Su Carroll rounds up the very best sights to see, along with the top activities and things to do in April along the coastline.
1. SCILLY WALKS
The popular Walk Scilly is back – an event entirely dedicated to the discovery of the immense natural beauty and heritage on Scilly by foot, and by sea. There are five inhabited islands and some uninhabited ones to explore during this week-long festival. And you will find the islands in all their spring glory when the flora is looking its best.
There is such a wide variety to experience – get set discover the islands through the eyes of a local guide, enjoy glorious garden tours, nature talks, wildlife safaris, historical walks, sunset strolls and more.
Just 28 miles off the coast of Land’s End, the Isles of Scilly offer infinite variety a world away from the rest of England. There’s a wealth of archaeology and history to discover. You can visit Samson, which was abandoned by residents in 1855, and see the ruined post-medieval buildings, Bronze Age burial chambers and stone rows.
Go to visitislesofscilly.com for information on Walk Scilly, which is between April 15 and 21.
Scilly is the perfect example of the slow food and buy local movements. Much of the food and drink here is grown, nurtured and produced on the islands. Farmers and fishermen play their part in producing incredible food. Every September there is a Taste of Scilly Festival with everything from tide-out beach barbecues to supper safaris, vineyard tours and gin tastings.
2. PINCER MOVEMENTS
The Devon harbour of Salcombe celebrates a local hero with Crabfest – a one-day, annual extravaganza of crab-themed fun. Run entirely by volunteers, the event celebrates local fishing and tourism industries and the world-famous Salcombe brown crab.
With a beautiful location on the edge of the Salcombe estuary, there’s a line-up of fantastic chefs creating sensational crab-themed dishes. This year they include Freddy Bird and Devon chefs Jane Baxter and Ben Tonks.
A bustling street market takes over Island Street, pedestrianised for one day only, with children’s entertainment, local musicians, great food and drink and wealth of tasty crab options. A free park and ride takes the pain out of parking. The event raises thousands of pounds for charity – £50,000 since it launched in 2016.
For more information on the event on April 30, go to salcombecrabfest.co.uk
The National Trust’s Overbecks at Sharpitor has the most spectacular view of the estuary and a garden packed with exotic plants that thrive in Devon’s microclimate. The house has fascinating collections of items from its time as a family home, a convalescent hospital for First World War soldiers and the home of inventor and art collector Otto Overbeck. Visit nationaltrust.org.uk for opening times.
3. A WORLD VIEW
David Blandy’s exhibition, Atomic Light, is his most ambitious project to date, blending the public and the private. The works at the John Hansard Gallery in Southampton build upon his continued interest in history, the legacy of empire and the climate crisis. Two films are shot on location in Singapore and the UK, the other two created using archive and found footage.
Atomic Light is built on doubles, reflections, and equivalences of difference. The works echo, showing two worlds connected by an event, an idea, a sky. In Sunspot, for example, two Observatories – one in California, one in Tokyo – both observe the same sun on the day an atomic sun was made on earth; the Hiroshima bomb that killed 100,000.
All the stories are connected through the story of his grandfather, a British soldier interred as a Japanese prisoner of war in Singapore, who always believed that the horrific atomic bombing of Hiroshima saved his life. The twinned films, The Edge of Forever and Empire of the Swamp feature the landscapes of southern England, his home, and Singapore, where he was held as a PoW.
Until May 6. Details at jhg.art
At SeaCity Museum you can discover Southampton’s connection to the story of the Titanic, which embarked on its fateful voyage from the city’s docks. The exhibition takes you through the entire pattern of events, from the moment the world’s most historic ship hit the iceberg through to its sinking and the rescue of just 705 (out of over 2,200) passengers. See over 200 artefacts, listen to the stories of people who were there and marvel at the interactive model of the ship. Visit seacitymuseum.co.uk
4. COASTAL ART
The picturesque harbour village of Emsworth on the south coast near Havant, plays host to a tight-knit community of artists and each spring it bursts into colourful life with the Emsworth Arts Trail.
