Devon, Family days out

Ultimate guide to Christmas in Devon – 40+ events to add to your festive calendar in 2018

The Christmas count down is on here in the Tin Box household. We had such a lovely Christmas in Devon last year that I can’t wait for it to arrive again. So, in preparation for Christmas 2018, I’ve pulled together what I think is a pretty comprehensive guide to what’s happening in Devon this Christmas.

There’s where to meet Santa, Devon Christmas markets, pantomimes, Santa trains around Devon, illuminations, decorated National Trust houses and oodles of festive cheer. Here’s what Christmas in Devon looks like in 2018…

If you’re looking for festive events further afield then I’ve written about my top picks of the UK’s Christmas family days out and the best things to do in Cornwall at Christmas.

Christmas in Devon: the ultimate guide for families

Looking for fabulous festive events? Here's your ultimate guide to where to meet Santa, go Christmas shopping and enjoy the magic of Christmas in Devon #Christmas #festive #events #markets #pantomimes #themeparks #Santa #grotto #Devon #SouthWest #Plymouth #Exeter

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Christmas at Devon attractions

Have a Victorian Christmas at Bygones

Bygones in Torquay is laying on the full historical experience throughout December complete with Victorian decorations, a 12ft tree and a festival hunt.

Bygones, Torquay, 1 to 31 December 2018. Normal admission applies.

Christmas Nativity at Pennywell Farm

For a traditional Christmas treat visit Pennywell Farm which is hosting nativity plays with an authentic manger in a barn full of animals! Visiting children can dress up as one of the characters and take part under the direction of the farm staff. After the performance each child can meet Santa in his grotto and receive a gift. There’s also festive refreshments available for all.

Pennywell Farm, Buckfastleigh, selected dates from 24 November to 24 December 2018. Normal admission applies. Booking is online is essential.  

Christmas at Babbacombe Model Village

Devon’s favourite model village will be overflowing with Christmas cheer. Meet Santa, see the village illuminated for the festive season, get lots in the new Christmas Labyrinth and see the mini-panto.

Babbacombe Model Village, Torquay, selected dates between 8 December 2018 and 1 January 2019. Special prices apply. 

Santa in the Caves, Kents Cavern

Visitors to Britain’s oldest ancient monument will be able to meet Santa and some special friends in the caves this December. There’s an hour long underground show, gifts from Santa for the children as well as mulled wine and mince pies for the adults.

Kents Cavern, Torquay, 2 to 24 December 2018. Special prices apply. Book online.

A Victorian Christmas at RAMM

Enjoy a Victorian Christmas experience at RAMM in Exeter – the city’s world-class natural history museum. Entrance is free and families can choose from a range of festive activities including making a Christmas wreath, listening to tales, carols and music, and following a Christmas trail.

RAMM, Exeter. Open Tuesday to Sunday excluding Bank Holidays.

Clovelly Christmas lights

Carolling will accompany the switching on of the Christmas lights at this unique fishing village on the North Devon coast. There will also festive refreshments, a visit by Father Christmas and a firework finale at Clovelly Village. The event is in aid of the RNLI.

Clovelly Village, Bideford, 2 December 2018. Parking charge applies.

Breakfast with Santa at Living Coasts

Book your family a unique breakfast experience at Living Coasts in Torquay. Meet Santa at breakfast, receive a gift and help make presents for the penguins. The festive event takes place in the Terrace Cafe overlooking Torbay.

Living Coast’s sister site Paignton Zoo also has Christmas events but there have already sold out in 2018.

Living Coasts, 20 to 23 December 2018. £15 per child (does not include admission to Living Coasts).

Devon Christmas markets and fairs

Plymouth Christmas Market


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Head to Plymouth’s renowned Christmas Market for individual and unique Christmas gifts in the heart of the city centre. There will be more than 50 wooden cabins with traders from the South West and beyond. Warm up with a drink from the Bavarian Bar or tuck into some delicious festive food from one of the many street food stands on offer.

