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June 10, 2024

Destination: Cotswolds


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May in the UK: Places to Visit & Things to Do

May is a fantastic month to visit Britain and England in particular. The weather has usually turned favourably towards warmer days but of course, there is still a good chance of an odd rain shower!  

For walking and cycling, May provides the ideal climate without being too warm and not having to wear lots of layers! The countryside is in full bloom, towns are bustling, and there are plenty of sheep to be seen in fields with lambing season ending.  

Two Bank Holidays fall within the month which usually provide the opportunity for towns and villages to have local fetes and festivals. Here you might find quaint English traditions such as Morris dancing and Maypole dancing, combined with music and local food stalls, there is plenty of entertainment on offer.  

What season is May in England?

May falls in the spring season in England. Spring in England spans from March to May and is characterised by mild temperatures, blooming flowers, and longer daylight hours. This season is a popular time for outdoor activities and sightseeing due to the pleasant weather and the natural beauty of the landscape coming to life after winter.

Sheep in a Cotswold field
Admiring the grazing sheep in the Cotswolds. Image: Ben Arthur.

What is the weather like in England during May? 

With more sunshine hours and less rainfall, May offers on average mild temperatures throughout the month but there is a wide variation from lows of 55 Fahrenheit to highs of 77 Fahrenheit (12- 25°C).  

Generally, days start off a little chilly, but temperatures rise through the morning, making way for a day of sunshine. Depending on the wind direction, this can affect the feel of the air temperature and thus making some days feel a lot cooler than others.  

What to wear in England in May? 

For a stay in England during May, it is best to wear layers with the option of lighter clothing if the weather turns on the warmer side. As there is a variation in temperatures throughout the month and the possibility of rain it is advisable to carry a lightweight rain jacket in case of showers.  

If there has previously been heavy rainfall, the ground may still be muddy in places, so it is advisable to wear solid footwear for walking. 

Trekking with walking poles. Image: Shutterstock, adriaticfoto

What is May Day in England? 

May Day in England is a traditional celebration marking the arrival of summer. Usually celebrated at the beginning of May – halfway between the spring equinox and summer solstice. 

It’s thought to have been inspired by three older festivals: Beltane fires, Walpurgisnacht and Floralia. People around the UK celebrate May Day in lots of different ways including Maypole dancing, Morris dancing and crowning a May Queen. 

Many communities host fairs and fetes featuring games, stalls, food, and drink to celebrate the day. These events foster a sense of community and are an opportunity for people to come together and enjoy the start of the warmer season. 

May day celebrations
May Day Spring wreath England. Image: Shutterstock, ju_see

Places to visit in England in May



With villages dotted throughout the region linking up to larger towns, the Cotswolds is the perfect place in England to visit in May.  

Soak up the atmosphere of a traditional village fete or enjoy the local beer festivals and other celebrations taking place. Look out for colourful bunting adorning shops and schools, signifying the festivities. Here you’ll be sure to catch a glimpse of Maypole dancing or Morris dancing, usually performed by the local school or dancing group. Stalls selling homemade treats and a small funfair completes the scene.  

We recommend finding your way to a smaller English village, away from the tourist trails. These will be less crowded and offer a charming experience. Kirtlington, Chalbury and Ramsden are good examples of lesser known villages, that host regular events for their local communities.  

Apart from the May celebrations, the month of May is a good month to visit the more famous Cotswold hotspots such as Bibury, Bourton-on-the-Water and Stow-on-the-Wold. Due to the better weather, these towns will now be bustling especially on warm weekends throughout May. We recommend trying to incorporate visits mid-week if you can.  

Sample produce from local delis or enjoy an afternoon tea. If the weather is particularly favourable, the pub gardens will be buzzing with locals enjoying the light evenings with a cold beverage. 

If it’s clear day in the Cotswolds in May, the views from Broadway Tower are a must see and there are fantastic walks through the English countryside starting from there.  

Walking group in the Cotswolds through classic honey coloured stone villages
Walking group in the Cotswolds through classic honey coloured stone villages. Image: Ben Arthur

Devon and Cornwall

Have we mentioned the May weather enough!? It can change with the wind, and if the forecast is due to bring the sunshine and warmer temperatures then what better area of England to visit than the South West? 

With pristine beaches and hidden nooks for wild swimming, Devon and Cornwall are idyllic when the sun shines! The weather gets noticeably warmer here much earlier than in other parts of Britain and the coastal resorts are not yet as busy as the height of summer – another reason May is a great time to visit.  

In Devon, Dartmoor offers rugged scenery for hiking whilst there are plenty of opportunities for far-reaching views when you get onto high ground. 

For long sandy beaches, head to Perranporth, Watergate, Porthcurno Beach or the Bude Sea Pool, where you can relax, swim and even go stand-up paddle boarding. 

If Wild Swimming is your thing then hike to the secluded Sharrah Pool in Devon for a magical, refreshing dip.  

After a busy days activity, it’s time to refuel. Make sure you find time to try the famous Cornish Pasty, oh and pick your side in the Jam vs Cream debate when sampling a classic Cream Tea. Devon serve the cream followed by jam on the scone, whilst a Cornish cream tea is served with jam first and then the cream on the scone. But which will you prefer? You’ll have to taste it to find out! 

Come evening, Devon and Cornwall’s is packed with thousands of options of restaurants. Padstow in Cornwall is somewhat of a mecca for foodies, with Rick Stein and Paul Ainsworth just two famous chefs who run well-renowned eateries in the town. 

