Autumn in South Devon is magical, and you will find the county a hive of activity. With mild temperatures, uncrowded beaches, and stunning colours...
There are so many Christmas things to do in Devon! This year in particular, the festive season is firmly anchored by a deep rooted celebration of love, reflection, hope and gratitude. Devon positively thrives through the Christmas period, and you will find the region pulsing with festive cheer and activity. In the midst of Covid-19, whilst things may look a little different, there is still plenty of fun to be had! We are immensely proud of how our local community have rallied together to make Christmas 2020 so joyous, warm and welcoming.
During your Christmas getaway in Devon, expect to enjoy empty beaches bathed in low winter light, crisp winter walks taking in both coast and countryside, an abundance of twinkling lights, lashings of marshmallows and even icy sea swims for the brave and bold! At Coast & Country Cottages we’re on hand to help plan the perfect Christmas break, which is why we’ve created a guide that highlights Christmas in Devon’s finer details, including the festive events, Christmas hamper deliveries, pubs serving Christmas Day lunch and much, much more…
Looking for something in particular? Use our quick links below to navigate the content, or read on for the full lowdown on Christmas things to do in Devon…
– Festive events in Devon this Christmas
– Festive villages in Devon
– Christmas hamper deliveries in Devon
– Pubs serving Christmas Day lunch
– Where to buy your Christmas tree in Devon
– The best places to go Christmas shopping in Devon
– Embrace the outdoors and connect with nature
– The best Christmas Day sea swim locations
– Our favourite winter walks
– The best winter beaches
– Self catering Christmas holiday cottages in Devon
Whilst this year’s events calendar looks somewhat different, Devon’s local businesses have gone above and beyond to ensure that no Christmas spirit is lost, and most importantly, to keep everyone safe. From an interactive Christmas nativity to an after-hours zoo adventure, there really is something exciting for everyone to enjoy…
The Pennywell Farm Christmas Nativity is a much-loved event amongst families looking for a truly authentic Christmas experience. At this time of year, the farm becomes a winter wonderland and is decorated with a wealth of twinkling lights, Christmas trees and oodles of Christmas sparkle. Upon arrival at the farm, you will be greeted by the friendly team of elves, where you will also collect your Christmas passport, receiving stamps as you journey through the farm experience. Then, you will journey back 2000 years as the Christmas Nativity begins… travel to Bethlehem to find an Inn for the night, then bunker down in the cosy main barn where you will find a real manger with all the Pennywell animals looking on – the scene is set and the story of the first Christmas comes to life! Afterwards, you are invited to enjoy delicious mince pies and warming drinks, with the option of homemade biscuits and cold drinks for the children too. There is even an elves sweetshop, with every child being lucky enough to receive a bag of sweets. Next (and so it continues!), you will get up close with some of the animals including Pennywell Miniature piglets, pygmy goat kids and other furry friends. Before you leave, Santa will be waiting to see you in his grotto, with a special gift for every child. Tickets must be booked in advance, and do hurry, because these are selling fast – book your Pennywell Farm Christmas Nativity ticket here!
Join Peter Rabbit and his friends for some winter fun in the garden at Coleton Fishacre. Participants are invited to join Peter as he helps his friends Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, Benjamin and Nutkin to navigate the adventure trail, so expect to spend your time following the clues, solving puzzles and discovering more about woodland creatures. The price of the trail costs £2 per child, and booking is essential, so check the venue’s website to lock down your timed entry slot. Book your Peter Rabbit Winter Adventure ticket here
Devon is also home to three further National Trust properties; Greenway in Galmpton, Overbeck’s in Salcombe, and Saltram near Plymouth, all of which are well worth a visit. Whilst they are not holding specific Christmas events this year, the gardens are beautiful and provide a tranquil escape from which to spend a few hours.
