Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.”

If you grew up in the UK, you’ll need no explanation for the rhyme above. Like a ritual, it was sung every November in remembrance of the infamous Gunpowder plot that would have seen parliament blown to smithereens by a group of 13 young men.

Though the plot was the brainchild of Robert Catesby, the conspirator Guy Fawkes is more widely associated with the act and still today, effigies of the Yorkshireman are burnt on bonfires throughout the UK

If you want to watch one of the oldest British traditions for yourself, here are 6 places in the UK to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night, aka Fireworks or Bonfire Night, in the UK.

Bonfire

The History Behind Bonfire Night

During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, English Catholics were heavily persecuted. After her death, it seemed the brutality would end as her successor’s mother was a Catholic but unfortunately, the situation remained the same and in desperation, a group of 13 young men led by Warwickshire-born Robert Catesby plotted a scheme to change their fortunes. 

The goal was to kill the king and members of parliament by blowing up the Palaces of Westminster, replacing James I with a Catholic leader. The group rented a cellar right below the House of Lords where they stored 36 barrels of gunpowder. Experienced in explosives from his participation in the 80 years war, Guy Fawkes would wait in the cellar waiting to light the life-affirming barrels.

Things didn’t go to plan however and fearing that innocent bystanders would be hurt in the process, one of the plotters, Francis Tresham, betrayed his party and sent an anonymous letter to Lord Monteagle, warning him to stay away from Parliament on November 5th1605.

That letter found its way to the King and by the time the authorities got into the cellar, Guy Fawkes was discovered, captured and tortured. He gave up the names of his co-conspirators and to save himself from impending pain, took his own life.

Bonfire Night Lewes

Why is Bonfire Night Celebrated in the UK

Following the failed plot, Parliament declared November 5th a national day of thanksgiving and the first celebration of it took place in 1606. Even today, the Houses of Parliament are still searched by the Yeomen of the Guard before the state opening, which has been held in November since 1928. The idea is to ensure no modern-day Guy Fawkes is hiding in the cellars with a bomb, although it is more ceremonial than serious.

Why do we light fireworks on Bonfire Night?

But why fireworks and bonfires you ask? In 1910, fireworks manufacturers named the celebration Fireworks Night” in an attempt to boost sales significantly. It worked. Britain’s children were soon creating effigies asking for a penny for the guy” in order to get money to buy fireworks and burn Guy on a bonfire.

Where can I celebrate Guy Fawkes Night in the UK?

Lewes, South East England

The town of Lewes’ controversial parades tends to attract visitors from all over the world thanks to its dark traditions. 

The Bonfire Societies of Bonfire Boys parade through the streets in costume with torches and a papal effigy, alongside the guy” lighting 17 flaming crosses through the town. The event not only remembers the Gunpowder Plot but also commemorates the murder of 17 Protestant martyrs who were burned on Lewes High Street in the reign of Mary Tudor — more famously known as Bloody Mary.

More recently, effigies of modern political figures and prominent newsworthy moments from the past 12 months have also joined the parade, so if you’re keen to see who makes the cut, head to Lewes.

Lewes Torches Bonfire

Ottery St Mary, Devon

One of the most extreme commemorations, the town of Ottery St Mary sees daring Devon dwellers running through the crowded streets carrying burning barrels of tar until the heat is too unbearable or the barrel breaks down. 

The reason for the 400-year-old tradition has been lost to history but with recent threats to close down the event, you may have a limited time to witness the strange spectacle. 

In addition to the town, Devon is packed full of wonderful attractions to see. Discover the best things to see and do in Devon here.

Otter St Mary Devon Fireworks Night

Rye, South East England

The medieval town of Rye’s Bonfire Night celebrations is a huge hit with families. 

Starting with a torchlit procession through the ancient cobbled streets to the Salts, thermal clad locals fill the streets allured by the sounds of drum beats, sights of dragons, burning boats and tastes of freshly roasted chestnuts.

Once the party arrives at the location of the bonfire, usually a local celebrity is invited to start the fire and fireworks to end the evening with a bang. 

The occasion is popular for the Rye Bonfire society to collect and distribute charitable funds to local causes, so if you’re keen to visit, carrying some spare loose change will be greatly appreciated. 

Fireworks Show

Hadrian’s Wall, Tyne & Wear

Who can really miss out on the opportunity to party the night away at a Roman ruin? Head to Hadrian’s Wall this November where the northern frontier of the Holy Roman Empire will welcome revellers to the World Heritage Site to witness of the largest and most impressive pyrotechnic displays in the country. 

Taking place at Segedunum Roman Fort, Fireworks at the Fort provides dramatic entertainment to please the whole family. As one of the largest and most impressive displays in the north of England, tickets book up fast, so if watching the fireworks explode over the ancient fort sounds enticing, act now.

As a first time visitor to the English Heritage Site, it can be daunting. Discover how to explore Hadrian’s Wall here.

Fireworks

London

With the action having taken place in London, it’s not a surprise that the city is one of the best places to visit for Guy Fawkes Night. 

Choose from a plethora of events including the Lord Mayor’s Fireworks, Ally Pally’s Bonfire Night, Primrose Hill fireworks, or best of all, Guy Fawkes Festival and Fireworks at the Royal Gunpowder Mill where the former gunpowder factory offers a line-up of all-day events culmination in a spectacular fireworks finale.

Bonfire Night London

Discover more of the UK’s best events with our UK travel guides.

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