January 25th Burn’s Night: This celebrates the premier Scottish poet. There are events all over Britain, not just in Scotland. Traditionally the evening includes the piping of the haggis (then eating it, of course), reciting of the “Address to a haggis” and other poems by Robert Burns and toasts in Scotch whisky.
March (various dates) Shrove Tuesday. “Pancake Day”: A celebration before the austerity of Lent, many areas organise events involving pancakes – usually races. Pancakes have to be carried at speed through the town/village and, hopefully, be edible at the end.
March – around 10th. Crufts: Mirroring the British love of dogs, the Crufts Dog Show is the largest and oldest in the world. Now held at the N.E.C. Birmingham, the show lasts four days and some 25,000 dogs converge from all over the world to compete for “Best in Show” – the doggy award to win!
April – two legs: The London Marathon is a unique event which combines the top long-distance runners in the world with amateur runners dressed as bananas. The race is open to all levels of ability and is a recognised fund-raising event for many charities throughout the country. As much fun to watch as to take part in and a must if you are in London in mid-April.
April – four legs: For racing fans, the Grand National is not to be missed. Held at Aintree Racecourse, near Liverpool, early in the month, the National Hunt race is the longest of its kind. The course is nearly 5 miles long and has 30 fences. It is the culmination of the three day race meeting and a good weekend out.
May Day: Summer is heralded in many towns and cities with festivities including maypoles, Morris dancers and the crowning of the May Queen. Padstow, in Cornwall, has probably the most ancient ritual still enacted, when the “Old ‘Oss” parades the streets, together with its band, dancers and singers.
In Derbyshire villages, such as Tideswell or Great Longstone, the local wells are “dressed” with hundreds of flowers making a picture. The tradition’s origins are lost but the effect is well worth seeing.
RHS Chelsea Flower Show is the highlight of the year for gardeners. Held in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, London, the show is open to the public for 4 days at the end of May.
Royal month of June: Celebrating H.M. the Queen’s official birthday, the Trooping of the Colour takes place in Horse Guards’ Parade on the second Saturday of June. The British Army is shown in all its finery and the Royal Family are there in numbers.
Royal Ascot follows closely afterwards – one of the most elegant race meetings, anywhere. Ascot is just outside Windsor and easily accessible; an ideal day out.
Begin Midsummer Day at Stonehenge, in Wiltshire. Greet the dawn on the longest day in true pagan fashion.
For tennis fans, June is Wimbledon, a two week sports fest with strawberries.
July – water and music: Travel a few miles to Henley on Thames for the Henley Royal Regatta. The rowing is excellent, the fashions are amazing and everyone is there.
July has the first night of the Promenade Concerts in the Royal Albert Hall, London. Going on until September, there are over 70 concerts plus workshops and recitals to choose from. No music buff should miss this.
August Bank Holiday weekend hosts the Notting Hill Carnival. Not quite Rio, but a riot of music, processions and joy all the same.
End of September: The nearest Sunday to the “harvest moon” is the day traditionally chosen for Harvest Festivals. Throughout the country, in churches of all denominations, schools and village halls, the country gives thanks for the earth’s gifts to man.
21st October: Apple Day is becoming increasingly popular and most areas of Britain have a celebration for this most basic of fruits.
November 5th, Guy Fawkes Night: A truly British celebration – named for a man who was executed as a criminal, after failing
to destroy Parliament and the monarch. Find a bonfire party near you and enjoy the firework displays!