Little Jack Horner, a steward for the last abbot of Glastonbury—welcomes the spring with a traditional village fete. Known as the Mells Daffodil Festival, this annual event welcomes over 10,000 visitors to Somerset each year for an old-fashioned, small-town event.
Founded in 1979, this Somerset festival is now over 40 years old and even bigger than ever. Featuring stalls on the high street with food, crafts, games, and a display of classic cars as well as Easter bonnet competitions and parachuting Teddies, this traditional event is a unique experience and fun for the whole family. Be sure to stop by Mells Has Talent, a showcase of local performers that takes place on the main stage at the Mells Church of England.
Known as the United Kingdom's Best Safari Park, Longleat in Warminster, Wiltshire, features a drive-through animal safari, a living hedge maze, a petting area, plenty of children's activities, and visitor information at the Longleat House and Gardens.
Each spring, this unique attraction not only welcomes visitors for the season; it also often welcomes newborn animals this time of year. In the spring of 2019, for instance, a pair of koalas made their debut in their new home at Koala Creek over Easter weekend. Of course, there are also plenty of other animals to see on your adventure this weekend, including Longleat's wonderful monkeys, lions, tigers, and wolves—all of which are thrilled to be back out for the spring season.
The first young lambs, bouncing across a field after their mothers, are a sure sign that spring has arrived, and the National Trust has several places where you can visit young flocks and, in some cases, witness lambing (birth).
There are rare and unusual breeds at the Home Farm of the Wimpole Estate in Cambridgeshire, thousands of newborn lambs at Ickworth, and rare Jacob Sheep lambing at Charlecote Park near Stratford-upon-Avon this time of year. At Broomhouse Farm on the Wallington Estate in Northumberland, you can even join in, becoming a lambing apprentice from Good Friday onward for about two weeks.
The Royal Armouries Museum in the center of the Yorkshire city of Leeds brings medieval competition to life each spring during the International Jousting Festival, which welcomes thousands of spectators to the tilting yard to watch teams from around the world take part in this classic competition.
Witness Medieval battles and war games between mounted armored nights or tour the stables, where you'll meet the heavy warhorses and armorers who ready them for battle. In the past, teams have competed from the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, and Poland. There are several shows a day but they sell out fast so visit the website soon if you're keen to go.
The many estates that dot the countryside in the United Kingdom are famous for their well-manicured gardens and landscaped lawns. Whether you take a day trip out to these expansive properties or spend the night at a giant bed and breakfast, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the finest landscapes in the U.K. this Easter weekend.
Stop by Easter events at Blenheim Palace, one of 18th-century landscape architect Lancelot "Capability" Brown's finest works, to take in the manicured forests, naturalistic waterfalls, and serpentine manmade rivers on the grounds. Spring is the best time to visit and Blenheim always goes all out for Easter Weekend, all four days.
If you and your kids are familiar with the tale of "Peter Rabbit" by Beatrix Potter, visiting the Victoria and Albert Museum in London offers a special treat this Easter weekend (and throughout the year). Stop by the free exhibition, "Beatrix Potter's Art: Drawn and Design," to see childhood sketches and other projects from Potter. The exhibition is bound to be an inspiration to budding artists in your family and will stay up in the museum through late November 2019.
If you're thirsty for a locally-made alcoholic beverage this Easter weekend, head out to the Kent village of Margate's Winter Gardens for the annual Thanet Easter Beer and Cider Festival on Friday and Saturday. The organizers, the Thanet chapter of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), promises this year will be better than ever, featuring over 200 kinds of beer, cider, and perry to taste as well as souvenir glasses, hot food, and a pub quiz with a 100-pound prize.
Celebrated in its current format since 1932—when competitors attempted to knock out each other's marbles in a small tournament outside the Greyhound, on Tinsley Green in Crawley, West Sussex—the annual British and World Marbles Championship is held on Good Friday each year. At least 100 men and women regularly take part in this eccentric pub event, and all are welcome to watch or participate.
If you'd like to take part but left your favorite aggies, marleys, prits, and steelies at home, you can buy marbles at the event or just come along for some beer and to pick up the lingo. By the way, "knuckling down" means getting in position to shoot marbles, and people who play this game as experts are known as "mibsters."
