The festivities are upon us! In this part of the world it feels like Christmas is here as soon as Exeter Cathedral opens the Christmas market (which obviously features on our list!). It was sadly missed last year, as were dozens of other festive activities that usually herald the start of Christmas fun.
That means this year we are ready and excited to ‘fill our boots’ with as much winter fun as possible - from wreath making to long walks (more on that in a moment). Whether you can nip out for a bit of a festive pick-me-up any time, or your fun is reserved for ‘out of office’ hours, there’s something on our list for you. And in the interests of transparency - none of these entries are sponsored. We’ve painstakingly, dedicatedly crafted this list from our own research, and added things we think look like fun for anyone. Dig in, and let us know what you plan to get up to this winter in the comments or over on our Instagram.
Christmas with Devon Cookery School We aren’t going to be shy about it! We’ve put a huge amount of work into welcoming you back to the School for a magical festive experience, and we’d love to meet you on one of our festive cookery classes. We’re also still running non-festive classes covering a range of world cuisines and kitchen skills. We’ve found recently that our gift vouchers are proving incredibly popular as a way for our community to commit to time with loved ones, and allow friends to choose their ideal date and class.
Exeter Cathedral Christmas Market
Of course no list of Devon winter fun would be complete with this market. It is now a time honoured ritual for us to head on down to the Cathedral Market in early December to check out the bountiful and varied Christmas goodies - food, drink, trinkets, gifts, clothing and more. This year we’ve been particularly taken with a stall that sells citrus garlands - dried fruits and spices strung together or packed into gauze bags to scent your home with the ultimate orange and cinnamon Christmas combo. There are also fudge stands, candle stalls, handmade jewellery and more. It’s a lovely way to spend an evening with friends, stopping for food and drink midway through your exploration.
And there are dozens of other fabulous Christmas markets throughout Devon!
Plymouth Christmas Market is another large, ongoing market running December 2nd to December 19th, meaning you’ve still got plenty of time to nip down for a memorable few hours and pick up your last presents. Expect an open air bar, plenty of fresh food, and dozens of local arts and crafts stalls and small businesses. Plymouth Christmas Market also puts on a unique schedule of Christmas events - for example on 11th December you’ll find the Christmas Elves and the Goodometer (we hope we’d score highly on that!), and on December the 16th Angie’s Festive Funky Hooping.
Paignton Christmas Markets next events are 12th December and 19th December. Bundle the family up for an adventure to Paignton Harbour, nestled on the western shore of Tor Bay. Enjoy local crafts and handmade arts, nibbles, drinks and live music in a harbour first established in the 18th century.
Totnes Late Night Christmas Market on 7th, 14th and 21st of December promises a lovely array of food, clothes and antiques from local producers, with a sprinkle of festive entertainers and traditional Totnes Christmas magic. Many local stores will keep their doors open until 9pm to give everyone a chance to catch up on their Christmas shopping and enjoy the holiday fun. The event was initially cancelled but has been brought back to life with extra festive cheer by local champions who wanted to give local sellers a boost and create a magical experience for visitors. In addition to shopping, each date will host special Christmas events including a Magic Lantern live gig on the 14th, and Blackbird Open Mic Finale on the 21st.
Dartington Christmas Markets at the Cider Press Centre 11-12, 18-19 December are a much loved staple of many families’ pre-Christmas fun. There you’ll find a gorgeous range of unique treasures, tasters, gifts and workshops from dozens of incredibly skilled local artisans, makers and producers. Don’t just expect the regular Christmas tunes either, tap your feet to a range of music from Shillito, The Hot House Combo, and more.
Christmas at Eden is a unique magical event running at the Eden Project on selected dates from 3-30th December. A bit of a cheeky entry into a Devon based list, head off to Cornwall for an adventure that will enchant every member of the family. Eden is always an experience whatever time of year, but at Christmas it transforms into a glittering wonderland. The Med Biome will be adorned with twinkling lights, an 18 piece Christmas Big Band will play seasonal classics, slide around the ice rink, meet Father Christmas or reflect in the peaceful Rainforest Biome and its illuminated waterfall.
