Restaurant Review – Market Street

Its great to discover new restaurants to eat at. I’m not only a groupie, but after many years of working in hospitality, mainly in food preparation and service, it should come as no surprise I’m a bit of a foodie too. I have worked in lots of different types and style of kitchen and restaurants, especially when I worked for a hospitality employment agency. My workload was so varied that my usual week could include any of the following:

  • Working in 3-5 star hotels preparing and serving meals
  • Serving lunches to a boardroom full of Directors in their offices
  • Serving champagne and canapes at events and launches
  • Preparing food with a chef from the Royal household at Powderham Castle
  • Preparing and serving match days at Torquay United including the boardroom, Directors boxes and match sponsors lunches
  • Working as a Commis Chef at a country house hotel with 2 AA Rosettes for cuisine
  • Serving the Presidents tent lunches at the Devon County Show to local dignitaries, politicians and minsters for agriculture

So that should give you some indication of the food I got used to preparing and serving, and my love for food hasn’t wained even though I’m mainly office bound, I’m still found creating in the kitchen at home.

So when I saw a shoutout for bloggers on Twitter to attend an evening at the restaurant, I HAD to tweet a reply. So I very pleased to recieve an invitation to their bloggers showcase and networking evening.

Market Street is a new social enterprise restaurant to provide training and apprenticeships for young people in the busy market town of Newton Abbot. Young Devon is the charity that has set up Market Street with support from River Cottage. 100% of profits go back to the charity to help it assist more young people.

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Young Devon is a charity that has been supporting young disadvantaged people in Devon since 1949. The charity has a 3 year strategy which includes increasing knowledge and awareness of the impact of their work, expanding their relationships with schools, being proactive in championing the important issues that affect young people and creating further opportunities for young people to have a voice. So the fact the restaurant go back into this worthy cause is just one great reason to eat there.

I was welcomed on arrival by Ali, who is the lady who invited via twitter, so it was lovely to be greeted with a friendly welcome from her and she introduced straight away to another lovely lady Nicky, so it was networking straight away, which is great.

The Restaurant is situated literally a minutes walk away from the bus station and market hall in Newton Abbot and a couple of minutes from Asda, as well as being located by the cattle market car park, so a good central location, which is easy to get to.

Market Street has been open for 11 months and is situated on the first floor upstairs, and has lovely atmosphere, and is cosy with just 24 covers, so I suggest larger groups split into 2 or 3 smaller groups if you plan to include Market Street on your Newton Abbot itinerary.

The menus are on trend and very tasty. We enjoyed different canapé style foods including chicken liver pate on melba toast (it was soooo creamy!),  chermolla chicken skewers, parsnip crisps, falafel and tahini,  Squash arancini balls, parsley and cheese fishcakes, blue cheese and leek balls which were divine. Then we were lucky enough to enjoy desserts of chocolate pot with hazelnut biscotti and a St Clements meringue sundae – they were both heavenly!

The restaurant was really busy within half of hour of me arriving with everyone happy to talk to everyone. I have been to other networking events where you can feel that its a bit clicky, but that wasn’t the case here, everyone was really friendly. I met some other local bloggers whilst I was there so hello again the Lost Chef and Dining Devon

I really enjoyed my evenings networking and tasting at Market Street, and I can recommend it for friendly service, low cost great tasting food, lovely wine (I had a glass of the Sangiovese) and the fact the profits back into Young Devon make it even more worthwhile to visit.

So will I return to the restaurant? Definitely!!

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Join us for lunch in Somerset!

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In conjunction with Tony Tours, South West Group Travel are organising their first day trip. Following a scenic coach journey with legendary driver Karl to Bickley Mill, an 18th century water mill with shopping and and a cafe, we make our way to the Oake Manor Golf Club for a 2 course carvery lunch and coffee followed by entertainment in our own private function room. Returning to the bay, we have been invited to the Torre Conservative Club for a buffett supper.

Not your cup of tea? Have you got relatives that you never know what to buy for Christmas? Why not treat them to a day out instead?

Keep an eye out for our next trip, which will be a day at the Races. (and we don’t mean Newton Abbot!!)

To reserve your seats, call the numbers on the flyer above or via the contact page of this website.

Babbacombe Theatre – A Gem in Babbacombe Bay

Babbacombe and its famous clifftop Downs have been strolled along by holiday makers and locals alike for many, many years, enjoying the impressive vista over Oddicombe Beach with its internationally famous Cliff Railway and views to Exmouth, Budliegh Salterton and Lyme Regis. The Downs are close to the popular tourist attractions of Bygones and the Model Village.

Heading towards the end of the Downs where you go down to Babbacombe Beach and the Cary Arms is the Babbacombe Theatre . The theatre site started off as a bandstand and awning with its popular performances. Planning permission was given and the theatre was built in 1938, designed by PW Ladmore, with Ernest Goss’ Orchestra giving the inaugural performance.

