By Ferne Arfin 8 April 2021 updated 22 May 2021

Welcome back to outdoor – and indoor dining

The grouse can relax. This glorious twelfth is in April not August, when pubs, restaurants, zoos and theme parks will open once again.

Photo above byronv2, ccl, colourised and modified with additional elements

The Glorious Twelfth all over Britain usually refers to the opening of the grouse shooting season on 12 August. In England this year, another “glorious twelfth” will be Monday, 12 April, when outdoor dining and drinking, along with outdoor attractions like theme parks, botanical gardens and zoos, will open to the public once again. After months of start-stop lockdowns that have lasted since March 2020, there’s growing excitement and optimism as lockdown rules start to relax.  The dates are slightly different for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but most parts of the UK will be opening up to some degree this month.

Some precautions still in effect

Most (though not all) places will still require social distancing and masks as well as advance booking – even for a beer in most pub gardens — for specified and limited time periods. But being able to enjoy an outdoor meal or a drink in company, or to have a day out with the kids in someplace more exciting than an urban park is almost thrilling. Pubs and restaurants without outdoor facilities will have to wait until 17 May to entertain you.

The release of pent up demand, from 12 April onward, will be enormous, so check your favourite places online and make a reservation. I’ve already got my country pub lunch booked for next week. We may have to wear longjohns and eat under an umbrella but it will fun and we’ll be supporting the much-beleaguered hospitality industry.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Drink, dine and shop out of doors this Glorious Twelfth

Sampling cheeses, borough market, cheese seller, stilton, england, london

Cheesemonger at Borough Market.  Photo by Ferne Arfin

Leadenhall Market

Leadenhall Market’s Victorian arcades. Photo by Kayla Koss on Unsplash

London’s Borough Market, which has been open to locals for essential shopping, opens more than 20 popular places for al fresco dining on 12 August. You can take a trip around the world there: Spanish tapas at Brindisa, street food from Iraq, Singapore, Argentina, Vietnam, Indian, French, Chinese, Singapore street food, estate roasted cacao, fish and seafood, Find the full list here plus information about how to book. The Market has also expanded its shopping hours so you can stock up on fresh cheeses, veggies, meat, fish and game, baked goods and gourmet goodies, seven days a week.  Check their website for hours and Sunday trading information. The Lamb Tavern in fabulous Leadenhall Market will open for pre-booked outdoor dining. While you are there, enjoy some frivolous shopping in the historic arcade as quite a few of this 700-year-old covered market’s non-essential boutiques will also be open.

One of our favourites, The Red Lion in the West London suburb of Barnes, has a lovely garden and good food and

country pub

The William Bray in Shere, Surrey

is taking garden table reservations.  And several of the London pubs we featured in our Stay in a pub post – The Windmill in Clapham, The Victoria in Sheen and the Orange Tree in Richmond are taking bookings as well. Sadly,

the Malt House in Fulham did not survive the pandemic closures and the Barrow House in Edgerton, Kent, has not yet announced its re-opening date.

We like the looks of the William Bray in the pretty Surrey hamlet of Shere and we’re planning to sample it next week; we’ll keep you posted.

More attractions in and around London opening on the Glorious 12th

There are a variety of outdoor and family attractions already open or opening for visitors on 12 April. If you are looking for more than a simple walk around a park – lovely as that may be – you might try:

  • The Chelsea Physic Garden This 350-year-old, walled garden by the Thames is more than a place to wander looking at pretty flowers and interesting trees. It’s an eye-opening experience learning about the uses of plants and herbs for everything from food and traditional medicine to modern cancer drugs and even house building materials. Bookable with time-specific visits.
  • London Zoo and Whipsnade Zoo Zoos aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but the two operated by the Zoological Society of London are historic and well run, along scientific and conservationist principles. London Zoo on the edge of Regents Park in Northwest London, includes several architecturally interesting, landmark buildings too. Whipsnade, in Bedfordshire, is home to 2,500 animals (many endangered in the wild) set in 600 parkland acres. It is the largest zoo in the UK giving animals more room and freedom than many so-called safari parks. (The famous Longleat Safari Park devotes about 900 acres of the 9,000 acre estate to the animals). Photo by James Sealey, ccl
  • Chessington World of Adventure  has a zoo that has had its ups and downs but this is an enormous attraction with a theme park that has rides suitable for younger or older children as well as adults, with good views of the animal part from several of the rides.
  • Thorpe Park  in Surrey is the place to go for thrill rides – massive rollercoasters – lots of them, including the fastest in the UK, incredible gravity defying loops – one after another. Not for anyone with a weak stomach but hugely popular with teens. And, from 12 April, your family can stay overnight in the parks self-contained accommodations.
  • Legoland Windsor  Oh go on, give in. Children love the miniature worlds the genius artists at Lego create. But face it, so do most of us. The miniature London is worth the price of a ticket alone.
  • Go Ape Trent Park  If you like to make like a monkey, scrambling along rope walks and platforms at treetop level, you can do it without going much beyond the London Underground. The highest rope walk attraction in the UK is just minutes from Cockfosters Tube Station in North London.

7 replies
  1. Stuart Forster
    Stuart Forster says:

    It was in no rush to head back to pubs but it proved a pleasure to head back to the Box Social, a brewery in Newcastle upon Tyne that I rate highly. Fingers crosses we see the end of this pandemic soon.

  2. Kathryn Burrington
    Kathryn Burrington says:

    Oh, how I’d love to visit Borough Market! I used to be in London almost every month. I can’t believe it is now over a year. I still don’t fancy getting on the train let alone the tube but once I’ve had my second injection I must come up. It will be very strange being n a city again!


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