With ceramicists, painters, printmakers, photographers, textile artists, sculptors and more, you can visit artists in their studios and community venues all within walking distance of the village centre. The 2022 exhibition involved 85 artists with taster exhibitions on the trail. Local businesses do their bit by ‘adopting’ an artist to support with window displays and promotion.
At various venues throughout Emsworth on April 22-23, 29-30 and May 1. Info online at emsworthartstrail.org.uk
Taking a stroll around the millpond wall. At low tide keep a lookout for Fisherman’s Walk, the remains of a causeway used during Emsworth’s oyster industry heyday.
5. STAR ATTRACTION
A new permanent exhibition at Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre recalls the role the docks played in the creation of a movie legend – they built the original Millennium Falcon for the Star Wars sequel The Empire Strikes Back. Billed as “the last ship built in the Royal Pembroke Dockyard” the building of the starship was the worst kept secret in the town when construction took place in 1979.
The exhibition, supported by a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant, includes many photographs, costumes, unique film of the construction in 1979 – not seen in public before – and a detailed sectioned model of the stages of construction of the original. The full-sized starship used in the film was dismantled after use.
Craftsmen from a local engineering firm built the model, the first of its type ever constructed, in the Western Hangar – a former RAF aircraft hangar in the town’s dockyard. The Heritage Centre also looks at 200 years of maritime, military and social history at Wales’s only Royal Dockyard.
For information on visiting, go to pdhc.org
The huge Pembroke Castle dates back to the 11th century and has been updated through the ages with extensive restoration in the Victorian era. The castle is oval with a circular keep and surrounded by water. Henry VII, founder of the Tudor dynasty, was born here in 1457. There’s a maze of tunnels, a subterranean cave, stairs, towers and battlements to enjoy. Visit pembrokecastle.co.uk
6. GO FORTH
A new initiative connects 13 unique sites across Scotland including World Heritage Sites, Biospheres, Global Geoparks and Creative Cities. The UNESCO Trail has received an international award for sustainable development. Spring is the ideal time to explore some or all of the trails.
Coastal highlights include UNESCO designated towns and cities – Dundee, City of Design; Edinburgh, City of Literature; Glasgow City of Music – and Shetland Global Geopark. It also includes the Forth Bridges – three structures spanning three centuries with magnificent views over the Firth of Forth.
Uncover historical facts, mythical tales, urban wildlife and the historic settlements of North and South Queensferry on the new Forth Bridges Trail.
For more information, go to visitscotland.com/unesco-trail
Take a ferry from South Queensferry to Inchcolm Island and the beautifully preserved Abbey, dating from the 12th century. As well as its medieval past, there are coastal defences from two World Wars used to protect the nearby Rosyth Naval Base, and views of the Forth Bridge and Edinburgh. The island is also rich in seals and other wildlife.
7. UNDERCOVER WORK
Discover the secretive world of the Customs officer in Seized! – an exhibition dedicated to the work of the UK Border Force at Liverpool’s Maritime Museum on the waterfront at Albert Dock. It takes you into a dark and unseen world of smuggling, intrigue and danger, where things are not always what they seem.
One of the gallery’s key themes is anti-smuggling. This includes detective work, crime fighting, patrolling frontiers and investigation. In uncovering this story you will reveal some of the clever tactics of the criminal, and discover some of the methods to catch them.
The exhibition also explores the importance of raising taxes, how they are collected, and how we have reacted to them.
When you think of Liverpool, you probably imagine a waterside city packed with museums and galleries and things to do. It is that, of course, but you will also find acres and acres of green, open spaces. One of the most popular is the 200-acre Sefton Park with lots of greenery, the famous Palm House, a boating lake and a café – all for free. Go to visitliverpool.com to discover parks to visit.
8. EASTER AT ENDELLION
This beautiful village, close to Port Isaac on the North Cornwall coast, has two music festivals a year – summer and Easter, which this year marks its 50th anniversary. The stunning setting of St Endellion Church adds atmosphere to the performances.
This year’s highlights include Elgar’s epic Dream of Gerontius, Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante, and work by Handel, Taverner and a world premiere, Thy Presence, My Light, by composer Rhiannon Randle. There are events during the day too and the chance to get involved with a Come and Sing event that kicks off the festival on Saturday, April 8.
