Things to Do

Top 5 Things To Do in May

This May, we’ve got plenty of ideas to help inspire your visits.

Discover prehistoric monuments, enjoy a memorable May half-term and learn about pioneering nurses. Read on to discover fascinating people, must-see places and captivating videos.

1. Join us for a memorable May half-term

We’ve planned an action-packed half-term with all your favourite family events. Meet Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at Osborne for a day of splendid sideshows and traditional fairground rides. See history’s most famous pirates battle it out at Pendennis Castle or witness an awe-inspiring Victorian falconry display at Boscobel House. At Dover Castle, step into the 1940s with our celebrated WWII Weekend. Plus, our Kids Rule! events return to 21 sites across the country for hands on activities and family fun.

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2. Visit one of our top tearooms

Our cafés and tearooms serve up soups made from produce grown in our kitchen gardens, cakes baked using historical recipes and as many locally-sourced ingredients as possible. We’ve put together a list of our favourite cafés and tearooms across the country.

Check the property pages or an English Heritage handbook to find out more about each of our individual site’s catering options.

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3. Explore prehistoric monuments

We care for a vast array of unique prehistoric sites which give us important insight into life before history was recorded in writing. Alongside the iconic Stonehenge and Avebury are sites such as Chysauster Ancient Village, one of the finest surviving ancient villages in the country, and Maiden Castle, the biggest hillfort in Europe. You might even find inspiration for your next visit.

Grimes Graves, Britain’s largest known Neolithic flint mine, re-opens on the 27 April after a major project to improve the visitor experience.

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Florence Nightingale photographed by Henry Hering in around 1860

4. Learn about the Pioneers of Nursing

In early medicine, nurses were often the unsung heroes, working behind the scenes to ensure the running of an orderly and spotlessly-clean ward and seeing to the day to day care of patients. In honour of International Nurses’ Day, May 12, why not learn about the history and heroes of this noble profession?

Several of our blue plaques are dedicated to people who helped to revolutionise nursing: Florence Nightingale has a plaque at the site where her Mayfair home once stood. Other plaques honour Ethel Gordon Fenwick, who campaigned successfully to raise the status and standards of nursing, and Edith Cavell, pioneer of modern nursing in Belgium and a heroine of the First World War.

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5. Discover the fascinating history of wall design

The idea that buildings should carry meanings and messages is found in many ancient civilisations – from cave paintings in the Stone Age to the photography we hang on our walls today. Looking at the artwork that decorates the walls of our historic places gives us valuable insight into how our ancestors lived.

Join our historian Steven Brindle in his article If walls could talk as he examines examples of historical walls across England and explains how the architecture and artistry reflects the culture of the period. Part one covers prehistory to the late Medieval period, and part two delves into Georgian, Victorian and 20th century walls.

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The month in history

  • Poet Alexander Pope was born on the 21 May 1688. He is famous for his classic poetry and literature, but less well known is his impact on historical garden design; he proposed plans for gardens at Chiswick House and Marble Hill in south west London. A blue plaque marks his time living at Mawson’s buildings in Chiswick Lane South.
  • The landscape and portrait painter Thomas Gainsborough was born on 14 May 1727. His portrait of Mary, Countess Howe can be seen at Kenwood, alongside famous works by Vermeer, Rembrandt and Reynolds.
  • The British evacuation of soldiers from Dunkirk, also known as Operation Dynamo, began on 26 May 1940. The rescue was co-ordinated by Vice Admiral Bertram Ramsay from the tunnels beneath Dover Castle, a total of 338,226 troops were evacuated by almost 1000 ships, many of them civilian boats. Find out more about Operation Dynamo.
  • The monk and scholar, The Venerable Bede, died on 26 May 735. Bede wrote about St Hild of Whitby, who, according to legend, banished a plague of snakes from the headland there with divine help. Learn more about the legend of Saint Hild in this short film

More to Explore

  • Inspire Me

    Our historic sites offer something for everyone. Here we have gathered some of our favourite features, events and things to do to inspire your next visit.


    Join presenter Charles Rowe as we bring the history of our sites to life with news, views and expert interviews across over 150 episodes.

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