May marks the start of warmer weather and blossom filled trees and flowers. Here is our pick of the best days out, May Bank Holiday events and festivals taking place across the UK in 2019.
On the evening of the 30th April, several thousand people will congregate at Calton Hill in the centre of Edinburgh to celebrate the Beltane Fire Festival. The spectacle will involve dazzling fire displays, drumming, processions and plenty of body paint. The fire festival of Beltane is a revitalist celebration of Celtic culture. Beltane tradition involved preparing cattle that had been penned in all winter for the high pastures where they would spend summer. It also included courting rituals that would result in matches and of course, fire, that was thought to cleanse, purify and increase fertility. Edinburgh’s festival will involve around three hundred voluntary performers, marking the end of the Scottish winter and welcoming the summer season ahead with optimism. www.edinburghguide.com
Padstow’s equivalent of May Day, ‘Obby ‘Oss Day, comes alive with the sound of music and merriment and the wild dancing of two ominous-looking ‘Osses on 1 May. The stars of the day are the two ‘Obby ‘Osses – each one consisting of a 6ft wide wooden hoop draped in black sail cloth and hoisted onto a fearsomely, masked local chap. They prance through the town followed by a troupe of musicians, singers, drummers and dancers. In Minehead, Somerset, a 500 year-old tradition sees three separate Hobby Horses (‘Obby ‘Osses), like brightly coloured ships, parade the streets during the May holiday, culminating in Boogie night. www.visitcornwall.com
Crowds around the maypole at the Padstow May Day ‘Obby ‘Oss Day Festival, Cornwall (Getty)
The celebration of May Day dates back to ancient times, when Romans celebrated the festival of Flora, the goddess of flowers and spring. In Britain, Celtic people celebrated the festival of Beltane on the first of May to mark the halfway point between spring and summer, in contrast to the festival of Samain that fell hallway between autumn and winter on 1st November.
Get up bright and early on 1 May to watch the Wessex Morris Men dance on the old maypole site above the head of the Cerne Abbas Giant. The Giant is a mighty, 180ft, chalk figure that exists on this Dorset hillside. Local folklore has long held the Giant to be an aid to fertility. As the dawn breaks, the Morris Men will perform a routine and then make their way back down to dance in the quaint, village square for a well-deserved breakfast. www.dorsetforyou.com
Berwick’s bounds date back to 1438 when representatives from England and Scotland agreed where one country would end and where the other would begin. The bounds of Berwick were patrolled as early as 1542. This was to protect the town against encroachment by the Scots. Today, Riding of the Bounds Riding of the Bounds is a traditional ride-out of the boundaries of Berwick, to keep them known to the Scottish and the English. 2019 date for Riding of the Bounds is Saturday 4th May. The Riding of the Bounds now regularly attracts around 100 riders. berwickridersassociation.co.uk
It’s time to walk the plank and join in this years’ Brixham Pirate Festival from the 3rd to the 5th of May. Celebrate with food, drinks and music while the children can discover the mermaid cove and see with their very own eyes a beautiful mermaid. No doubt will there be a lot of beer drinking, foot stomping and sing along music to take part in.
Taking place during the Bank holiday weekend, the unique Jack in the Green Festival in Hastings is an exciting and historic costumed parade featuring live music, Morris dancing and food and drink. On the Bank holiday Monday, the parade begins at 9.45am, setting off from the Fisherman’s Huts in Rock-a-Nore Road in the Old Town, and finishes on the West Hill. www.hastingsjitg.co.uk
Morris dancers perform during the parade through the Old Town at the annual Jack In The Green festival. (Getty)
At noon on 5th and 6th May, crowds will gather on Clun Bridge to witness the Green Man defeat the Frost Queen to ensure there is a summer in the valley. The leafy face of the Green Man represents nature, fertility, and the cycle of death and rebirth. After his victory the Green Man will lead a garland-festooned parade to the grounds of Clun Castle. Here, there is a craft and festivities fair for you to explore, or if you are feeling more adventurous, venture on a walk into the mesmerising Clun Valley. www.clungreenman.org
The Black Prince Flower Boat Procession takes place this year on 7th May in the villages of Millbrook, Kingsand and Cawsand in in Cornwall. The flower-decorated boat, the Black Prince, will be ceremonially carried shoulder-high through the villages. The vessel will be accompanied by South-West town criers, processional dancers, musicians, children and villagers. All will be clad in traditional dress with red ribbons, sashes and red flowers in their hair. At the end of the day, the Black Prince is launched into the sea from Cawsand Beach. www.visitcornwall.com
In the Cornish market town of Helston, the streets are filled with colour and flowers each year on 8th of May for Helston Floral Day. Each year, Helston hosts the famous ‘Furry Dance’. The town will conjure a carnival atmosphere and be decked with beautiful flowers. Dancing begins early, followed by the seasonal folk play, Hal-an-Tow, which is staged at several venues throughout the town. www.helstonfloraday.org.uk
On 11th May, Brentham’s May Queen Festival will begin with a procession, accompanied by a marching band, around the streets of the suburb. Included in the procession will be, Britannia, Jack-in-the-green and 150 young girls dressed in white and adorned with flowers. The crowning of the May Queen takes place at 3pm, followed by traditional dancing around the maypole. The May Queen becomes guest of honour at the evening’s festivities. It is believed that the May Queen tradition stems from the Roman tradition of celebrating the goddess of beauty, Diana. The May Queen was chosen from amongst the local and unmarried women and was crowned with greenery. On 1 May it is also common for many Catholic parishes to hold a May crowning, dedicated to Mary, Mother of Jesus. www.brentham.com
Dogfest 2019 takes place at three different locations: Hertfordshire, Cheshire and Bristol. From the 11th to the 12th of May, Hertfordshire will be hosting the first Dogfest of the season with dog shows, dog walks, kid arenas, and dog activities that you can try with your dog; such as hay bale racing, dog diving, temptation valley and more. www.dog-fest.co.uk
Garland of Flowers Parade: 13th May Abbotsbury
On 13th May, this Dorset village will celebrate Abbotsbury Garland Day, a tradition that has been taking place since around the early 19th century. The custom used to involve the making of a wild flower and garden flower garland by the children of the village in order to bring luck to the fisherman of the village. These were held aloft on poles and paraded from house to house in the village with the intention of collecting money, which the children would keep.The garlands were blessed in a church service and some were then rowed out to sea to be tossed into the water. Today, the large garlands are used to raise money for charity and are placed beside the war memorial in the churchyard. www.dorsetinfocus.co.uk
Devon County Show is a fun family weekend event taking place near the city of Exeter. During the three days, watch showjumping events, scurry racing and shetland pony racing, plus see more than 2,000 animals. Also hosting one of the biggest dog shows in the West Country, plus various craft and gardening stands and local food and drink. www.devoncountyshow.co.uk
Devon County Show – (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
Set in the beautiful Brecon Beacons National Park in the book town of Hay-on-Wye, the 32nd Hay Festival takes place from 23rd of May to 2nd of June 2019. There are 390 events to choose from, including music, talks and workshops. For the full schedule and to buy tickets for the various talks and events, visit: www.hayfestival.com/wales/home