Oh no they didn’t…. Oh yes they did! The Theatre Royal have pulled out all the stops this year to ensure the show goes on, so prepare yourselves for an epic, socially distanced, one-act pantomime performance that has been specially created for live, socially distanced audiences. An experience like never before, the productions of Robinson Crusoe and The Gingerbread Man have been created especially for Christmas 2020, and are running throughout the month of December and into early January. Please note, the age guidelines for Robinson Crusoe are five years and upwards, and The Gingerbread Man performance is perfect for younger children from three years of age (there are guaranteed to be no scary parts).
The Polar Bear Trail in Plymouth is perfect if you’re looking for a festive activity that involves city exploring. The aim of the trail is to locate a number of polar bears across Plymouth from the waterfront Ocean Studios at Royal William Yard to businesses across the Barbican, ending at the Plymouth cultural destination of The Box. Each bear has its own individual style, some of which have been painted by local school children, others that have been painted by local artists. The trail is easy to follow digitally by downloading the free Plymouth Trails App (available on both iOS and Android). Every child that completes the trail will receive a badge and a bag of sweets at the final location, providing quite the incentive! Plymouth has a fascinating past and dynamic present, so this is a great blend of Christmas and culture, the perfect day out for those hankering after a little education too.
This year, Paignton Zoo invites you to join them on their exclusive Christmas Present Trail. Santa has been busy and has hidden presents all around the zoo, each of which has a letter on it. Once you find them all, you need to unscramble the letters to discover the festive word. If you can manage this, then you can claim a delicious chocolate treat – you sure will have worked up an appetite! The trail will be running every weekend in the lead up to Christmas, and time slots will be allocated, so booking your ticket in advance is essential.
Also at Paignton Zoo is the Great Big Brick Safari, which you will find at the zoo every day until the beginning of January. Over eighty wild animal creations made from thousands of Lego bricks are currently in residence at the zoo, forming a trail that guests can follow. As you navigate the grounds, expect to come face to face with a life-sized lion, gorilla, hyena, kangaroo and even a macaw. To celebrate the festive season, there is also a brick themed Christmas scene for guests to enjoy
Hosting a special after hours adventure ‘Christmas Zoo Night’, a trip to Dartmoor Zoo is not to be missed this festive season. Immerse yourself in a wild wonderland of light and create magical memories as you follow the enchanting trail around the zoo. The event has limited tickets on selected dates throughout December, so booking early is advised – you will get to see some of your favourite animals at their liveliest, and what’s more, you can also enjoy a delicious festive treat during your visit.
Fun for all the family, especially those with a love for geology, the Kents Cavern ‘Winter Underground’ experience is a great festive event this Christmas in Devon. The prehistoric cave tour itself is suitable for adults and children, and the fully immersive experience includes underground lights, winter warmers in the café and the Winter Warrior Trail – you can also post your letter to Santa in the underground post box.
You will find a strong sense of community throughout the entirety of Devon, and as you would expect, Christmas is a time of year when this sense of unity really rings true. You will find many towns and villages celebrating Christmas, and whilst there won’t be any large gatherings this year, you will find beauty at almost every corner you turn. Enjoy magical light trails in the villages of Thurlestone, West Alvington and Malborough, and the beautiful Christmas lights in the harbour towns of Salcombe and Dartmouth, not forgetting the twinkling lights of Totnes high street. Totnes also boasts a vibrant Friday and Saturday food market that is a well regarded foodie mecca, it’s the perfect place to indulge in mulled wine, mince pies and lashing of local cheese and chutney. It also seems to be an attraction for buskers and live music, and sometimes, you will find people enjoying a much-needed dance in the high street if the mood takes them! The Shops at Dartington often have carol singers and barrels of chestnuts roasting, the icing on the cake is their beautiful old fashioned toy shop, perfect for picking up heirloom presents.
