VisitEngland’s 2023 Autumn News
There’s a whole host of reasons to get excited for autumn 2023, from Herefordshire’s cider sleepovers to autumnal walking festivals in East Sussex and the Isle of Wight – along with major cultural events including the Turner Prize 2023 in Eastbourne and the hotly anticipated opening of Manchester’s Aviva Studios.
Here, VisitEngland shares a bumper seasonal update including a host of dark skies celebrations, charming culinary experiences and plenty of brand-new hotel openings.
New Openings: Exhibitions and Attractions
Inspired by Lanhydrock in Bodmin, Cornwall
1 September – 31 October 2023
In 2021, Hitomi was invited to the National Trust’s Lanhydrock Victorian country house and gardens to develop a creative response to the ceramic collection, which includes a number of Japanese pieces. She toured the house and gardens with staff and, since then, has created a series of work reflecting her experience of an English country garden. Captivated by Lanhydrock’s magnificent rhododendrons, magnolias and Cornus kousa, Hitomi has created 11 detailed works of art, displayed in the drawing room, gallery and morning room. The project aims to set up a subtle conversation between Lanhydrock’s collections and Hitomi’s work, to encourage visitors to see Lanhydrock in a new light, and to connect the house and its collection with the garden.
Turner Prize 2023, Towner Eastbourne, East Sussex
28 September 2023 – 14 April 2024
As the centrepiece of its centenary celebrations in 2023, the Towner Eastbourne gallery will host the Turner Prize 2023 with an exhibition of the four shortlisted British contemporary artists presented from 28 September 2023 to 14 April 2024. The winner will be announced on 5 December 2023 at an award ceremony in Eastbourne’s Winter Gardens. Turner Prize 2023 is part of ‘Towner 100’ – the gallery’s year-long centenary celebration of arts and culture across Eastbourne.
Aviva Studios, Manchester
Opening October 2023
Manchester’s Aviva Studios, the home of Factory International, is a hotly anticipated cultural space opening on the old Granada Studios site which aims to capture the depth and creativity of the city. Representing the largest investment in a national cultural project since the Tate Modern, Aviva Studios will host everything from concerts, theatre, music and opera to major exhibitions. The opening production will be Free Your Mind, a large-scale immersive performance directed by Danny Boyle, based on The Matrix films, and presented across the huge building’s ultra-flexible spaces (18 October – 5 November 2023).
The Faith Museum, Auckland Castle, County Durham
Opening 7 October 2023
Auckland Castle’s Faith Museum will be the first museum in England to explore the story of faith in the British Isles, its implications and its meaning for us today. Featuring 10 new gallery spaces across two floors, the museum is housed in the historic Scotland Wing of Auckland Castle and a custom-built new extension designed by Nìall McLaughlin Architects. It’s the latest development by The Auckland Project.
Disney100: The Exhibition, London
13 October 2023 – 2024
Celebrating 100 years of The Walt Disney Company, a ‘once in a lifetime event’ will be hosted in London filled with iconic characters and stories that have captured the hearts of millions both young and old. Disney 100: The Exhibition is the largest showcase from The Walt Disney Archives ever created and will go on tour around Europe, hitting England’s capital at ExCel London. Fans will be able to wander 20,000 square feet of Disney memorabilia across ten imaginatively themed galleries that will take them on a journey through 100 years of Disney history.
Fantastic Festivals and Events
FREE: Bartholomew Fair, London
31 August – 16 September 2023
Over this three-week free festival, the City of London will become the stage for an array of spectacular performances and cultural events in a reimagining of the iconic Bartholomew Fair, which dates back to the 12th Century. Highlights of the festival will include RESURGAM – a performance of aerial choreography, cutting edge climbing technology and original music on St Paul’s Cathedral and The Midnight Run – a walking tour at night where the hidden nooks and crannies of London’s art-scene are uncovered.
Birmingham Heritage Week
8 – 17 September 2023
Local places and spaces in Birmingham are opening their doors for visitors to discover the city’s rich cultural and industrial history and heritage. There are hundreds of different venues to choose from; cemeteries, canal tours, historic buildings, factories, museums, religious buildings including mosques, churches and cathedrals and outdoor heritage tours in local parks, neighbourhoods and conservation areas. Over the 10-day festival, events will be taking place across the city, inviting visitors to learn new skills in a workshop or get active and join a heritage running, cycling or walking tour. Guided tours of Woodcock Street Baths, the oldest operating swimming baths in Birmingham, with the opportunity of a swim afterwards will be a highlight of Birmingham Heritage Week.
