This time next week, I will be basking in the glory of the English sunshine and I cannot wait.
There’s just something about the British summer that gives me all the joy. Plus, I’m managing to squeeze in the end of spring to my trip so all the spring flowers will still be in bloom. Happiness!
Yes, I know that the summer in Britain can be a little temperamental and you never quite know what weather you’re going to get, but after living in Lima for over 5 years, I miss weather. Summer in Lima is almost exactly the same every day, and while that’s great for event planning or taking a holiday, sometimes you just want a breeze or a little drizzle every now and then!
Moving away from England has made me realise how much I took for granted when I lived there, and so now any chance I get, I love to do the things that I associate so much with a British summer.
Despite the weather uncertainty, it’s still one of my favourite times of the year to head back home and I thought I might inspire you to do the same whilst sharing some of my favourite things to do in the sunny weather. These should be things you can do wherever you are in the country, not just in Cambridge or London – although I will give some local recommendations. Also, these are activities you can do in most countries, but for me they’re what makes a British summer complete.
TRIPS TO THE SEASIDE
Summer just isn’t complete without a trip to the seaside to lie in the sun, take in some fresh air, eat some fish and chips, and finish it all off with an ice cream. For some reason, a lot of mini golf happens along the coast which I absolutely love, so a game of that is usually inevitable. Plus, you can always grab an Instagram looking beachy and windswept in front of some beach huts. Life is great at the seaside. Wells and Holkham are both beautiful spots on the Norfolk coast, Southwold is a favourite on the Suffolk coast, and honestly any beaches in Devon and Cornwall are likely to be a hit, although the area around Bedruthan Steps is stunning. Plus, if you fancy a bit of theatre while you’re down in Cornwall, then head to the amazing Minack Theatre built into the cliffside for a show you’ll never forget.
EATING ENGLISH BERRIES
This may seem like an odd one, but summer is berry season and I cannot get enough of all the local fruits available. Strawberries, redcurrants, raspberries, blueberries, blackcurrants and blackberries. So much goodness. I remember going to a local farm near my Grandma as a child and doing pick-your-own, where you go into the fields and fill your punnets with as much freshly picked fruit you could carry and then pay by weight. It was such a great experience for me that I always remember and there are so many locations around the country that offer this during the summer. Plus, when Wimbledon (tennis championship) is on, strawberries and cream is the ‘must have’ dessert and is sold throughout the grounds there for everyone to enjoy.
ICE CREAM EVERYWHERE
Yes, I’m well aware that ice cream is a thing here in Lima too, but honestly a scoop of pistachio gelato from Aromi or some elderflower sorbet from Jack’s Gelato really make my day (plus elderflower is very much a British thing). Also you can’t go wrong with a 99 (vanilla soft serve with a Cadbury’s chocolate flake) at the seaside or a Magnum in the freezer at home, so really I had to put this section in here. It’s a bit more Cambridge related than the rest, because it’s local stuff that I miss the most, but everywhere has their own amazing place for ice cream. For example in Brighton they rave about Boho Gelato‘s range of regular and unusual flavours and down in Cornwall they serve ice cream with a dollop of thick clotted cream on top. So, wherever you’re staying, you can’t really go wrong with an ice cream…
ENJOYING LONG SUMMER EVENINGS
One of the things I miss most in Lima are the long evenings in summertime. Here our evenings last until maybe 7 at the latest, but in England we can still be light at 9.30 which I just love. It means you still have so much more day left after you finish work and you can enjoy the summer weather even if you’ve had to spend the whole day indoors. Evening barbecues, drinks in a pub garden after work or relaxing in your own back garden after a long day are all such mood lifters when the sun is still shining.
OUTDOOR MUSIC & THEATRE
Another great option of an evening is to enjoy a concert or theatre production outside. Cambridge, for example, has a Shakespeare festival showcasing his plays in local university gardens, and in London, there are no shortage of concerts and music festivals. The UK in general plays host to a number of music festivals during the summer months, including Glastonbury and the Isle of Wight. These are all hosted whatever the weather (the theatre won’t usually carry on if there’s an actual downpour) so if it looks like rain, bring your raincoat and wellies!
