UK’s Most Magical Bonfire Nights and Fireworks Displays for 2023
Remember, remember: with Bonfire Night almost upon us, get ready to pack the sparklers and head to one of the UK’s most mesmerising firework displays.
On the crisp, dark nights of early November, before we get all excited about Christmas, a spectacular and time-honoured tradition sweeps across the United Kingdom, lighting up the skies with fiery displays.
Bonfire Night, also known as Guy Fawkes Night or Fireworks Night, is a celebration marked by awe-inspiring pyrotechnics, towering bonfires and a sense of camaraderie that transcends generations. After all, held yearly on and around November 5th, there’s nothing quite like standing out in the cold, warm cider in hand, staring up at the sky going ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ as stunning displays explode above you, right?
Why do we celebrate Bonfire Night?
The tradition goes back centuries, marking Guy Fawkes, who tried (and failed) to blow up the House of Parliament on 5 November 1605. Known as the Gunpowder Plot, Fawkes wanted to destroy King James I and his government to try and restore a Catholic monarchy to England. To celebrate that the King had survived, people lit bonfires around London then, months later, the day became an annual event of thanksgiving.
While no longer such a celebration of the historical event, today it makes for a special occasion to gather friends and family for a spectacular show.
Here’s our pick of the eight best Bonfire Nights being held across the UK this year.
Lewes Bonfire Celebrations
Kicking things off with the biggest bonfire celebrations in the UK (and perhaps the world), the East Sussex-based extravaganza that is Lewes Bonfire Celebrations takes over the busy streets of Lewes until the early hours.
While Lewes residents try to steer visitors away (local train services are cancelled and all local roads are closed) it doesn't deter the thousands who attend to see the parades and processions that move through the town. Several different bonfire societies each then relocate to their specific bonfire site for the biggest bonfires you've ever seen and industrial quantities of fireworks.
Expect processions of burning crosses (17 in reference to the Seventeen Martyrs burnt at the stake in the mid-16th century), marching bands and blazing processions, as well as fireworks and huge bonfires. If you're going, you'll need to carefully consider how to get there and get out, otherwise try and find local accommodation within walking distance to the town centre.
Saturday November 4, from 5pm. The procession is free, bonfire entry ticket prices vary and can be bought on the day. Lewes town centre, BN7
Alexandra Palace Fireworks Festival
Easily one of London’s best Bonfire Nights, the Ally Pally Fireworks Festival explodes over a glittering panoramic view of the capital. Otherwise known as ‘the Glastonbury of fireworks’, music here is a big part of the show – the displays are set to soundtracks usually curated by a big-name DJ – while this year you can also expect tribute acts from Joel Coombes: Elton John and Rogue Minogue: Kylie Minogue, as well as a drag party with iconic queens Jonny Woo and John Sizzle.
If all that dancing has you working up an appetite, there’s also excellent street food and a huge German Bier Fest on site too.
Friday November 3 and Saturday November 4, 6-10.30pm. From £18. Alexandra Palace, London, N22 7AY
Leeds Castle Fireworks Spectacular
Leeds Castle in Maidstone, around an hour from London on the train, is famed across the country for its magnificent Bonfire Night. A 900-year-old castle that just so happens to be one of the most visited historic buildings in Britain, it has long been regarded as hosting ‘the South East’s biggest and best firework display,' and it's not hard to see why.
Held over two days, arrive at 2pm to explore the castle’s grounds before the main event at 5.30pm, which will see a mesmerising firework display as well as strobe lighting and projections illuminate the sky.
A wide array of pop-up food and drinks stalls will also be on site to keep the whole family well fed and watered, so be sure to fill your boots.
Friday November 3 and Saturday November 4, entry from 2pm. £26 over 16s; £18 3-15 year olds. Broomfield, Maidstone, ME17 1PL
Battersea Park Fireworks Night Cruise
Not your average Bonfire Night (unfortunately there’s no actual bonfire involved in this one), take to the River Thames for Battersea Park Fireworks Night Cruise, where you can celebrate the occasion in the very city where the Gunpowder Plot took place.
Embarking from Westminster Pier, enjoy a welcome glass of bubbly and canapés while cruising down the river to Battersea, where you’ll bag prime position to watch the Battersea Park fireworks display without the crowds. Just the way we like it.
Saturday November 4, 7-9pm. £49 over 13s; £39 2-12 year olds. Westminster Pier, SW1A 2JH
Guildford Lions Firework Fiesta
A Bonfire Night with conscience, Guildford Lions Firework Fiesta is all about raising money for the Guildford Lion’s welfare fund as well as a local mental health charity, all while having a jolly night out with family and friends.
While the firework display is the star of the show, guests can also enjoy live music, kids’ entertainment and a whole host of different food stalls serving up everything from Italian and Greek to Thai delicacies. Be sure to save room for something sweet, too – choose from crepes, cookies, donuts, brownies and, of course, toffee apples. Don’t mind if we do.
Saturday November 4, 5pm. £12 adults; under 16s free. Stoke Park, GU1 1ER
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Guy Fawkes Dinner and Fireworks at Gravetye Manor
If huge crowds and the risk of a downpour doesn’t quite tickle your fancy, be sure to check out Guy Fawkes Dinner and Fireworks at Gravetye Manor. A much more glamorous affair, the evening involves a drinks reception and firework display over the lake before a sensational three-course seasonal meal with wine pairing prepared by the Manor’s executive chef George. That’s right, no overpriced burgers here.
There are limited tickets available, so be sure to book yours ASAP.
Thursday November 2, 6.30pm. £160 (inclusive of aperitif, 3 courses and wines). Gravetye Manor, RH19 4LJ
Bonfire Night at Hawarden Estate
If you’re a dog lover, you’ll most likely have a love/hate relationship with Bonfire Night. No-one likes seeing their canine companions running for cover under the sofa, after all. That’s where Hawarden Estate comes in.
Its pooch-friendly celebration forgoes loud fireworks in favour of a huge bonfire, roaming brass band and illuminations at Hawarden Old Castle, with a lantern walk and food cooked especially over the fire thrown in for good measure. What more could you want?
Saturday November 4, 5-9.30pm. £10 adults; £6 children; free under 2s. Chester Road, CH5 3FB