Your Merry Muddy Christmas & Twixmas guide
Polished off the Quality Street and the last mince pie? Time to head out for some family fun from Devon's winter gardens, pop-ups and Panto.
Here’s all the best bits of Yuletide Devon for your festive delectation with all the opening hours and deets, but please don’t forget to double-check the websites before you set off!
Want some winter flaars and evergreens with your stomp? Here’s some of our favourite garden to walk off the Christmas pudding.
Rosemoor have a famous Winter Garden and the National Collection of more than 150 varieties of holly, and if that’s not enough to tempt you they’re playing Santa this year by giving NHS, blue light and care workers free entry until the end of December.
You no longer need to book, unless you want to see Glow 2021, their ticketed illuminated light trail but there’s no need for the Winter Sculpture Exhibition which has over 100 sculptures in the gardens and woodlands until 31 Jan.
Need more room to stretch your legs? Castle Hill Gardens at Filleigh, near Barnstaple, is 50 acres of historic parkland set against a backdrop of an 18th century Palladian Mansion House, and they don’t mind dogs, or kids climbing their old Tanglewood Tree, one of the oldest in the garden.
Final Countdown 10k, Dartington, Estate, Totnes, 31 Dec, 9.30am
Prefer to see gardens on the hoof? Join the New Year’s Eve runners at the picturesque Dartington Estate, where the 10k route has a mix of riverside paths, woodlands, hills, fields (and maybe another hill). There’s a bespoke Final Countdown medal for all finishers and the Green Table cafe will be open for refreshments, before and after the race.
Enjoy the teeny town and its teeny townsfolk at Babbacombe Model Village all a-sparkle from 27-31 December, with new lighting and fire effects for 2021. Get there mid afternoon for the full transformation from day through dusk for a totally magic time.
Need some indoor multi-generational fun? Escape the Game at Bovey Tracey have a new Christmas-themed escape room experience open until 9 Jan and suitable for players aged 7 to, er, 107. How long will it take your tribe of geniuses (or is it genii?) to work out who stole Santa’s Naughty & Nice lists? Thirty six minutes is the number to beat…
If you’re after something more educational, how about Exeter’s city-centre Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery and their Festive Trail which runs until 2 Jan? They’ve hidden animals around the galleries which kids have to locate. Once they discover the hidden winter creature’s name they’ll be rewarded with a pressie from RAMM. Open 29, 30 December and until midday on NYE.
Winter Wonderland at Northernhay Gardens off Exeter’s main shopping street is still going strong, where you’ll find funfair rides, an ice rink, snow machines, local street food sellers and a German beer, it’s shut only for Christmas Day itself and open every other day, 11am to 10pm until 2 Jan.
Should you fancy showing off your inner Jane Torvill, the 30-metre ice rink at the centre of North Devon’s Christmas Village at Tarka Tennis near Barnstaple is open for freezy frolics until 2 Jan. And you’ll be doing a good turn as 5% of the profits are going to North Devon Hospice.
The National Trust can always be relied on to give good Christmas, here’s our pick of the best happening locally:
Head to Agatha Christie’s former holiday home Greenway at Galmpton to see how the crime novelist celebrated Christmas. Open weekends until 19 December then 27 and Friday 31 December 2021 with last entry to the house is 2.30pm. Booking essential.
Killerton House has its after-dark Illuminated Trail (family ticket with parking is £78, until 2 Jan) in the gardens, or if you just want to visit the house you’ll find it garlanded and trimmed just as the Acland family may have done when it was a family home. Open daily until 4 Jan except Christmas Day and Boxing Day with (last entry 3.00pm.
At Coleton Fishacre it’s a step back in time to the 1920’s with a Christmas in the heyday of the D’Oyly Cartes with elegant lights, opulent decorations and the perfect party accessories, as if the family have just taken a break from the feasting, dancing and celebrating. Until 19 Dec, then 27 and Friday 31 December, last entry to the house 2.30pm.
While the garden illuminations are off, the indoors of Plymouth’s Saltram House (above) are very much on song with a Nutcracker theme lighting up the cornices and bannisters of this grand Georgian gem. Free to members but booking is essential (daytime opening only).
Castle Drogo has its cobweb-clearing Teign gorge walks at your disposal, plus the castle is dressed in its 1920s festive finery. Open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until 23 December.
Buckland Abbey have dressed the barn with a River of Light (above) created by an indoor forest winding its way to the big Estate tree (free event, normal admission), and every weekend leading up to Christmas local choirs, musicans and singing groups perform festive classic there to get you in full Xmas throttle.
