When to Go

It's best to visit in spring, summer, or early fall. Many privately owned castles and mansions are open only between April and September or October. However, the parks surrounding the stately houses are often open all year. If crowds tend to spoil your fun, avoid August, Sunday, and national holidays, particularly in Canterbury and the seaside towns.

Festivals

Arundel Festival. The popular Arundel Festival presents dramatic productions, classical and pop concerts, and a few more locally centered fun and games, such as a rubber duck race. Most events take place in and around the grounds of Arundel Castle for 10 days in late August. The full schedule is published on the website. Arundel, West Sussex. 01903/883690; www.arundelfestival.co.uk.

Brighton Festival. The three-week-long Brighton Festival, one of England's biggest and liveliest arts festivals, takes place every May in venues around Brighton. The more than 600 events include drama, music, dance, and visual arts. Brighton, Brighton and Hove. 01273/709709; www.brightonfestival.org.

Canterbury Festival. The two-week-long Canterbury Festival fills the town with music, dance, theater, and other cultural events every October. Canterbury, Kent. 01227/787787; www.canterburyfestival.co.uk.

Dickensian Christmas Festival. Rochester sponsors a Dickensian Christmas Festival on the first weekend in December. Thousands of people in period dress participate in reenactments of scenes from A Christmas Carol. A candlelight procession, mulled wine and roasted chestnuts, and Christmas carols at the cathedral add to the celebration. There's also a summer festival that takes place in early June. Two other important Dickens festivals take place in Broadstairs, 40 miles east, every June and December. Rochester, Medway. 01634/306000; www.rochesterdickensfestival.org.uk.

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