There is no shortage of things to do in Devon & Cornwall over the Christmas season. Christmas markets generally herald the start of the preparations and are a pleasant way to pick up some gifts, stock the larder with locally produced meats, terrines, cheese, pickles and homemade Christmas puddings. The Pannier Market in Tavistock hosts food and craft fayres with a Victorian theme, lubricated by complimentary glasses of mulled wine from generous shopkeepers.
Nearby Okehampton has Edwardian themed late-night shopping. Couples stroll arm-in-arm around laden stalls beneath colourful lights strung across the street in a scene brought to life straight from a tin of Quality Street! Colourful Christmas trees and nativity scenes spring up in even the smallest towns.
Visit Clovelly for the switching on ceremony and warm the vocal chords singing well-loved carols accompanied by the local brass band. For Christmas music on a grand scale, attend one of the special carol services at Exeter Cathedral ‐ a truly festive event.
Lights, Carols and Stargazy Pie!
Mousehole is a particularly popular gathering point for the locals who spend weeks before Christmas erecting lights all over the harbour wall, surrounding streets and even out to sea! The lights raise thousands of pounds for charity and can be enjoyed from mid-December until early January from helicopter trips taken from Penzance to see the illuminations from above ‐ a truly magical experience.
On December 23rd a more local tradition is held in the Ship Inn and is known as Tom Bawcock's Eve. It remembers one year when fishermen brought in a bumper catch of pilchards which were baked in pies, heads poking upwards, to feed the hungry village. This was the first Stargazy Pie which can still be sampled as a local delicacy in local pubs around Cornwall.
The National Trust really go to town decorating their properties and hosting special events in what is usually their closed season. Cotehele, Lanhydrock, Trerice and Trelissick Garden host carol services led by local choirs. Learn wreath-making, attend a cookery demonstration or buy your fresh Christmas tree from the Plant Shop at Knightshayes Court.
Children of all ages will look forward to that very British tradition ‐ the pantomime. Other cultures fail to understand a performance where dames are men and leading men are women and there's always audience participation with cries of “Behind you!” Nowhere does it better than at the Queen's Theatre, Barnstaple, but there are amateur and professional pantomimes throughout the area.
There's still time to organize a self-catering holiday in Devon and Cornwall, whether you are organizing Christmas for a party of 2 or 10, and want to stay for a few days or the whole holiday. One thing is for sure, nowhere does Christmas better than the West Country!