Unmissable South West festivals for October half term
From family-friendly weekends to spine-tingling spook nights.
As the warmth of the summer sun slowly makes way for the South West’s milder autumn, there’s plenty to see and do once the bustling crowds have disappeared. Whether you’re looking forward to the upcoming October half term, or still not quite ready to say goodbye to the Great British Summer, the South West’s selection of fiery food festivals and enticing Halloween events will help you welcome in the new season.
From mountain biking in North Devon to pumpkin carving in the Somerset countryside, we’ve compiled a list of unmissable autumn dates for your diary.
Dartmouth Food Festival | 19th – 21st October 2018
Home to some outstanding regional food and drink, Dartmouth’s annual food festival takes place from 19th-21st October this year. Set in the beautiful estuary town overlooking the river Dart, the festival sees over 100 South West producers showcasing the best of their delicious produce, from delicate patisserie creations, to locally distilled gin and hearty gourmet burgers.
A series of chef demonstrations and workshops run alongside the event, welcoming a host of inspiring experts, food writers and change making chefs to take the stage and share their expertise with an audience of up to 20,000. From busting myths associated with gluten-free cookery, to how we can steer away from single use plastics, there’ll be plenty of food for thought in the yurt by The Dartmouth Visitor Centre.
Available during the food festival dates, Blue Moorings is a beautifully furnished holiday home sleeping 2-4 guests on the edge of the River Dart. If you’d like to explore Dartmouth and its delightful local eateries later this autumn, the impressive Phoenix House has limited availability in October and November.
The Great British Autumn | 20th October – 4th November 2018
If you’re ready to jump into autumn and celebrate the season, The Great British Autumn at Longleat is not to be missed. Kicking off on October 20th and continuing across half term, the Wiltshire safari park is hosting ghoulish ghost trains and torchlight tours, with gloomy cellars and shadowy attics waiting to be explored by those who are brave enough.
Stand under starry skies to enjoy the firework extravaganza as the distinct autumnal sound of leaves crunch underfoot, or lose yourself in the magical hedge maze. Children will love the pumpkin trail and carving their own jack ‘o’ lantern, while the impressive house and grounds of the Longleat estate make for a picturesque backdrop.
For a truly relaxing autumnal escape, indulge in a short break or weeklong stay at the Holt Farm Estate near Frome.
South West Outdoor Festival | 5th – 7th October 2018
Immerse yourself in a weekend of adventure and entertainment in the South Hams. The South West Outdoor Festival is the place to be if you want to get the most out of the great outdoors this autumn. From 5th-7th October, the festival in East Soar, near Salcombe, promises an action-packed schedule.
From bushcraft workshops, axe throwing and stand-up paddle board yoga, to talks from modern day explorers like Monty Hall, the festival aims to entertain and inspire its visitors. The Riverford Field Kitchen and its head chef Patrick Hanna will pay a visit on Saturday night, preparing a foraged eight dish feast made with organic ingredients sourced around the festival site. Now in its third year, the South West Outdoor Festival is open to committed weekend campers and day visitors alike.
Vegetarian evening with Anna Jones | 5th October 2018
Ease yourself into October and enjoy an evening at Watergate Bay with Anna Jones. One of the original graduates from Jamie Oliver’s prestigious restaurant, London Fifteen, this popular chef will be making a guest appearance at The Beach Hut to cook up a seasonal three-course vegetarian feast. Anna will appear alongside executive chef Neil Haydock to prepare a colourful menu of vegetarian favourites, including roast lemon and butterbean hummus, chard and walnut crostata, and a seasonal plum cobbler.
With a beach bonfire and live music providing a casual and relaxed atmosphere, come along from 7pm on 5th October to enjoy fresh seasonal produce and get your vegetarian cookery questions answered by some of the industry’s best.
If you’d like a little longer to explore North Cornwall, Tregully in Constantine Bay occupies an enviable beachside spot just a short drive away from The Beach Hut, with great links to coastal walks, golf courses and the best local pubs.
Falmouth Oyster Festival | 11th – 14th October 2018
With a packed programme of live cooking demonstrations, a town parade and of course plenty of oysters, the Falmouth Oyster Festival returns this year from 11th-14th October. Rick Stein, Nathan Outlaw and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall are just some of the high profile chefs who’ve graced the festival stage in previous years, and 2018 is set to be another first class event. An oyster shucking contest will see Falmouth’s Events Square flooded with competitive spirit, while live music and children’s shell painting make the event fun for all.
The four day festival is the perfect excuse to indulge in some of the best food and drink that Cornwall has to offer. Speak to local producers about the tricks of the oyster trade and sample award-winning wines and ales to take home. Take a wander through the selection of craft stalls in the festival marquee, find a spot to watch the working boat race or follow the procession of the Grand Oyster Parade.
Just a short ferry ride away in St Mawes, Bass Cottage is the perfect festival base after a day sampling Cornwall’s finest local seafood.
Halloweden | 20th October – 4th November 2018
Halloweden promises thrills and chills for young adventurers during the upcoming October half term. From 20th October – 4th November 2018, let the children run riot at The Eden Project as they venture through the haunted biomes, enjoy spooky storytelling in the rainforest and experience a close encounter with the site’s most unusual animals.
This year’s Halloweden will culminate with the Little Monsters’ Ball – a spine-tingling fancy dress disco, which in previous years has featured fire dancing and mesmerising acrobatic shows. This year’s ball takes place on Saturday 27th October from 6-9pm, and is the ultimate family friendly Halloween party to keep the kids entertained. Take to the ice rink to be chilled to the bone, and warm up afterwards with some spooky treats from the Eden café. While full details of the event are yet to be revealed, tickets for the Little Monsters’ Ball are available here.
Just down the road in the charming Cornish village of Mevagissey, Ocean View is a brand new property boasting panoramic sea views, with limited autumn availability throughout Halloweden.
The Big Sheep Halloween Festival| 20th – 31st October 2018
An exciting day out for young explorers and a thrilling night-time experience for grown-up guests, The Big Sheep in Bideford is the South West’s biggest Halloween festival, with plenty of fun and fearful surprises in store for this year.
By day, the site welcomes visitors to have a go at carving their own pumpkin or test themselves at the witches flying school, with an all-weather play barn and a daily ‘phantomime’ providing fun for all the family. The perfect day out for younger children, take it easy with a lazy paddle in a spooky swan pedalo, and make sure to arrive in fancy dress for the chance to win a prize.
When night falls on the festival, only the brave will test their nerve on the arachnophobia ride and rampage roller coaster, as the farm’s haunted inhabitants run riot and chill you to the bone. Not recommended for those of a nervous disposition, The Big Sheep Halloween Festival is a spine-tingling immersive experience, with scare actors, pyrotechnics and special effects that are sure to give you chills as soon as darkness falls.
A countryside retreat with October availability, a stay at The Downes will provide plenty of entertainment, with a games room and tennis lawn that guests of all ages will love. Short breaks start at £1740.