May is the last month of spring – and there’s plenty going on in the UK to help us make the most of it before we look ahead to summer.
To offer some inspiration, we’ve put together a list of 12 things to do and places to visit in the UK this May. From outdoor art displays and walking festivals to open-air cinema and celebrations over the coronation weekend, we hope there’s something for everyone.
1. Enjoy the arts at Brighton Festival, East Sussex
Brighton Festival is the largest arts festival in England and it has a long history of attracting some of the most exciting performers from across the globe.
With everything from literature, theatre, and classical music, to dance, visual art, and debate events, there’s really something for everyone to enjoy at Brighton Festival. Many local artists are also drawn in – so it’s a great place for discovering new talent too.
2. Get in the spirit of spring at Chelsea Flower Show, London
Nothing says spring like the sight and fragrance of bright flowers – and London’s Chelsea Flower Show has long been one of the most popular displays of this.
Hosted by the UK’s leading gardening charity, The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), the show draws crowds in from far and wide.
Highlights include exclusive shopping, breathtaking gardens, and houseplant and interior design inspiration. It also offers unique insights into scientific horticultural innovations that are designed to combat climate change and boost mental health.
New for 2023 is also a sensory garden of calm. Designed by Camellia Taylor, the sensory garden of calm reflects a passion for both psychology and garden design. This year, the Chelsea Flower Show will run from 22nd to 27th May.
Alternatively, if London doesn’t work for you, the RHS hosts a range of other shows and events throughout the year too. For example, Worcestershire’s Malvern Spring Festival is also held in May. You can browse other upcoming events on the RHS website.
3. Step back in time at Llandudno Victorian Extravaganza, North Wales
Now in its 35th year, Llandudno Victorian Extravaganza is Wales’ largest free annual family event. And it remains as popular as ever.
Featuring a Victorian street fair, old time fair rides, steam engines, street parades, and people dressed in Victorian costume, the extravaganza is a fun-filled event that the whole family will enjoy.
For those who really want to throw themselves in, visitors are also invited to dress in their best Victorian attire to join in the daily parade. And, there’s a Best Victorian Dress Competition held on the main stage, so you might want to get involved if your outfit is particularly impressive!
Llandudno Victorian Extravaganza will run from 29th April to 1st May 2023.
4. Discover new music at Orkney Folk Festival, Scotland
Since its first event in 1983, Orkney Folk Festival has grown to become one of the most loved festivals throughout Scotland. And this year, the celebrations are particularly special as the event marks its 40th anniversary.
With a fine balance between visiting and local artists, the atmosphere of the festival creates a musical buzz and vibrant folk scene throughout the surrounding area that you won’t want to miss.
There are around 35 ticketed events, as well as countless public performances and free events throughout Stromness.
This year, the Orkney Folk Festival will take place from 25th-28th May. You can download a full festival programme on the official website.
5. Enjoy an open-air cinema experience, UK-wide
If you fancy something a bit different this spring, why not book an open-air cinema experience?
Hosted by the UK’s biggest outdoor cinema tour, Adventure Cinema, a number of exciting film screenings are set to take place across a range of stunning UK locations.
These beautiful locations make for an unforgettable film backdrop that’s much more exciting than our living rooms. And, with the evenings getting warmer and brighter, enjoying time outside seems ever more appealing.
There’ll also be hot food, snacks, and an on-site bar available to enjoy. Picnics are also welcome too if you’d prefer.
You can browse film screenings near you on the Adventure Cinema website.
6. Explore the great outdoors at Walkfest, Dumfries and Galloway
Often described as Scotland’s best-kept secret, Galloway is a wonderfully unspoilt landscape.
There are plenty of walking routes to enjoy here, but if you’d like to explore them in company, why not join in with Walkfest this May?
First held in 2003, Walkfest (also known as Newton Stewart Walking Festival) offers an exciting programme of around 30 different walking routes over a period of seven days – with transport, guides, and a programme of evening social events all included too.
With easy to strenuous walk options available, guests of all walking abilities can get involved.
7. Indulge in good food on the beach at St. Ives Food and Drink Festival, Cornwall
From the 12th-14th May, the St Ives Food and Drink Festival is a celebration of Cornwall’s vibrant food and drink industry.
