I hope you enjoyed the March 2019 recommendations as I’ve got plenty more ideas for April. There’s so much to see and do, we hope you can incorporate some of these into your upcoming trips (or plan for next year)!
This month moves us properly into spring so nature is bringing us more colourful flowers and those well known ‘April showers’ will keep them well watered. Easter is late this year but we’ll be celebrating across Britain.
Easter Sunday is on Sunday 21 April and we get two bank holidays (public holidays) on Good Friday (19 April) and Easter Monday (22 April). The schools get a two-week holiday although those dates can vary around the country.
You’ll find Easter celebrations everywhere but I will say York looks like a fun place to be as they have The Great York Bunny Search on from 2 to 23 April. This is a trail around the city to find 26 hidden bunny sculptures. They’re likely to be near attractions and in shop windows and the trail makes a fun reason to go exploring.
The trail’s sponsor is York’s Chocolate Story which is great to visit all year round. You get to find out about the famous chocolate that comes from the city and even get to try creating handmade chocolates for yourself.
The delicious entertainment continues as it’s York Chocolate Festival from 18 to 22 April. Head to Parliament Street to sample some of the tastiest treats at the chocolate market and learn some handy chocolate tips at the demonstration tent. There will also be opportunities to meet some real-life furry friends at the petting farm and for those who fancy a spin of nostalgia, there will be a carousel on St Sampsons Square.
Before we leave the Easter theme, let’s talk about chocolate Easter eggs. This is a HUGE thing in Britain and I remember being surprised when I discovered that Americans haven’t embraced this sweet-fest. Yes, it’s technically a religious event for Christians but the majority of people in Britain no longer regularly go to church so we simply enjoy the days off work and eat a lot – and I mean a lot – of chocolate eggs. These eggs aren’t the size of hen eggs. Oh no, these beasts can be bigger than a football (either American football or the soccer we play). The hollow eggs are usually presented in a box (that helps for stacking on the supermarket shelves) and they come filled with more sweets. When I was a child, our eggs often came resting in a mug rather than in a box so we got two presents – a chocolate egg and a mug for a cup of tea too.
St George’s Day
Last month we had the saint days for Ireland and Wales (and Cornwall) so this month it’s England’s turn as it’s St George’s Day on 21 April. You definitely won’t find the same level of excitement, or national pride, as shown in Ireland and Wales but there are a few celebrations.
Manchester has its 16th St George’s Day Parade on bank holiday Monday 22 April 2019. It starts at Varley street at midday and winds its way through the city. There are brass bands, pipe bands, samba bands, belly dancers, carnival floats, vintage vehicles and walking entertainment in the parade as well as hundreds of scooters at the back of the parade for the scooter rally.
London celebrates in Trafalgar Square on Saturday 20 April 2019 with the Feast of St George. On the stage there’s a live music programme with traditional and contemporary acts. Elsewhere in the Square there will be an artisan craft market and interactive activities for all the family to enjoy. And as you would hope at a ‘feast’ there is always lots of food on offer – some showcasing classic English fayre but also Britain’s number one dish: chicken tikka masala!
While in Trafalgar Square, I recommend also going inside the wonderful National Gallery where you can find two paintings of St George and the Dragon as well as 2,300 other paintings from the mid 13th century to 1900. And it’s free to go in.
The queen has the most patriotic birthday as she’ll be 93 on St George’s Day (21 April). This is her actual birthday and not her official birthday which we celebrate in June. As there aren’t gun salutes on Sundays, the noise will happen on Monday 22 April 2019.
The first gun salute is in Hyde Park at midday and is 41 rounds. That’s the basic 21 rounds plus an extra 20 as it’s in a royal park. Then at 1pm at the Tower of London you can hear 62 rounds. That’s the basic 21 rounds plus a further 20 because the Tower is a Royal Palace and Fortress, plus another 21 ‘for the City of London’. The gun salutes at the Tower of London take place along the riverside, so visible to all, but the area is cramped. Often you get a better view from Tower Bridge.
And one more reason to love 21 April is because it’s National Tea Day; a day to celebrate the UK’s favourite brew. Whether you are drinking at home, in a café, an elegant tea room, the local pub or a hotel away from home, this is the day to celebrate tea and perhaps try a slightly different take on your usual cuppa.
Oops, no I meant Walk Scilly as it’s the annual spring-time walking festival on the Isles of Scilly this month. This walking festival is from 3 to 12 April and gives the perfect reason to get to know this unusual group of islands.
Twenty-eight miles off the coast of Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly are made for walking. Unspoilt and uncrowded, the archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean is known for endless white sand beaches, crystal-clear waters and exotic flora and fauna. Expert local guides will introduce you to the islands’ amazing scenery, wildlife and cultural heritage.
