September is one of the best times to explore the UK. As summer slowly merges with autumn and the colours of the leaves turn red, yellow, and gold, our lovely countryside becomes even more spectacular. And because temperatures are usually still pretty warm, you can spend long days hiking, exploring, and discovering new places without getting cold.
So, if you’re looking for things to do when autumn begins to roll around, we’ve got you covered. Here are 12 of the best things to do and places to visit in the UK in September.
1. Travel back to Georgian times in Bath, Somerset
With its magnificent Georgian architecture, historic abbey, and fascinating Roman ruins, being in Bath can feel like being transported back to a different era.
It’s a small city that’s perfect for exploring on foot, which makes it a popular choice for a city break. And there are plenty of ways to immerse yourself in Bath’s rich history beyond visiting the beautiful abbey and famous Roman Baths. Exploring the city’s natural surroundings – for example, by cycling the riverside paths and hiking the National Trust walk that circles the city, are especially lovely activities for September.
The annual Jane Austen Festival is also worth a visit. Arguably Bath’s most famous resident, Bath honours Austen every year, so if you’re a fan of her novels, the festival is an absolute must. This 10-day celebration transports you back to Austen’s era and shows you what life was like for characters like Lizzie Bennet in rural England during the late Georgian period.
This year there’s a Regency Costumed Promenade, where you can march down Bath’s Georgian streets among a sea of bonnets, soldiers, and drummers. There are also guided walks, theatrical performances, talks, costumed balls in the city’s historic ballrooms, and much more! The Jane Austen Festival will run from 8th to 17th September 2023.
2. Get your hiking boots on at the Gower Walking Festival, Southwest Wales
Thanks to its gorgeous sandy beaches, Wales’ Gower Peninsula has long been a popular staycation destination during the summer months. But it’s also a wonderful place to visit in September, when the crowds have gone home and the beaches and cliffs are pretty much deserted.
If you’re a keen walker, you might be interested in visiting the Gower from September 2nd–10th this year for the Gower Walking Festival. The festival has run since 2005 and is all about celebrating the natural beauty and rich heritage of this special part of the country. There are 30 glorious walks to choose from and something for all abilities – from gentle strolls to challenging treks.
The walks are social events and include stops for lunch or talk. There are women’s walks, where women share their health and menopause experiences; history walks, where you visit castles, forts, and deserted villages; foraging walks, where you learn about local edible plants; and pub walks, where you stop for plenty of refreshments! Aside from getting lots of exercise, you’ll probably make good friends along the way too.
3. Gaze at Blackpool's seaside illuminations, Lancashire
September marks the first month of Blackpool’s much-loved illuminations, which have run for nearly 150 years. During this world-famous event, the iconic seaside town of Blackpool is lit up with a breathtaking display of vibrant colours and dazzling lights.
Enjoy an evening stroll along the promenade – gazing at the more than one million bulbs and stunning projection shows that light up the town.
Considered the greatest free light show in the world by some, the illuminations have been a major part of Blackpool’s attraction scene since 1879. Many people like to visit during September before the weather gets too chilly!
Blackpool Illuminations will shine every night from 1st September, 2023, to 1st January, 2024.
4. Enjoy delicious food and drink at York's famous culinary festivals, York
York is another beautiful old city that’s ideal for a mini break – and aside from checking out all the typical attractions like the Jorvik Viking Centre, the York Dungeon, and the Shambles, there’s plenty more going on in September.
From the 13th–16th September, you can check out the York Beer & Cider Festival, which will be held in the gorgeous surroundings of St Lawrence Church.
As Yorkshire’s biggest outdoor beer festival, this is your chance to try over 250 beers and ciders – plus a selection of world wines, meads, prosecco, and spirits. There are also plenty of hot food stalls and musical acts, so it’s a great way to spend a day.
If you’re a foodie, you might prefer to visit in late September, as the York Food Festival runs from the 22nd September to the 1st October. While there are some ticketed activities, entry to the festival market and demonstrations is free, and you can taste your way around local food stalls, independent restaurants, and food retailers in and around York.
