by Dan Shone
Friendly stall-holders selling unique gifts, lights twinkling in the frost and heady aromas of mulled wine and mince pies. Escape the crowds of the high street this year and saunter on down to the West Country to get your Christmas shopping wrapped up with plenty of time to spare.
“Maybe Christmas, he thought…doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps…means a little bit more!”
Dr Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas
We’ve put together a list of the best Christmas markets taking place in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset which will fill even the biggest of Scrooges with festive sparkle.
This annual event on the Cathedral Green has a continental flavour, but with a wide range of Devon businesses and performers taking centre stage. Choirs, bands and carol singers will raise the roof on the bandstand, so join the crowds to browse the stalls and feast on sumptuous local food and drink.
When: 16th – 19th November
More information and opening hours: Exeter Cathedral Christmas Market
The city centre Piazza hosts over 60 twinkling log cabin style stalls selling hand-crafted gifts from the South West and further afield, ranging from jewellery and clothing to artwork and homewares. You can also enjoy warming drinks in a Bavarian bar with heated seats and festive food.
When: 28th – 19th December
More information and opening hours: Plymouth Christmas Market
Head to Rosemoor for inspiration with gift buying and browse the wonderful craft and food stalls on offer. The fair is also taking place again on the 15th and 16th December for anyone leaving their shopping closer to the deadline. What’s more, from 17th November, the lovely gardens are colourfully lit from Thursday to Saturday, creating a stunning winter wonderland.
When: 23rd – 25th November
More information and opening hours: RHS Rosemoor
Everything you need under one roof? Quite possibly. For 3 days Westpoint is transformed into an Aladdin’s cave of amazing crafts, gifts, clothing, food and drink and much more. There are hundreds of stalls with retailers displaying their goods from all over the world. You are sure to find what you need.
When: 29th November – 1st December
More information and opening hours: Christmas Shopping Fayre
We are cheating a little with this one since it’s all about horses not Christmas, but this is a perfect place to visit for horse lovers. Over 200 stands with all things equestrian will get your shopping list ticked off and the horse-themed events, including a parade to music and show jumping, will have you on the edge of your seat.
When: 7th and 8th December
More information and opening hours: Westcountry Equine Fair
The wide variety of market stalls on the high street of this eclectic and unique old town come alive each Tuesday evening to offer all sorts of crafts, food and festive drink. There will also be performances from local schools, lantern parades and Santa’s grotto.
When: 3rd, 10th and 17th December
More information and opening hours: Totnes Christmas Market
Not a market, but the perfect stop-off on a Christmas Devon break. Enjoy a festive lunch or dinner or brush up on your culinary skills by booking courses in Christmas bread and baking or Christmas curing and smoking.
When: 4th November – 17th December
More information and opening hours: River Cottage
Nearly 100 local businesses, all of which have been awarded the prestigious ‘Made In Cornwall’ status, display their wares from jewellery to clothing to gourmet hampers. We defy the hardest heart not to be seduced by the beautiful, local crafts and delicacies on offer from the Cornish artisans.
When: 27th November – 1st December
More information and opening hours: Made in Cornwall
Even Santa won’t miss this festive event. He’ll be visiting on Saturday and Sunday, ostensibly to meet the children, but we suspect he may also be tempted by the delicious local produce, crafts and gifts on offer, as well as cookery demonstrations by leading West Country chefs. Grade I listed Mount Edgcumbe is magnificent at any time, but in its Christmas finery it’s truly stunning.
More information and opening hours: Mount Edgecumbe
Pretty Padstow comes alive in December with lights reflecting across the harbour and the pubs and restaurants a hive of jolly chatter. Last year more than 50,000 visitors attended this popular event and this year it’s even bigger and better. There will be pop-up stalls selling Cornish artisan breads, cheeses, cakes, preserves, beers and gins and all sorts of arts and crafts as well as top chefs giving demonstrations which may inspire your Christmas dinner.
When: 5th – 8th December
More information and opening hours: Padstow Christmas Festival
This Christmas Market is one of Cornwall’s best known, hosting around 10,000 visitors to the beautiful, historic harbour town. With almost 200 traders selling their wares, everything from locally produced food and drink to hand-made gifts, you will be spoilt for choice. It’s not just gifts on display either. There are many other events taking place such as the switching on of the lights, Santa’s grotto, face painting and live music. It’s a great day out for the whole family.