Heritage Open Days, Nationwide
8 – 11 and 15 – 18 September 2023
England’s Heritage Open Days unveil hidden gems and iconic landmarks across the country from the charming villages of the Cotswolds and the historic castles of Northumberland to the bustling streets of London and the coast of Cornwall. Delve into the heart of local communities as doors are thrown open to reveal a world of fascinating stories, captivating architecture, and vibrant traditions. Amongst the locations talking part is Norfolk, which offers the largest programme in the country outside of London, with interactive workshops such as sword fighting, immersive exhibitions and engaging talks.
Drawn to Water at WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre, Gloucestershire
Established in 1946, Slimbridge was the first of nine Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) Wetland Centres across the UK – and recently it was named as a VisitEngland Awards for Excellence 2023 finalist in the ‘Accessible and Inclusive Tourism Award’ category. The centre aims to provide nature connection for all visitors with each season bringing star species and spectacles to life. For autumn, this is the Bewick’s swans return at the end of October and beginning of November after their long migration from Arctic Russia. Slimbridge has accessible paths, hides and exhibits along with wheelchairs and mobility scooters available for loan / hire and a Changing Places facility. This year, WWT launched a partnership with renowned illustrator Sir Quentin Blake to develop new seasonal trails at its 10 UK wetlands sites. Running from 11 September, Slimbridge’s autumn Drawn to Water: Quentin Blake trail is mostly accessible and focusses on the differing nature that flourishes in the wetland, Various accompanying activities, challenges and workshops will take place at Slimbridge Art Hub which offers height adjustable sinks, armchairs available on request, magnifying lamps and art supplies suitable for people with limited fine motor skills.
North Yorkshire Moors Railway 50th Anniversary Steam Gala, North Yorkshire
21 – 24 September 2023
2023 marks 50 years since North Yorkshire Moors Railway started running passenger services. This year’s Gala celebrates the anniversary with opportunities for visitors to ride behind guest steam locomotives and home fleet engines over the four-day event. During the weekend, stations along the line will be hosting exciting events of their own such as the Annual Steam Gala Beer Festival which sees Goathland Station offering a wide selection of real ales from local breweries. Trade Stalls will also be at Pickering Station, including DPP Model Railways, specialising in second-hand and pre-loved railway items.
Goose Fair, Nottinghamshire
29 September – 8 October 2023
Enjoy all the fun of the fair at this 200-year-old celebration which brings over half a million visitors and 250 rides to the city of Nottingham across 10 days. From heart-pounding attractions to the nostalgic charm of classic fairground games, there’s something for everyone.
FREE: Bournemouth Arts by the Sea Festival, Dorset
29 September – 1 October 2023
Bournemouth Arts by the Sea is a celebration of art, culture and the vibrant essence of this coastal town. The event brings together an array of grand spectacles, diverse musical offerings, captivating installations, enchanting dance performances and dynamic street theatre all within a single festival experience. This year’s Arts by the Sea is inspired by the theme of MOMENT which will be reflected in all performances and creatives featured in the festival. Many events are free but some are ticketed.
FREE: Electric Medway Festival, Kent
27 – 29 October 2023
Discover the fusion of art and technology at the Electric Medway Festival, where three days of cutting-edge digital experiences await. Visitors will be able to immerse themselves in VR cinema, augmented reality history trails and live electronic music – all set against the backdrop of Medway’s everyday spaces. This dynamic festival, now in its fourth year, showcases local artists and young talents, boldly capturing the spirit of Medway’s neighbourhoods. From street projections to 3D model scanning, this electrifying event brings creativity to life in unexpected places.
10 November – 1 December 2023
As one of the UK’s most renowned and longest running LGBTQ+ arts and culture festivals, Homotopia promises an extraordinary experience that transcends boundaries and ignites the spirit. From captivating performances and thought-provoking exhibitions to engaging workshops and enlightening discussions, the festival’s line-up is a true testament to the diverse talents and voices within the LGBTQ+ community. Homotopia offers a rich events programme for festival goers who are passionate advocates, lovers of the arts or simply seeking an inclusive space to connect and celebrate.