Christmas at Killerton is a local favourite, as it’s only a few miles down the road from Devon Cookery School. A series of festive events take place throughout December both during the day and at night. During the day you’ll find Killerton House sumptuously decorated with holly, ivy and traditional fare just as it might have been a hundred years ago. For adventurous children, take part in Percy the Park Keeper’s Winter Wander, a joyful nature trail that takes you around Killerton’s stunning gardens. If you visit after dark you’ll find the winter night transformed into rainbows of colour through the art of outdoor lighting. Create beautiful memories wandering through tunnels of light, past trees lit with a thousand tiny lights, and incandescent flames dancing in the fire garden. You might even find Father Christmas. Of course no winter activity is complete with delicious food, and Killerton has rustled up talented independent street food vendors to make sure you’re energised for your adventure.
If you fancy a craft to get stuck into - perhaps you’re already a dab hand or want to pick up something new - why not try one of the enchanting wreath making workshops hosted throughout Devon. Whether you want to go alone for a mindful Christmas activity on your tod, or take friends with you, wreath making is a nourishing way to spend a few hours. With some preparation you may also be able to salvage much of what you use for following years.
9th, 11th and 12th December Palace Theatre Paignton £25
10th December Bovey Castle £35
Wreath making by Hartwood Flowers
14th December Cadhay House £50
18th December Libra Court Sidmouth £50
Two day workshop 13th and 14th December Lydgate House Hotel Post Bridge £120
18th December Hotel Endsleigh £75
Carols in the Caves Torquay 16th December is an incredible event you can’t imagine until you’ve done it. Yours in Harmony and the Kents Cavern Carolers will be performing live carols and seasonal favourites in the phenomenal setting of Kents Cavern. Once home to ice age animals and prehistoric peoples, now you can witness the eerie and sublime acoustics in the caverns, before touring the caves by candlelight. End your evening with mulled wine or hot chocolate in the main chamber. This is an absolute must for adventurers, explorers and people who don’t mind being underground!
Of course this season isn’t just about shopping and food, it can be a wonderful time to reflect and reconnect with nature. Winter walks are restorative and rejuvenating - you can often finish a ramble around Dartmoor with more energy than you started! And it’s absolutely free (some walks may begin in metered car parks, and of course stopping for a coffee or a pint is a joyful thing to do as well). Why not take some fresh baked bread and a canteen of soup for a well deserved hot refreshment part way through your walk.
There are too many perfect walks in Devon and surrounding areas to include here, but to get started why not explore:
Woodbury Common and Pebblebed Heaths This area of outstanding natural beauty has undulating and varied terrain through woodlands and across heaths and bogs. Unleash the puppy, roll around on two wheels (bicycles only), or race around on four (horses are welcome) - there is an adventure for everyone on Woodbury Common. Well marked paths crisscross the area, making it easy to navigate for the first time. The area is maintained to preserve habitats and ecologies, so please pick up after dogs, don’t scare the cows, and pack away rubbish.
The Jurassic Coast runs an impressive and beautiful 95 miles from Old Harry rocks in Dorset to Exmouth. A designated World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its breathtaking landforms, fossils and geology, the Jurassic Coast isn’t the same at any two points. In fact, it’s unique because you can see examples of Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous rock formations spread out along the coast. Whether you’re an aspiring geologist, a fossil collector, nature nerd, or joyful rambler, there’s a walk for you, and luckily the Jurassic Coast Trust have put dozens of together free, downloadable walks on their website. Remember to stay safe both on top of, and at the bottom of cliffs which can crumble easily.
The South Hams feature more thrilling coastal and inland walks to suit all interests. Dramatic cliff lines, rolling fields and beautiful villages with quintessential English pubs make appearances on most walks and you can often combine all three. Honestly, we only realised in the last few years that the South Hams are where they are - we’re too embarrassed to tell you where we thought they were! Luckily komoot.com put us right and helped us find tons of post-lockdown walks to try. No - we aren’t sponsored by Komoot - it’s just a fab way to try new adventures.
Dartmoor has got to be an all time favourite. We never tire of its romantic, rich landscapes. Some people say it’s a little barren, but we think wherever you look there’s something incredible, from grandiose tor formations and bouldering, to mountain biking and ancient bridges, ice cold racing rivers, sheep skulls (and live sheep!) and more. Dartmoor feels endless (probably why they put a prison on it), and quickly blows away any lingering work stress. Because of its size and scale, and sometimes dangerous terrain, we’d recommend Komoot again for offline maps to help you find your way no matter what.
This is by no means an extensive list - and we found ourselves hard pressed deciding what to include when there are so many amazing events returning for Christmas 2021. What do you think we should have included? What will you be getting up to in the next few weeks? We’d love to hear from you! Drop us a comment below or over on our Instagram. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all!