Plymouth Christmas Market, Plymouth, 29 November to 16 December 2018.

Market and carols at Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary

Support the good work at Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary by visiting its Christmas Fair in November (24-25) and candlelit carolling in December (14).

Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary, 24 to 25 November and 14 December 2018.

Totnes Late Night Christmas Shopping

Soak up the festive spirit at one of three Late Night Christmas Markets in Totnes. There will be performances by local schools, lantern parades and plenty of stalls selling a eclectic range of gifts that you can only find in fabulous Totnes.

Totnes market, Totnes, the first three Tuesdays in December.

Christmas market and Santa at Castle Drogo

Tick some gifts off your Christmas shopping list but visiting the festive market at Castle Drogo‘s visitors centre from 8 to 9 December. Father Christmas will also be making a special visit. Follow the festive trail to meet him in his grotto.

Castle Drogo, Drewsteignton. Market on 8 and 9 December 2018. Meet Santa 16, 16, 22 and 23 December 2018. Book online to meet Father Christmas. Additional fee applies.

Dartington Christmas Fair

Stock up on West Country Christmas goodies and pick up unique gifts for your loved ones at the Dartington Shops Christmas Fair. As well as gifts to pile under your tree there will be live music, street food, children’s entertainment and carols.

The shops at Dartington, Dartington, 15-16 December 2018.

Festive food & crafts at Buckfastleigh Abbey

Visit historic Buckfastleigh Abbey for a free Christmas Food & Craft Weekend. There will be a Christmas cocktail making workshop, craft stalls and demonstrations, a barbecue, carol singing and entertainment.

Christmas Food & Craft Weekend, Buckfastleigh Abbey, 1-2 December 2018.

Christmas at Cockington Court

There will be festive family activities, food and crafts at Cockington Court in  the lead up to Christmas.

Cockington Court, Torquay, every weekend before Christmas in December.

Dawlish Christmas Market

Find street entertainers, free rides and inflatables, as well as Father Christmas himself at Dawlish’s Christmas Market in the Strand.

Dawlish Christmas Market, 1 to 2 December 2018.

Santa trains in Devon

A glittering train ride with Dartmouth Steam Railway

We had a great time on Dartmouth Steam Railways Santa Express last year when there was a Sleeping Beauty pantomime during our journey. This year the theme is ‘Christmas Train of Lights’, which sounds magical. As well as a trip on this charming steam railway, you’ll be treated to displays of thousands of glittering lights along the route and at the stations.

Dartmouth Stream Railway, Paignton, selected dates between 1 and 31 December. Special prices apply. Book online.

Santa by Steam, South Devon Railway

Join this special service at Buckfastleigh Station which will be decorated for the occasion with an entertainment marquee for passengers to enjoy before boarding. On the train there will be entertainment, refreshments and the chance for every family to meet Santa in his grotto.

South Devon Railway, Buckfastleigh, selected dates from 1 to 24 December 2018. Book online.

The Polar Express Tram Ride, Seaton Tramway

Join the Polar Express single deck tram for a journey to the ‘North Pole’ including hot chocolate, cookies and a meeting with Santa and his elves. There’s even a gift for the children. Your journey along the Seaton Tramway track and through the North Pole itself takes at least two hours so is a full on immersive experience that children and adults will love.

Seaton Tramway, Seaton. Selected dates from 30 November to 24 December 2018. Special prices apply. Book online.

Christmas Special, Morwellham Quay

Ride the festive mine train to meet Santa in his grotto and receive a present. There’s also Christmas baking and decoration making as well as mince pies and mulled wine. Places for the Morwellham Quay Christmas mine train are limited and must be booked in advance.

Morwellham Quay, Tavistock, selected dates between 1 and 24 December 2018. Special prices apply. 