Food and Drink Experiences
The Cider Cycle Circuit and Cider Sleepovers, Herefordshire
Experience the ultimate cider adventure in Herefordshire with Cider Sleepovers and the Cider Circuit – Visit Herefordshire’s latest cycle trail. Cider enthusiasts will be able to immerse themselves in the heart of cider country, indulging in autumnal exploration and apple-infused delights. During Cider Sleepovers, guests can expect charming orchard accommodation for a peaceful night’s sleep in the country followed by a hearty breakfast to kick start the day. For adventurous spirits, the new cider circuit offers scenic cycle routes which wind through orchards, cider houses and quaint villages. Along the way, cyclists can enjoy tastings of scrumptious cider, offering a glimpse into the region’s apple growing heritage.
RHS Gardens Festival of Flavours, Nationwide
September and October 2023
Visitors will be able to indulge their senses this autumn at the RHS Gardens’ Festival of Flavours events series. Immerse in a world of delectable aromas, vibrant colours and tantalising tastes with a range of gourmet experiences including food stalls offering international cuisines, expert-led cooking demonstrations from top chefs and workshops in culinary skills. Five RHS gardens are hosting Festival of Flavours events this autumn; RHS Garden Bridgewater in Salford (8 – 10 September); RHS Garden Harlow Carr in Harrogate (9 – 10 September); RHS Garden Hyde Hall in Chelmsford (29 September – 1 October); RHS Garden Rosemoor in Devon (7 – 8 October) and RHS Garden Wisley in Guildford (11 – 15 October).
Great Wight Bite, Isle of Wight
9 – 10 September 2023
A new food festival will hit the Isle of Wight this September, set to champion the makers and produce of the island. Great Wight Bite will take place in the historic grounds of Northwood House at Cowes hosting big names in the gastronomy world, such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Chris Bavin. Tickets start from £5 and will allow festival goers to view the Chefs Demo Stage and browse the food and drink stalls offering some of the island’s best cuisine. There will also be a Little Chefs Den for youngsters, a Smoking Lobster pop up restaurant, a masterclass kitchen and live music.
Ludlow Food Festival, Shropshire
8 – 10 September 2023
Ludlow, the UK’s original food festival, attracts around 15,000 visitors each year, with over 100 local exhibitors from Shropshire highlighting their artisan products. Expect a variety of workshops, demonstrations and tastings, as well as local and well-known chefs gracing the three main stages set beside the impressive medieval Ludlow Castle.
Taste East Devon Food Festival, Devon
9 – 24 September 2023
The Taste East Devon Food Festival unites the region’s finest venues, chefs, producers and restaurants, such as the renowned River Cottage, THE PIG-at Combe, and Darts Farm, in a celebration of the exceptional local gastronomy scene. Festival events include; Darts Farm’s City to Sea Taste Trail (9 September) which features a culinary cycling adventure along the Exe Estuary trail; Coldharbour Farm Shop and Field Kitchen’s Taste East Devon inspired Pop-up Farmers Market (9 September); and Blackberry Honey Farm’s A Taste of Honey event (16 September) which features honey tastings, honey cream tea and a tour of pollinator gardens. The festival will end with Heron Farm’s Party in the Vineyard (24 September), a family-friendly celebration within a walled garden.
Taste of Scilly Festival, Isles of Scilly
15 – 24 September 2023
This September, Taste of Scilly Festival offers 10 days of food and drink events celebrating local flavours and a host of island specialities. Events – including island hopping safaris, local food markets, a brand-new Cider & Ale festival and wine tastings and talks – offer an opportunity to sample produce grown, caught or produced on the isles. This year the event is bigger and better than ever before, featuring gin tasting collaborations, pub takeovers and beach BBQs.
Discover Rutland Food & Drink Week
23 – 30 September 2023
Rutland is known as the ‘County of Good Taste’ and its upcoming Food & Drink Week offers an opportunity for visitors to discover excellent local suppliers and businesses. Visitors are encouraged to eat their way around the county during the seven-day event, enjoying Rutland Food Week set menus along with various culinary events and festivals. Highlights include; Rutland Food & Drink Festival at Market Place and Mill Street (24 September), Oktoberfest 2023 at The Grainstore Brewery (29 September to 1 October) and Rutland Grape Grazing Festival at Mallard Point (30 September).
