FREE Bonfire Night celebrations
A round-up of some of the best free fireworks events across the UK
A chill in the air, the squeal and bang of rockets, the white-hot fizz of sparklers, the lingering bonfire smell on your coat the following day. Bonfire Night is nothing short of magic, and the good news is it doesn't have to cost a bomb.
Remember, remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
We see no reason why bonfire season
Should ever cost a lot.
While entry to a typical public display might cost you about £10 per person, the UK is teeming with FREE bonfire events and they’re some of the biggest and best – so if you've got one near you, there's no need to fork out. For ways to save on the journey there, see our cheap train tickets guide.
We've picked out some of our favourite free displays (and thanks to those who tweeted their suggestions too), but there are many, many other free events going on that we haven't mentioned.
Read on to ensure your fireworks night goes off with a bang and doesn't turn out to be a damp squib.
OVER FOR 2019 The Tar Barrels of Ottery St Mary, Devon
Tue 5 Nov
An ominous but tantalising warning on The Tar Barrels’ website warns, 'This event becomes very crowded and you are in close proximity of fire and burning tar barrels. If you are scared by flames and do not like being in crowded areas then this event is not for you!'.
Every year, the central pubs of this East Devon village sponsor a barrel, which is soaked in tar in the days leading up to Bonfire Night. On the night itself, pyromaniacs young and old flock to see the barrels set alight, hoisted onto the backs of residents and carried through the streets.
Each year the event costs more and more to insure, something which the committee tries to cover by selling merchandise and programmes.
Want to carry a flaming barrel yourself? No chance unless you're an Ottery At Mary resident. In many cases it's a generational tradition, with parents passing down the honour to their children.
Ottery St Mary puts on a firework event like no other – mainly because the highlight of the night isn’t really about the fireworks at all. Instead, hundreds of visitors squeeze into this Devon village to watch people carrying flaming tar barrels (basically wine barrels on fire) through its streets.
Don’t wear high heels or anything flammable if you go, because if the tar barrels get too close you’ll need to get your quick dash on to get out of the way! Not for the faint hearted or health and safety students.
– MSE Kit
OVER FOR 2019 Buckley Bonfire, Flintshire, North Wales
Tue 5 Nov
Buckley Bonfire is organised by North Wales Fire and Rescue Service and takes place on Higher Common on Hawkesbury Road. Turn up early to make the most of the kids' funfair, then watch as the bonfire is lit (usually by the fire brigade itself) and get ready for the grand spectacle of its music-backed firework display. While entry's free, you'll need to have a few quid at the ready if the children want to go on the rides.
OVER FOR 2019 Civic Bonfire and Fireworks, Inverness
Tue 5 Nov
Taking place in Bught Park Inverness, along the banks of the River Ness, the Civic Bonfire and Fireworks display is as atmospheric as it is explosive. This year’s event features fire twirlers, senior and junior pipe bands and one of the largest bonfires in all of Scotland. The latter will be lit at 7.30pm, closely followed by a 20-minute firework display.
Past years have also included parading mascots and a funfair. The event is free and un-ticketed, so you can simply show up, but it’s wise to set off early and not to rely on nearby parking.
OVER FOR 2019 Lewes Bonfire Night Celebrations, East Sussex
Tue 5 Nov
Bonfire Night in Lewes is a huge event commemorating not only Guy Fawkes’ Gunpowder Plot, but the 17 Protestant martyrs of Lewes who were burned at the stake for heresy in the 16th Century.
Each of the bonfire societies creates its own effigy, an ‘enemy of the bonfire’ to parade through the town and then burn atop a bonfire. Past effigies include David Cameron with a pig (if you remember that story), Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump. While the procession is free, the various official fire sites are ticketed.
Get there early, by 5pm. Don’t expect to be able to catch a train – they don’t stop at Lewes after about midday. Take a bus from Brighton, Plumpton or elsewhere. Wear shoes you don’t mind getting muddy.
– Joe Foulger
OVER FOR 2019 The Heaton Park Bonfire, Manchester
Tue 5 Nov
It claims to be one of the biggest firework displays in the north west, drawing thousands of families each year. At Heaton Park Bonfire in Higher Blackley, expect a funfair, food and drink stalls, a bonfire and an exquisitely choreographed firework display. Entry isn’t ticketed so you can simply turn up.
The gates open at 5pm, with the bonfire being lit at 7.30pm. Be aware that bag checks take place on entry and no alcohol is allowed to be taken in. The website recommends that visitors bring along a torch to light the way when making your way around.
OVER FOR 2019 Bridgwater Carnival, Somerset
Sat 2 Nov
A sign on the way into Bridgwater, Somerset reads, 'Welcome to Historic Bridgwater, Home of Carnival'. Bridgwater Guy Fawkes Carnival is a night-time parade which the resident ‘carnival clubs’ plan for all year round, winning myriad tourism awards for its troubles.
Monolithic floats take to the streets, made from hundreds of fairground-style light bulbs, blaring music and presided over by performers. Each float has a theme, which might be anything from The Greatest Showman to the Stone Age.
After the procession the squibbing begins – 150 squibbers line the high street and hold aloft large fireworks attached to poles, creating an ethereal blaze like nothing else.
The main roads leading into the town close from 4pm and hotel prices double, so this is an event that requires some advance planning.
The carts are true feats of engineering, and together they create a giant spectacle of light, music and energy. There’s as much passion and fierce rivalry between the carnival clubs as between any sports teams, and a unique camaraderie in the collective hangover the whole town suffers next day. It might be rural Somerset in November, but for this one special night of the year, Bridgwater is the home of Carnival.
– Stu Boyland
OVER FOR 2019 Blackheath Fireworks, London
Sat 2 Nov
One of London’s biggest free bonfire events, Blackheath Fireworks draws crowds of up to 100,000. Things kick off from 12 noon with a funfair, then food and bars open from 5pm. The main event comes at 8pm – a 15-minute firework display. Sponsorships and donations allow Blackheath Fireworks to remain free.
Your own window
If you fancy staying in instead, chances are you’ll still get a glimpse of the festivities from your window.
I just stay at home and watch other people set fire to their money. If they're firing them into the sky they can't really stop you watching them.
– MSE Rhiannon
This is only a small sample of the free Bonfire Night events out there. Check in with your local council to find out what free options you have nearby, or cosy up on your window sill to see what surprises the neighbourhood throws up.
Many thanks to those who tweeted us with more crackling suggestions, such as these below:
If you fancy a giggle, take a look at the MSE forumites’ A to Z Bonfire Night word game – it’s an oldie but a goodie.
There are many more free fireworks events taking place across the UK. Let us know about your favourites in the comments or by sending a tweet to @MSE_Deals.