5. Enjoy breathtaking displays of autumn colour at Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire
As the UK’s National Arboretum, Westonbirt is considered one of the finest collections of trees and shrubs in the world.
Spanning 600 acres, this enormous arboretum is home to 3,000 different tree species. While it’s beautiful throughout the year, Westonbirt is especially known for its breathtaking display of autumn colours, which are brilliant throughout September.
There are 17 miles of paths that wind through the arboretum, so if you’re looking for a good walk, you can definitely do that here. While parts of the arboretum are dog-free zones, the vast Silk Wood is dog-friendly, so if you’re travelling with your pet there’s plenty of leafy glades for you to explore.
With Bristol and the Cotswolds within easy reach, you won’t be short of lovely places to stay either.
6. Experience traditional Irish music, Belfast
At any time of year, Belfast is a lively, exciting city where there’s always something going on – whether it’s visiting one of its many museums, jazz bars, or authentic Irish pubs.
But September is a particularly lovely time to visit, because there’s plenty to get involved in. You could join one of the city’s excellent walking tours and stretch your legs while enjoying the autumn weather, before exploring the city’s thriving food scene.
For a taste of Irish culture, the Belfast Traditional Music Trail is a fabulous way to connect with Irish music. With two professional musicians as your tour guides, you’ll wander along cobbled streets, past famous landmarks, and into private bars in some of Belfast’s oldest buildings.
Expect to hear memorable performances, and learn all about the instruments and fascinating history that make up Ireland’s musical tradition – all the while sipping on local beer, cider, whiskey, or Guinness. Featured in Lonely Planet’s ‘Best in Travel’, this isn’t one to miss.
7. Have a laugh at Greenwich Comedy Festival, London
If you’re a comedy fan, you might like to think about heading to London’s National Maritime Museum between the 13th – 17th of September. Here, the Greenwich Comedy Festival will be held in the museum’s grounds – when the weather will still be warm enough to enjoy these open-air shows.
As the capital’s most critically-acclaimed comedy festival, the event promises to combine lots of laughs with exceptional food and drink.
This year’s line-up includes many of the most popular comedians of the moment, including Jack Dee, Ed Gamble, Nina Conti, Stewart Lee, Fern Brady, and Russell Kane. The show is sold for individual days, so you can always just buy tickets to see your favourite comedians.
And if all those belly laughs give you hunger pangs, there’s more good news. There’ll be a delicious selection of street-food stalls serving up all kinds of exciting treats – and if you get thirsty, there’s just as much choice. Browse the selection of bars and try local beers, colourful cocktails, and fine wine!
8. Enjoy free entry to National Trust sites during the Heritage Open Days Festival, UK-wide
During the Heritage Open Days festival (8th to 17th September), many of the places cared for by the National Trust will be offering free entry and events – and there’ll be various events hosted by local organisations too.
Now in its 29th year, Heritage Open Days is made possible by thousands of volunteers wanting to celebrate our fantastic history and culture.
From nature and history to theatre and family fun, there’s plenty for everyone to enjoy. Get a taste of 17th century life at Moseley Old Hall in Staffordshire, hop aboard a heritage steam railway on the Isle of Wight, or discover the ‘haunted’ castle of St Briavels in Gloucestershire. You can search for events near you on the Heritage Open Days website.
Alternatively, if you’d prefer to bypass organised events, simply make the most of having free entry to extensive collections of art, historic gardens, and beautiful landscapes.
To find out more about which National Trust places will be offering free entry, head over to the Heritage Open Days website.
9. Meet best-selling authors at Wigtown Book Festival, Dumfries and Galloway
If you love reading, you might want to think about heading up to Dumfries and Galloway this September and visiting Wigtown. This traditional market town is known as ‘Scotland’s National Book Town’, and since 1999 it has hosted one of the best literary festivals in the UK, Wigtown Book Festival.