Fungi Festival at Emmetts Garden, Kent
6 – 29 October 2023
Emmetts Garden in Kent will host a month-long Fungi Festival in October, including talks, tours, cooking demonstrations and a market – all inspired by the weird and wonderful mushroom species found in their grounds.
Featuring artisans from across England, the Fungi Fair will kick off the festival showcasing an array of fungi-related produce and goodies including hand-crafted jewellery, charming home decor, ceramics, textiles, toys, and even mushroom growing kits. For fungi fans who want to take a deeper dive, there will also be an exciting programme of expert talks and workshops.
The National Trust launch Brownsea Island Sensory Backpacks, Dorset
Eight sensory backpacks are now available for visitors with special educational needs and disabilities on Brownsea Island in Dorset’s Poole Harbour. The National Trust has developed the free-to-hire packs with the support of charity Diverse Abilities and SEND in Museums. The packs, which have two themes – woodland and beach, have been designed to enhance the island experience with sensory activities and fidget elements that can be useful resources for self-led visits.
The Season of Dark Skies Festivals, Nationwide
As the nights draw in, autumn is a prime time to embrace the dark evenings and gaze up to the stars at one of England’s many dark skies festivals. The Scilly Dark Skies Week (30 September to 6 October) will celebrate the grassroots of astronomy with talks from world-class astrophotography practitioners and astronomers. On the mainland, Exmoor’s Dark Skies Festival 2023 (13 to 29 October) will offer festival goers star-themed events across the National Park including dusk wildlife safaris, yoga under the stars and e-bike night rides. In the northeast, the North York Moors National Park will host a number of activities for the Dark Skies Fringe Festival (27 October to 5 November), details are yet to be announced but the festival is sure to delight as the location is recognised as an International Dark Sky Reserve. Further north in Durham, the North Pennines Stargazing Festival (20 October – 5 November) will host stargazing suppers, talks, tours and wildlife spotting.
Autumn Walks and Workshops at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, Hampshire
As autumn unfolds at the award-winning Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, the landscape comes alive with auburn colours and late blooms, setting the stage for a series of captivating workshops and events that celebrate the wonders of nature, creativity and learning. Visitors can embark on a journey of discovery with an expert guide on the Autumn Foraging Walk (13 September) as they explore edible plants and herbs, or perhaps take part in the Gardening for Wildlife Workshop (22 November) to discover the art of creating a wildlife-friendly garden. The Wooden Spoon Carving Workshop (16 September) offers participants the chance to unleash their creativity through the art of whittling, or experience mindfulness in nature at the Garden’s Forest Bathing Experience (ongoing).
FREE: Walk the Chalk, East Sussex
20 – 24 September 2023
In celebration of the King Charles III England Coast Path, a free four-day festival will grace the tops of Seaford Head featuring workshops, performances and artworks along with a series of guided walks where ramblers will learn about the flora, fauna, geology, history and folklore of the area. South Hill Barn will host the Living Coast Undersea VR Experience where participants can ‘dive’ into Seaford Bay’s waters to discover the diverse marine wildlife of the area. There will also be a brain-teasing treasure hunt and live music from acts including a ukulele band, a community orchestra and Sussex folk-music band.
Queer Nature at Kew Gardens, London
30 September – 29 October 2023
Discover Queer Nature at Kew Gardens this autumn—an exhibition exploring the vibrant world of plants and fungi through a queer lens. This pioneering event celebrates the queer beauty of flora and fungi, uncovering their stories beyond the binary through arts, science, horticulture and LGBTQ+ communities. Kew transforms the Temperate House into a haven of wonder, featuring suspended art by Jeffrey Gibson, a specially designed garden by Patrick Featherstone in collaboration with Kew’s Youth Forum, and a multi-media installation amplifying the voices of contributors.
Isle of Wight Walking Festival
7 – 15 October 2023
The Isle of Wight Walking Festival returns this Autumn with a handful of new events for 2023. The latest addition is a 5k Dash in the Dark Walk which aims to raise funds for the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance. There will also be a chance to delve into the history of Northwood House and its 23-acre estate with an unrestricted access tour alongside three new walks focused on caring for the environment, including a litter picking session and beach clean.
