Things to do in Kent during the May Day bank holiday weekend

If you want to make the most of the long weekend, check out our bumper bank holiday guide to May Day celebrations across Kent...

Find yourself some treats with the spring treasure hunt. Picture: Bredgar and Wormshill Light Railway
Find yourself some treats with the spring treasure hunt. Picture: Bredgar and Wormshill Light Railway

Bredgar and Wormshill Light Railway, Sittingbourne

Enjoy the stunning bluebells and forest flowers that shower the woodlands around this light railway. Take a comfy seat on a traditional train carriage and watch from your window as you whizz past the colourful spring flowers and wild nature growing either side of the tracks. Once you’ve journeyed through the area on the train, you can take part in a family-friendly treasure hunt with fun prizes for those who manage to solve the clues.

The May Day celebrations take place on Sunday, May 1. Trains run at select times on event days, find tickets and timetables here.

There is plenty of railway history at the dockyards. Picture: Steve Crispe
There is plenty of railway history at the dockyards. Picture: Steve Crispe

Chatham Historic Dockyard

Kick off your bank holiday weekend with a historic day at Chatham’s fascinating dockyards. The Railway Day gives enthusiasts a chance to see traditional locomotives, explore the restoration projects and meet the volunteers who work tirelessly on these unique engines. It’s been estimated that in the past there was around 17 miles of standard gauge railway in the dockyard; today, just under one mile of track remains and runs from just outside the dockyard to the far end of Anchor Wharf. During your visit, you can also explore the rest of the dockyard, including the ropery and submarine.

The Railway Day takes place on Saturday, April 30 from 10am to 5pm. Book tickets online here.

Feast on the best Normandy food. Picture: © Mathilde Boclet
Feast on the best Normandy food. Picture: © Mathilde Boclet

Dane John Gardens, Canterbury

Tuck into a delightful foodie feast as the Normandy Food Tour stops off in Canterbury. The tour brings the best of food, drink and music from our closest neighbours to the picturesque Dane John Gardens. Watch a host of talented French and British chefs, including Clementine Yonnet and François Eustace, in live cooking demonstrations, join in free cooking masterclasses and sample tasty sweet and savoury dishes such as French poultry, fresh brioche and cheesecakes.

The Normandy Food Festival takes place on Monday, May 2 from noon to 7pm. The event is free and no pre-booking is necessary.

Dartford Social Club

If you’re looking for something to liven up your weekend, put on your dancing shoes and head to the May Day Madness All Dayer. With five bands - The Skabratts, Carisoul Vibes The Surf Cats, The Social Grammar Project and Shine - performing throughout the day, as well as several DJs playing the best in ska, reggae, northern soul, rockabilly, Britpop and Motown, it’s sure to be a non-stop party.

The May Day Madness All Dayer takes place on Sunday, May 1 from noon onwards. Book online here or buy tickets on the door.

The Merton Vintage Fair takes place at the former Farming World site just outside of Faversham. Picture: Alan Langley
The Merton Vintage Fair takes place at the former Farming World site just outside of Faversham. Picture: Alan Langley

Faversham Showground

Lose yourself in the nostalgia of yesteryear with a jam-packed vintage show. With more than 300 objects and collectables to peruse, from classic cars and military vehicles to boot fair stands and trade stalls, you never know what treasures you might find. There will also be an auction on Saturday morning where you can bid for a bargain on some unique items, as well as visit the beer tent and food tents for a pitstop, let your kids have some fun in the children’s fair and enter your canine companion into the dog show to see how they stand up against other pups.

The Merton Vintage Show takes place from Saturday, April 30 to Monday, May 2 from 10am onwards. Book tickets online here.

There are lots of family-friendly activities taking place at Hever Castle this bank holiday weekend. Picture: Hever Castles and Gardens
There are lots of family-friendly activities taking place at Hever Castle this bank holiday weekend. Picture: Hever Castles and Gardens

Hever Castle, Sevenoaks

Dance around the Maypole, clap along to traditional Morris dancing and take a seat to watch the May Day play as Hever Castle celebrates the bank holiday weekend. Take in the colourful sights, from the bright ribbons of the Maypole to the spring gardens full of pear, apple and cherry blossom, as you explore the castle grounds. Children can also visit the Tudor Towers adventure playground, which features its own moat and drawbridge, and have fun in the water and yew mazes while you take a break with a light lunch in the castle restaurants, cafes, or in any of the beautiful picnic spots.

The May Day celebrations take place from Friday, April 29 to Sunday, May 1 from 10.30am to 4.30pm. Book tickets online here.

This time of year is when bluebells are at their best. Picture: iStock
This time of year is when bluebells are at their best. Picture: iStock

Hukins Hops, Tenterden

The hops at this Tenterden woodland are only just starting to grow, but the bluebells are in full bloom to brighten up the grounds. You can explore these fabulous flowers with a family-friendly bluebell ramble, which takes you through the farm and woodlands, led by an expert guide, where you will learn all about the local wildlife. You can also sample some beer made using the farm’s hops (adults only, of course), discover the scents of different hop varieties and enjoy a tasty picnic amongst the magnificent surroundings.

The Hukins Hops bluebell ramble takes place on Sunday, May 1 from 2pm and 4pm. Book tickets online here.

Throw yourself into the May Day celebrations at Kent Life. Picture: Sean Aidan
Throw yourself into the May Day celebrations at Kent Life. Picture: Sean Aidan

Kent Life, Maidstone

With all the traditional trimmings of a fun-filled May Day, from Morris dancing to the famous maypole, Kent Life is the place to be if you want to indulge in all the weekend’s festivities. There will be a spectacular May Day parade, fairground rides, animal encounters, paddle boats, a bouncy castle, woodfired pizzas and the chance for kids to show off their handmade flower crowns - you certainly won’t be short of things to do!

The May Day celebrations take place from Saturday, April 30 to Monday, May 2 from 10am to 5pm. Book tickets online here.

Join the royal tournament at Leeds Castle. Picture: www.matthewwalkerphotography.com
Join the royal tournament at Leeds Castle. Picture: www.matthewwalkerphotography.com

Leeds Castle, Maidstone

If you want action and adventure, be sure to visit this unique bank holiday event. The Queen’s Joust is an exhilarating display of medieval combat, equestrian and feasts, where knights of England and France gallop past and strike their lances in a battle for the cup and the queen’s attention. With just the right balance of historical curiosity and thrilling competition, the tournament is a captivating demonstration of strength and skill. There will also be plenty of other activities over the weekend, including arming the knights, traditional music, cooking demonstrations and medieval reenactments, making it a weekend that will go down in history.

The Queen’s Joust takes place from Saturday, April 30 to Monday, May 2 from 10am to 6pm. Book tickets online here.

The Sweeps Festival is making is long-awaited return to Rochester. Picture: John Westhrop
The Sweeps Festival is making is long-awaited return to Rochester. Picture: John Westhrop

Rochester town centre

After two years of cancellations, the Sweeps Festival is finally returning to take over the historic town of Rochester. This year marks the 40th year of this celebration of folk music and dance, and will see the town transformed into a colourful parade of musicians, Morris dancers and folk traditions for three days. Many of the pubs and venues that line the high street will be hosting live music all day and into the evening, while the main stage will be showcasing some fantastic musicians until the late afternoon. There will be plenty of food and drink from local producers, gifts and memorabilia from independent traders, and the Mayor of Medway will even be stopping by to officially open the festival outside the Guildhall Museum.

Sweeps Festival takes place from Saturday, April 30 to Monday, May 2 from 11am onwards. The event is free and no pre-booking is necessary, and you can find the full festival programme here.

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