When: 6th – 8th December
More information and opening hours: Fowey Christmas Market
Explore sixty festive stalls laden with beautiful gifts, delicious treats and unique hand-crafted items. You can treat yourself to hot chocolate and mince pies at the cafe and enjoy carols in the courtyard and entertainment for the children. Later in December, Father Christmas makes his arrival, you can create your own wreath at a workshop and take to the skating rink with its disco light and ‘starry’ sky.
When: 15th – 17th November
More information and opening hours: Hestercombe Gardens
If you are venturing through Somerset then the historic city of Bath must be on your itinerary, especially over these winter weeks when over 150 chalets take residence on the Georgian streets to sell local and handcrafted gifts. Throughout the market there are plenty of food and drink stalls, selling everything from hog roast to mulled wine, to keep you well fed and warm. There will also be musical entertainment, an outdoor ice rink and a Victorian carousel to get the whole family in the Christmas mood.
When: 28th November – 15th December
More information and opening hours: Bath Christmas Market
Christmas spirit prevails in the town as the Christmas lights are switched. You can source quality crafts and gifts at The Cheese and Grain, then relax with live entertainment and festive food and drink. On the 22nd December the Christmas Farmers’ Market provides you with an opportunity to pick up some amazing local produce for a delicious and indulgent Christmas feast.
When: 29th November
More information and opening hours: Frome Christmas Market
This medieval village steps back into the past for a couple of days when a lantern lighting procession wend its way from The Steep whilst stilt walkers illuminate the streets with candles on Friday. On Saturday, 17th century soldiers carry flaming torches, so bring your medieval costume to feel part of the amazing atmosphere. But have some modern pennies handy to shop in the quaint little stores whilst morris dancers jig and carols are sung.
When: 6th and 7th December
More information and opening hours: Dunster by Candlelight
The platform of this charming heritage railway station will be a buzz with stalls selling local crafts and treats, such as Exmoor driftwood art, marshmallows, Somerset lavender, sheepskin rugs and colourful glass. If you fancy a steam train ride through the beautiful Somerset countryside, return in December when you can catch the Carol Train, or board the Santa Special.
When: 30th November
More information and opening hours: West Somerset Railway
The Workhouse Chapel is transformed into a wonderful Christmas shopping venue selling handcrafted work from over 60 of the West Country’s finest makers and artists. Enjoy a drink beside the open fire and browse the tempting treats, from handmade baskets to jewellery to leather and metal work. You will probably come away with a few presents for yourself too!
When: 1st November – 31st December
More information and opening hours: Handmade for Christmas
Taking place at the beautiful Athelhampton House and Gardens, this is a feast for the senses as Dorset’s finest produce is displayed for your delectation. Forget soggy sprouts, this fair will transform your Christmas menu, as you sample sweet and savoury dishes, created by over 50 suppliers, from fragrant homemade pastries to unusual meats. The admission price also includes access to the Tudor house and gardens, making it a weekend to remember. You may even get to see Santa!
When: 23rd and 24th November
More information and opening hours: Athelhampton House & Gardens
This will get your shopping wrapped up for sure, with stalls from over 65 local makers and sellers featuring vintage items, handmade Christmas cards, home furnishings and lots more. It’s a chance to marvel at beautiful creations and buy direct from the creative talent of Dorset.
When: 30th November – 1st December
More information and opening hours: Etsy Made Local
Not exactly a Christmas fair, but this National Trust mansion, where families have celebrated for generations, is full of festive atmosphere. The lavishly decorated house draws on the lists and letters written by Henrietta Bankes as she prepared for Christmas over 100 years ago. Visitors can book a time slot and explore the history of the house and wander the gardens which are a fairyland of twinkling and colourful lights. Guests can also visit Santa in the old Laundry and browse the shop in the 18th century kitchen block, full of beautiful gifts for friends and family, from gardening tools to bird boxes made on the estate.
When: 1st December – 1st January
More information and opening hours: Kingston Lacy
This is the perfect time to recharge your energy levels before the whirl of the holiday season. Bring a shopping basket, browse top-notch goodies, enjoy an evening or two relaxing by an open fire and head home with a smile and a car full of presents.
We have cosy cottages of all styles and sizes available in the run-up to Christmas – take a look at our collection of fantastic holiday cottages and reserve your home-from-home for a fun, festive break with the family. Happy Holidays!
Image credit: Alison Day – CC BY-ND 2.0; Andy Milham – CC BY 2.0; Derek Harper – CC BY-SA 2.0; Andrew Gustar – CC BY-ND 2.0; Patrick Mackie – CC BY-SA 2.0; Andrew Bone – CC BY 2.0; Lets Go Out Bournemouth and Poole– CC BY 2.0
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