Our pick of the best free events around the UK this month – the best of Bonfire Night and Halloween, as well as festivals of food, literature, science and nature
Make the most of autumn and discover something different to do; we have something for everyone in our bumper monthly round-up of free days out around Britain.
1. Early bonfire festivities
Though most will be marking the deeds of Guy Fawkes closer to the 5th of November, there are Bonfire Night celebrations and a whole host of other occasions that will see the sky illuminated by fireworks throughout October. There are a mix of displays, bonfires and processions taking place in Southend (6, 13, 20 October), Hastings (13 October), Halisham (20 October) and Turiff (20 October) to name a few. Check local listings and websites to find the nearest to you.
2. Pick your own pumpkin
Rather than heading to the shop for your Halloween pumpkin, why not get properly into the spirit by going to pick your own? Farms across the country, including Beluncle Farm in Kent, are staging pumpkin weeks with events and activities ties in with picking-your-own.
Entry to the pumpkin fields is free, but you have to pay for your pumpkins. You can also pick Halloween pumpkins at Craigie’s farm at South Queensferry in Edinburgh, and Hendrewennol Fruit Garden, Cardiff.
There’s a great list of pick-your-own pumpkin farms nationwide. As always, check details before setting out.
3. Libraries Week
This week-long celebration of libraries has special events taking place all round the country, with an emphasis on the important role they play in wellbeing and being pillars of the community. There are talks, classes, workshops and much more so check your local library for full information to see what's happening there.
4. Take part in the world’s largest festival of drawing
1-31 October, venues nationwide
There are Big Draw Festival events taking place all across the country – and indeed the world – with this celebration of drawing now stretching over 25 countries. Not all the events are free, but many are, including ones the whole family can enjoy. Check out the searchable map of what’s going on near you.
5. Visit a fun palace
6-7 October, venues nationwide
Now into its fifth year, the annual Fun Palace weekend sees hundreds of pop-up art-meets-science events across the country. Enjoy a mix of science and comedy in Fife; learn to play Brazilian samba drums in Bolton; find out about alternative fuels in Swansea; try your hands at drawing portraits in Hassocks; learn outdoor crafts and camping skills in Bodmin – we could go on. For full details of events in your area, explore this map.
LONDON AND SOUTH-EAST ENGLAND
© Tim Stubbings.
6. Pop-up sculptures in Regent’s Park
Until 7 October
A series of 25 sculptures by many acclaimed international artists have been on show in London’s Regent’s Park this summer, from the grand to the bizarre and everything in between. Enjoy them on a sunny autumnal walk through the park with an app to help you find out more.
7. London Literature Festival
18-28 October, Southbank Centre
Spanning Ancient Greece to present-day America, children's books to rock n' roll memoirs, there's something for everyone at the 12th London Literature Festival. There are events every day, including a host of free ones: tales from Homer's The Odyssey, bedtime stories and workshops on writing your own poems, raps and learning to beatbox.
8. Canterbury Festival Parade
With live music stages, films acrobatics, pot-making and of course the procession, the lively Canterbury Festival Parade kicks off the three-week Festival in the town, which has a tremendous programme including many free, family events.
9. Take a trek in the New Forest
13-28 October, New Forest National Park
Whether you're a seasoned hiker or just fancy taking the family on a light stroll through the incredible New Forest, the Walking Festival will give you plenty of scope to enjoy this beautiful natural wonder. Many of the walks are free depending on your method of transport. You can see a full list of New Forest walks.
MIDLANDS AND EASTERN ENGLAND
10. Create a sound painting
29 October-2 November, Mac Birmingham
As astonishing as it might appear, this workshop will show you how to use computers and touch-sensitive paint to create paintings that you can play a tune with using the touch of your fingers. There's even a performance at the end of the week. If this colours you intrigued why not drop in?
11. Interactive animal experience
27-28 October, Mac Birmingham
There might not be a forest in Birmingham, but that doesn't need to stop you from experiencing the sights and the sounds of a picturesque woodland – through the eyes of a woodland critter. Using 360º virtual reality software, suspend your belief as the Marshmallow Laser Feast can take deep into the heart of rural Britain. Find out more about In The Eyes Of the Animals here.
12. Gear up for Halloween
26-31 October, Old Market Square, Nottingham
Get yourself into the spirit of the creepiest time of the year with a haunted house and a huge ghost train in Nottingham's historic central square. Naturally the best costume you can don the better. Find out details of Old Market Scare.