This 10-day festival features 40 walks and boat trips across nine islands; the five inhabited islands and four of the uninhabited ones: Samson, St. Helen’s, Tean and Nornour. And for those wishing to join the dark skies walks, you’ll be one of the first to experience the new observatory on St. Martin’s.
There are more walking festivals starting this month including the Chepstow Walking Festival from 24 to 28 April. This would be another treat as the Lower Wye Valley is beautiful at any time of the year.
By the start of April things are warming up and the first weekend (6-7 April) sees the Cornwall Spring Flower Show move to its new venue at the Royal Cornwall Showground at Wadebridge. Expect a riot of colour and scent and lots of ideas for planting up your garden for the summer.
You can see the flowers while they’re still growing at the Tregothnan Charity Garden Opening on 13 and 14 April. The largest garden in Cornwall has unequalled diversity of trees, historic, botanical and rare collections, sweeping vistas and secluded groves on the banks of the beautiful river Fal.
Also available will be Cornish cream teas with Tregothnan tea and Kea plum jam, Salcombe Dairy ice creams and estate-reared meat cooked on a barbecue over Tregothnan charcoal.
Every Tuesday from 2 April to 24 September 2019, Poole Dream Machines is back. It’s the biggest weekly motorcycle event in the UK with up to 1000 bikes attending. It creates a unique and exciting atmosphere as bikers and spectators enjoy a relaxed evening on Poole Quay. The backdrop of the quay and harbour means there’s also a great selection of waterside cafes, bars, restaurants and food kiosks offering refreshment, many with bike night specials on their menus. Do stay to see the judging of the popular Bike of the Night competition which takes place every week.
There are some excellent reasons to head over to nearby Brownsea Island this month too. Brownsea has a fascinating past featuring celebrities such as Marconi and Baden Powell both of whom were good friends to families that once called the island home.
The eyes of the horseracing world look towards Aintree this month for the Grand National. It’s Grand National Thursday on 4 April, Ladies Day on 5 April and Grand National Day is on Saturday 6 April.
It’s been an annual event since the 1800s and now over 600 million watch live on television. The Grand National is one of the few national sporting events which gets everybody placing bets even if just in the office sweepstake.
There are 40 horses and jockeys in this well-known steeplechase. Every year there are concerns raised about the safety of the animals (and occasionally about the jockeys) but there are no plans to stop this annual race.
I do love seeing a steam train so reckon this should be fun as there are 175 years of railway history at Didcot Railway Centre. Their collection of Great Western Railway steam locomotives, carriages, wagons, buildings and smaller artefacts is based around the original 1930s Engine Shed and Coal Stage. They have a replica of Brunel’s Broad Gauge Railway and you can get hands-on in the Science Learning & Railways Exhibition.
But the main reason I’d recommend going this month is for the launch of GWR Saint Class No 2999 Lady of Legend.
The Great Western Railway ‘Saint’ class locomotives represented one of the most important steps forward in railway traction of the 20th century with many revolutionary advances in design. To put it simply, the ‘Saints’ are now acknowledged to have had a profound influence on almost every aspect of subsequent steam locomotive development.
Sadly, none were saved for preservation until now! Didcot Railway Centre and the Great Western Society have been working to recreate an example of this iconic class since 2004. The launch should be particularly good as TV presenter and former member of the British Railways Board Prue Leith (yes, her off the ‘The Great British Bake Off’) will be there on Friday 5 April.
Keeping with a transport theme, there are vintage bus rides from the Oxford Bus Museum this month. On Sunday 7 April there are bus rides for museum visitors. And at Easter, they have the Chick Hunt bus rides on Easter Sunday and two more vintage bus rides on Easter Monday.
One of the world’s largest Vaisakhi celebrations returns to Handsworth Park in Birmingham each year to mark the Sikh nation’s collective birthday. This is one of the largest Asian festivals in Europe and up to 100,000 people attend.
The Vaisakhi open-air celebrations are on Sunday 28 April and it is a free family event open to everyone. It includes Sikh cultural activities, a children’s inflatable play area, arts and crafts exhibitions plus sports and entertainment.
There is a Langar area (marquee in which free food is served) which is an important part of the Sikh faith with food being prepared by the various Gurdwaras (places of worship) from across Birmingham and the Black Country. There is also an area for worship (Darbar) which is an important focal point. This is open to all communities to visit and understand the Sikh faith.
Edinburgh International Science Festival is one of the largest in Europe. It gives audiences amazing experiences through a programme of innovative and inspiring discussions, workshops, performances, screenings, special events and exhibitions. The Science Festival brings great minds together for a programme that fosters dialogues about the future of our culture, our nation, our planet and our understanding.
