It’s around this time of year when we keep our eyes open for the unique things bringing that Christmas feeling to Somerset and we give a shout out to some of the people, places and events that are sure to make your Christmas merry and bright... the unusual and the creative, the fun and the fantastic. So, grab a mulled cider, eggnog, or whatever else takes your festive fancy and have a read of our choices for some seasonal good cheer!
Seasonal shopping, Somerset style
Shopping small and local has always been for us and if you’re looking to do that this Christmas too, there are some fantastic markets and local makers out there who would absolutely love your support.
Of course there’s the biggies happening, like Bath Christmas Market (which runs until Sunday December 15th, with some fantastic local makers and producers - hello Shakespeare Glass, Gemma Atwell Jewellery and The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company), but what about the little gems that can sometimes stay under the radar?
Well, first on our visit list is The Drawing Room at Butleigh who have their wonderful Charity Christmas Market on Sunday December 1st, from 12 noon until 5pm.
Owner, Jade, is bringing together 32 brilliant artisan makers and producers for a local event that captures the spirit of the season beautifully. There’ll be pottery painting, a chocolate fountain, a tombola and proceeds will be donated to the local primary school. We can’t wait to check it all out!
If you fancy a trip to Frome this weekend, make sure you check out The Silk Mill Collective's Christmas Fair on Sunday 1st too, from 11.30am till 4pm. Fourteen artists, photographers and designer makers will all be on hand to tempt you with unique Christmas presents. There's gorgeous food bowls and mulled wine of course and it's set to be a very special event.
And for a Christmas trip back in time later in the month, there’s a brand-new Victorian Fayre happening in Shepton. Following the town’s lantern parade on December 21st, the day-long Fayre on the 22nd will feature stalls, live music and period costume just for starters. We take our (Victorian top) hats off to The Shepton Experience and everyone in Shepton bringing creativity and festive feeling to the town.
We also want to give a big seasonal shout out to Rocket and Bird in Taunton. They’ve got a cracker of a window display...
...and we love the way makers Jeanette and Susie bring together awesome Somerset creators all year round, so if you’re in the area pop in and give their ace shop some Christmas love. And don’t forget to head down to Bath Place too, for tons of festive temptation (yes, we’re looking directly at you Ginger Fig ;)).
If you’re looking to create some gifts or Christmas decorations yourself, and you're in the mood to get creative this December, there's plenty to keep you out of mischief and off the naughty list! There's a whole host of fantastic Christmas wreath making workshops (including Manor Farm Cottage Flowers workshop on December 7th at The Drawing Room too) but two foodie classes in particular have caught our eye this year.
The first involves some serious festive baking of the vegan and non-vegan variety and is run by Becky, at the One Mile Bakery in Paulton. We were recently invited to try out one of Becky's bread making classes, so we know just how awesome they are!
The festive vegan baking class happens on Friday December 13th and it teaches you how to make awesome plant-based treats without scrimping on taste... plus you get a bag of your baking to take home too and a vegan lunch with vegan wine. Now you're talking!
The festive baking class on Friday 20th December is a lip smacking, indulgent celebration of all things seasonal, with stollen, cinnamon buns and mini-Panettone all on the menu!
While the bakes rise, you'll also enjoy a two course festive-themed lunch with a glass of wine. You'll make a batch of mince pies and festive biscuits to sample and the kitchen will be full of the festivities of the season. Woo hoo! To discover more here's where you need to be.
Tis the season to eat chocolate too, right? Well, why not make it yourself at the second workshop we're hungrily eyeing up! The fantastic Somerset charity We Hear You is holding a Chocolate making workshop at The Cheese and Grain in Frome, on Thursday 12th December from 7.30pm until 10.30pm. You can learn to make traditional French chocolates topped with fruit and nuts and guess what... that chocolate fountain makes an appearance again (yay!). The festive drinks will be flowing and the course is also suitable for vegans and non-vegans alike. It costs £25 and you can book your place right here .
And don’t forget that January and February is marmalade making time (we always say marmalade in the Nuckels McGinty voice from Paddington 2 ;)) and if you're looking for a Christmas present with a difference, Somerset's awesome marmalade maker Bumblees is running some brand new workshops, so you can try your hand at squeezing and stirring under Fran's expert eye! The class on the 6th of February has already sold-out, but if you're quick, you can nab one of the remaining places on Saturday 15th February. Check out the details here.
Lighting up your Christmas
If it doesn't twinkle, is it really Christmas? ;) Well, this year, our three favourites lighting up the December night skies are all pretty special.
