If you've got a weekend or a couple of free days this autumn, we've got some ideas to help you to fill them. Whether you choose to enjoy the freshest oysters at Falmouth's delectable oyster festival or take the kids to Europe's largest dedicated children's literature festival in Bath, take the train so you can kick back, avoid the traffic and make the most of what autumn has to offer.
Festival of the Future City, Bristol
If you're interested in how our cities will develop in the future and would like to join in the public debate on the key issues of sustainability, health and social equality, then the Festival of the Future City (run in association with Future Cities Catapult) from 18-20 October will interest you. With events - many of them free - including city walks, workshops and talks you'll be able to exchange views with policymakers, academics, politicians, scientists, writers, social enterprises and futurists on how our cities must change and develop. Explore historic and modern Bristol while you're here too – cross the iconic Clifton suspension bridge (engineered by GWR founder Brunel), join a ghost walk , hop on a water bus to explore the sights by river, and stop for falafels or jerk pork at the Glass Arcade global food stalls.
Getting there: GWR trains run direct from London Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads, in under 2 hours with up to 4 trains an hour.
Oxford Castle Unlocked at Halloween, Oxford
Do you want to scare yourself silly somewhere that's reputed to have real ghosts? If so, 11th century Oxford Castle is the place to be around Halloween for Ghost Fest from 21-29 October. For young visitors, spooky tours reveal the truly horrible history of the castle, together with a Halloween-themed activities afternoon. If you're 18+ and here on 31 October, book a midnight tour to the darkest, eeriest parts of the castle: the crypt, well chamber, punishment cells, and St George's and Debtors' towers, steadying your nerves with a midnight glass of bubbly.
Oxford itself is gorgeous in the autumn – the warm stone of the buildings and atmospheric college cloisters, trees changing colour in the university parks, and along the River Cherwell, where you can hire a punt and glide upstream. The museums are superb – the Museum of Natural History, the eclectic Pitt Rivers and the historic Ashmolean are all worth a visit.
Getting there: GWR trains run direct to Oxford from London Paddington in under 2 hours, with up to 6 trains an hour.
This autumn, London showcases its Roman origins with the fascinating Londinium season running until 29 October. You'll be amazed at the number of Roman remains hidden beneath your feet and London's buildings, now accessible to the public. The Temple of Mithras beneath Bloomberg's new European headquarters opens, and there's a chance to see London's only accessible Roman house and baths in Billingsgate.
Various venues around the city, including the Guildhall, Globe Theatre, Museum of London and Leadenhall Market host talks, walks and exhibitions exploring what the Romans did for us. And with the West End, Chinatown, fabulous shopping and world-class museums and sights, London's a wonderful weekend away whatever you love doing.
Getting there: GWR trains come into Paddington Station. Check GWR.com for details.
Bridgwater Guy Fawkes Carnival, Bridgwater
Most of us have been to 'Guy Fawkes Extravaganzas' around Bonfire Night, but the chances are you won't have seen anything like the Guy Fawkes Carnival parade in Bridgwater, Somerset. Carnival day begins with the usual family fun – street entertainers, live music, dancers and marching bands. But the real magic arrives after dark when the parade rolls and what can only be described as 'illuminated, articulated mobile theatre' passes through town. Beasts of triple lorries, decked out with moving stages, platforms, costumed actors and musicians, and megawatts of LED lighting delight the crowds. See for yourself what to expect. The evening ends with 'squibbing', Bridgwater's unique fireworks display.
The carnival alone is worth a weekend in Bridgwater and the pretty, historic town with its docks, arts centre, museums, independent shops and cafés is worth a visit at any time of year.
Getting there: GWR trains run direct to Bridgwater from London Paddington in under 3hrs, with up to 1 train an hour.
Book your 48-hour break early and you can save over 50%* on advance single fares at gwr.com. Stay connected with GWR's free onboard wi-fi and power sockets and arrive at your weekend break destination refreshed, relaxed and ready to explore.
* Savings correct as of August 2017. Average saving calculated by comparing Advance Single Standard Class ticket prices to the equivalent price of a Standard Class Super Off Peak ticket bought on the day of travel. Advance fares are subject to availability. Selected GWR routes only. Advance fares available from up to 12 weeks prior to travel. Terms and conditions apply.