Santa Specials at Lynton and Barnstable Railway

Hop on the Santa Special from Woody Bay Station for a two mile festive journey along the Lynton and Barnstable Railway line. Children will get to meet Father Christmas and receive a personalised present.

Lynton and Barnstaple Railway, Lynton, selected dates from 8 to 24 December 2018. Book online.

Santa Special at Pecorama

Come for a festive ride on the Beer Heights Light Railway and meet Santa in his Winter Wonderland. Children will receive a treat, while adults and indulge in a mince pie and mulled wine. Tickets include access to the indoor soft play and model train exhibition.

Pecorama, Beer. 15 to 20 December. Booking is essential.

Theme parks in Devon celebrating Christmas

Meet Santa at Woodlands Theme Park

Woodlands Family Theme Park near Dartmouth is hosting its Santa’s Grotto for a second time this year. Guests can explore festive rooms complete with interactive friends, a toy shop and elvish fun before meeting Santa in his grotto. There will be a gift and photo opportunities with the big man, as well mini cookies for the kids and a drink for the adults. Here’s a video of our visit to the Woodlands Grotto in 2018:

You can also read about our visit to the Woodlands grotto in 2017.

Woodlands Family Theme Park, Dartmouth. 1 to 23 December on selected dates. Tickets to Santa’s Grotto must be bought in addition to park entry. Book online.

Crealy Christmas Spectacular at Crealy Adventure Park

Billed as the South West’s biggest and best Christmas event, Crealy’s Christmas Spectacular is a must for the festive calendar. Visitors can visit Santa’s post office, make snacks for Rudolph and his friends at the reindeer station, bake cookies with Mary Christmas and pick up a free gift from Santa’s toy shop. All-in-all there are 10 festive attractions to see this year including a new, not to be missed, Christmas on Ice Show in the Big Top Arena.

Here’s our review of The Crealy Christmas Spectacular in 2018 and a video from our day:

Crealy Christmas Spectacular, Exeter, selected dates from 1 to 23 December 2018.

Woolly’s Wonderland at The BIG Sheep

Enter Woolly’s Wonderland for plenty of winter fun for the whole family. Meet Santa in his grotto and see his magical lightshow. All these festive thrills will be happening alongside the usual winter-time BIG Sheep fun. You can also book breakfast with Santa on 16 December 2018 and visit the Christmas Market on Saturdays throughout December 2018.

The BIG Sheep, Bideford, weekends and school holidays in December 2018. Admission prices apply. Book online.

Magical Christmas Fun at The Milky Way

Meet Santa, decorate ginger bread and make some reindeer snacks for Rudolph at The Milky Way. The adventure park’s indoor attractions, rollercoasters and Little Stars play centre will also be open.

The Milky Way, Clovelly, selected dates from 8 to 23 December 2018. Normal admission prices apply. There’s an additional charge for some activities.

Illuminations and candle festivals

Candlelit Dartmouth

This has been one of the highlights of our past two Christmases. Dartmouth comes alight during this 48 hour event when the Christmas lights are switched on and a candlelit procession of lanterns weaves through the streets. Don’t miss Santa arriving by boat on the Friday or the children’s entertainment on the Saturday before the procession. Here’s our video from Candlelit Dartmouth last year:

Candlelit Dartmouth, Dartmouth, 30 November to 1 December 2018. Free with charges for some bookable activities.

Illuminate Festival at Royal William Yard

Illuminate Festival lights up Plymouth’s Royal William Yard with projection mapping, playful light art installations, joyous performances and a myriad of opportunities to engage, participate and make. The event will open and close the Mayflower 400 commemorations in Plymouth connecting the city with the partner destinations across the UK and internationally. It a free event and we visited on the opening night. Check out our favourite bits in the video below:

Illuminate Festival, Royal William Yard, 22 to 25 November 2018.

