SU CARROLL rounds up the very best activities to do and things to see close to the coastline this May.


Any fan of Strictly Come Dancing will tell you how special Blackpool is – it’s the magic of the Tower ballroom which entrances the competitors and professionals alike.

Showtown is a new museum which opened in March to celebrate the seaside, circus, magic, show, dance and Blackpool’s world-famous illuminations with six interactive exhibitions. Visitors have the chance to discover the people who helped put Blackpool on the entertainment map – comedians, dancers, acrobats and showbiz characters.

There are galleries dedicated to different aspects of entertainment, including magic and illusion and the circus. The museum is right at the heart of the famous seafront – close to the tower, the piers, Madame Tussauds and the Coral Island Family Arcade.


Blackpool Tower, built in 1894, is the iconic structure on Blackpool’s famous seafront offering spectacular panoramic views from the top of the 518ft tall tower. On a clear day you can see as far as north Wales, the Lake District and the Isle of Man. If you’re not afraid of heights, there’s a glass floor  that overlooks the promenade below. There’s a 4D cinema experience, a circus themed arcade, virtual rollercoaster and the famous Ballroom. Book online:


Forget the Big Top, the Out There Festival of International Street Arts and Circus takes place at a number of venues across Great Yarmouth this summer, featuring outdoor arts and internationally acclaimed street and circus performance, such as Amoukanama Circus (pictured).

Out There attracts more than 60,000 people to the town each year for breathtaking spectacle and quirky comedy. There’s a family friendly atmosphere for this half term holiday week and, best of all, it’s free.

Adding to the party atmosphere, the event will coincide with another Great Yarmouth favourite, the Comic Con, held at the Great Yarmouth Racecourse. Meet stars from TV and cinema and go behind the scenes with plenty of interesting memorabilia. Festival from May 30-June 2, Comic Con from June 1-2,


Caister Castle houses what is regarded the largest private collection of motor vehicles in Great Britain from 1893 to the present day with over 120 cars and 100 motorbikes. It’s an eclectic mix from the very first Ford Fiesta through to Jim Clark’s Grand Prix R14 and a Cadillac that once belonged to notorious landlord Peter Rachman. There are also horse-drawn carriages, bicycles, pedal cars and even baby carriages. Caister Castle itself is an impressive moated castle built in 1432. Open May 15-September 29,


Pigs might fly…or frogs or snakes. The skies above Sewerby Fields in east Yorkshire will be filled with kites of all descriptions, sizes and colours for two days of aerial displays at the annual Bridlington Kite Festival.

From flying frogs, sky-high snakes and leaping lizards to daredevil dragons, the scores of exotic inflatables will add a splash of colour to the clifftops above the popular seaside resort with the dramatic cliffs of the East Yorkshire coast as the perfect backdrop.

There will be professional demonstrations and visitors to the free festival can have a go during supervised sessions. Visitors can also enoy food and drink stalls, fairground rides and children’s entertainment. May 18-19,


On the clifftops close to the kite festival site is Sewerby Hall and Gardens. There’s something for everyone – the Grade I listed hall has grand rooms with some impressive pieces from the Victoria and Albert Museum, there’s 50 acres of award-winning gardens and woodland and a small zoo with capuchin monkeys, donkeys, pygmy goats and playful penguins.


A new photographic exhibition at the National Maritime Museum Greenwich marks the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in 1824 by celebrating the vital roles that women play in saving lives at sea.

Women of the RNLI looks at the life savers, fundraisers, trailblazers – all of them volunteers – across the UK and Ireland. At the heart of the exhibition is the photography of Jack Lowe, an artist who for almost a decade has been documenting the crews and views of every RNLI lifeboat station. His evocative images, captured using Victorian glass-plate technology, allow us to see the modern work of the RNLI through an historic lens.

There’s also personal testimony and breath taking film. The exhibition explores the experiences of current volunteers – such as Leah in Whitby (pictured) photographed in 2017 – as well as the stories of the people who paved their way.

From crewmembers and lifeguards to fundraisers, mechanics and station managers, women contribute to every aspect of the RNLI’s work. The organisation, with its mission to save lives at sea, is entirely self-funded and relies on the tireless work of volunteers across the UK and Ireland. Ends December 1,


At The Royal Observatory at Greenwich is the historic Prime Meridian Line where you can put one foot in the west and one foot in the east. Or see the Great Equatorial Telescope, the largest of its kind in the UK which was installed in 1893 with its quirky ‘onion dome’ which can been seen from miles around. There’s a planetarium offering a unique view of the night sky and the historic The Octagon Room, designed by Christopher Wren for Charles II and completed in 1676.


