15 Charming Day Trips From London: May 2023

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 7 months ago

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15 Charming Day Trips From London: May 2023
Planet Wakehurst by Catherine Nelson is unveiled this month. Image: (c) RBG Kew

Exciting things to do close to the capital in May, all easily accessible in a day trip.

1. SWEEPS FESTIVAL: As May begins, there's still time to catch the Rochester Sweeps Festival, a May Day celebration of folk music and dance in the Medway town. Expect to see Morris dancers from all over the world performing in the streets, along with live music in parks, pubs and other venues, as well as plenty of market stalls to browse. While you're heading to that part of the world, have a read of our guide to things to do in Rochester. 29 April-1 May (Kent)

2. DISCOVERING HOGWARTS: The Warner Bros Studio Tour opens a new feature for the summer. Celebrating the venue's 11th year — the age when young wizards receive their Hogwarts letters —  Discovering Hogwarts brings to life scenes from Harry Potter's early years at the magical boarding school, including one of his first experiences of magic; Professor Flitwick’s Charms class. 2 May-4 September (Hertfordshire)

3. BLUEBELL WALK: Bates Green Farm in Arlington has a spectacular display of bluebells, with a 1.1km walking route open to the public in April and May. But there's an extra-special open day on 4 May, raising money for the Sussex Cancer Fund. Wander past the lilac carpet, then enjoy lunch or refreshments in the barn. 4 May (East Sussex)

4. BRIGHTON FESTIVAL: Multi-arts event Brighton Festival takes over the seaside city with theatre, dance, circus and music performances throughout May. The programme is extensive, so it could be tricky to narrow it down, but we like the look of interactive art installation Groundswell, dance circus show Out Of Chaos, and drag cabaret opera Abomination. Take a look at our guide to Brighton for other things to see and do while you're there. 6-28 May (East Sussex)

5. TUNBRIDGE WELLS LITERARY FESTIVAL: Children's author Michael Rosen, TV presenter Sir Michael Parkinson, crime fiction authors Dorothy Koomson and Nadine Matheson, and actor Richard E Grant are among the names on the impressive line-up at Tunbridge Wells Literary Festival. There's also a Comicon gathering, on the final day. Why not make a day of it with our guide to things to do in the royal spa town. 11-14 May (Kent)

6. ROYAL WINDSOR HORSE SHOW: Equestrian fans flock to Windsor in mid-May for the Royal Windsor Horse Show, five days of showjumping, dressage and pageant shows, all against the backdrop of the royal residence. Expect to see plenty of Union Jack bunting and decorations left around the area from a certain event a couple of weeks before... 11-14 May (Berkshire)

7. VAN GOGH ALIVE: A life-sized representation of Van Gogh's bedroom, as depicted in one of his paintings, is just one of the features of Van Gogh Alive, an immersive art experience opening in Brighton Dome. There's also a sunflower room — a mirrored space with hundreds of sunflowers — ideal for snapping selfies, and an exhibition to familiarise you with Van Gogh's life and work. From 12 May (East Sussex)

8. PLANET WAKEHURST: Kew Gardens' sister site, Wakehurst, is about to become home to the UK's largest outdoor art installation. Planet Wakehurst is a photo montage of the gardens' plant collections by artist Catherine Nelson, on a huge canvas stretching 1550m2 around the listed 16th century mansion in the centre of the gardens. From 18 May (West Sussex)

Planet Wakehurst by Catherine Nelson is unveiled in May. Image: RBG Kew

9. NATIONAL FLOWER SHOW: Flower Power takes over the grounds of Hylands House for the National Flower Show, which has a Dr Dolittle theme this year. The centrepiece is a floral pavilion where nurseries from all over compete for the Best In Show award, and elsewhere you can stock up on everything from gerberas to gazebos, attend gardening talks, and wander around floral art installations. 19-21 May (Essex)

10. RICKMANSWORTH FESTIVAL: Running alongside the Grand Union Canal, the Rickmansworth Festival is a celebration of the waterways, with historic boats and pleasure craft on display on the water, boat trips available from Batchworth Lock, plus live music, a barbecue, bars, charity and craft stalls, and more. Best of all, you can get to it on the tube (Metropolitan line). 20-21 May (Hertfordshire)

11. WATERCRESS FESTIVAL: Watercress probably doesn't feature much in your day to day life, but it's big news in the bucolic town of Alresford. Thousands of visitors descend to celebrate watercress, which is grown in abundance locally — there's even a railway line dedicated to it. The Alresford Watercress Festival is a huge street blowout with stalls (thanksfully) selling a lot more than just watercress. A parade of dancers and performers also waltzes up the main street, handing out bunches of watercress to the crowds. 21 May (Hampshire)

The gorgeous Blenheim Palace hosts a food festival. Image: Blenheim Palace

12. LEONARDSLEE LATES: The 260-acre Leonardslee estate stays open late on selected evenings, timed to coincide with when the rhododendrons and azaleas should be bloom. Stroll around the gardens at dusk enjoying live jazz and swing music, with food and drink available to buy and the gift shop open for late-night shopping. 26-28 May (West Sussex)

13. FOOD FESTIVAL: The stunning Blenheim Palace is worth a visit any time of year — but even more so when the Blenheim Palace Food Festival is on. For all three days of the late May bank holiday weekend, wander among stalls manned by top chefs and producers selling street food to eat on site, as well as products and ingredients to take home and use when whipping up your own dishes. 27-29 May (Oxfordshire)

14. HEVER FESTIVAL: If you've ever visited the wonderful Hever Castle in the summer, you'll have noticed the Hever Festival Theatre in the grounds — it's the longest-running open-air theatre in south-east England and celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. Each summer, there's a programme of drama, comedy and live music, and the 2023 season kicks off at the end of this month with As You Like It and Matilda the Musical. From 27 May (Kent)

15. THE QUEEN'S JOUST: Another of Kent's fine bastions, Leeds Castle, holds a jousting tournament, included in the price of your admission ticket over the bank holiday weekend. The Queen's Joust sees knights from England and France competing for the coveted Leeds Castle International Cup. 27-29 May (Kent)

Last Updated 05 May 2023

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