Christmas trails in Devon

Find polar bears in Plymouth

Plymouth has launched a brand new Polar Bear Explorer trail based around its waterfront. There are 20 polar bear cubs to be found, each with a bear fact that sends a serious message on how single-use plastics are affecting the oceans and the Arctic habitat. They can be found across the city including Sutton Harbour, the Barbican, Hoe, Millbay and Royal William Yard, in shops, cafes, restaurants and hotels along the waterfront. This fun and educational trail will run for 14 weeks, so there’s plenty of time to see it even if you cannot make it over Christmas. Download a trail.

Polar Bear Explorer trail, Plymouth.  25 November 2018 to 3 March 2019. Free.

Discover LEGO penguins in Plymouth

Find LEGO penguins hidden around Plymouth city centre for a chance to win a family break to LEGOland Windsor. There are twenty penguins, including Rockhoppers and the Emperor Penguin, speeding Christmas cheer around the city this winter. Download the trail.

LEGO penguins trail, Plymouth. 3 December 2018 to 3 January 2019. Free.

Christmas at National Trust properties in Devon

Coleton Aglow at Coleton Fishacre

Prepare to be wowed by a trail of lights through the gardens and house of this coastal National Trust property. Check the National Trust website for more details on the dates Coleton will be aglow and how to book a time slots for your visit. Last year Coleton Fishacre house was decked for a 1920’s festive party. Here’s a video from our visit:

Coleton Fishacre, Kingswear, 30 November to 31 December 2018 on selected dates. Special admission price applies to members and non-members. Book online.

Meet Father Christmas at Greenway National Trust

Father Christmas will be visiting Agatha Christie’s South Devon holiday home on three Saturdays during December. Here’s a post about a previous visit to Greenway by boat.

Greenway, Churston, 8, 15 and 22 December 2018. Additional charges apply. No pre-booking necessary.

Christmas at Killerton National Trust

The house are gardens are set to be decorated for the festive season with trails and plenty of festive cheer. This year’s theme is The Snow Queen. We visited the Wind in the Willows themed displays and trails at Killerton at Christmas last year and so did Scrapbook Adventures. Here’s a video of our visit to Killerton last Christmas:

Killerton National Trust, Broadclyst. Open daily frrom 24 November 2018 to 9 January 2019. Tickets for the house must be booked in advance. Normal admission prices apply and National Trust members go free.

Christmas at Knightshayes National Trust

Christmas events at Knghtshayes in 2019 include fairs, a Victorian celebration in the house and illuminations. If the decorated house and illuminations from last year are anything to go by it will be a real treat. Check out this blog post about Christmas at Knightshayes by Scrapbook Adventures.

Knightshayes, Tiverton. Christmas fairs on 24 and 25 November 2018. Decorated house and illuminations 1 December 2018 to 1 January 2019. 

Enchanted Saltram


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We love visiting Saltram House and always enjoy seeing it decorated for Christmas – it’s truly magical. This year Saltram House and gardens will be enchanted for Christmas. The house will be decorated with fairy tale themes and the gardens will come aglow with a rainbow of coloured lights in the evenings. There is also a chance to meet Father Christmas.

Saltram House, Plymton, 22 November to 30 December 2018. Normal admission applies.

Christmas at Arlington Court National Trust

The house will be decorated for Victorian Christmas and families can enjoy a festive activity trail in the grounds. In December you can also try your hand at festive crafts. Visit Arlington Court on selected dates in December and you may also get the chance to meet Santa.

Arlington Court, Barnstaple, selected dates between 24 November and 23 December 2018. Additional charges may apply.

Christmas at Buckland Abbey

Be dazzled by the festive display in Buckland Abbey‘s Great Barn. We love this National Trust property on Dartmoor and hope we get to see the Christmas decorations this year.

Buckland Abbey, Yelerton, 1 December 2018 to 1 January 2019. Normal admission charges apply.

