The South West is a wonderful wintery festive treat as it gets close to Christmas, and whilst it may soon be a little early to be thinking about the big ‘C’ here are a few things coming up in Dorset, which will give you a welcome break from all that Christmas shopping and relentless present wrapping!
Starting at home in north Dorset, Shaftesbury holds a wonderful festive Christmas travelling food market, which comes all the way from France and makes its way around the UK. It stretches the entire length of Shaftesbury high street and has many tasty treats to tempt you, as well as handmade gifts and all sorts of other treasures. At each stall, tasting is encouraged before you make your various purchases, so do take advantage and sample as much as you can! The market is generally held on the last weekend before Christmas and runs from 10am to 4pm, so arrive early in order to get your best pick of the goods.
Moving a little further across the county, Old Wardour Castle hosts a Christmas wreath-making workshop on Sunday 6th December, run by a local flower group and giving you the perfect step-by-step guide on how to make your Christmas wreath the envy of all your neighbours. The session runs from 9am to midday and then 1pm to 4pm. Lunch and hot drinks are provided, but do wrap up warm for this event, as it is held in the castle pavilion which can get a little nippy in the winter! To book tickets, call the English Heritage Ticket Sales Team on 0370 333 1183 (Mon – Fri 8.30am – 5.30 Sat 9am – 5pm). Tickets will also be available to purchase at the event site on the day. Prices are £36 for adults and £30 for English Heritage members.
For something a little more tongue in cheek, at Motcombe Memorial Hall on Friday 4th December, you can take all the family along to see the Flint Street Nativity, which is also being performed at Shaftesbury Arts Centre on Sunday 6th December - the perfect evening after a long day of Christmas wreath-making. You can book tickets from the Shaftesbury Arts Centre website or call the box office on 01747 854321.
If you are looking for something a little more unusual and unique then head down the Dorset coast to Swanage, where you can book tickets for one of their Santa Specials. A wonderful festive treat for children, the Santa Specials run on 5th, 6th, 12th, 13th, 19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd, 23rd & 24th December and give children the chance to meet Santa and receive a special gift whilst enjoying the scenery between Corfe and Swanage on a steam train. Santa's helpers will be on hand to serve refreshments during your one hour return journey, and there will be entertainment in each carriage for more festive fun. Tickets are available on the Swanage Railway website.
Longleat is somewhere that does Christmas on a grand scale, so for something spectacular, book ahead at the safari park for the opportunity for ice skating, their Santa Express and the Festival of Light. The incredible Chinese Lantern Festival is Europe’s largest ever display of Chinese lanterns and runs from 13th November to 3rd January, transforming the park into a glowing wonderland. To make the most of your visit, be sure to book a winter safari, as well as visit the giant dazzling singing Christmas tree in the central courtyard. Longleat House also comes to life at Christmas time, with fairy tale characters appearing all over the house. Do book ahead to avoid disappointment!