If you’re looking to get kids away from screens, their Percy The Park Keeper’s winter wander trail runs until 3 January, with kids finding clues and help from Percy’s woodland friends on an outdoor trail at Coleton Fishacre, Greenway, Castle Drogo, Killerton House, Buckland Abbey and Knightshayes for £2pp (booking not needed).
AIN’T NOTHIN’ LIKE A DAME AT XMAS
A Christmas Carol, Northcott Theatre, Exeter, Weds 1 Dec – Sat 1 Jan
Anything from Le Navet Bete is always a hoot and their reimagining of Dickens’ classic tale promises has exploding puddings, hypo-allergenic Christmas trees and a ‘Not So Tiny Tim’. It’s just the four of them, so how they manage the countless costume and prop changes is amazing in itself and the minimal stage set is brilliant. Should you go? Oh, yes you should, if only for the hilarious voice of the Ghost of Christmas Present. Ages 7+, £16.00 – £24.00, under 16s: £2 off standard ticket price.
Cinderella, Princess Theatre, Torquay, Fri 10 Dec – Sun 2 Jan
The announcement of the full cast is being fashionably late but we do know we’ll be getting much wand-waving and donning of glass slippers, and everything Muddy has seen at this 1000-seat venue has always been top-notch. From £13.
Cinderella, Queen’s Theatre, Barnstaple, Fri 10 – Fri 31 Dec
The last of three Cinderella‘s this year – they don’t call it the nation’s favourite panto for nothing – this one’s for you if you like a few famous faces in your Panto. Former Coronation Street actor Amanda Barrie plays the Fairy Godmother and Eastenders star Jonny Labey as Prince Charming. £16.00 – £24.00/Under 16s £2 off standard ticket price. 5+, from £14.50.
Beauty and the Beast, Corn Exchange, Exeter, Sat 11 Dec – Sun 2 Jan
Belle’s adventure with the mysterious and moody Beast and popular Corn Exchange regulars, Matt Finegan and Daniel Page, return as Gascon and Madame Bonbon for romance, custard pies, magic and silly slapstick. £13.50 – £23.
Aladdin, Theatre Royal, Plymouth, Fri 17 Dec – Sat 15 Jan
Flying carpets, a wish-granting genie, an evil sorcerer and comedian Joe Pasquale in the part of Wishee-Washee. This is last year’s rescheduled show, with 2020 tickets carried over, but with over 1000 seats to fill, there’s still plenty available. Sure to be a big night out in what is the largest regional producing theatre in the UK. £18 – £42
Jack and the Beanstalk, Palace Theatre, Paignton, Sat 18 Dec – Sun 2 Jan
Fee, fi, fo, fum…the award-winning Paignton Pantomime Productions team return with beanstalk climbing escapades, golden eggs and a big scary giant. Expect professional musicians, dazzling costumes and lots of local talent. Plus, ticket prices are generously held at 2019 prices. £14
Songlines: Tracking the Seven Sisters, The Box, Plymouth, until 27 Feb, closed 25-28 Dec, open 29 Dec – 2 Jan
The National Museum of Australia’s award-winning exhibition and the largest art exhibition taking place outside of London, all conceived, designed and curated by Aboriginal artists, elders and curators, ensuring that it presents their own culture authentically and in their own voices – rather than a simplistic Western interpretation.
CINEMA: Northern Lights, Real Ideas Organisation, Market Hall, Devonport, Thurs 23 and Tues 28 Dec
Not managed a Lapland getaway this Christmas? Here’s the next best thing – a 360 degree cinema Northern Lights experience at RIO’s amazing immersive cinema.
Contemporary Crafts for Christmas, MAKE Southwest, Bovey Tracey, until mid Jan (closed 26-28 Dec/1-2 Jan)
The Guild of Devon Craftsmen may have a great new name (not before time) and the crafts are as brilliant as ever and the Jubilee Gallery will be stuffed with gift potential from 40 makers from around the UK (extra to the work of their members). *The cafe is still closed though, boo*.
An English Eye, James Ravilious: Burton Art Gallery, Bideford, until 31 Dec, open until Xmas Eve, then 30-31 Dec
This retrospective of the renowned Devon artist-photographer’s work is a collection of photographs, capturing rural life in North Devon between 1972 and 1997, and also represents the best of James Ravilious’ work as a whole. Go see their Annual Open Exhibition of work by amateur and professional locals while you’re there, which showcases an eclectic mix of painting, sculpture, textiles, printmaking, ceramics and more.