A trip to Devon in winter is ideal for blowing cobwebs away and enjoying some fun activities as a family. The pre-Christmas period offers unusual opportunities for shopping while traditional carols, candles and Christmas trees are never far away.
Rent a holiday cottage in Devon in winter and look forward to days out with our suggested activities and cosy evenings playing games beside wood-burning fires.
As winter grips the rest of the country, Devon generally remains balmy and pleasant. Quiet country lanes and deserted beaches offer opportunities for solitary walks with great views now the trees have shed their autumn foliage. Kids can don wellies and coats and run off their energy in parks and woodlands while towns and cities offer Christmas markets and January sales.
Christmas activities to enjoy in Devon
In the lead-up to Christmas, Devonians are very traditional, attending events such as Dunster by Candlelight which sets the scene for a very olde-worlde Christmas. The Crediton Christmas Tree Festival displays dozens of decorated Christmas trees in the parish church, but if it’s carols you want, better head for Christmas Magic in Clovelly!
Shopping, of course, is the #1 activity in the county in December with the superb Plymouth Christmas Market taking over the city streets. Alternatively, head down to Totnes for their unusual Christmas Night Markets every Tuesday evening in December. Quality gifts can be found at the exclusive Chagford Wonderworks Arts and Crafts Christmas Fair while there’s something for everyone at the Exmouth Craft Fair right on the seafront.
Family days out include the Westcountry Christmas Equine Fair with showjumping and dressage events or enjoy a sprinkling of snow (guaranteed!) at the Winter Wonderland Snow Spectacular at Babbacombe Model Village. This may be the only chance you get to go tobogganing and skating in Devon this winter!
Post-Christmas need not be an anti-climax
While most counties take a break from festivals and events after Christmas, Devon keeps the entertainment going. Join in the Boxing Day Swims that take place at most major resorts or head to the Exeter Races on New Year’s Day for a little flutter on the horses. This is one event you do need to wrap up warm for as the Exeter Racecourse is on top of Haldon Hill, possibly one of the windiest spots in the county!
Coldharbour Mill is open on New Year’s Day for the annual New Year Steam Up. This is one of the few days each year when this restored Victorian mill powers up the original boilers and engines and demonstrates the clattering machinery.
Another cultural event in Devon is Wassailing, when the apple orchards are blessed in a mediaeval pagan ceremony. Join the colourfully dressed wassailers in the procession through the orchards, followed by a glass of hot cider.
Sunny winter days are perfect for taking a boat trip up the River Exe with the RSPB Avocet cruise during this peak season for birdwatching.
All these events should ideally include a hot and tasty meal in one of Devon’s many characterful pubs, complete with roaring log fire and low-beamed ceiling.
Gardens show the first signs of spring
Devon is one of the first counties in the UK to emerge from the winter chills and by early February there are plenty of bulbs in full bloom. The Snowdrop Sundays at Hartland Abbey are a wonderful excuse for a coastal walk surrounded by swathes of nodding white snowdrops, including many heritage varieties.
You can see snowdrops and tiny wild cyclamen in the grounds at Killerton or join in the important Valentine Flower Count at Saltram. The information gathered is used to compare the harshness and length of winter from one year to the next – an important part of monitoring the current climate change.
Indoor events to enjoy
If you prefer indoor fun, the Craft4Crafters Show at Westpoint is a huge gathering of artists and crafters from all over the Westcountry in February. You can get plenty of inspiration and information as well as picking up supplies at bargain prices.
On a lighter note, how about getting tickets for the Exeter Laugh Out Loud Comedy Festival? Attended by some of the UK’s top comedians, it makes a great night out.
February Half Term events in Devon
Why not plan a cheap winter break in a Devon cottage during February half-term? There’s plenty going on for families of all ages. Dartmouth Castle Ghost Tours take place during dark winter evenings. Led by English Heritage staff, you need nerves of steel as you explore the darker side of Dartmouth Castle’s gruesome history.
Alternatively, head to the National Trust-owned Parke estate for the Bovey Tracey Scarecrow Spectacular where you can help make scarecrows for the newly-seeded vegetable garden.
All these events have probably whet your appetite for the forthcoming seasons in Devon, so keep in touch with what’s happening through our informative blogs.
What’s your favourite impression of Devon in winter? Snow on Dartmoor? Sea spray battering the rocks, or perhaps the first signs of spring with snowdrops and daffodils? Do share your thoughts below.