Christmas days out in Somerset 2022
Now there is frost in the garden and a twinkle in our town centres, the countdown to Christmas has begun. Festive markets and other events are back with added sparkle this year, so there are numerous opportunities to fill up on seasonal cheer in Somerset.
In Wells, the gardens of the Bishop’s Palace (bishopspalace.org.uk) will be lit in a kaleidoscope of colours as part of a decorated December trail, while a roaring fire will welcome people out of the cold and into the entrance hall. From there, visitors will find the palace’s medieval rooms decked in holly and other festive greenery.
At Montacute House, near Yeovil, there is a mystery to solve. Scenes of raucous Elizabethan revelry are promised inside the sumptuously decorated house, where visitors are led to believe that servants have thrown a party while the owners are away. The aim of the game is to solve the clues, restore order and find a precious missing item.
Although Father Christmas is making appearances throughout the region, tickets to see him are selling out fast. Children can hear a hearty “ho, ho, ho” at Knightshayes, a Victorian house near Tiverton. Here, Father Christmas wears a traditional green suit (unlike the Americanised version of Santa). He will tell children stories about the North Pole and hand out gifts. Children are invited to help elves make Christmas crafts beforehand and to explore the house itself, which will be dressed for the season.
The big man will greet children in a garden folly at Hestercombe House, just outside Taunton, though there is a waiting list for this event currently. An illuminated trail runs through the gardens also, which is three times the length of last year’s and sees flickering lights form festive scenes amid the trees. There will also be a Christmas market to browse.
Venture deep into the caves at Wookey Hole, not far from Wells, and children can marvel at more light displays, including one of Santa’s flying sleigh and reindeer, who hang overhead in the “cathedral” cave. There is also a Christmas show to enjoy in the elf circus back above ground, plus Santa will meet children in his grotto, where they can select a toy from his special factory.
Christmas spirit can even be found on the train tracks this season, courtesy of the Winterlights service run by West Somerset Railway. The popular train departs from Bishops Lydeard station, near Wellington and Taunton, and passes through glades aglow with coloured lights and a station decked in festive finery. Goodie bags and hot chocolate are available during the return journey.
Bath’s Christmas market (until Dec 11) is back after two years off and it is one of the country’s biggest and most atmospheric. There is also an ice rink to enjoy in the city’s Royal Victoria Park. Elsewhere in Somerset, Taunton is hosting a Christmas Craft Fair in the town centre (Dec 1 – 18) and there is a Winter Fayre in the picturesque Walled Garden at Mells on December 4. Pilton’s Tithe Barn, not far from Glastonbury, is also a pretty spot for a Christmas market, with one taking place on December 3. There is a lantern parade happening in Ilchester meanwhile, on December 2, with mulled wine available afterwards at The Bull inn.
The Christmas market in Wells returns on December 17, when close to 100 stalls are expected to line Market Place and the road to Bishop’s Palace Green. Live music and entertainment are promised, with the towers of Wells cathedral as a magnificent backdrop.
The Christmas lights have been switched on in Frome and the town’s thriving market – the Independent – will be feeling festive on December 4, its last edition before Christmas. Visitors making a start on their shopping will be spoilt for choice with a wide range of artisanal goods on offer, from more than 200 stall holders. There is a designer pop-up shopping event at Kilver Court, in Shepton Mallet, on December 2 and 3, with outlets from Mulberry, Toast and Yves Delorme, along with festive food. The cute boutique shops in Bruton, meanwhile, will be open late on December 1, until 8pm. At The Newt hotel – between Bruton and Wincanton – festive events include dawn walks in the gardens in the crisp first light, calligraphy classes for polished card-writing, carol singing and foraged decoration-making workshops.
Finally, an Elf trail is running for children who want to explore the Rural Life Museum, in Glastonbury, plus there are craft, cracker and mince-pie making workshops on various dates in December. With something for everyone in Somerset, it really might be the most wonderful time of the year.