Halloween in the UK: 9 Fantastic Free Attractions

Halloween in the UK

Updated On: November 09, 2023 by   Courtney AugelloCourtney Augello

Halloween, a time of spooky delights and festive revelry, has become a cherished celebration worldwide, and the United Kingdom is no exception. During Halloween in the UK, numerous cities and towns come alive with the spirit of the season, offering a plethora of festivals that captivate and enchant attendees.

Halloween in the UK
Halloween is celebrated around the world.

From grand parades and haunted tours to family-friendly activities and cultural extravaganzas, these festivals showcase the best of what Halloween in the UK has to offer. What makes these celebrations even more remarkable is that they are entirely free, welcoming people of all ages and backgrounds to partake in the festivities.

Halloween in the UK
Halloween’s origins can be traced back thousands of years.

History of Halloween in the UK

The origins of Halloween in the UK can be traced back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, which was celebrated by the Celts in the British Isles and other parts of Europe over 2,000 years ago.

Samhain marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter, a time when the boundary between the living and the dead was believed to be blurred. The Celts believed that on October 31st, the spirits would return to Earth to damage crops.  They would light bonfires and wear costumes made of animal skins to ward off the spirits.

Significance of Halloween in the UK

One of the most prominent aspects of Halloween in the UK is its role in bringing communities together. It is a time when families, friends, and neighbours come together to participate in various activities and festivities, fostering a sense of camaraderie and communal spirit.

Additionally, Halloween holds a special place in British folklore and storytelling. The country boasts a rich history of ghost stories, haunted castles, and eerie legends. Ghost tours and storytelling sessions bring these tales to life during Halloween, creating a captivating and immersive experience for locals and tourists.

Halloween in the UK
Many families decorate their houses or porches for Halloween in the UK.

How do They Celebrate Halloween in the UK?

Halloween in the UK is celebrated with a mix of ancient traditions, modern customs, and a touch of spooky fun. As October 31st approaches, the country embraces the spirit of the season, and various activities and festivities take place across communities.

One of the most recognisable symbols of Halloween in the UK is the carved pumpkin or “jack-o’-lantern.” Children and adults enjoy visiting pumpkin patches, selecting the perfect pumpkin, and carving it into a grinning face with a candle inside. These glowing pumpkins are proudly displayed on doorsteps, adding to the eerie ambience of the season.

Trick-or-treating is a popular tradition during Halloween in the UK, especially among children. Dressed in costumes, kids visit houses in their neighbourhoods, ringing doorbells and exclaiming, “Trick or treat!” in exchange for sweets. This tradition creates a sense of community as people come together to share in the festive spirit.

Ghost tours and storytelling sessions are another integral part of the celebrations during Halloween in the UK. Many cities and towns boast a rich history of ghostly tales and haunted landmarks, making it the perfect time to explore the eerie side of the country’s past.

As Halloween night arrives, bonfires and fireworks may light up the sky, contributing to the festivity and enchantment. Although Halloween is not a public holiday, the festive spirit is palpable, and people from all walks of life join the festivities. 

Halloween in the UK
Some cities set off fireworks during Halloween in the UK.

9 Free Things to Do During Halloween in the UK

Edinburgh’s Halloween Celebrations

One of the main highlights of Edinburgh’s Halloween celebrations is the torchlight procession. Thousands of people participate in this mesmerising event, carrying flaming torches through the historic city streets.

The procession winds from the Royal Mile to Calton Hill, creating a sea of flickering lights illuminating the night. The sight of thousands of torchbearers clad in various costumes, accompanied by haunting music, creates an unforgettable spectacle that evokes a sense of mystery and wonder.

Spooky storytelling is another integral part of Edinburgh’s Halloween celebrations. The city has a rich history of ghostly tales and legends. From haunted castles to ghastly apparitions, these tales transport the audience to a world of eerie enchantment, tapping into the city’s haunted past and captivating the imaginations of those who listen.