Described as ‘one of the best autumn festivals in the world’ by The Telegraph, this year’s festival kicks off on September 22nd and runs until 1st October. With over 200 events for both adults and kids, there’s much to see and do. You can listen to bestselling authors read their books, hear talks from some of the UK’s leading writers, and browse the many secondhand bookshops in town.
This year’s special guests include Hamza Yassin, Judy Murray, Sally Magnusson, and Pat Nevin – and there’s also a free firework display to enjoy too. You can find a full festival line-up on the Wigtown Book Festival website.
Wigtown is also the gateway to the Machars – a beautiful peninsula where you can enjoy bracing coastal walks, hike through leafy forests, stroll along quiet pebble beaches, and explore ruined castles.
There are also many lovely villages and harbours in the Machars where you can just relax in a pub…perhaps reading a second-hand book you picked up in Wigtown.
10. Learn something new at the British Science Festival, Exeter
The British Science Festival is Europe’s longest standing science festival. It’s hosted in a different UK location each year, and aims to connect people with scientists, engineers, technologists, and social scientists – bringing to life a side of science that the public may not have previously experienced.
Highlights include talks from scientists working on cutting edge research and innovation, hands-on workshops, as well as escape rooms, virtual realities, and live music. You can find a full event line-up on the British Science Festival website.
This year, the British Science Festival is held at the University of Exeter and will run from 7th to 10th September.
11. Stargaze at the Brecon Beacons Festival, South Wales
Located in the heart of South Wales, the Brecon Beacons National Park is gorgeous all year round, and it’s a lovely place for an autumn staycation. With the summer crowds gone, accommodation is cheaper and quieter, and you can often hike for hours without seeing another person.
If you want to enjoy a relaxing break, be among nature, spot wildlife, and enjoy the fresh air, the Brecon Beacons are ideal. And if you’re up for an adventure, you’ll be spoilt for choice too. You can have a go at underground caving, canyoning, kayaking and canoeing, or even trek up Pen y Fan – South Wales’ highest peak.
If you visit towards the end of September, you might also be lucky enough to catch the Brecon Beacons Dark Sky Festival. The Brecon Beacons are known for being one of the best places in the UK to stargaze, and on September 23rd, 2023, you can experience the wonders of this Dark Sky Reserve and learn more about why protecting the night skies is so important.
There’s all sorts going on, from paddleboarding under the stars to evening bat walks and planetarium shows. Check out the full lineup on the Go Stargazing website.
12. Enjoy a refreshing cider while sitting amongst apple orchards, County Armagh
Known as the biggest foodie event of the season, the Armagh Food and Cider Weekend is an annual celebration of fine foods, delicious cider, local produce, and quirky dining experiences. And with talks, tours, demos, and masterclasses, this year’s lineup promises to be the best yet!
Armagh is known for its orchards and world-class cider – so visiting in September, when the apples reach their peak, means your tastings will be even better.
However, if you’ve had your fill of food and drink, the small city of Armagh has long been popular with history buffs too. It’s the oldest city in Ireland and is famous for being the home of St Patrick in the fifth century. There are two beautiful and historic churches to explore as well. Armagh’s stunning Georgian architecture also hides numerous stone angels and gargoyles, which are a tribute to the town’s sacred past.
From the city, you can walk to the 300-acre Palace Demesne, where you can stroll around its pristine parkland and trees, which are especially lovely in September.
While saying goodbye to summer can sometimes feel a bit sad, there’s lots to get excited about this September.
At this time of year, the weather is still warm enough to enjoy being outdoors all day, so if you’re looking to book a staycation or a quick break, it’s an ideal time. As the leaves begin to change colour, it’s also one of the best times of year to appreciate the UK’s diverse natural beauty.
From food festivals and literary events to woodland walks and city breaks, there’s so much to see and do this September. So whether you’re looking for a fun day out or planning your next mini-break, we hope this article has inspired you.
If you’d like some more ideas, head over to the art and culture and travel sections of our website. Here you’ll find everything from popular days out in the UK to the best National Trust places to visit.
Are you tempted to check out some of these places or events this September? Or do you already have your own plans for things to do and places to visit? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.