Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Alternative Christmas Shopping in the West Country

You don't have to buy all your Christmas presents from the same old chain stores this year - why not take a look at the wonderfully diverse and eclectic range of local gifts available at Christmas fairs and special events across the West Country?

It’s a celebration of all things Cornish at Padstow’s traditional Christmas market, located on the quayside in a large marquee. It's one of the UK’s biggest food festivals, with cookery demonstrations and lots of free samples to set your taste-buds tingling. Explore the many stalls brimming with handmade gifts and marvel at the lantern parades and fireworks display.

The whole family is spoiled for choice at the Eden Project winter festival. Meet Father Christmas and his real reindeer, go ice skating, explore the enchanted rainforest at twilight, listen to choirs and live storytelling, and pick up some great gifts in their shop.

With the backdrop of the beautiful cathedral, a visit to Exeter’s Christmas market really cranks up the festive mood with more than 50 local and international traders present. Roast hog, Belgian chocolates, baklava, crepes, speciality cheeses and meats from across the continent, as well as traditional Christmas crafts and local foods will be on offer.

If you head to Bath Christmas Market, you'll find more than 170 twinkling, traditional wooden chalets surrounding ancient Bath Abbey and the famous Roman Baths deliver a mind-boggling array of handmade and beautiful gifts to delight your family and friends. Treat yourself afterwards to a tasty local dish or tipple.

Wherever you choose, you're sure to find a warm welcome and a healthy dose of Christmas spirit.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

A trip to Lydford Gorge

Our marketing manager Adrian Innocent writes:

After much dilly dallying I finally managed to put my proverbial into gear and make my way to Lydford Gorge and I wasn’t disappointed, the south west’s deepest gorge living up to its billing as one of Dartmoor’s treasures.

I picked up a free map at the National Trust entrance to the site and set off with the intention of completing the entire walk of about three miles. There’s a well signposted route (helpful markers at regular intervals let you know exactly where you are so even poor map readers like myself can’t get lost) and I headed off in the direction of the famous White Lady Waterfall . At this point the gorge is lined with ancient woodland, full of birdlife but the first thing I noticed was the sound of water trickling (sometimes gushing) down the hillside. It was somewhat reminiscent of my walks of several years ago in the Lake District where you are never far from the sound of running water.

This first part of the route was fairly gentle but through wonderful woodland with some spectacular views down to the river Lyd rushing along the bottom of the gorge. I duly arrived at the far end of the site (you can park up and access the walk form there as well, there being two entrances to the National Trust site, both blessed with a cafe and shop) and enjoyed a well-deserved, revitalising pot of tea and sticky bun soaking up the late autumn sun on the patio outside the café. It was so refreshing and welcome I was already looking forward to more refreshments at the end of my walk before I’d even left this first staging post!

The second leg proved to be even more rewarding, especially the climb down to the bottom of the White Lady Waterfall – a 90 foot near vertical drop of white water, a splendid sight. The pathway then followed the route of the river from here and was quite slippery in parts as it clung to the side of the granite rock face lining the path of the river. This stretch eventually led to the other ‘must see’ feature of the gorge, the Devil’s Cauldron where foaming white water surges through narrow gaps between the rocks – you’ll hear it long before you arrive at the scene.

A short climb then found me back where I started and yet another round of refreshments, some delightful raspberry and white chocolate ice cream eagerly scoffed whist sitting on the grass outside the other café and stretching my ever-so-slightly weary legs. All told, it took about 2-1/2 half hours to complete the walk with plenty of stops to capture the beauty of the gorge on my camera.

If you decide to follow in my footsteps, it’s best to wear suitable footwear as the path is quite slippery and steep in parts.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

All aboard the Polar Express in Okehampton

If you and your children are fans of The Polar Express, the magical animated film starring Tom Hanks as the conductor of a very special train, you'll probably jump at the opportunity to ride the real thing.

Dartmoor Railway is running special trips from Okehampton Station on selected dates between 28th November and 28th December. Trains depart at 5pm and 7:30pm.

The trip will take you on a mystical round-trip journey to the North Pole. You're invited to wear pyjamas if you want to stay true to the film!

Once seated you'll find the conductor punching away at the children’s golden tickets, plus chefs dancing and delivering hot chocolate and cookies. There will also be readings of the original story and sing alongs to music from the film.

Once at the North Pole, Santa will be waiting with a gift of a silver sleigh bell for all the children. In addition, each passenger in Premium Class seating will receive the commemorative Polar Express mug.