British Travel | 10th October 2023
5 of the UK’s best bonfire night events 2023
Remember, remember the 5th of November with style
Few events are as quintessentially British as Bonfire Night...
While every town in the land sets off rockets in memory of Guy Fawkes and his Gunpowder Plot, certain destinations are known for their fireworks displays with fabulous party vibes and seriously bigger bangs.
Here’s our pick of the UK’s best bonfire nights and sparkliest celebrations this November.
1. Lewes Bonfire Night
There’s one word to describe the Lewes Bonfire Night: legendary.
It’s extraordinary how the annual event — the biggest firework display in the UK — in this otherwise genteel little market town in East Sussex has become internationally famous for its riotous celebrations. It’s big, it’s bold and it’s brash with a fiery parade through the town’s streets that borders on the anarchic.
To say the locals take it seriously is an understatement; the seven Bonfire Societies each of which have their own bonfire site begin preparations while the embers of the previous year’s event are still warm. The parade of drum beating locals, dressed in 16th-century garb and wielding burning torches, is a spectacle not to be missed. The giant effigies of well-known figures from politicians to royalty who’ve fallen from grace, carried aloft and then flung on the bonfires are a major comedic highlight.
Where to stay: The roads into Lewes are closed from around 4pm on the day and it’s best to travel in by train. Ockenden Manor Hotel & Spa is the perfect base for a long weekend in Sussex, within easy reach of Lewes and offering a tranquil retreat away from the madding crowds.
2. Bonfire night in the home of Guy Fawkes, York
As you’d expect of the home town of England’s most treacherous son, York pulls out all the stops on 5th November.
In addition to the main event — there are many fireworks displays and festivities around the city —, you can immerse yourself in the story of the man and his plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London. Visit his childhood home before heading to The York Dungeon. Here, you’ll discover what really happened on the 5th of November 1605, and exactly what happened to Guy across 10 days of torture at The York Dungeon. There are also wonderful walking tours including fun tours for families such as The Little Peasants City Walking Tour which take you in the footsteps of Fawkes, Dick Turpin and other famous rogues.
Where to stay: Immersed in history and covered with red bricks and limestone, Middlethorpe Hall & Spa is surrounded by acres of gorgeous gardens, offering a tranquil and elegant spa in the charming city of York.
3. Civic Bonfire and Firework Display, Inverness
The Scots aren't shy when it comes to lighting up the November night sky with revelry.
Bonfire night in Inverness is one of the best. The annual Civic Bonfire and Firework display, which takes place at Bught Park is one of the highlights of the Highland Council’s Inverness Winter Festival. Thousands of spectators flock to Bught Park where you’ll also find a funfair and other entertainments, as well as the bonfire site. Or, you can watch the Catherine wheels and rockets explode in the sky from the banks of the River Ness.
Where to stay: The celebrated Ness Walk is a hotel that offers the best of both worlds - with its gated entrance and tranquil setting, you’ll be treated to a peaceful Scottish countryside vibe while still being in the heart of the city.
4. Hopetoun Fireworks & Bonfire Night, South Queensferry, Edinburgh
And the Scottish capital also puts on one of the UK’s best bonfire nights.
Held at Hopetoun House, a beautiful country house estate, this year’s Hopetoun Fireworks & Bonfire Night promises a spectacular 'A Night At The Movies' theme. The fireworks display will be set to famous film scores and all-time classic movie songs with a dizzying selection of entertainments such as fairground attractions and bungee jumping, as well as the bonfire and an abundance of hearty food and drink.
Where to stay: Fingal, the fabulous floating hotel, docked at Edinburgh’s waterfront, offers fine dining and the floor-to-ceiling windows in the restaurant also provide unique views of the fireworks whizzing through the sky. And Prestonfield House also offers tempting five-star stays if you prefer terra firma.
5. Alexandra Palace Fireworks Festival, London
The capital shines brightly on both sides of The Thames but the Alexandra Palace Fireworks Festival, dubbed ‘The Glastonbury of Fireworks’, is widely considered the best destination for celebrating bonfire night in London.
This year’s line up has the extra wow factor: on Friday 3 and Saturday 4 November, you can come and get a taste of Bavaria at the UK’s largest German Bier Festival and dance to live music with sets from tribute acts Joel Coombes: Elton John and Rogue Minogue: Kylie. And in addition to the amazing fireworks display, there’s also an ice rink you can skate around while listening to a disco soundtrack.
Where to stay: Follow an anti-establishment celebration with a stay at The Athenaeum - an art-deco beauty that’s been standing in the heart of Mayfair since 1850. Step outside and you’re opposite Green Park, step in and you’re in the heart of contemporary glamour. Head to stylish Belgravia for a serene retreat at The Hari, set among grand London squares. Or for a Knightsbridge night to remember, a suite at The Capital Hotel, just around the corner from Harrods, is on the cards.