Ghost tours are also popular during Edinburgh’s Halloween celebrations. The city boasts a multitude of haunted locations, and guided tours offer participants a chance to explore the darker side of Edinburgh’s history. These tours take visitors on spine-chilling journeys through ancient closes, eerie graveyards, and haunted landmarks.

London’s Halloween Parade and Carnival

The annual Halloween Parade and Carnival in London’s West End is a spectacular and highly anticipated event that takes place in the heart of the city. The London streets come alive with a riot of colours, eerie costumes, and festive decorations as the procession winds its way through iconic landmarks.

Halloween in the UK
There are many activities to take part in during Halloween in the UK.

What makes the Halloween Parade and Carnival truly captivating is the incredible showcase of diverse floats, dancers, and performers. The centrepieces of the parade are the elaborate floats adorned with Halloween-themed decorations and lights.

Dancers and performers dressed as witches, ghouls, fantastical creatures, and mythical beings heighten the energy and festivity. The vibrant and dynamic performances, accompanied by rhythmic music and engaging choreography, captivate everyone in attendance.

Whitby Goth Weekend

The Whitby Goth Weekend is a popular and unique event strongly associated with Halloween. Held biannually in the coastal town of Whitby, England, the weekend gathers members of alternative subcultures from around the world.

While not strictly a Halloween event, the timing of the Whitby Goth Weekend often coincides with Halloween, and many attendees embrace the spooky themes associated with the holiday.

The historic town of Whitby is renowned for its connection to Bram Stoker’s iconic novel “Dracula.” Whitby Abbey and its eerie coastline serve as settings in the story, adding to the gothic allure of the weekend and amplifying its connection to Halloween.

Halloween in the UK
The novel Dracula is set in Whitby.

The Whitby Goth Weekend attracts people from diverse backgrounds, united by their passion for alternative culture and a love for the gothic lifestyle. Enthusiasts from all corners of the UK and beyond travel to Whitby to participate in this extraordinary gathering. 

Halloween in Derry/Londonderry

Halloween in Derry/Londonderry holds a special and unique significance as the city is known for hosting one of the biggest Halloween celebrations in the world. These celebrations in Northern Ireland typically last for several days, with a wide range of events and activities occurring throughout the city.

From spooky storytelling sessions and haunted tours to themed parades and concerts, Derry/Londonderry comes alive with the spirit of Halloween. The city embraces its cultural heritage and history, infusing the celebrations with a blend of traditional customs and modern entertainment, making it a truly memorable and immersive experience.

The Banks of the Foyle Halloween Carnival is the centrepiece of Derry/Londonderry’s Halloween celebrations. This vibrant carnival takes place along the picturesque River Foyle, transforming the riverbanks into a kaleidoscope of colours, lights, and elaborate decorations.

The carnival attracts thousands of people, who gather to witness the grand finale parade full of giant floats, creative costumes, and impressive street performances. The highlight of the carnival is the “Awakening of the Walls,” a mesmerising spectacle where the city’s historic walls come to life with stunning projections and soundscapes.

Halloween in the UK
Derry/Londonderry’s Halloween festival lasts several days.

Ghost Walks in York

Ghost walks in York have gained immense popularity due to the city’s rich and haunted history. York is renowned for its well-preserved medieval architecture, cobbled streets, and ancient landmarks, making it an atmospheric backdrop for ghostly tales.

The city has a reputation for being one of the most haunted places in the UK, with countless stories of restless spirits and eerie occurrences dating back centuries. The popularity of ghost walks in York can be attributed to the fascination with the supernatural and the desire to explore the darker side of the city’s past.

York offers a variety of free walking routes and guided ghost tours that cater to different preferences and interests. The free walking routes allow visitors to explore haunted sites and landmarks at their own pace. Guided ghost tours are popular for those seeking a more immersive and interactive experience.

Nottingham’s Halloween Festival

Nottingham’s Halloween Festival is a vibrant and exciting event offering many themed attractions and activities. The city comes alive with spooky festivities, including haunted houses, ghost tours, and Halloween-themed markets.