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The military commandeered the theatre during the 2nd world war, and by the 1950’s it had many rising stars walk the boards including Bruce Forsythe in 1955 and 1956. Other famous names to appear there include Jimmy Tarbuck, Kiki Dee, Acker Bilk, The Chuckle Brothers, Showaddywaddy ( I remember my older brother going to that gig).

The theatre was taken over by Colin Matthews in 1986 and has been refurbished and continued to thrive ever since, and has supported many local talented entertainers and dancers etc.

Now the theatre has the longest running season in England of 9 months,  with shows on all the time including the traditional seaside variety performances and many one off shows including comedy such as Jason Manford and Tim Vine and music performances such as G4 live and The Beach Boys Story. There are a variety of other shows like mediums and hypnotists.

I first went to the theatre just over a year ago to a David Bowie show with friends, and I was lucky enough to win a Facebook competition for 2 tickets to last years Christmas show, so I bought the kids tickets and the family went to the show on 27th December. The theatre played to capacity that day with many performers who are some of my favourites on the Torbay circuit like magician Peter Baffles and the best Black Country Pavorotti Andy Oakley. It was a great show and old and young alike all enjoyed it. It really added festive spirit to our family Christmas and I enjoyed it so much I’m looking at booking again this year and taking some friends with me. The show this year is called “Christmas is magical” 

Whilst the theatre isn’t licenced to sell alcohol, they do provide refreshments including the obiligatory ice creams and sweets. The theatre promotes other local  establishments such as the Babbacombe Inn for pre-theatre dinners and such like. However the Downs has so many places to choose from, you will never be short of a drink (alcoholic or otherwise!) or food when you are there.

It is a perfect venue for tourists and locals, groups and individuals so I would highly recommend it! Another great plus point for the theatre is accessibility, as the theatre was only allowed to be built at the same height as the original bandstand, all the seats are on one level, making it a perfect venue for those less able bodied or with wheelchairs etc. For the hearing impaired the theare also plays on a loop so its great for them too.

The theatre’s tripadvisor rating says it all really #2 of 62 things to do in Torquay, and number 1 is the theatre’s neighbour – The Babbacombe Model Village. Which really shows that Babbacombe is one of THE places to visit when you are in Torquay.

The theatre is really popular with groups, especially the matinee and Wednesday evening performances so make sure you purchase your tickets as early as you can to avoid dissapointment! They love to welcome groups and have such a wide range of shows that there is always something on to entertain you!

You can find out more information by visiting their website here

Follow me!!

In this age of social media, there is more than one way to stay in touch with my blog and updated on the South West Group Travel scene.

Firstly, and most importantly, can I ask you all to follow my blog – to do this visit my page by clicking the red Follow box to your right, (or if you are on a mobile a follow me box will show at the bottom right of your screen) to sign up by email. I promise to not spam you (as we all hate getting tonnes of emails!) but you will receive an email notification when I publish a post.

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Group Leisure & Travel Show 2017 – review

It’s hard to believe a week has passed by already! So as you know from one of my previous posts I travelled to Birmingham for the Group Leisure and Travel Show 2017 at the NEC. I went by train from Torquay to Birmingham International via New Street, and met my Alfa Leisureplex colleagues at the exhibition hall to set up our stand.

You can read my pre-show thoughts here

As I work remotely to my other colleagues, its always good to catch up with various company developments, and discuss the Employee Ownership. Did you know that the Alfa Leisureplex Group is the employee owned travel company in the UK? So the employees have owned 75% of our company for last 2 years.

Anyway I digress! The morning of the show arrived and I arrived at the hall early so I could go and say hello to some well known colleagues and network with some attractions etc that I hadn’t had a chance to meet before. It was great to see Carol Barrett, who I worked with arranging group visits to The Eden Project and she has now joined the Lost Gardens of Heligan, which is one of my favorite gardens. Likewise it was great to see Dick Wood from the South Devon Steam Railway, and Phillippa and Ian from Stuart Line Cruises at Exmouth. It was great to meetJames from Kents Cavern, Ann from Devon Top Attractions and Carolyn from the English Riviera BID, I look forward to talking to you all soon!

The Smurfs visited the show with the Belgium Tourist Board

So the show moved hall from hall 8, which has been the show’s home for quite a few years to hall 18 this year and opened at 10am with the famous bacon baps available. The show did seem busier with both exhibitors and visitors, which was great.

Our stand was right next to the Seminar Theatre so we got to see all the celebrities attending that day, which makes a change as I’m normally miles away and don’t get a chance to see it! It was great to hear Nicholas Owen give a shout out to our own English Riviera Line during his talk on his favorite railway journies. Although many exhibitors had taken the smaller travel row stands there was an increase in the number of coaches in the hall too.