In most Cornish villages, fresh seafood is usually on the menu but if you’re after something more informal, try a local fish and chip takeaway such as Fraser’s Fish & Chips in Penzance. A few other favourites include:

South Cornwall:

North Cornwall:

Wild Swim in Devon
Wild swim in Sharrah pool, Devon.


The North of England remains a little cooler than the South during May, but only by a degree or two!  

Like Devon and Cornwall, The North offers equally stunning beaches. From Bamburgh to Whitley Bay. Plus, there are plenty of historical landmarks to visit, such as Hadrian’s Wall and Chillingham Castle.  

The biggest city in the North is Newcastle, with vibrant nightlife and the River Tyne running centrally throughout it is a great place to dine alfresco (weather permitting) and enjoy the evening with the locals. 

For hiking, there are lots of options in and around Bamburgh. Off the coast lies England’s first Christian Settlement, Lindisfarne. On a clear day there is a beautiful walk from Bamburgh across to the island at low tide.   

Heading inland in Northumberland is the world-famous Hadrian’s Wall. Walk parts of the wall and marvel at the ancient roman ruins at Vindolanda. 

Due to May still being deemed ‘out of season’ the beaches will be quieter as will the popular tourist areas, making it a great time to visit. Prepare for mild weather conditions with the chance of rain. It will be a comfortable temperature for walking or cycling but the beaches are likely to have a stronger breeze, making the air temperature feel slightly cooler.  

Hadrian's Wall Sycamore Gap
Hadrian's Wall Sycamore Gap

10 things to do in England during May:

1. Enjoy a Mayday celebration:

Enjoy a Mayday celebration at a quaint English village. With Maypole dancing, food stalls and games as well as live music, there’s plenty to entertain all ages.

2. Jousting at Blenheim Palace 

Jousting Tournament at Blenheim Palace. Enjoy the spectacle of jousting with the backdrop of Blenheim Palace. Providing entry to all areas as well as additional entertainment specially put on for the weekend. Try your hand at archery or catch a Lamb Buggy to visit the newborn lambs in the grounds.

3. London’s Southbank

Head to London’s Southbank, for famous London Landmarks but also to visit the big pop-up venue on the Southbank between Waterloo and Westminster. Between the Bridges returns the first weekend in May, with outdoor drinking spaces, drag brunches, club nights, cabaret and theatre shows, and everything in-between. It’s free to enter so just rock up and enjoy the river views and stellar vibe.

4. Stratford-upon-Avon

Visit the birthplace of Shakespeare with a trip to Stratford-upon-Avon. This historic town is often host to many festivities and on a regular basis there are street artists and performers for the public to enjoy. Early May, Stratford-upon-Avon is usually host to the Literary Festival. Celebrating a variety of journalists, writers and authors, it is a great time to visit.

5. WalkFest Yorkshire

Put your best foot forward with WalkFest. Held in the North Yorkshire Moors, WalkFest takes to the hills, coast and dales with a great programme of events in May, including guided themed walks in some very special places. Focusing on exploring for all ages and abilities this is a great way to spend a weekend outdoors.

Coopers Hill Cheese Rolling
Coopers Hill Cheese Rolling. Image: Shutterstock, 1000 Words

6. Live music and art festivals

Enjoy live music and arts at many major cities across the country. From Bath, Norwich, Cheltenham and Liverpool, these cities host annual festivals in the month of May. With jam packed schedules, there is something to delight all music tastes.

7. Wacky English traditions

Experience the weird and wacky English traditions such as Woolsack racing, Welly Wanging or Cheese Rolling. Dating back hundreds of years, these traditions live on in many areas across the nation. Many of these events can be found close to our Cotswolds HQ. There is Tetbury Woolsack racing, Coopers hill cheese rolling and Welly Wanging at Cogges Manor Farm Spring Fair.  

8. Hit the beach

Head to the beach! May is often the first month that the seaside towns start to return to their summer hustle and bustle. When Brits get wind of warmer weather heading our way, we tend to flock to the nearest beach to bathe in those first summer days. Bournemouth and Southend beaches are just a couple of hours from London whilst Devon is reachable in just under 3 hours via train from London. The perfect spontaneous day out in May.  

9. National Trust days out

Enjoy a National Trust day out. Dotted across the country the National Trust sites are protected areas often steeped in history and offering vast grounds to explore. Take a picnic or grab a bite to eat in the cafes located in the grounds. A great way to have an active day out exploring. 

10. Visit an English castle

Castles big, small, famous and lesser known! There are plenty to enjoy across the country. From Bamburgh and Barnard Castle in Northern England to Dover Castle in the South and Hampton Court and Sudeley Castle in between. There is said to be over 4000 castles across England alone so with so many to choose from they make a great day out for all the family. Throughout May many will have special events and festivities hosted within their castle grounds for children and adults alike.  

Taking in the Cotswolds view.
Taking in the Cotswolds view. Image: Ben Arthur

May strikes the right balance between mild weather and optimum tourist levels across the popular towns and cities of the UK.  

If you’re thinking of visiting Britain, May is a great month to consider. Spring has fully bloomed, and the country is alive with colour, music and festivities. Shops, pubs and restaurants are usually fully operational in anticipation of increased footfall so you’ll find plenty of places to eat and drink, whilst accommodation rates should be reasonable sitting just outside peak season.  

Interested in visiting England in May? Check out our tours departing in May.  

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