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Seven classic Christmas Festivals in South Devon

From lantern processions to festive feasts in ancient streets, South Devon has a host of cracking Christmas festivals and markets to enjoy this winter. If you’re planning a weekend or short break away, there’s no better way to get into the seasonal spirit than with a trip to South Devon.
Powderham Castle Michaelmas Fair – 02 November, 10am-3pm
One of this year’s first seasonal celebrations is the fabulous Powderham Castle Michaelmas Fair, which prides itself on sourcing enthralling, artisan goods and gifts that you’ll be hard pressed to find elsewhere.
Set in the Earl of Devon’s castle and held in aid of ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, this celebration of seasonal treats, trinkets, and tantalizing presents is the perfect solution to finding gifts for more discerning friends and family.
Where to stay: Hotel du Vin is a firm favourite with visitors to Exeter and beyond. Situated in the former Eye Infirmary, the hotel has been described as a ‘contemporary wonderland’ by Alastair Sawday and has a reputation for its individually styled luxury rooms. Double bedrooms can be booked from just £89.
Exeter Christmas Market, Cathedral Green, 16 November to 17 December
Lasting longer than any other Christmas Market in South Devon, the enchanting Exeter Christmas Market will once again be held against the hauntingly beautiful backdrop of the Cathedral.
This year, the market, which has long had a ‘Continental’ feel, will add an increasing number of local arts, crafts and food stalls, each showcasing a selection of festive and local produce. It will also introduce a new West Front location and bandstand to showcase local performers, creating a warm and welcoming feel for visitors seeking that special something for their loved ones.
Opening on the same night as the Exeter Christmas lights ‘Switch On’, this classic Christmas market welcomes thousands of visitors each year. It runs Monday to Wednesday 10am-7pm; Thursday to Saturday 10am-9pm; Sunday 11am-5pm.
Where to stay: Newly refurbished in 2017, the City Gate Hotel in Exeter offers 14 boutique, individually designed bedrooms just two minutes’ walk from the Cathedral. Double rooms can be booked from £130.
Candlelit Dartmouth, 24 to 25 November
One of the highlights of South Devon’s Christmas fairs and festivals, Candlelit Dartmouth is a spellbinding event that captures the hearts and imaginations of couples, families and children alike.
Starting on Friday 24 November at 4pm, this traditional seasonal celebration kicks off with a classic Christmas Market, which runs over the entire weekend. Over 200 independent stores provide a stunning choice of gifts. Entertainers, children’s activities and live music all feature.
As dusk falls, the town’s Christmas Lights are switched on, transforming the town into a glittering wonderland in readiness for the arrival of Father Christmas, who crosses the moonlit waters of the Dart before landing ashore.
At the heart of this two-day event is the captivating Candlelit Christmas procession that winds its way through the medieval streets and alleyways of Dartmouth. Taking place on Saturday evening, this beguilingly beautiful parade features hundreds of intricate, hand-made paper lanterns.
However, you don’t have to wait for night to enjoy the delights of Dartmouth’s Christmas celebrations. Starting at 10am on Saturday 25 November, Dartmouth’s historic streets come to life with craft stalls in the Old Market and a larger Christmas Market in Royal Avenue Gardens. Seasonal craft workshops give children a chance to make their very own lanterns and decorations.
Carols and the aroma of hot chestnuts roasted over open fires waft through the air, blended with a heady mix of seasonal scents from street food stalls featuring the very best of South Devon’s local produce. There’s even a best dressed dog show!
Where to stay: The Royal Castle Hotel, situated at the very heart of Dartmouth, enjoys fantastic views over the river Dart and Royal Avenue Gardens. Double rooms in this award-winning and privately owned 17th century hotel can be booked from £165.
Kingsbridge Celebrates Christmas, Saturday 02 December
Set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and located on the Salcombe Estuary, Kingsbridge is a traditional English market town that celebrates local food, drink, and produce at its annual Farmers’ Christmas Market. Stalls fill the town square and line Fore Street, offering a selection of goodies and gifts ranging from Salcombe Gin and natural soaps to crepes and Christmas puddings. In addition to live entertainment, families can look forward to mulled wine and meeting Father Christmas.