The English Riviera Walking Festival returns for a two-week celebration of South Devon’s breath taking landscapes and rich cultural heritage. There are more than 25 half and full day coastal walks led by experienced and enthusiastic local guides in this walker’s paradise, with its mild climate and numerous walking trails through woodland and along the South West Coast Path. This dog-friendly festival offers something for walkers of all abilities, ranging from a gentle mile and a half sunset stroll to a 15-mile coastal challenge.

Old favourites return, including the UNESCO Geopark Coastal Walk exploring the South West Coast Path and the area’s fascinating geology, and the Coastal Nature Ramble around Brixham’s Berry Head National Nature Reserve. For the green-fingered, take a tour around Torre Abbey’s historic gardens and grounds, discovering Potent Plants and Exotic Palms with head gardener Ali Marshall.

New walks include a spectacular day’s outing around Dartmouth via steam train and ferry and Take a Walk on the Wine Side, an adult-only walk through country lanes to Sandridge Barton, home of Sharpham Wines, for lunch and a wine-tasting tour. For keen walkers there’s the two-day Walk the Bay Challenge to walk the English Riviera coastline from end to end.

You can experience spooky tales on Ghosts, Ghouls and Goosebumps, try one of the three walks dedicated to Torquay-born Dame Agatha Christie and discover Paignton’s Hidden History, Brixham’s Secret Lanes and Passageways and Torquay’s Blue Plaque Heritage Trail. Weekends from May 4-19,


You can also explore underground life in Torquay at Kents Caverns which date back to the Stone Age. The caves, formed in Devonian Limestone, were once home to prehistoric people and Ice Age animals. You’ll find extraordinary rock formations and artefacts left by ancient occupants including bones. Children will enjoy finding some scary ancient beasts on the woodland trail.


The Tate St Ives has been staging the UK’s first large-scale exhibition of work by Outi Pieski, a Sámi visual artist whose work reflects the ever-changing natural environment of Sápmi where her indigenous people live, divided between the nation states of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia.

The work, primarily painting and installation, explores the spiritual relationship between humans and their environment and raises important questions around traditional knowledge and indigenous people’s rights.

The exhibition presents several of her rarely seen acrylic landscape paintings which capture the wild and transient scenery. There are several large-scale textile installations which feature tassles based on traditional Sámi clothing and made with other Sámi women, including Beavvit-Rising Together II (2021, pictured). Other work was created for the show during a January residency at Porthmeor Studios. Ends May 6,


The Tate also takes care of the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Garden. The sculptor first came to Cornwall with her artist husband Ben Nicholson and their young family at the outbreak of war in 1939. The museum in Trewyn Studios on Barnoon Hill at the heart of St Ives was her home from 1949 until her death in 1975. Many of her pieces are in the locations she chose in the garden she created with the help of a friend, composer Priaulx Rainier. Booking is a must at


There’s been a bright start to the year at The Leach Pottery in St Ives with new exhibition Colour and Movement showcasing the work of contemporary and emerging potters who work with colour, flowing decoration and lively movement.

Expect pots with a sense of freedom and energy from Dylan Bowen, Heather Gibson, Dawn Hajittofi, Jennifer Hall and Tarragon Smith, a Canadian-born ceramicist, currently living in Norfolk. His work (pictured) tells a story, something that builds relationships. “The wave motif that can be found in varying guises on much of my work, a catchall for distance, loss, and migration, which carries both political and personal significance,” he says.

There is a wide variety of work on show at the pottery on Higher Stennack – Dylan Bowen’s decorated earthenware using both traditional and contemporary materials and techniques, hand-built ceramic stoneware from Heather Gibson, the white earthenware of Dawn Hajittofi and the domestic earthenware of Jennifer Hall who works from her home studio overlooking the sea on the north coast of Pembrokeshire. “My pots do not challenge but give comfort; they appeal to the eye, sit comfortably in the hand and are gentle on the lips, enriching meal times,” she explains. All works are for sale. Ends May 19,


St Ives has long been associated with artists who thrive in the creative community and love the light. The St Ives School of Painting opened in April 1938 and was the fulfilment of a vow made by two young officers who had served in the First World War trenches. They promised that if they survived the horrors of the Western Front they would one day live and paint in St Ives. Borlase Smart and Leonard Fuller were both trained artists. The arts colony in St Ives was strengthened by the arrival of Barbara Hepworth and her husband Ben Nicholson and sculptor Naum Gabo. There’s a huge variety of art classes on offer with experienced tutors for all abilities.


Plymouth’s Flavour Fest is celebrating 20 years with the biggest festival yet with an exciting new entertainment zone where visitors can kick back and relax, soak up the atmosphere of live music and Ibizan beats, sample amazing street food and sip on cocktails.

The free festival will also feature more than 80 stalls of fantastic local produce, tasting sessions and bookable masterclasses, workshops, themed demonstrations and children’s activities. The event centres on the city’s pedestrianised Piazza over the late May Bank Holiday weekend and attracts around 100,000 visitors over the three days.