The festival also hosts pumpkin carving contests, where participants showcase their artistic skills by transforming pumpkins into intricate and eerie designs. Families can enjoy trick-or-treating in designated areas, and there are often themed workshops and activities for children to engage in, such as face painting and crafting.

Halloween in the UK
Pumpkin carving is a popular activity during Halloween in the UK.

Parades, costume contests, and street performances are integral to Nottingham’s Halloween Festival. The Halloween parade, often led by mesmerising floats and performers in elaborate costumes, weaves its way through the city streets, captivating spectators.

Street performances add an element of liveliness and excitement to the festival, with entertainers engaging the crowds with acts that range from creepy to comical. Musicians, dancers, and street artists contribute to the festive atmosphere, adding to the overall enjoyment of the event.

Halloween at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow offers an array of exciting and Halloween-themed events and activities for visitors of all ages. During the Halloween season, the museum transforms into a spooky and enchanting setting, inviting families and individuals to immerse themselves in the festive spirit.

One of the main attractions is the elaborately decorated museum, adorned with eerie decorations and themed exhibits that bring a touch of Halloween magic to the artwork and artefacts.

In addition to the regular displays, special Halloween exhibits often feature mysterious and macabre pieces that add to the seasonal ambience. Visitors can also enjoy guided tours that delve into the haunted history and folklore associated with certain artworks, making it an engaging and educational experience.

Halloween in the UK
The festival in Derry/Londonderry is one of the best in the world.

Manchester Halloween Festival

The Manchester Halloween Festival is a vibrant and thrilling event that celebrates the spookiest season in the heart of the city. Held annually during the Halloween season, the festival offers a diverse range of Halloween-themed activities and events, making it a highlight on Manchester’s cultural calendar.

One of the main attractions of the Manchester Halloween Festival is the Halloween parade. The parade features a mesmerising procession of floats, performers, and participants donning creative and eerie costumes.

In addition to the Halloween parade, the Manchester Halloween Festival offers various family-friendly activities. Families can enjoy pumpkin carving workshops, where children and adults alike can unleash their creativity and transform pumpkins into whimsical or spooky jack-o’-lanterns.

The festival often hosts interactive experiences, such as haunted trails and immersive installations, that take participants on thrilling journeys through eerie settings and spooky surprises.

Halloween in Birmingham

As Halloween approaches, Birmingham comes alive with various festivities and activities that cater to people of all ages and interests. The city’s Halloween celebrations encompass a diverse range of events, making it an engaging and inclusive experience for locals and visitors alike.

Halloween in the UK
Halloween in the UK is great for children and adults alike.

One of the main attractions during Halloween in Birmingham is the Halloween Parade. The parade features elaborately decorated floats, performers in costume, and participation from various community groups.

In addition to the Halloween Parade, Birmingham’s festivities include various family-friendly activities and events. Local parks and community centres organise Halloween-themed parties where children can enjoy face painting, pumpkin carving, and interactive games.

Birmingham’s nightlife also comes alive with Halloween-themed events and parties for adults. Many bars, clubs, and entertainment venues host spooky parties and themed nights, offering a chance to celebrate in style.

From costume contests to themed cocktails, Birmingham’s nightlife scene provides a lively and thrilling atmosphere for those seeking a more adult-oriented Halloween experience.

The city’s cultural institutions also contribute to the Halloween festivities. Museums, galleries, and theatres host special events, exhibitions, or performances that delve into the history and folklore of Halloween, enriching the celebrations with educational and entertaining experiences.

Halloween in the UK
Inflatable characters are common during Halloween in the UK.

There are Many Free Things to Do During Halloween in the UK

Halloween in the UK features diverse festivals that capture the essence of the spooky season while providing attendees with an immersive and captivating experience. Each festival offers a unique blend of ancient traditions, modern customs, and community engagement.

The festivals during Halloween in the UK showcase the country’s rich cultural heritage and festive spirit. As these celebrations continue to enchant and entertain, they stand as a testament to the UK’s love for the eerie, the imaginative, and the joyous celebrations of this bewitching time of year.

If you’re interested in spooky attractions, check out these 13 Haunted Places in Northern Ireland.

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