Devon has a fantastic reputation for sumptuous food, so it’s no secret that the festive season is heavily focused on decadent dining. Geographically, with a long stretch of coastline surrounded by thriving agricultural farmland, the region is perfectly placed for producing an abundance of year-round food. If you want to bunker down and enjoy the comfort of your holiday cottage, then how about ordering a luxurious food hamper, delivered straight to your door – Christmas Day falls on a Friday this year, so be sure to stock up on food to enjoy throughout the whole weekend! With so much food on offer, it can be difficult to know where to shop first, so to help you navigate the Devon food scene, below (in no particular order!) you will find a selection of companies curating the most wonderful Christmas hamper deliveries that are jam-packed with goodies from vegan treats, puddings and pies to free-range British turkeys, handmade sweet treats and much more. Be sure to place your order in advance of your holiday to avoid disappointment…
A traditional family business with shops situated in both Loddiswell and Modbury, Aune Valley are offering a click & collect and free local delivery service. Locally sourced with full traceability, it’s the perfect place to buy your Christmas meat – all of the Christmas turkeys and Geese are sourced locally. Vegetables and also an array of cheeses, pickles and pates are also available, and you could even order a Christmas hamper for your arrival, full of delicious goodies.
Jane Baxter, founder of Wild Artichokes, is a renowned Devon chef and food writer – most widely recognised from her regular appearances on BBC’s Saturday Kitchen and her food column for the Guardian. The popular based food and events company Wild Artichokes operates from a trendy industrial unit in Kingsbridge, and this bustling eatery is a haven for those that love grazing boards, juicy salads and honest food in a friendly environment.
Every moment with family and friends will be precious this year, and Wild Artichokes are on hand to help you make the most of that time – let them do the cooking so you can enjoy their Christmas at home banquet without the hassle. It’s such a simple process, simply fill your basket (ahead of December 14th!), select your collection date for either 23rd or 24th of December and make your payment. With so much sumptuous food on offer, from the traditional Christmas lunch, to a charcuterie platter, fish platter, biscuit and cake box, puddings and even vegan options, you really are spoilt for choice – all you have to do is lay the table and pour a drink – ta-dah!
Operating a click and collect service from their shops in Staverton and Yealmpton, Ben’s Farm Shop is home to a wide selection of locally sourced meat, vegetables and all the trimmings and treats you could possibly want for a yummy Christmas feast. Be sure to browse their Christmas shop section of their website for inspiration, but be warned, your basket will be full to overflowing once finished.
A traditional butcher established in 1898, the Lloyd Maunder Butcher and Deli is as ‘pedigree’ as a butcher can be. With years of experience under their belt, they sure know how to choose an excellent cut of meat from the average, and pride themselves on maintaining consistently high quality produce. New to their offering this year, you can order your produce online and either collect from your local butcher, or for orders over £25, have your goods delivered straight to your door. If you’re staying local to the Kingsbridge area, be sure to follow them on Facebook for the most up to date information. If you’re not too sure what to choose, opt for a festive hamper, a traditional hamper or even a luxury hamper which includes pigs in blankets, gammon, sirloin and sausage meat.
Delimann specialise in delivering ‘gifts from Devon to your door’ luxury hampers that are bursting with award winning food and drink, and so as you can expect, these make for the most decadent Christmas treat! This year, their Christmas gifts and hampers range is extensive – from the traditional Christmas cream tea to a movie night country Christmas box, and even a Devon Christmas feast (to name just a few). With gluten free options available too, there really is something for everyone.
Throughout the region you will find a wealth of pubs that serve seasonal, fresh and local produce. These cosy inns all boast a warm and welcoming atmosphere, and some even have roaring open fires, which provide the perfect bolthole to get cosy and tuck into a hearty meal following hours spent exploring the great outdoors. Be sure to read our guides to finding the best pubs in Salcombe and the best pubs in Dartmouth to learn just a few of our favourites! Pubs in Devon are very much open with the necessary safety measures in place, even on Christmas Day, making for a great opportunity to share some festive cheer. Regardless of whether you want to bunker down in the gentle folds of the countryside or want to be beside the sea, you’re positively spoilt for choice. If the idea of not cooking Christmas Day lunch this year appeals, then read our Christmas Day lunch in Devon: Our festive favourites – but do hurry and book soon! Pubs aside, the local towns and villages are positively brimming with restaurants, cafés and shops offering Devon food and drink options. From popular Devon fudge to famous local gins and Devon clotted cream, perfect for smothering on fluffy scones or on the side of Christmas pudding (delicious!), be sure to try a local delicacy or two.