13. Show jumping and dressage
20-21 October, Moreton Morrell College, Warwickshire
The Forces Equine Games sees members of the military and public services competing in equestrian events including dressage and show jumping. The standard is high and the skill breathtaking in this great competition to raise funds for various charities and organisations.
SOUTH WEST ENGLAND AND WALES
14. Celebrate in medieval Conwy
Boasting the largest music, art and food festival in Wales, the idyllic coastal town of Conwy becomes a bustling centre of entertainment over the weekend as it's transformed into Conwy Feast. You can find the whole programme of events taking place, from musical acts to workshops meeting some wildlife here.
15. Clown around in a museum
25 October, Bristol Museum
If it's not enough to be in a museum after hours, how about doing so in the company of clowns and other performers? As part of the Museums at Night event, you can get more out of 'Clowns: The eggs-hibition', which details the history of this famous form of tomfoolery, with live entertainment, while you can also try your hand at dressing up to join in the festivities. You can book your tickets here.
16. Dartmouth Food Festival
19-21 October, Dartmouth
The picturesque seaside town welcomes the food world to share its delights and techniques, with plenty of fresh local produce on offer from stands and Dartmouth's plentiful restaurants. Though you have to pay for various classes (as well as the food, obviously), there are some excellent free highlights including demonstrations from chefs Nick Evans, Pete Murt, Mark Tebbutt and more, as well as kids' cookery; view the full programme.
17. Falmouth Oyster Festival
Cookery demonstrations, sea shanties, a town parade, live music, boat races and marquees full of Cornish produce: it’s the 22nd annual celebration of Cornish seafood and the start of oyster dredging season in the last remaining traditional oyster fishery in Europe. An event not be missed for locals and visitors alike.
18. Manchester Science Festival
18-28 October, venues across Manchester
With the tagline 'part-laboratory, part-playground', who wouldn't be excited by the possibilities of England’s largest science festival? There's a huge programme for all ages taking place across the city including 7,000 hanging socks, making moving frogs out of paper, lectures, optical illusions workshops and much more. You can browse the full range of events.
19. Gather some stardust
Throughout October, Hullabaloo, Darlington
Take a midday trip to the outer reaches of the galaxy, via Darlington's Hullabaloo. The Stardust installation provides a fascinating interactive environment for young children and adults to explore via shifting colours, sounds and smells.
20. On the ghostly nature trail
27 October – 4 November, RSPB Fairburn Ings
As well as enjoying the beautiful landscapes and wildlife of RSPB Fairburn Ings, you can take advantage of half-term to test your wits and nerves on the Halloween Trail. Boasting ghouls and witches as well as creepy ravens and bats, it should be as spooky as it is silly fun.
21. Get a jig on in Liverpool
27 October, Museum Of Liverpool
Liverpool boasts a rich Irish history, celebrating it with a range of events that make up the Liverpool Irish Festival. The free Family Day at the Museum Of Liverpool includes crafts, dancing, music, as well as tours of the Irish exhibits and even classes on Irish language. It should be a day filled with entertainment for everyone.
SCOTLAND AND NORTHERN IRELAND
22. Scottish International Storytelling Festival
19-31 October, Edinburgh
The 30th annual celebration of story-telling in all its forms: from afternoons of family-friendly yarns in the Scottish Storytelling Centre and Royal Botanic Garden to an intriguing exhibit on anti-slavery campaigner Frederick Douglass and historic walking tours of the city. Those are all free and there’s plenty of events at various prices to whet your appetite for a good yarn.
23. Halloween and Fireworks Display
31 October, Belfast Titanic Quarter
Belfast’s biggest Halloween event isn't just about the costumes and decorative pumpkins. You can enjoy a fantastic fireworks display as well as live music, fairground rides, crafts and of course some sweet treats. Celebrate the spookiest day of the year in style.
24. Keep warm on Samhiunn
31 October, Edinburgh
Before Halloween, the British celebrated Samhiunn, as summer ended and passed into winter. It's still an important date in Scotland, with the streets of the capital's Royal Mile the setting for a parade of costumed torch bearers, acrobats and other performers, making for a spectacular sight on a cold winter's night. Don't miss this unique event.
25. Spot a squirrel
13 October, Cushendell, Co Antrim
Cottage Wood is one of the best places in Britain to spot the elusive, beautiful red squirrel, and with a bit of help on this guided squirrel walk you can increase your chances of seeing one. It’s part of ‘Squirreltober’ including talks and walks at various locations around Co Antrim. You can also learn about the tree species that make up the woods and the beautiful birds you'll spot along the way.