Planning a visit to Devon in December? You may be worried that there’s nothing happening in winter, but you could not be more wrong. With tourist crowds gone, locals set about enjoying their own traditions with many events taking place in the lead up to Christmas. Here are the top 10 things to do in Devon in December to fill your days (and nights!).
Get in the spirit at Plymouth Christmas Market
Plymouth has an excellent Drake Circus shopping centre with international stores and high street brands but you can’t beat shopping for stocking fillers at a traditional Christmas Market. Plymouth sets up artisan stalls in the pedestrianised plaza on New George Street.
Plymouth Christmas Market takes place during the first three weeks in December and follows the grand Light Switch-On. There’s a Christmas tree, fairy-lights and traditional wooden huts stacked with handicrafts and foodie gifts. Late night shopping is Thursdays with a night-time bar and food trucks. Special events include illuminated roller skating, choirs, live music, Christmas Elves and a visit from a sofa-driving Santa!
A royal night out at the theatre!
The Theatre Royal is the hub of cultural entertainment in Plymouth. Book tickets and look forward to a night out to remember. There’s always a panto with celebs on stage and a selection of comedy, musicals and classics.
The December 2021 programme includes Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5, the family friendly The Man who Wanted to be a Penguin, the classic musical White Christmas, and Grimm and Grimmer adventure comedy. It just "goes to show", you don’t have to visit London to see a world-class performance!
All aboard the Polar Express!
Recreate the magical movie story of The Polar Express with South Devon Railway. The sleek black steam engine with its "1225" insignia carries you on a magical one hour journey to the North Pole where Santa and his Elves will hop aboard to say hello.
Arrive early at Buckfastleigh Station and browse the Christmas stalls and grab some hot food. Once the conductor has clipped your souvenir tickets, it’s all aboard. As you pass though the ice plains, make sure you make the right noises to scare the caribou off the line. It’s enough to make you believe in Santa whatever your age!
Rosemoor Glow at Torrington
All over the UK, Christmas Lights Trails take place on select nights throughout December. These ticketed events are a great excuse to wrap up warm and take a stroll in the crisp and frosty evening air though spectacular garden settings.
In Devon, the place to find them is at RHS Rosemoor with Glow festivities from late November through 30 December from 4:30pm to 8:30pm. Follow the enchanting walk through the Rose Gardens, Winter Garden, Lake and Cool Garden that look totally different when lit up with festive colour. Continue along the magical trail to the lake, all lit up with bright lighting. Along the way, leafless trees on the Lower Woodland Walk appear like giant sculptures. It’s a surreal experience of dazzling displays.
Trust me, this will be a highlight of your visit to Devon in December!
Best cream tea in Tavistock
Visit the lovely stannary town of Tavistock, gateway to Dartmoor and you’ll find plenty to see and do. Pop into the historic parish church of St Eustachius (1256) and admire the stained glass and ring of bells on the hour.
Facing the lych gate is the historic Bedford Arms Hotel with its castellated roofline and award-winning restaurant. Sink into an armchair in front of the roaring log fire and order a proper Duchess of Bedford Afternoon Cream Tea. It is said the Duchess invented afternoon tea in the 1840s while staying at Belvoir Castle. Served daily from 3pm until 5pm, it’s an indulgent sweet treat to warm you up.
Devon is home to many arts and crafts industries. It’s the natural place to enrol on a Christmas craft workshop. Spend the afternoon making your own festive Christmas wreath or fresh fir garland to hang on the door back home. With professional hands-on tuition, these fun small group events usually include some mulled wine and refreshments to release your creativity. The price include all the materials you need to complete a bespoke natural wreath.
Check out the dates for these fun events and book yourself a place. They are hosted by the Bedford Hotel in Tavistock, The Riverford Field Kitchen in Buckfastleigh, Bovey Castle in North Bovey, Hotel Endsleigh on Dartmoor and Holly-Bee Flowers at Dartington.
What a great souvenir to take home from your winter break in Devon in December!
Have a winter wander
Families with youngsters can enjoy a walk that is full of excitement to keep little ones happy. Various National Trust properties in Devon host a Percy the Park-Keeper’s Winter Wander Trail. Tickets are around £2 per person in additional to regular park admission (if any).
Follow the clues and spot nature and wildlife as you enjoy a winter treasure hunt during the month of December. There’s bound to be at a National Trust estate close to your Devon holiday cottage such as the beautiful gardens of Knightshayes, the Pleasure Gardens at Arlington Court, the parkland at Killerton and the gardens at Greenway, former home of Agatha Christie.
Stroll through the forest
It may be a little too windy to enjoy a walk along the Coast Path in December. However, you can enjoy some fantastic walks, bike rides (rentals available) and Segway tours through Haldon Forest at Kennford.
Park at the Forest Visitor Centre and take your pick of colour-coded walks. The Green 1½ miles Discovery Trail is gentle with far-reaching views while the more challenging three mile Raptor Trail includes a birds of prey viewpoint.
These trails have a surfaced track, making them ideal for walks without the need for wellies. The established forest also provides shelter from the wind and the chance to spot deer, rabbits and other residents.
Warm yourself by the eternal fire
Dartmoor is particularly bleak and chilly (or even snowy) in December so the perfect place to find a "warm" welcome is the Warren House Inn. It’s located on a lonely stretch of road between Postbrige and Lettaford in the middle of Dartmoor National Park.
Local legend has it that the fire was lit in the fireplace to warm the bar when the pub was built in 1845. Apparently, it has been burning continuously ever since! Owned by the Duchy of Cornwall (yes it spills over into Devon too!), the pub gets through three loads of logs every month, although it originally burnt peat. It’s also a great place to enjoy a roast dinner, homemade soup and specials cooked to order… and served piping hot of course!
Visit the RAMM
If you need an indoor attraction for a day, visit the amazing Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter. With free entry, you can visit several times and enjoy different galleries at each visit if you wish. Housed in a magnificent Gothic sandstone building in the heart of Exeter City, this award-winning museum has over one million artefacts.
Collections cover a diversity of themes from zoology, natural history and anthropology to archaeology and fine art. See paintings by Plympton-born Joshua Reynolds, Gainsborough and Barbara Hepworth among many other notable artists. It’s a fitting first-class attraction in this amazing city of culture.
We’ll see you in Devon
Why not book a holiday cottage in Devon in December and enjoy scenic walks, history, crafts and wonderful food as part of your Christmas break?