Your guide to celebrating May Day in the UK

The spirit of May Day spreads far and wide across the UK, as people come together to celebrate the beginning of summer. May Day festivities stem from the pagan roots of Britain, marking the new cycle of growth and fertility in nature.

From Maypole dancing to witnessing the Riding of the Bounds, there are endless ways to celebrate May Day. Make the most of this special bank holiday by attending one of the exciting events featured below!

Beltane Fire Festival – Edinburgh

Beltane Fire FestivalThe Beltane Fire Festival takes place in Edinburgh each year on the evening of April 30th or May 1st, giving a modern interpretation of an ancient Celtic festival that celebrated the renewal of life. The Gaelic term for the May Day occasion is ‘Beltane’ – the time when grazing lands opened for livestock. During the festival, performers dressed in funky costumes and body paint perform a series of rituals and dances that tell the story of the changing seasons and the triumph of the summer over the darkness of winter. The highlight of the festival is the lighting of the Beltane Fire, which symbolizes the return of the sun and the rebirth of the natural world. Grab your tickets today for an experience like no other!

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Jack in the Green Festival – Hastings

Jack in the Green FestivalEvery year, the historic coastal town of Hastings hosts the Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green, a four-day celebration that draws crowds from across the UK and beyond. This British May Day festival is a must-see! The long weekend extravaganza features live music, dancing and social events suitable for the whole family, all under the sun (hopefully!). The highlight of the event occurs on bank holiday Monday, with a vibrant parade through the streets of Hastings Old Town featuring a range of characters, dancers, drummers and giants! The grand finale takes place on West Hill, where the Jack is slain, releasing the spirit of summer. Head to the seaside to witness one of Britain’s truly unique traditions!

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May Morning – Oxford

May Morning in the city of Oxford is famous due to the thousands who crowd the streets at 6am to listen to a Latin hymn sung from the top of Magdalen College tower. This gathering is an experience like no other, but the festivities don’t end there. May Day traditions take place across the city throughout the day, including Maypole dancing in the streets, a visit from Jack-in-the-Green and a performance of Morris Dancers outside the Ashmolean Museum. The famous Cotswold Morris is the native dance of Oxfordshire, so this is surely the best place to witness it!

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Riding of the Bounds – Berwick-upon-Tweed

Riding of the BoundsThe Riding of the Bounds is a traditional ceremony in Berwick-upon-Tweed which is situated on the border of England and Scotland. The event dates back to the 16th century and involves a parade of horse riders who visit the borders of the town, marking the ancient boundaries that were established years ago. The riders, who are led by the town mayor and the town sergeant, wear traditional clothing and carry flags and other emblems. They also stop at various points along the route to perform symbolic acts, such as striking boundary stones with their sticks. The Riding of the Bounds is a unique and important part of Berwick-upon-Tweed’s cultural heritage and is a  must-see event this May.

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May Day Celebrations – Hever Castle & Gardens

May Day at Hever CastleExperience the festivities this May Day at Hever Castle & Gardens where you can take part in a weekend full of fun family activities and traditions. Join the classic Maypole dance where you’ll weave brightly coloured ribbons, have your face painted and watch a Robin Hood Play on the Castle forecourt. You may even spot Robin Hood, Maid Marian and Little John wandering around the grounds. Don’t forget to explore the Castle and try to locate the Green Man carved into the wood and ceilings. In springtime, the award-winning gardens and grounds are a delight, with blossoms of pear, apple and cherry trees that will surely brighten your day. Take a leisurely walk through the Pergola Walk to see the walls of Wisteria, or check out the vibrant plants in the Italian Garden.

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Helston Flora Day

Helston Flora DayThe ancient festival of Helston Flora Day is usually held on the 8th of May when the people come together to celebrate the end of winter and mark the arrival of new life with the trees and flowers in full bloom. During the festival, the houses and shops of the town are colourfully decorated with plants and flowers to express the spirit of renewal. The vibrant pageant, known as Hal an Tow, tells the story of Helston through song and dance with many characters. The townsfolk dress to the nines and take part in a variety of dances in the streets throughout the day, it’s a spectacle you won’t want to miss!

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