What to do in these two great UK cities on two great holidays?
October 20, 2012 5:07 PM   Subscribe

Halloween (Edinburgh) and Bonfire Night (London) in the UK for the first time! I would like your suggestions.

Going to be in Edinburgh for the Halloween weekend with a group of 8 other North Americans, mostly in our mid-to-late 20s. I am looking for good places to buy a cheapish costume and fun things to do on the 27th-28th, esp. in the evening.

I'm also going to be in London on November 5th, with one other person from said group. We want to find the funnest or best Guy Fawkes Night celebrations, fireworks, parties. Where we come from, it't normal to celebrate with just a few field and beach bonfires. Where's the big to-do in or around London on this night?

Many thanks!
posted by gohabsgo to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total)
Best answer: Nov 5th, you could try getting the train down to Lewes, in Sussex, for the Lewes Bonfire Night.

It's completely mad, but fun.
posted by carter at 5:12 PM on October 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yep Lewes bonfire night is by far the biggest and most festive Guy Fawkes night celebration you could get to, and it's only an hour and a half or so from London Victoria station.
posted by protorp at 5:15 PM on October 20, 2012

Not wishing to be a downer but as an ex-Sussexman I believe this spectacle has become too popular in recent years.

"Although a great deal of effort is directed into the safety aspects of Bonfire Night, fire and fireworks remain potentially dangerous. All persons should carefully note that attendance at Lewes on Bonfire Night will constitute volenti non fit injuria, that is to say you will be deemed to have accepted any risk of injury or damage whatsoever, and no claim in respect thereof will lie against the organisers".

Also: "Wrap up warm in old waterproof clothes (Ignore The Weather Forecast !) tis better to be too dry and too warm than, soggy, wet and cold. Bring plenty of money for the charity collection boxes and be prepared for long waits, heavy crowds, loud noise and lots of smoke. This Bonfire Night Festival in Sussex is not suitable for very young children especially those in pushchairs, the frail or if you have breathing problems. Some pubs in the town will be ticket only and all of them will be heaving and there will be limited toilet facilities and food vendors.
For further details of each individual bonfire society procession routes, timings, tickets and firesite, see the Lewes Bonfire Council website here or the bonfire society websites. Be warned as well, that all but one bonfire society fire site are now ticket only events, don't just turn up hoping to get in, purchase your tickets in advance. No Ticket No Entry. See also the advice given by the Lewes District Council Website. Or by the Lewes Bonfire Council Website. There is also a downloadable advice leaflet by the Lewes Bonfire Council Here.
See You On The Fifth : Stay Safe And Enjoy : Lest We Forget."

They used to roll flaming tar barrels down the steep high street, but no longer!

posted by lungtaworld at 5:39 PM on October 20, 2012

Response by poster: TravelFilter Bonus Level: Just realized I'm in Paris on the day that the Beaujolais Nouveau comes out! I realize it's not UK-related, but huge points to anyone who may know where I can go to get a taste. Fluent French, so that's not an obstacle. Un gros merci!
posted by gohabsgo at 5:49 PM on October 20, 2012

I used to enjoy Guy Faulkes night in London by going to Primrose Hill (near Regent's Park) as soon as it gets dark and then watching all the fireworks over London. However, that's mainly just for watching fireworks. I have no idea where the big displays are. It wasn't a big thing when I was there.

I have no idea about Halloween in Edinburgh but please understand that Halloween is not really a big deal here and dressing up is pretty much limited to ghosts and witches and general spooky things. Also, it's mostly (not all, but mostly) private house parties. It's fun travelling around London on Halloween if it falls at the weekend because you get ghosts on the underground and giant pumpkins on the bus. This is entertaining because it's unusual.
posted by kadia_a at 2:39 AM on October 21, 2012

Halloween is nothing special in Edinburgh, or at least I've never been invited. In general, people doing Halloween in the UK is a recent phenomenon and they are merely imitating a US custom they have seen on TV or in the cinema. There are usually good fireworks in Cambridge. Both events are of course, weather dependent.
posted by epo at 5:25 AM on October 21, 2012

Response by poster: Oh, I am not thinking "Halloween" writ large, in the North American sense...but I know that clubs have theme nights and such all over the world for various occasions (and that would likely be a suitable theme for that weekend).
If there's really nothing happening, I am happy to save my money and not dress up (just like when I'm back home, if I'm honest).

Interestingly enough, this reminds me of the perspective of a few British friends of mine who never really got into the idea of Halloween and think trick-or-treating is immoral because it teaches kids that it's ok to go around begging for handouts...but my friends tend to skew weird, regardless of national origin.
posted by gohabsgo at 6:56 AM on October 21, 2012

In Scotland, traditionally, children did "guising", where they'd have to do a party piece like reciting a poem or singing a song to earn their treats. Also, the lanterns were carved from turnips (the big yellow/purple root vegetables called swedes in England).

My parents tried to keep this going but I think it's all been replaced by the American version now.
posted by PJMcPrettypants at 10:03 AM on October 21, 2012

An alternative to Lewes is Brockham Bonfire. I've never been myself, but I've heard it's also a great night... The bonfire is already looking enormous!
posted by jonrob at 11:17 AM on October 21, 2012

Halloween may not be a big deal in UK but Edinburgh is the home of a society putting on a big neo-pagan procession on the Royal Mile on the 31st. YMMV on contemporary reinterpretation of pagan mythology but a huge amount of costumed people, fire, and the culmination of the Winter King slaying (or putting into a coma or whatever) the Summer King in a giant flaming sword duel seems like a watchable spectacle. Google Samhain or Beltane or check out the skyscanner top picks for Edinburgh.
posted by yoHighness at 11:24 AM on October 21, 2012

And ...?
posted by carter at 6:54 AM on November 7, 2012

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