With local food and drink producers, chefs, and musicians, you can expect delicious food, live music, and food demos – all of which are free to attend. There will also be a number of masterclasses to enjoy, coffee, wine, and gin tasting, as well as foraging walks designed to introduce visitors to the world of wild foods.
Set against the beautiful backdrop of Porthminster Beach, the festival also promises sand and sea. Just cross your fingers for a sunny day!
8. Explore Northumberland’s new Anglo Saxon museum and whisky distillery, Northumberland
Newly opened in March 2023, Ad Gefrin (Northumberland’s Anglo-Saxon Museum and English whisky distillery) is an exciting new destination to add to your map.
So-called after the 7th-century Anglo Saxon Royal Court held there, Ad Gefrin celebrates the unique heritage and contemporary arts, crafts, and produce of Northumberland. The project was also designed with the vision to reawaken Northumberland’s tradition of whiskey distilling.
During your visit, you can delve into the county’s unique history at the museum, tickle your tastebuds on a guided distillery tour and tasting session, or enjoy a delicious meal at the bar and bistro.
For more information on planning your visit to Ad Gefrin, you can visit the website. And if you’re planning a trip to Northumberland, you might want to check out our list of 8 unforgettable beauty spots.
9. Celebrate King Charles III’s coronation over the May bank holiday, UK-wide
This year, the UK will witness a once-in-a-lifetime event with the coronation of King Charles III on Saturday 6th May.
Alongside the ceremony itself, there’s a whole host of exciting events taking place over the Coronation Weekend that everyone’s welcome to join in with.
The Coronation Big Lunch, which is set to take place on Sunday 7th May, invites communities and neighbours across the country to share food and fun together. There’s also The Big Help Out planned for Monday 8th May, where thousands of organisations across the UK are getting together to give everyone the opportunity to help out in their local communities.
Alternatively, if you’d like to tune in from home, the BBC will be broadcasting a special Coronation Concert at Windsor Castle on Sunday 7th May.
For more information and ideas for celebrating King Charles III’s coronation this May, check out our article; 9 ways to celebrate the King’s coronation.
10. Lookout for spectacular art along the North Downs Way Art Trail, South East England
The North Downs Way Art Trail is a unique open-air art gallery set along the North Downs Way National Trail.
Nine different art sculptures have been set along the trail which starts in Surrey and stretches for 153 miles all the way to Dover in Kent. It’s the ideal way to explore the great outdoors (or, great ‘artdoors’!) this May.
Wherever you venture along the route, prepare to feel inspired by the unique artwork that’s been designed to reflect the North Downs’ beautiful nature, heritage, woodland, and open hilltops.
If you’re not sure where to start walking, check out these nine self-guided art walks, which offer unique insights from the artists and their sculptures.
11. Visit the Smallholding and Countryside Festival, Wales
The Smallholding and Countryside Festival is a celebration of rural life, with smallholdings at its heart.
At the festival, there are over 200 trade stands, activities, displays, live music, country sports, as well as an excellent choice of food and drink. If you like animals, there’s more good news. With a dog show, cattle, sheep, pig, and goat competitions, there’ll be plenty of furry friends to meet.
The Smallholding and Countryside Festival will take place on Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st May 2023. To see what’s on, you can find the full event line-up on the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society (RWAS)’s website.
12. Enjoy some traditional May Day celebrations, UK-wide
May Day is a traditional public holiday in the UK celebrated on or around 1st May. This year, May Day bank holiday will take place on Monday 1st May.
Its roots trace all the way back to Celtic times in Britain and Ireland when people celebrated the festival of Beltane on 1st May to mark the halfway point between spring and summer. It’s one of the few pagan festivals that survived the take-over of Christianity in Britain.
While May Day celebrations have altered from their ancient folk traditions and will vary depending on communities. Popular local events can include country fairs, Morris dancing, and Maypole dances, which make for great family days out.
Historic UK has plenty of information on the history of May Day celebrations if you’d like to read more. Or, if you’d like to get involved, check out this list of the best traditional May Day events 2023 from Countryfile.
From food and art festivals to spring flower shows and the coronation of our new King, there’s plenty going on in the UK this May. And with two bank holiday weekends coming up this month, there’s even more time to make the most of what the UK has to offer.