St Endellion Easter Festival is April 8-16. For the full festival programme go to endellionfestivals.org.uk
Nearby Port Isaac is instantly recognisable as the fictional Port Wenn from Doc Martin. But there is more to the area than the surgery, school, the chemist and the pub we are all familiar with. Port Isaac, with its narrow streets and quaint houses and shops is on the South West Coast Path. Head out of the town and discover quiet beaches and coves such as Port Quin and Port Gaverne. Go to visitcornwall.com for ideas of where to go.
9. ROUND TRIP
The Rotunda Museum on the coast at Scarborough is one of the world’s first purpose-built museums and was built in 1829, supported by the Scarborough Philosophical Society which brought the collections together.
The interior – with the iconic rotunda – has a fascinating Georgian gallery with a frieze depicting the geology of the local Yorkshire coastline. There are many fascinating items in the museum’s collection including dinosaur footprints, fossils, 11,000-year-old artefacts from the Star Carr Collection and displays of the creatures which once called Yorkshire home in the Ancient Seas Gallery.
For visiting information go to scarboroughmuseumsandgalleries.org.uk
Scarborough Fair, popularised in song, is where you will find a collection of vintage fairground equipment and transport. Discover mechanical organs dating back to the 1800s, steam engines, fairground rides to experience and classic cars, motorbikes and tractors. Open Wednesdays to Thursdays (scarboroughfaircollection.com).
10. ARTISTIC INSPIRATION
Art galleries offer a great opportunity to see the work of artists from the past. At Penlee House in Penzance, they use their wonderful collections to inspire contemporary artists.
Penlee Inspired, now in its fifth year, invites professional artists, amateurs and total beginners to create works in a variety of media, including paintings, photographs, poetry and more. Filling the galleries alongside the pieces that inspired them, these modern works will highlight not only the breadth of artistic skill in contemporary Cornwall and further afield, but the enduring power and relevance of these earlier works.
Penlee have carefully selected pieces from over 100 entries, from schoolchildren to retirees, artists to fishermen. Each piece combines personal memory, experience and creativity with the influence of Penlee House’s historic collections. Some of the entries came from a series of artist-led community workshops encouraging people to create works for submission. Funding came from the Friends of Penlee House and Arts Council England.
The Penlee Inspired exhibition runs until April 22. (penleehouse.org.uk)
The Art Deco Jubilee Pool won a Dezeen Award last year, given for outstanding architecture and design projects. Scott Whitby Studio picked up the Rebirth Project of the Year award for the restoration of the Grade II listed lido which opened in 1935, the year of George V’s Silver Jubilee. It is run by local volunteers and is the second geothermal-heated swimming pool in the UK, after the Roman waters in Bath. Visit jubileepool.co.uk for information.
Tickets are on sale for the epic Sidmouth Folk Festival which brings an irresistible feast of world-class folk music, song and dance to the Devon seaside. A rousing stalwart of the folk calendar, and a highlight of the west country’s cultural agenda, this 69th festival will welcome tens of thousands of music lovers and makers to the elegant Regency resort.
The festival’s unique magic permeates virtually every nook and cranny of the town, from the seafront and shopping streets to venues large and small. It promises a blend of friendly, summer holiday atmosphere with top class entertainment, fun-fuelled activities, lashings of party spirit and a myriad of opportunities to roll up your sleeves and join in.
Rising stars of tomorrow will perform along with long established names of the folk world. Names announced for the main concert stage at The Ham include The Unthanks, with their transcendent sibling harmonies, festival patrons and Devon folk icons Show of Hands and the uniquely captivating harmonies of Lady Maisery.
The ever-popular pre-festival Ham shows for 2023 feature Scottish queen of song Barbara Dickson (August 3) and a welcome return from Cornish shanty maestros The Fisherman’s Friends (August 3).
The festival is August 4-11, visit sidmouthfolkfestival.co.uk for tickets and details.
For more ideas on things to do this year, check out our article on 10 things to do in March.