The Gawthorpe World Coal Carrying Championships is held on Easter Monday in the West Yorkshire town of Gawthorpe each year. The event tests how quickly competitors can run a mile carrying a 50-pound sack of coal, and both men and women who compete often achieve amazing times.
However, you don't have to take part to enjoy this mayhem—watch from the sidelines or stands instead. It starts at 11:30 a.m. Easter Monday at the Royal Oak Pub in Owl Lane, Gawthorpe, with registration from 10 a.m.at the Boot and Shoe Pub on the High Street.
Although the sport used to be forbidden over the holiday weekend, several horse racing tracks across the United Kingdom now host races during the Easter break each year. Check the British Horseracing Authority website to find a full list of upcoming races, including these:
- All-Weather Championships Finals: Lingfield Park in Surrey hosts this flat racing competition on Good Friday
- Scottish Spring Cup: The £100,000 Queen's Cup event takes place on Good Friday, and the Scottish Spring Cup is held on Easter Saturday at the Musselburgh Racecourse in Scotland, where they also feature live music, free children's entertainment, and a visit from the Easter Bunny.
- Easter Family Fun Day: Kempton Park holds this annual event featuring flat racing on Easter Saturday; and so does Haydock Park near Liverpool.
Thanks to its relatively cool and wet weather for most of the year, the United Kingdom has plenty of indoor waterparks that are open year-round—or at least by the time Easter rolls around each year. Additionally, most indoor waterparks in the U.K. are open Easter weekend, and some even have special family deals for the holiday. At the Blue Lagoon in Pembrokeshire, the "family" ticket covers almost any combination of four people as long as one of them is an adult.
While Easter may happen a little early in the spring for most of the big headline music festivals each year, there are still plenty of music festivals that take place over the holiday weekend.
You can get your groove on at London's GarageFest on Good Friday or turn day into night at Leeds big daytime rave, Insomnifest, at Leeds underground clubbing space, Beaver Works, from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Easter Sunday. Alternatively, stop by the annual St. Endellion Easter Festival, a celebration of music for orchestra and chorus in St Endellion, a village in North Cornwall near St Isaacs. For music lovers, it's a chance to hear, among other things, Handel's Messiah, in an interesting and unusual part of Britain.
In England, "High Street" means the same thing as "Main Street" does in the United States—the primary thoroughfare for a city where you'll typically find all sorts of clothing stores and boutiques as well as restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues, many of which offer sales each year over Easter weekend.
In fact, the holiday weekend may be your best chance to land a great bargain at one of the United Kingdom's famous stores—Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Fortnum, and Mason or Liberty. On the other hand, you could be more realistic and load up with bargains at Marks & Spencer or House of Fraser. While you're wandering around for deals, though, don't forget all those factory outlets—they'll be putting on special events for Easter sales, too.
When it comes to listening to classical music concerts, there are few more spectacular venues for it than those found in the United Kingdom—many of which host special Easter concerts over the holiday weekend. For instance, the Royal Choral Society of London has performed Handel's "Messiah" every Good Friday afternoon since 1876 at the Royal Albert Hall. If you'd prefer to hear Bach's "St. Matthews Passion," Birmingham's Ex Cathedra Choir and Baroque Orchestra are performing it at Birmingham Symphony Hall on Good Friday afternoon as well.
From April 16 through 27, 2019, Sadlers Wells is hosting the English National Ballet and the students of the English National Ballet School in "My First Ballet: Sleeping Beauty." Aimed at a family audience, the performance features a narrator to help younger audience members follow the story and shortened versions of Tchaikovsky's melodies.
No matter where you go in the United Kingdom, you're sure to find plenty of family-friendly performances, musicals, and shows at theaters across the region. However, there's no place quite like London's West End to catch a kid-oriented stage production. Over Easter weekend in 2019, you can go after tickets for "Matilda the Musical" at the Cambridge Theatre in London's West End, "The Lion King" at London's Lyceum, or "School of Rock," at the Gillian Lynn Theatre.
Travel to Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare's hometown to see the Royal Shakespeare Company in their home theater. If you didn't think you'd like Shakespeare, seeing this company perform is a real eye-opener. Over Easter Weekend 2019, the company is performing "As You Like It" and "The Taming of the Shrew," as well as a new South African play by John Kani (T'Chaka in "Black Panther"), "Kunene and The King."