Where to meet Santa in Devon

Meet Santa at Jack’s Patch


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We loved our afternoon tea with Santa at Jack’s Patch a few years ago and are visiting again this December. You can sit down for a lovely meal with Father Christmas at Jack’s Patch at Teignmouth or one of three other Wyevale Garden Centres in the county – Ashford Barnstable, Endsleigh, or Sidmouth. Meet with Santa, decorate their own Christmas biscuits and receive a special present.

Wyevale Garden Centres, Devon, dates from 17 November to 24 December 2018. Book online.

Sail with Santa and Stuart Line Cruises

Meet Santa on the River Exe this Christmas by hopping onboard a Stuart Line Cruises. There will be face painting, magic and balloon modelling as well as all the usual festive fun on this very special grotto ride. For adults there will be commentary about the river, mulled wine and mince pies.

Sail with Santa, Exmouth, selected dates between 8 December and 23 December 2018. Book online.

Pantomimes in Devon

Sleeping Beauty at the Princess Theatre

If your kids love pantomime then this year’s festive performance at the Princess Theatre in Torquay is the timeless fairy tale Sleeping Beauty. The show stars Melinda Messenger as Fairy Sparkle, Luke Friend as Prince Valentine, Aiden J Harvey as King Eggbert The Oval and Phil Randall as Queen Gertie the Gorgeous.

The Princess Theatre, Torquay, 14 December 2018 to 6 January 2019. Book online.

Mother Goose at the Palace Theatre

Captivate the kids for a few hours with this traditional tale of Mother Goose with the award-winning Christmas Paignton Pantomime Productions at the Palace Theatre.

Palace Theatre, Paignton, 20 December 2018 to 2 January 2019. Book online.

Exeter Christmas Market

Come and search for the perfect Christmas gift and sample some delicious Devon festive fare in the shadow of Exeter Cathedral.

Exeter Christmas Market, Exeter Cathedral, 15 November to 16 December 2018.

Aladdin Exeter Corn Exchange

There will be plenty of thigh slapping, traditional panto fun during Aladdin at Exeter Corn Exchange this festive season. Come and join in the sing-along fun!

Aladdin at Exeter Corn Exchange, Exeter, 8 December 2018 to 1 January 2019.

Jack and the Bean Stalk at Exeter Northcott Theatre

Book tickets for this giant of a pantomime starring Devon’s favourite dame Steve Bennett at Exeter Northcott Theatre.

Jack and the Bean Stalk at Exeter Northcott Theatre, Exeter, 3 December 2018 to 6 January 2019.

Peter Pan at the Queen’s Theatre

Barnstaple’s Christmas panto this year is Peter Pan at the Queens Theatre. Board the Jolly Roger for a swashbuckling tale about the boy who never grew up starring infamous Eastenders villain ‘Nasty’ Nick Cotton, John Altman, as Captain Hook.

Peter Pan at Queen’s Theatre, Barnstaple, 14 December 2018 to 5 January 2019.

Phew, that a lot there is going on this Christmas in Devon! What takes your fancy? I’m sure there’s events I’ve missed so please do get in touch if you think something should be added.

If you’re looking for some of the best UK Christmas family days out I’ve written about those too.

What about other school holidays in Devon?

If you’re planning ahead to next year here are some more handy posts on things to do in Devon during other school holidays:

You’ll also find plenty of Devon inspiration in my big Devon family holiday guide.

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links/ads. That means if you click on one of the ads and make a purchase I may earn some commission. This does not cost you anything extra.

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Looking for fabulous festive events? Here's your ultimate guide to where to meet Santa, go Christmas shopping and enjoy the magic of Christmas in Devon #Devon #Christmas2018 #Christmasinspiration #ChristmasinDevon #festivedaysout #meetSanta #Santasgrotto

Looking for fabulous festive events? Here's your ultimate guide to where to meet Santa, go Christmas shopping and enjoy the magic of Christmas in Devon #Devon #Christmas2018 #Christmasinspiration #ChristmasinDevon #festivedaysout #meetSanta #Santasgrotto