If you’re planning an escape to the West Country with family or friends this Christmas, you’re in for a treat. Although this part of the world is best known as a favourite summer holiday destination, the South West of England offers plenty of opportunities for festive fun in the depths of winter too.
Beautiful landscapes will beckon you outside, whatever the weather, to make the most of the short days with invigorating blustery walks along empty beaches and windswept cliff tops. Then head home to thaw out in your cosy cottage, spending the long, dark evenings in front of a roaring fire with a festive tipple, or two.
Here are some of our favourite things to do in Devon and Cornwall during the Christmas season:
1. Late Night Shopping
Forget packed shopping centres, with mile-long queues for the multi-storey car park. Late night shopping in these parts is a much more laid-back affair. Think candlelit streets lined with independent traders and craft stalls, locally produced mulled cider and mince pies to sustain you whilst you shop, and festive choirs and buskers to add to the magical atmosphere. If you are in the area, try one of the Totnes Christmas Late Night Shopping Evenings, the last one this year takes place on Tuesday 22nd December 2015.
2. Carol Services
Nothing gets you feeling quite as Christmassy as a traditional Christmas Carol Service. You’ll receive a warm festive welcome at a local church close to where you’re staying, however if you want to be blown away, pop into one of the Carol Services at Exeter or Truro Cathedrals for an awe-inspiring Christmas experience.
3. Festive Stately Homes
No-one does Christmas quite as well as the National Trust decked out in all their festive finery. Stroll round manicured wintry gardens, pick up any last minute gifts or goodies from the well-stocked shops, and indulge in yet another tasty mince pie from the café. Check ahead to coincide your visit with the big man in red himself, and to be sure of opening dates and times.
4. Christmas Day Dip!
Although it sounds ‘a little’ crazy… trust us, immersing yourself in icy water is a great way to kick off the festivities! A Christmas swim banishes any fuzzy-headed feelings from the night before, and gets your metabolism going to off-set those seasonal overindulgences. Plus it is a lot of fun, and provides great material for holiday tales when you get home. You’re never more than a short drive from a beach in the South West, so really it would be rude not to! Just remember to check weather and tide conditions before you go to keep your party safe.
5. A Christmas Show
Whether you opt for a local amateur dramatic performance in a village hall, or a full-on panto extravaganza – Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without going to see a show. Find out what’s on close to where you’re staying at your local tourist information centre, or pre-book a festive panto at a nearby larger town, such as Paignton or Torquay.
6. Ice Skating
For something a bit different, yet seasonal, why not venture to an ice rink this Christmas? There are several to choose from in the South West, including a winter-opening ice rink at the Eden Project. Guaranteed hilarity will ensue!
7. New Year’s Eve Fireworks
New Year’s Eve fireworks are most spectacular on the coast, with a backdrop of big black skies and expanses of water to reflect the show. Looe, in Cornwall, is a South West destination that has earned a reputation for being one of the best places in the country to see in the New Year. Start the celebrations with a delicious locally-landed seafood meal, and end with midnight fireworks on the beach – and don’t forget the fancy dress!