The first involves a hop over the border to Stourhead for their magical, after-dark, illuminated Christmas trail.
It's a mile long stroll through the gorgeous grounds, but not as you normally know it, because the National Trust have teamed up with Sony Music and Culture Creative to bring you a spectacular experience including a Cathedral of Light (surrounding you with over 100,000 pea lights), a stunning Garden of Fire (themed on the 12 Days of Christmas) and a fantastic Laser Garden too (with patterns dancing from tree to tree).
Artist, Woody Fox, has also created twelve 7ft willow sculptures, based on the Twelve Days of Christmas and one of our favourite parts of the spectacle is the Meadow of Light - an illuminated carpet of slowly changing colour which is simply mesmerising. The choreographed light show towards the end of the trail to 'Carol of the Bells' is also unforgettable and the reflections on the lake are definitely a thing of beauty. Ooh and you might spot Santa on the way round too!
The trail costs £18 in advance for adults. For Children (aged 3-16) it's £12, or you'll pay £56 for a family of 4. The event runs until December 30th and opening times vary. You can check out those and other payment options right here.
One of the sparkliest spectacles of the season has to be down the local pub... but this isn't any old local. This one has been transformed in to a giant gingerbread house and everyone's welcome!
Every year, The Queen Vic in Priddy is decorated with thousands of lights and sweet festive treats - there's even a giant snowman made of wine bottles - and all to raise money for the community. This year, Children's Hospice South West is the chosen charity and we'll definitely be popping in for a pint of Guinness and a gawp at the unbelievable decs! :)
Now, if candlelight is more your mood, how about a trip to Dunster? Each year this beautiful medieval village lights its streets with lanterns and its houses with candles. The whole place comes to life with music and entertainment and there's a real feel of days gone by.
This year, Friday 6th December from 5pm-9pm and Saturday 7th from 4pm-9pm are the times to join in the celebrations and you'll find more info about the festivities right here.
Christmas movies and singalongs
We all love a good one don’t we... a Christmas film that is, and the arguments about which is the best can divide households! Well, whether it’s Elf, Disney's A Christmas Carol or Last Christmas, you can see them all on the big screen at the beautiful Tivoli cinema in Bath this December. Check out the listings right here.
A Christmas Eve at the Clevedon Curzon could be on the cards for us too, as they’ve got Elf showing at 2pm and talking of Elf, a couple of Christmases ago we held a special showing of it at the gorgeous Roxy cinema in Axbridge - the smallest cinema in England!
If you’re not the Christmas movie kind, but still want to head out and get into the spirit, The Roxy is offering up Rocketman as their Christmas special this year because let's face it, as the new owners Bash and Gemma say, there’s certainly enough glitter! ;)
Now, it wouldn't be Christmas without a festive singalong would it and have we got some wonderful locations where you can join in with Silent Night? Yes we have!
'Carols on the Pier' with The Salvation Army, is happening on the iconic Clevedon Pier on Friday December 20th at 6.30pm. Expect to hear all the festive classics, it's free, plus if you get there quick, there are complimentary mince pies and mulled wine too! Proceeds raised are split between the Salvation Army and the Clevedon Pier and Heritage Trust, so it's all for some great local causes.
Check out the 'Rock Choir Somerset Coast Christmas Medley' on the Pier on Saturday December 7th too (from 1pm-2pm, normal Pier entry applies) and the awesome 'Sea Santa' Grotto opens in the Porthole Room from December 14th to the 24th. A 30-minute experience for little ones and a parent will cost £10, including Pier entry.
We couldn’t forget 'Sing for Somerset' either, the wonderful annual carol service held in Wells Cathedral. Laurence Blyth does a wonderful job leading the Somerset Voices Choir, accompanied by the Mid Somerset Orchestra, in spine tingling renditions of songs both familiar and those just waiting to be discovered.
From this year, the service will support the work of the NSPCC here in Somerset.
And finally... everyone likes a good panto right? Well, on our radio show this Christmas Day morning from 10am until 12 noon on Frome FM, we're putting on a bite-sized panto just for you, as we tell the story of Cinders in a very different way! So, if you'd like to join us whilst you're peeling the spuds, you can hear that along with more Christmas cheer than you can shake a candy cane at! You can listen from anywhere in the world at www.frome.fm by clicking 'listen now' on the homepage.
All that's left to say is whatever you do over this festive season, we're wishing you a Christmas done your way - because those are the very best Christmases of all.