Family gatherings on a Sunday tend to switch from the classic roast dinner to having a barbecue outdoors instead. Even if it starts raining part way through the cooking, we carry on indoors and wait for the food to cook outside – inevitably leaving some poor person to dodge the downpour to check on the sausages! Honestly, British meat is some of the best in the world and a BBQ is a great way to showcase it. From steaks and chops, to freshly ground burgers and scrummy pork sausages, all served alongside a ton of different salads and veggies. I love how everyone makes a celebration out of this kind of meal; by coming early while everything is cooking, enjoying drinks, nibbles and conversation in the sunshine and staying well after the meal until it gets dark and a little chilly.
WALKS IN THE COUNTRYSIDE
There’s nothing better than a wander through the meadows or woodland on a lovely warm day. It’s the perfect way to enjoy the good weather. I love walking along the river in Cambridge, mainly through Grantchester Meadows, but there are also places like Anglesey Abbey, Wimpole Estate, Wicken Fen and Milton Country Park. Obviously Britain is full of amazing places to walk, but if you need some ideas, check out the National Trust website for reserves, grounds, and beaches, or find a woodland through The Woodland Trust. If you’re looking for long hikes then you’ll find those through a number of different informative websites. Enjoy the wildflowers, the trees and all the beautiful nature that spring and summer has to offer.
British people get drawn to a pub garden in the summer like moths to a flame. Pubs tend to have the best outdoor spaces for socialising, over bars and restaurants, and there are no shortage of them throughout the country. Most gardens are family and dog friendly so you can bring the whole family for a drink and/or some food and it’s something that is greatly missed during winter (although fires are great too). A few of my favourite spaces in Cambridge are at The Plough in Fen Ditton (huge garden), The Castle Inn on Castle Hill (a nice little sun trap in the centre), and The Maid’s Head in Wicken (about 30mins drive), but I’m sure there are a million others that are not coming to my mind right now!
OUTDOOR FESTIVALS AND FAIRS
Although you’ll get all kinds of – mainly food and drink – festivals running throughout the year, they seem to crop up in abundance during spring and summer because of the outdoor nature of things! It’s amazing to go and try local produce and locally made items in different parts of the country. FoodPark, Cambridge’s street food organisation, also sometimes have their ‘Night Markets’ during the summer where you’ll find a whole host of food trucks and street food providers all in one big food festival. A favourite of ours in Cambridge is the CAMRA Cambridge Beer Festival which is held every year in May during the week before the second bank holiday (ie next week!). It’s an amazing opportunity to try lots of different beers from the Cambridge area and further afield. There are also ciders and meads to try too, plus a whole load of cheese, nibbles and food trucks on hand to soak all that beer up. CAMRA have plenty of others around the country, so check their website for events near you!
Eating outdoors happens as soon as the sun comes out and temperature rises above maybe 17 degrees, but picnics are normally reserved for slightly warmer days. They can range from small little lunchtime ones in the park with a sandwich and a drink, to pretty grand affairs with hampers, plates, bubbly and 20-odd people. It’s just such a nice way to spend a lazy summer afternoon with friends. Grab a blanket, some food (don’t forget the mini scotch eggs!) and set out your feast in a local park or meadow. Just try to avoid wasp season in late summer….
So that’s that! My favourite things to do when I head home during the British summertime.
If you do decide to visit Cambridge during the summer months, don’t miss punting on the river (it may seem like a touristy thing to do, but it’s a lot of fun and super pretty) or visiting the Orchard Tea Rooms in Grantchester (a lovely orchard garden with deckchairs and a cafe selling tea and cake – and larger dishes too). It’s a place that, in my opinion, really comes to life in the sunshine and I’d love for you to experience that too.
I hope it inspires you to visit Britain, whatever the weather, as there’s always something to do, and we – the British – will be outside in the summer, come rain or shine, enjoying the long days and everything they have to offer.