Mood-boosting things to locally in Jan
Nothing to do in January? Not on Muddy's watch! Here's 10 to try, from fun on the slopes, to ancient trails, high-flung lighthouse views and a surefire way to sweeten your day.
Don’t be piste off! Take to the slopes instead
Verbier trip in the offing, or not, a ski lesson on the sunny slopes of Torbaydos is a fun, healthy and outdoorsy way to spend an hour or two. Book in at Torquay Alpine Ski Club where you can get to grips with a pair of skis or a snowboard on their artificial ski slope (£26 for an hour or £60 for private tuition). And if you’re got scratching your head for something new for the kids’ birthday, they do parties too.
Head out on a snowdrop hunt
The Garden House’s famous Snowdrop Festival is already under way, and where’s there’s one there’s sure to be more! Good places to find them are hedgerows, woods, parkland and churchyards but one of the most romantic has to be St Raphael’s, a small chapel in the remote village of Huccaby on Dartmoor. The spreading blooms are reputed to date back to a 15th century long-house, predating even the old chapel, and so abundant they have spares which you can buy in pots for your own plot.
Go up the wall (in a good way)
Fancy trying something new on the fitness front? For £12.95, including footwear and harness, you can have an hour-long taster sesh at the south west’s largest indoor climbing wall, Quay Climbing Centre, on Exeter Quay with your own dedicated instructor. Today Exeter, tomorrow Everest! (maybe)
Unleash your inner lighthouse keeper
If you’ve ever looked at that stripy lighthouse on Plymouth Hoe and wondered if you could go up it, well, yes you can – every weekend in winter until the end of March. At 72 ft high, a trip up the 260 year-old Smeaton’s Tower offers brilliant views across The Sound and the city and it’s a mini work-out, having 93 steps, steep ladders, low ceilings and small openings inside. There’s no need to book unless you’re coming as a large group. £5pp, or family of up to five, £12 (under 5s free).
Sit on a Beatle bum
While you’re at the Hoe, don’t miss a chance to recreate the Beatles’ iconic image when they visited Plymouth’s Hoe Park, back in the 60s. The Beatles seat is not a Long and Winding Road to find as it’s signposted but you’re not looking for a bench, oh no, nothing so conventional – it’s the Fab Four’s hands and bum cheeks recreated in copper, using the derrieres of a tribute band as a cast. And you don’t need a Ticket to Ride, it’s free. Although if I sit there, I might some Help! to get up. And it’s open Eight Days a…okay, I’ll stop now.
Leave the car at home for a bike ride on the moors
Admittedly, a train trip to Okehampton might not sound that exciting, were it not for the fact that you’ll be one of the first people in fifty years to get on board, as the Dartmoor Line between Exeter and the moor town is now newly back open. That means wild walks on the moors and Okehampton Castle are just fifty minutes away for carless city-slickers. Or hire a bike from Granite Way Cycles (based at Okehampton Station and the start of the Granite Way) and head straight out for a lovely flat 11-miler. (Adult bikes, £30 for the day).
Walk the Templer Way
This historic 18-mile walk is an old, disused tramway line, once used to ferry mined granite, and runs along Teign estuary from Teignmouth all the way to Haytor on Dartmoor. Named for the Templer family who constructed it in the late 18th century (not Knights Templar), Templer Way is great for nature-lovers as you’ll be estuary-side, see river valleys, moors and interesting locks on Stover Canal. It’s uphill a lot of the way and to add to the jeopardy, part of the work is tidal, so plan ahead, or make life easier by cadging a lift to the moors to do it in reverse, and walk downhill to Teignmouth.
Ride the waves on Burgh Island’s sea tractor
You might not have anything left in the piggy bank for a stay at Burgh Island this month, but for just £2pp, you can cadge a lift in style with someone who is, at least as far the ‘island’. The iconic hotel’s sea tractor ferries residents safely above the waves to and from the mainland when the tide is in. It’s an exhilarating ride of just a few minutes and one you won’t forget in a hurry.
Try a taste of honey
No, not more Beatles puns but a trip to Quince Honey Farm. It’s known as a great kids’ destination but if you care about bees (and who doesn’t?) there’s loads of interest for grown-ups here, including bee-keeping demos, nectar gardens and nature trails. In winter, you can go along for a guided tour and talk, which includes a chance to get hands-on rolling your own beeswax candle to take home and try their tasty honey. And if you’re still hungry, they do a slap-up Sunday lunch.
Go see some modern art for free
Damian Hirst may be in trouble with the good people of the Cotswolds for not repairing his crumbling Toddington manor, but last time we looked, Verity, his 20m tall, stainless steel and bronze sculpture on Ilfracombe’s harbour front was as impressive as ever. She’s Marmite to the locals but, love her or hate her, she’s a sight worth seeing.