Route YC Introduces Autumn and Winter Road Trips, Yorkshire
Autumn and Winter 2023
From driving, sailing and wildlife-spotting to bikes, hikes and walks, the team at Route YC is encouraging visitors to create their own outdoor adventure around the Yorkshire coast and countryside this autumn. Route YC has created a series of suggested themed itineraries and a choice of three-, five- and seven-night stays to help explore the coastal region off-season. Visitors can look forward to a range of special retreats on the coast or in the countryside with itineraries that feature local food and drink, cosy log fires and breath-taking views.
Raithwaite Sandsend, near Whitby; Apartments @52 in Bridlington; and The Bike & Boot Inn, Scarborough are amongst the top accommodation providers included alongside Yorkshire Coast outdoor activity options, including North Yorkshire Water Park, Scarborough Surf School and Sewerby Hall.
Hot New Hotels
The Peninsula London
Opening 12 September 2023
Located in Belgravia, steps away from Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace, the new 190-room Peninsula Hotel is in a prime spot for exploring the capital’s cultural highlights. In-house Academy programmes, designed to offer destination insight, add to the hotel’s ‘cultural learning experience’ while a tranquil spa, one-story shopping arcade, a choice of destination restaurants and a magnificent ballroom also feature on the hotel’s list of luxury facilities.
The BoTree, London
Opening 15 September 2023
Located in the heart of London’s West End, The BoTree offers 199-rooms, complete with two destination restaurants, dynamic bars, a live music club, a boutique screening room and a fitness centre. The BoTree is part of Preferred Hotels & Resorts’ prestigious Legend Collection, joining the likes of award-winning Middle Eight and The Guardsman. The hotel’s interiors, which blend Marylebone flair with Mayfair chic, have been created by renowned designers, Concrete.
The Bell at Charlbury, The Cotswolds
Opening September 2023
The Bell in the ancient market town of Charlbury will open in September and join the newly formed Daylesford Stays; a collection of restored venues in the Cotswolds made up of The Wild Rabbit in Chipping Norton, The Fox in Oddington and The Cottages near Kingham. A fourth pub, The Three Horseshoes near Burford, will be refurbished and reopen later this year. The Bell set in a 17th Century inn equipped with a 50-cover pub serving pub classics that champion seasonal produce. In addition to the pub, The Bell Barn is a 30-cover open plan dining room which will be used as a restaurant and private hire venue space. 12 bedrooms will sit above the pub, which draw inspiration from the neighbouring ancient woodland, embellished with local and recycled materials.
The Reach at Piccadilly, Manchester
Opening October 2023
The 215-room Reach at Piccadilly is part of Marriott’s Tribute Portfolio of hotels, located just 90 seconds walk from Piccadilly Train Station. The rooms are decorated with a natural design and materials inspired by the surrounding Pennines such as wool, cotton and timber. All dishes served at the hotel restaurant are made using locally-sourced produce and locally brewed beer is available on tap.
Raffles London at The OWO, London
Opening 9 October 2023
London’s first Raffles launches as an ultra-luxury hotel in the iconic, Grade II-listed Old War Office on Whitehall. The building is being reborn as The OWO, a flagship hotel with 120 rooms and suites, nine destination restaurants and bars, an immersive spa and a grand ballroom.
The Broadwick Soho, London
Opening 1 November 2023
2023 will see the hotly anticipated opening of the first London hotel designed by Swedish interior architect, Martin Brudnizki (Annabel’s, The Wolseley). Inspired by the history, glamour and grit of Soho, Brudnizki’s inimitable magic will be woven through the hotel’s 47 guestrooms and nine suites, many of which come with private balconies for a bird’s-eye view of Soho’s vibrant streets. Guests can also opt for the luxury penthouse, to make their stay extra special. With a rooftop bar and wraparound terrace, plus a sumptuous Italian restaurant run in partnership with culinary powerhouses Jamie Poulton and Ed Baines (of Randall and Aubin fame), this luxury boutique development promises to be one of Soho’s hottest spots.
Mandarin Oriental Mayfair, London
Opening Autumn 2023
Mandarin Oriental’s second London hotel will open on Hanover Square, the oldest square in Mayfair. The new five-star hotel will be a calming and discreet sanctuary with a vibrant, contemporary atmosphere. Expect the brand’s legendary service and respect for tradition to shine through.