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The 6 Best Places to Celebrate Bonfire Night in England

Group of people watching firework display
Group of people watching firework display | © DeymosHR/Shutterstock
Remember remember the fifth of November. If you live in England, chances are that Bonfire Night is one of the most anticipated festivals of the year. For those of you who are utterly perplexed by what the night is all about, in brief it celebrates a foiled plot to kill King James I back in 1605. Bonfires are burned with effigies of Guy Fawkes (the would-be terrorist) perched on the top and fireworks are lit to remember how Fawkes planned to use gunpowder to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Even small villages host Guy Fawkes night celebrations, but if you’re looking for a truly special experience, here are seven of the best places to head on the 5th November.

Battle, East Sussex

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Battle Bonfire Night 2012, East Sussex, England.
Battle Bonfire Night, East Sussex, England. | © Stephen Morriss / Alamy Stock Photo
If you’re looking for a spectacular event that isn’t focused around fireworks, then Battle in East Sussex is a great choice for Bonfire Night. Huge bonfire celebrations have been held here for over 300 years with 30 local bonfire societies teaming up to take part in an impressive torchlight procession through the town. Participants dress up in elaborate costumes, portraying everything from pirates and clowns to ancient Aztecs and Saxons. The best bit? Anyone can join in!
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Ottery St. Mary, Devon

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Participants run with a burning tar barrel through the streets of Ottery St Mary, Devon.
Participants run with a burning tar barrel through the streets of Ottery St Mary, Devon. | © SWNS / Alamy Stock Photo
One of the most peculiar (and dangerous!) Bonfire Night celebrations is held in the small town of Ottery St. Mary every year. The Tar Barrels Festival is based on a tradition older than the Gunpowder Plot, involving men, women and children of all ages running through the town carrying blazing barrels of tar on their heads. There’s also a huge bonfire, fairground attractions and a fireworks display for those who would rather not risk setting themselves alight.
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Lewes, East Sussex

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Burning crosses form part of a breathtaking parade of fire and fireworks on bonfire night in Lewes, England.
Burning crosses form part of a breathtaking parade of fire and fireworks on bonfire night in Lewes, England. | © Roger Bamber / Alamy Stock Photo
East Sussex seems to hold the crown for the most interesting Bonfire Night celebrations. Lewes always seems to get the most press coverage thanks to the town’s controversial parades that attract visitors from far and wide. Six local bonfire societies club together to light huge bonfires on the hills that surround the town and the firework displays are always impressive. The main reason to visit, however, is the infamous parade through the town. Effigies of political figures and prominent newsworthy moments from the past 12 months are carried through the town along with 17 large burning crosses that give a distinctly pagan feeling to the evening.
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Midsummer Common, Cambridge

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Cambridge blocked with punts as people watch the firework display
Cambridge blocked with punts as people watch the firework display | © Geoffrey Robinson / Alamy Stock Photo
The largest firework display in the area, Midsummer Common’s Bonfire Night celebrations attract hordes of visitors each year. One of the only events on this list to be free and not require tickets, this is always a popular option for anyone prepared to travel for their Bonfire Night activities. The bonfire is huge, the fireworks impressive and there’s plenty of funfair rides and stalls to explore.
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Fireworks at the Fort, North Tyneside

If it’s all about the location for you, then the obvious option is to head north to Hadrian’s Wall for Bonfire Night. Taking place at Segedunum Roman Fort, built on the wall, Fireworks at the Fort provide dramatic entertainment every year. One of the largest and most impressive pyrotechnic displays in the north of England, watching the fireworks explode over the ancient fort is not to be missed.

Fireworks. © Horizon Images/Motion / Alamy Stock Photo

Skinningrove Bonfire, Yorkshire

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People watching the bonfire in celebration of Guy Fawkes night.
People watching the bonfire in celebration of Guy Fawkes night. | © Geoff Smith / Alamy Stock Photo
If you’re based in the north of England and are on the lookout for something a little more pagan based, head to Skinningrove for their iconic Bonfire Night celebrations. The locals spend the weeks leading up to the 5th November constructing a large structure that references the area’s heritage, such as a fishing boat or a castle. On Bonfire Night, the structure is set alight and fireworks are exploded overhead. Based in London? Here are the best places to spend November 5th in the capital.
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