No Devon Christmas is complete without a tree of some variety, so jump in the car and take the easy drive to Avon Mill Garden Centre, located between Kingsbridge and Loddiswell, just off the B3195. As well as picking up a tree you can get everything else you need to turn your holiday cottage into a cosy home for Christmas – their stock includes lights, stands, baubles, candles, crackers, holly, ivy, mistletoe and wreaths. Alternatively, for a hands on authentic experience, head to Ashburton Christmas Tree Farm, situated on the edge of Dartmoor and pick your tree to be freshly chopped, just make sure it’s not too big to fit in the car! What’s more Endsleigh Garden Centre, Totnes Christmas Tree Farm, Bugford Nurseries (in Dartmouth) and Ben’s Farm Shop (in Staverton) also have an excellent selection of trees. Please note, booking may be necessary so be mindful to check each farm or centre’s website before you visit, you most certainly don’t want to be disappointed.
If you would rather opt for a festive decoration that’s a little smaller than a tree, perhaps something that you can also take home with you, then look no further than the traditional wreath. Traditionally, these are made from an assortment of flowers, leaves, fruits, twigs or various other materials used to construct a ring, but modern wreaths are varied and now incorporate foliage such as eucalyptus, dried flowers and even garden herbs! Wreaths have so much history and symbolism associated with them, in particular the notion of strength, which is something everyone has needed in abundance throughout 2020, so we couldn’t think of a more perfect decoration to celebrate Christmas with this year. You can purchase local wreaths from many of the Christmas tree farms in Devon, and also from Blue Geranium in Totnes. Thorn Flowers, situated at Avon Mill Garden Centre are selling beautiful ‘do it yourself’ wreath making kits, which are available throughout December, and best of all, these can be delivered straight to your front door. Each kit comes with everything you need to create your own unique wreath, along with simple guidelines, giving you the ultimate flexibility to really get the creative juices flowing. Seasonal bouquets bursting with an array of red spray roses, thistles, eucalyptus and foliage are also available locally, and always brighten up a festive winter retreat – these can be purchased and delivered by a variety of local florists, including Blue Geranium and Claire Kenyon in Modbury.
Everyone has something that speaks ‘Christmas’ to them, whether this is a simple decoration, a favourite box of chocolates, or granny’s homemade Christmas cake. There is no reason why your Devon Christmas break can’t be a home from home experience, so don’t forget to pack your favourite festive trinkets, bring the board games and prep the playlist (Slade and The Pogues included!). Whilst mistletoe and mulled wine are optional, these additions are highly recommended!
Devon is an independent retailer’s powerhouse, so when it comes to choosing where to carry out a spot of Christmas shopping, you’re well and truly spoilt for choice. The towns of Salcombe, Dartmouth, Kingsbridge and Totnes are jam packed with boutique stores, and you will find a selection of gifts ranging from simple presents such as locally made clotted cream fudge, to something a little more luxurious such as a personalised clutch bag – regardless of what is on your shopping list, you won’t be disappointed. Should you want to shop from the comfort of your self catering holiday cottage then look no further, because we’ve curated the ultimate South Devon Christmas gift ideas guide providing absolute convenience.
Although many people associate the great British outdoors with long and balmy summer days, the Devon coast and countryside is equally as popular during the winter months, especially with visitors who want to make the most of fewer crowds, emptier beaches and stunning scenery. Time outside regardless of season, rain or shine is paramount for optimum wellbeing, and is especially luxurious when you are returning to a cosy self catering holiday cottage, even better if it’s a cottage with an open fire or hot tub to rest aching limbs! In typical British fashion, at Coast & Country Cottages we believe there is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes – so wrap up warm, don your wellies and join in the fun, the options really are extensive…
Christmas in Devon is all about embracing local traditions and making them part of the fun. An icy Christmas Day swim has long been the post breakfast burn off, and you will find the beaches peppered with both locals and visitors alike braving the chilly plunge. If you’re keen to join in, read about our favourite beaches for a Christmas Day swim in South Devon. It goes without saying that cold water swimming is not just reserved for Christmas Day, so if you’re a keen water enthusiast, then read our blog post on local wild swimming spots to learn about some of our favourite year-round swim locations.