In honour of the 50th anniversary of the Moon landings, the two-week 2019 Festival theme is Frontiers, exploring the boundaries of knowledge and the spirit of adventure and enquiry that drives science, technology, engineering and maths. Within this theme, specific areas of focus will include Healthcare Frontiers, Engineering Frontiers, Digital Frontiers, Environmental Frontiers and Planetary Frontiers. It’s all happening from 6 to 21 April 2019.
This is the month lots of attractions either re-open or change from their winter opening times to extended hours.
North Yorkshire Moors Railway is back regularly from 8 April 2019. I’ve visited before and can tell you it’s a lot of fun. A day return ticket allows you to get off at any of the stations. I started from the 1930s themed Pickering station and went to their celebrity station, Goathland, which became Hogsmeade Station in the first Harry Potter film.
Did you watch the TV drama ‘Heartbeat’ that was set in the 1960s? It was filmed in and around the North York Moors and in Whitby. The village of Goathland was Aidensfield and Goathland Station and several sections of the railway line feature in many episodes.
You can also go to Levisham and explore the heart of the North York Moors National Park, or journey all the way to Whitby. (I’ve got a reason to go to Whitby this month below.)
Also opening this month are Kew Palace and the Great Pagoda at Kew Gardens. From 5 April the picturesque Kew Palace opens with a display celebrating the life of Queen Charlotte – a figure closely associated with Kew.
Following its inaugural season, the recently restored Great Pagoda also reopens, allowing visitors to ascend its 253 steps to enjoy the stunning 360° panoramic views over London. Both are included in admission to Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Kew Gardens is stunning all year round but is even more dazzling this month as Chihuly at Kew opens on 13 April. The world’s most celebrated contemporary glass artist is back, showcasing his work against the stunning backdrop of Kew Gardens until 27 October 2019.
Record Store Day
If you still love listening to vinyl, this one’s for you. Saturday 13 April is Record Store Day when over 240 independent record shops are expected to take part in the celebrations which unite music lovers and vinyl fans in every corner of the UK.
Record Store Day was set up in 2007 to champion the culture of the record store. Twelve years later it’s still going strong as it celebrates not only the record shops that have stood the test of time but also the new generation of shops which have just opened their doors.
Hundreds of limited edition vinyl releases will be created exclusively for the occasion and free live performances and parties will take place up and down the country.
This is the month the annual marathons really get started. First, it’s the Greater Manchester Marathon on 7 April – billed as the flattest, fastest and friendliest UK marathon and held entirely on closed, main roads.
On Sunday 14 April it’s the Brighton Marathon with the stunning seaside backdrop. After the race, weary runners often whip off their race vest and jump straight into the sea for a well-earned ice bath. Also on 14 April is the Great Welsh Marathon which also has sea views as it is set along Llanelli’s Millennium Coastal Park.
Blackpool Marathon is on Sunday 28 April along Blackpool’s Promenade passing all the landmarks and tourist spots including Blackpool Tower and the pier. It’s a flat and fast route with plenty of spots for spectators to cheer from. Great Stirling Run is on the same day near to the historic Stirling Castle. And the big one to know about is the London Marathon also on 28 April. The race starts in Blackheath in south London and goes to Greenwich, over Tower Bridge and out to the Isle of Dogs before looping back the City of London and finishing on The Mall in front of Buckingham Palace.
Whitby Goth Weekend
Over the past few decades, Whitby in Yorkshire has become synonymous with goth culture with its biannual Goth Festival bringing fans of the darker side of life flocking to the town. Whitby Goth Weekend is 12-14 April and Whitby Pavilion is hosting the return of Tomorrow’s Ghosts Festival. This means a full weekend of entertainment including bands, film, theatre and shopping.
The Whitby Goth Weekend is an alternative music festival and was founded in 1994. Over the weekend there will be music from Pop Will Eat Itself, Chameleons Vox, Mercury’s Antennae, Christine Plays Viola, New Model Army, Sweet Ermengarde, Saigon Blue Rain, Terminal Gods and more. In addition, the Bizarre Bazaar Alternative Market is spread over six trading areas in the town and film screenings will tantalize horror fans.
This year the Lyrid Meteor Shower will be visible from 16 to 25 April, peaking on 22 and 23 April 2019. The best time to view it will be after midnight and before dawn.
Known for their fast, bright meteors, the Lyrids are one of the oldest known meteor showers. They originate from comet Thatcher, which was discovered in 1861. The Lyrid meteor shower is named as such because it appears to radiate from the constellation Lyra, though it is better to view the Lyrids away from this constellation so they appear longer and more impressive.
Stargazers will be looking for clear, cloudless skies to have the best possible chance of catching a glimpse of the meteor shower. Ideally, a location away from light pollution will be of benefit so rural Wales would be perfect.
That’s it for our April recommendations. We’ll be back with ideas for May in Britain soon.