Feeling festive in Exmoor: Christmas in the towns and villages

PUBLISHED: 17:24 20 November 2016 | UPDATED: 17:24 20 November 2016

Duster Castle will be all lit up for Dunster by Candlelight

Duster Castle will be all lit up for Dunster by Candlelight


As we head towards the festive season, Exmoor towns and villages are getting ready to entertain you, as Clare Bourke discovers

Dunster by Candlelight

Step back in time for this year’s Dunster by Candlelight special 30th anniversary celebration when the village streets will be full to the brim with visitors getting into the festive spirit. Taking place on 2 and 3 December, this annual event has become one of the main highlights in Exmoor’s calendar and attracts people from far and wide. The High Street will be awash with entertainment and the chance to do a bit of Christmas shopping, all lit up by candles in the lanterns adorning the street with the medieval castle lit up in the background. The fun and entertainment starts with the lantern lighting procession from the Steep at 5.30pm each evening. Join the procession and follow the stilt walkers lighting the candles in the lanterns as they go. Watch the many acts including the West Somerset Morris Men in the High Street and the Yarn Market with music including a brass band. Visit the church for carols, tithe barn for Punch and Judy, Dunster Water Mill for milling by candlelight, Dunster Castle, and West Street with its medieval theme. Collections made throughout the village in aid of St Margaret’s Hospice.

Dunster by Candlelight runs from 5pm to 9pm on the Friday and from 4pm to 9pm on the Saturday with a bus service provided to bring people into the village as the roads will be closed to traffic. All up to date information regarding the special candlelight buses and where to buy a programme can be found on the website.

West Somerset Railway

Whether you like to join in with Christmas carols or just sit back and watch the countryside roll by with a glass of sherry, West Somerset Railway is pulling out all the stops this festive season. A raft of special events have been planned including the chance for children to meet Santa himself on the railways. Running on selected dates throughout December, the Santa Trains let you enjoy a heritage steam train ride through glorious West Somerset countryside. Children will be greeted by Santa and receive a present suitable to their age and gender while for parents there is a traditional festive drink and a mince pie to enjoy along the journey. Choose from The Santa Express running between Minehead and Williton when Santa will greet you on the train or The Santa Specials between Minehead and Blue Anchor where children can alight to visit Santa in his grotto. All Santa trains this year will offer the added feature of a children’s entertainer. Pre-booking is required as there are limited seats available on each service.

Or how about joining in with some hearty Christmas Carols? The Carol Trains run from 7pm on December 12 and 13, stopping at stations along the route where carols will be sung, accompanied by a band. A great way to get in the festive spirit, you will be provided with a Carols Song Book and encouraged to join in. For more information on all events visit the website.

Dulverton by Starlight

The town of Dulverton, right in the heart of Exmoor, will be all lit up as residents and visitors enjoy their annual Dulverton by Starlight event. Taking place on Sunday December 4, the town will come alive with music and packed with entertainment as people come from near and far to enjoy the town’s famous festivities that make this one day so very special. Father Christmas and his helpful elves will be stopping off especially for the children and there will be a seasonal winter market with many delights and treats for the eyes and taste buds. The town will be beautifully decorated with lights and decorated Christmas trees making it the ideal time to pop into the shops to buy gifts for family and friends. This year sees the return of the West Country Blacksmiths with demonstrations of their ancient art of metal forging. New this year is the enchanting Polar Express Trail which will see visitors follow the trail, answer the questions and win a prize. Also new are donkey rides for the young plus Captain Coconut and Merlin the Magician will add to the mix of fun.

Enjoy a mince pie or two and join in the carol singing before the sky comes alive with fireworks, silhouetting All Saints Church. The evening continues with an hour of music from a local band finishing about 7.30pm. For up to date information visit the website.

Porlock Christmas Shopping and Santa Festival

A visit to Porlock could help you get Christmas all wrapped up with a special Late Night Shopping event. And this year’s event is being combined with the annual Santa Festival, making double the fun over the festive weekend. Taking place on Saturday December 10, shops and businesses in the village will be opening from 6 to 9pm for late night shopping, offering special bargains as well as the odd tipple and treat for visitors. Carol singers at St Dubricius Church will kick start the evening at 6pm as well as the arrival of Santa and his sleigh. There will be a host of entertainment including illuminated stiltwalkers Jack Frost and The Snow Queen as well as West Somerset Brass Band, Minehead Handbell Ringers and other music from The Bad Ole Boys and Bill’s Eels, plus plenty of refreshments. Porlock Santa Festival runs from December 9 to 11 and will see shops, businesses, accommodation providers, pubs and restaurants display their homemade Santas, from life-size stuffed versions to small toys. Each display will be numbered and visitors can get in the festive spirit by following the Santa Trail around the village and voting for their favourite. Santas will then stay in place for the rest of December.

Plan ahead for Exmoor Food Fest

February may seem a way off now but there are so many restaurants taking part in the annual Exmoor Food Fest that you really do need to plan ahead to fit them all in. The 2017 Exmoor Food Fest held its lavish launch in September at Knowle Manor near Dunster and now events are being organised in readiness to showcase the best of Exmoor. During February, restaurants, including several with Michelin stars and numerous awards, across the region offer two courses for £10 or three courses for £15. In addition, a range of foodie events will be taking place, from tastings through to gourmet dinners at unique locations. A food and drink festival in Dunster on the last weekend of February will yet again be the grand finale.

Updates about participating restaurants and events will be available as soon as possible at the website.

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