Christmas in Devon is something else. It’s a myth that Devon is only for summer – the area comes into its own at this time of year (there are far fewer caravans on the road, for one thing). There are so many options for festive days out in Devon that although we’ve lived here nearly three and a half years there’s still a huge amount we haven’t yet had a chance to experience.
In the summer of 2013 we packed our bags and moved over two hundred miles down the road from Berkshire to this little corner of English coast and moor. At the time I was nervous, excited and more than ready for a change. We had some lovely friends in and around London, but had never felt settled there. They say time moves faster the older you get – they’re right. All at once I can so clearly picture our old life in Berkshire before we relocated, but it also feels like we’ve been in Devon forever.
Some of the best things to do in Devon at this time of year are absolutely free. A walk along a windy beach with a thermos of hot chocolate, a wander around some Christmas markets, a hike on Dartmoor (followed by more hot chocolate and cake) – none of these cost a thing. And then there are the big events, the festive days out in Devon that get booked up weeks in advance but are worth splashing out on as a treat: the steam train rides, atmospheric nativity plays and Santa meet and greets. Festive days out in Devon can range from coast to moor, city to village. That’s what I love about it.
As this is the fourth year we’ve lived in this neck of the woods we’ve started to build up some traditions which I come to look forward to just as much as the kids. We always go iceskating at a special ice rink in the run up to Christmas, for example (our new favourite is the rink at Cornwall’s Eden Project which features a high canopy ceiling, lots of twinkly lights and the advantage of many festive activities to get involved in afterwards around the site), and we like to indulge in a spot of carol singing in the village on Christmas Eve.
Then there’s the big festive event – the first year we were here I booked tickets for the Polar Express in Okehampton, which was BRILLIANT. Last year we went to the lovely nativity play at Pennywell Farm (featuring real animals, sing-along carols and costumes for the kids to get involved and take part in the play itself) and this year we’re off to the Santa Steam Train in Buckfastleigh.
Interspersed amongst those are the cute little festive days out in Devon – the breakfast with Santa at our local garden centre (we’re doing that this weekend so I’ll let you know how it goes!), the smaller Christmas markets (there’s a great looking one at Ullacombe Farm near Haytor on Dartmoor this weekend) and the obligatory National Trust property visits.
I can still remember this time of year as a kid and relishing the build-up to the Christmas holidays when both my (teacher) parents would be off work and we’d mix up days out and wintery walks in between afternoons on the sofa in front of a festive film and a roaring fire. I even looked forward to this period as a teenager, when it was officially uncool to be excited over anything, least of all spending time with your family.
This last weekend marked the first weekend that we’ve started to feel really festive. We never put our tree up until December (is it just me that feels a bit depressed when all the early tree-putter-uppers take all their decorations down by lunchtime on Boxing Day? It’s not over yet!) because, as my six year old keeps saying, “It’s not Christmas until December!”. But, this weekend, we bought some new candles, went on a wintery walk and got stuck into some festive crafting for Frog’s school fayre on Friday. I vlogged it all here, if you fancy a watch…
What are your pre-Christmas traditions for family days out? Do you have any places you love to visit in the run up to Christmas?