Watersport enthusiasts in particular tend to use the winter period to maximise the quieter waters and so you can often spectate (or join!) individuals surfing, sailing and also kite surfing when conditions prevail. In calmer conditions, both adults and children alike enjoy paddleboarding and kayaking, just be sure to wrap up warm, bobble hats being the essential item! The ultimate natural playground when it comes to watersports, read our guide on things to do in South Devon for more information.
If an icy sea swim seems a little too adventurous, why not head out for a crisp winter walk instead. Devon is home to an abundance of walking routes that crisscross the region, taking in a myriad of coastal paths, woodland trails, riverside rambles and rolling countryside. A designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this corner of Devon is a walking wonderland and enjoys an abundance of wildlife, historical landmarks, secret coves, and hidden nooks and crannies. Winter is the perfect time to explore the region by foot, and not only will you find yourself far from the summer crowds, but it will significantly boost your mood and allow you to soak up the goodness of vitamin D. At Coast & Country Cottages, we love taking a flask of hot soup and freshly baked bread in search of the perfect winter al fresco picnic spot, and we strongly encourage you to do the same. With so many walking routes to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to start, so read our guide on walks in South Devon, and also check out our favourite Dartmoor walks for inspiration.
Devon’s coastline is extensive and varied, and you will find a varied range of beaches, from the expansive stretches of sand such as Bantham Beach and Bigbury-on-Sea, to the shingle shores of Slapton Sands, Hallsands and Beesands and the more secret, secluded coves, including Mattiscombe Beach and Gara Rock Beach. With so much choice, you will always find somewhere to suit, especially in the winter months when you may want to shelter from an onshore wind. Contrary to popular belief, the beach can (at times!) be relatively warm in the winter sun, and as such, you will find the shores of Devon a hive of activity throughout the winter period. With activities ranging from rock pooling, sandcastle building, kite flying and beach cricket all underway, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Beach barbeques are extremely popular, as are beach fires, especially when smores and sausages are on the agenda! If this does take your fancy, then please read our beach bible for more information, or if you are hankering after a more private Christmas beach celebration, then find your way to one of the few secret Devon beaches – but shhhh, don’t tell a soul!
Our self catering holiday cottages in Devon provide the ultimate home from home environment, so it comes as no surprise that you will want to spend a little time bunkering down over the Christmas break enjoying some serious rest and relaxation. Some of our properties boast sea views, the perfect vista to enjoy with a yummy hot chocolate, whilst our selection of country escapes are perfect for evening stargazing, mulled wine and sparklers. Should you want to enjoy the warmth of the indoors, why not do some Christmas crafting, read a book, play a board game or even take an afternoon nap – the options are endless! One of the many positives about a self catering Christmas break is having the flexibility to cook for yourself, so if you do have a favourite festive recipe, be sure to cook up a feast. With state of the art cooking equipment and centrepiece dining tables, our self catering holiday cottages really do provide an enjoyable bolthole from which to get creative in the kitchen.
Devon makes a wonderful base for couples, groups and families looking for a truly magical festive break. Our self catering Christmas cottages are perfect, regardless of whether you want to stay in a secluded coastal cottage and enjoy a winter beach holiday, or you would rather a property in the heart of Salcombe or Dartmouth’s bustling centre. We are certain you will find something to suit, just be sure that wherever you choose to spend it, to deck the halls with holly and gather together for stories, laughter and silly games. If you haven’t yet booked your Christmas self catering break then not to worry, we still have availability. Hurry though, our remaining properties are likely to be snapped up quickly…