You’ll find local artisan food – jams, chutneys, cheeses, baked goodies, meat and a range of drinks. May 31-June 2,


The Hoe has a unique link with pop music. In September 1967 local photographer David Redfern took a picture of The Beatles when they were in the west country filming The Magical Mystery Tour. Dressed in the clothes they wore on the coach in the film, they were captured with Smeaton’s Tower in the background. You can get a copy of the print at, or recreate it with your own snap. Copper casts in the Hoe grass show the exact position the Fab Four occupied.


Author Frank Cottrell-Boyce, known for 24 Hour Party People, is guest director for this year’s Brighton Festival and is inviting everyone to imagine a better world through a vibrant and colourful celebration of hope, magic and wonder with a sense of fun and play for adults and children alike.

Established in 1967, this is now the largest annual curated multi-arts festival in England. Artists from around the country and across the world offer an escape into music, theatre, dance, circus, film, literature and outdoor and community events across Brighton, Hove and East Sussex. This year there are more than 120 events celebrating shared endeavour, the miraculous in the everyday and the beauty in the extraordinary.

Frank will be joined by fellow writers including Cressida Cowell (How To Train Your Dragon), Chris Riddell (Goth Girl) and poet and Children’s Laureate Joseph Coelho to discuss how words and pictures create wonder.

Other exclusives include former Brighton Festival Guest Director Kae Tempest returning for a night of mesmerising spoken word and Showwomxn Sideshow Spectacular with a cast of 33 circus performers.

100 Miles of String is a free installation from Brighton-based artists Leap Then Look who will encourage audiences to weave and wind thousands of metres of string to create a temporary landmark in the Royal Pavilion Gardens. May 3-June 2,


One of the venue’s for festival events is the Fishing Museum (pictured), which opened in 1994, in two arches on the seafront. It records the transformation of a centuries old fishing village into the cosmopolitan area visitors see today. You can walk around a full-size vessel and learn what life was like for old fishing families. The museum collection describes how the fishermen were driven away from the area, now flanked by two piers and full of new activities such as swimming clubs, bars and entertainments such as Punch and Judy shows, which became part of the tradition of the British seaside. Entry is free.


There are three different options for participants in a fundraising coastal walk to support Oakhaven Hospice in Lymington. Enjoy spectacular views of the Dorset and Hampshire coastline when you set out from Sandbanks (26 miles), Mudeford (14 miles) or Barton-on-Sea (8 miles).

All funds raised will help Oakhaven to continue providing palliative care and support to patients and their families throughout the New Forest, Totton and Waterside areas and the ten-bed inpatient unit. Statutory income provides only 11 per cent of annual running costs, leaving the rest to be raised by the hospice through donations, fundraising events and activities, charity shops, gifts in wills, lottery, investments and a social enterprise company.

Registration includes a T-shirt to wear on the day, snacks and drinks and food and fizz at the finish line. Entrants are asked to commit to raising a minimum of £100 in sponsorship or donation for Oakhaven Hospice. May 18,


Lymington is a pretty coastal town in the New Forest, once known for salt production and ship building. A village in Anglo-Saxon times, architecture now is a mix of Georgian and Victorian with some Medieval features and a church that dates back to the 13th century. Discover more at St Barbe museum, which offers an insight into the local area but also stages bespoke art exhibits with contributions from the collections of the Tate, V&A, British Museum, Imperial War Museum and National Maritime Museum.


A new nine-day nautical festival is being added to the events calendar on the Isles of Scilly. Ocean Scilly will be a broad, fun-filled celebration of the seas that surround the isles, championing all waterborne activities, sea life, the maritime heritage and everything on, in and above the water.

It promises to be a family-friendly mix of aquatic adventures such as paddleboarding and kayaking, sailing sessions, wind-surfing, kite-surfing, coasteering, snorkelling with seals and boating of every kind. There will also be educational and cultural events with seabird talks by the IOS Wildlife Trust, panels and workshops with seafaring experts from the mainland, tales from the deep exploring shipwrecks and lighthouses and a series of mini-events championing the famous pilot gig boats.

As part of the Ocean Scilly festival Scilly60 Events will be hosting five Swimrun adventures. A guided Swimrun taster session will involve three swims and five runs, totalling about 600m of swimming and 5km of running, with plenty of chat and support along the way.

Other events will include the St Mary’s Half Swimrun and Full Swimrun, a Junior Swimrun which has four separate routes for varying age brackets and the final event, the Archipelago Swimrun. This tough event is for experienced open water swimmers and trail runners and will involve around 8km of open water swimming between islands and around 30km of trail running on many of the islands making up the archipelago. August 23-September 1,