Known for its eclectic mix of independent outlets and a whole host of intriguing antiques shops, art galleries, and gift shops, Kingsbridge is a great place to find individual and unexpected presents. It’s also a perfect destination to indulge in local craft beers, ales, cider, and wine. There’ll even be a traditional hog roast to tuck into.
Where to stay: Buckland Tout-Saints luxury country house hotel is a stunning William & Mary manor house, situated in Kingsbridge. Surrounded by 4½ acres of beautifully tended gardens and woodland, the hotel has a reputation for its award-winning cuisine. A double room, including breakfast, can be booked from £139.
Bovey Tracey Christmas Street Fayre, Saturday 02 December 3-6pm
Renowned for its crafts, Bovey Tracey is the perfect place to find an original or inspiring present. Home to the Devon Guild of Craftsman, the one day Christmas Street Fayre, held on Saturday 02 December, brings together 40 gift and artisan craft stalls as well as a host of street food vendors in the one location.
Throughout the day there’ll be carol singing, fairground rides and a bouncy castle snow globe for the kids. In between shopping, grown-ups can indulge in moreish mulled wine as well as Christmas cocktails mixed by the Fabulous Cocktail Kings. As dusk draws in, the Christmas lights will be switched on, heralding the arrival of Father Christmas on his Christmas carnival float.
Where to stay: The Ilsington Country House Hotel, situated in 10 acres of land, perched high on the rolling hills of the Dartmoor National Park, is just a short drive from Bovey Tracey. Double rooms are available from £135 per night, including breakfast.
Plymouth Christmas Market, 30 November to 21 December
Held in the City Centre Piazza, Plymouth’s Christmas Market brings a winter wonderland to the heart of the city with more than 50 magical log cabin stalls offering everything from hand-crafted Christmas gifts to fabulous food stalls festooned with fairy lights.
Lasting 22 days, the Christmas Market, which starts on 30 November and runs until 21 December, is the perfect way to get into the Christmas spirit, aided by the waft of seasonal treats, beer, Gluhwein, hot chocolate, teas and coffees.
Add to that a pop-up Prosecco stall, and a Bavarian bar that offers the unusual treat of heated seats, and you have the perfect antidote to chilly, late night or last-minute Christmas shopping.
Where to stay: Langdon Court Hotel, a historic Grade II Listed 16th-century Tudor manor house set in its own grounds, is only six miles from Plymouth City Centre. Double rooms are available from £79 on a room only basis.
Christmas Markets in Totnes: 5th, 12th and 19th December (3:30pm-9:30pm)
Join the seasonal buzz of Totnes’ Tuesday Christmas markets this winter when the town’s medieval high street is taken over by up to 60 Christmas stalls selling crafts, presents, decorations, and locally made food and drink. Take the opportunity to indulge in Totnes’ world famous independent shops, breathe in the heavenly smell of festive food and mulled wine, and enjoy a host of South Devon’s renowned street entertainers and folk musicians who perform every night of the Christmas markets.
Visitors can expect artisan stalls and fabulous food vendors intermingled with a variety of Totnes’ renowned buskers, a stunning lantern parade and Santa’s Grotto. You can find everything from bonsai trees and upcycled bicycles, to felted clothing, scented candles, hand-made jewellery, and soaps. With two food areas, visitors can indulge in stews, paella, hog roast, locally produced gourmet burgers and special Christmas menus in local pubs and restaurants.
The Civic Hall will be open to families, offering craft activities, present wrapping tables, a soft play area, Santa’s Grotto, delicious food, mulled wines and ciders. There’ll be performances too, with jugglers, buskers, children’s entertainers, musicians and choirs throughout the town, followed by live music at the Royal Seven Stars after the market closes.
Where to stay: Royal Seven Stars Hotel, Totnes. This pretty former coach house Inn is located just a stone’s throw away from the lovely River Dart and a short walk from the South Devon Railway station in Totnes. Double rooms are available from £130 per night including breakfast.
For more information on South Devon’s Christmas festivals and events, go to www.visitsouthdevon.co.uk
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