Whatever you call it – Bonfire Night, Fireworks Night, Guy Fawkes Night – it’s an excuse to venture out into the chilly November air, cradle a warm cider in your mitten-clad hands, catch a waft of bonfire smoke, feel a little nostalgic as you write your name in the air with a sparkler, and partake in some obligatory oohing and aahing at pretty fireworks.
For the whole shebang
Few Bonfire Night celebrations are as traditional as Lewes’ famous shindig. Drawing crowds from far and wide, huge bonfires blaze on the hilltops around this usually sleepy Sussex town, while rockets pop and bang overhead. But it’s not just the firepower of this event that impresses. A parade of marching bands and dancers weave through the streets, brandishing burning crosses. The celebrations stay steadfastly true to tradition, recognising the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 and the infamous Guy Fawkes. Post-party, the Artist Residence Brighton – just half an hour’s drive away – will beckon you back for a late-night tipple.
For a 360° display
Position yourself somewhere central and high up in London and take advantage of the firework displays happening all around the city on Bonfire Night. You could ascend Primrose Hill to mingle with the well-heeled, but the savviest spectators head heavenward to a roof terrace or skyscraper restaurant for a prime view. Try one of the eateries at Heron Tower or the Shard for dazzling display views. However, for a romantic firework night à deux, our pick has got to be the sublime Corinthia London, especially if you can score the River Suite with its panoramic views.
For the prettiest backdrop
Journey southwest to Cornwall and spend Bonfire Night in the idyllic seaside town of Polperro. This under-the-radar event attracts an intimate crowd but the firework display is impressive, reflecting on the water and lighting up the chocolate-box cottages around the harbour. There’s a bonfire on the beach and a barbecue at the fish market, so you can spend a couple of hours enjoying the festivities in this little town before retreating to Hotel Tresanton for a boozy hot chocolate to complete your cosy autumn evening.
For something a little less ordinary
No one seems very clear on where the Tar Barrels Festival, in the Devonshire town of Ottery St Mary, came from. Some suggest it’s a slightly offbeat response to the Gunpowder Plot; others point to the lighting of beacons to warn of the coming Spanish Armada as the custom’s origin. The truth is, nobody really cares where it came from, as long as they can still watch the strongest, bravest and most foolhardly folk of Ottery come tearing through the streets with flaming barrels of tar on their heads every year. This bizarre display may have you impressed and confused in equal measure, so it’s lucky that The Pig at Combe and Sidmouth Harbour Hotel are close by to help calm your mind and bring you back to reality.
For a cosy night in
If milling with the masses and queuing up for a hog roast/toffee apple/case of frostbite doesn’t hold much appeal, a Bonfire Night stay at The George in Rye might be right up your street. Every year, a remarkable procession of flaming torches, bands and floats go right past the doors of the hotel. So you can marvel at the pageantry before the chilliness gets the better of you and head back inside to your bonfire-high platter of fresh seafood. Pop your head out the front door again to catch the fireworks. Bonfire Night made simple.