 

It’s always great to meet up with existing customers, who we saw quite a lot of, as well as meeting new potential new customers, which is so important and really what the day is all about.

Julia with “GTO of the year 2017” – Marian Durbidge of Hertfordshire Theatre Club and Go Together Travel

So when the show finished at 4pm, I helped pack the car up and made my way to back to Devon by train. Group Leisure, another year has passed and as usual it was a pleasure! See you next year!

Torre Abbey Museum & Gardens

Torre Abbey can be described as many things – museum, art gallery, gardens, historic ruins, Georgian manor house, one of Torquay’s most historical locations, but I think one of the best descriptions is “One of Torquay’s hidden gems – hiding in plain site”

So when I awoke last Sunday to the perfect last day of summer, I thought it was too nice to waste pottering about in the garden, which is my usual Sunday pastime if we’re not venturing out. So I rounded up the troops – my husband Grant, my 14 year old Vicky, my 11 year old Cody and I walked down to see one of our local attractions.

Torre Abbey Museum and Gardens is located on the seafront behind Torre Abbey Sands and Torre Abbey meadows, the meadows are probably more famous as being the fairground during the summer. The abbey is one of the most notable and historic sites in Torbay although it can’t claim the “most historic” crown as that goes to Kents Cavern which dates back to the cavemen and woolly mammouth’s. Although the history at the abbey dates back nearly a millennium, as it was founded in 1196, and the was later the home to one of Torquay’s founder families – The Cary’s.

As a local I’m ashamed to say that I, like many others who live here, I know the abbey is there, but don’t really any it much attention. that changed for me in April when I attended the first sold out Grinagog Festival, which was centred on the site in and around the abbey, RICC and One World and Pier Point Cafe’s. What a great idea by the council to centre the festival around the this site! Festival-goers, locals and tourists alike were there for the festival of arts and music and talking to some of them from Bristol and Birmingham they were in awe of the location and I think for the locals it was reminder of an amazing attraction on our doorstep that we should all be using. So I for one, am definitely looking forward to Grinagog 2018!

So we arrived through the swan gates of the Abbey, the impressive gateposts adorned with swans and came upon the West Front with this impressive view of the abbey and clock tower.

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The abbey recently installed new signage to assist visitors, and I loved the new signs in front of the main entrance. The show you all the famous historical figures who have spent time in Torquay. Including Elizabeth Barrett Browning the poet, who resided in my work place, as her house is now part of the Hotel Regina overlooking the harbour/marina. Buffalo Bill is another of my favorites as when my son was a day old we were told that if we reversed his names – Cody William, he would have been named after Buffalo Bill who was William Cody.

As we entered the abbey we went in the Medieval Undercroft which is really interesting covering the formation of the abbey and religious history. Including how the original monks were donated the land for the abbey by the Lord of the Manor of Torre and how within a few years became one of the wealthiest abbey’s.

So we came into the shop and ticket office and were served by a lovely friendly lady, before making our way into the old house part of the site into the Reception Hall. The kids thought it was great they could sit on the window seats and watch other visitors outside and enjoy the views of the seafront. From there, we made our way into the Mayor’s Parlour, which is stunning room. With its yellow walls, magnificent portraits and sea-views you can see why it was chosen as the first Mayor’s office.

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As you wander from room to room, the amount of artworks is really amazing and all different styles and tastes in art are catered for. I didn’t know there was an exhibition of William Blake’s engravings  of the Book of Job. The detail in the engravings is really quite breathtaking. We made our way through to the 800 years exhibition, and explored the hall above the Medieval gatehouse, with its turrets for protecting the abbey using hand guns with shot.

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We enjoyed seeing the original drawings of the stain glass windows in the Thrupp room. Its so interesting especially the story of where the stain glass windows are now. Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, I’m writing about you!

The kids loved the interactive dinner plates in the Dining Room, where you can here the voices of the Cary family and Napoleon, so another name to add to the list of famous people who have visited our beautiful bay.

We headed downstairs and ended up in the chapel, which was an illegal place of worship as the Cary family were catholics, and many of their family memorials can be seen on the wall of the chapel. The chapel was the venue of the new Grinagigs – a brand new stand up comedy night that takes place at the abbey.

Cody and I couldn’t resist trying on some of the dressing up clothes, from days gone by whilst we looked at the hidden house exhibition. Although Cody hadn’t quite got his wig on straight!

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Finally, we exited via the cafe which bring you out at the front of the Georgian house, we went back into the gardens via the main entrance, which turned out to be everyone’s favorite part of the day. Firstly we looked at the abbey ruins then Cody and I explored the medieval and walled gardens whilst Grant and Vicky enjoyed a rest on a bench in the sun.

We went into the impressive Palm house, with its tall palms and Monstera Deliciosa (the humble Cheeseplant)  that was growing up the palm house framework as high as the ceiling and is one of the most impressive specimens I have seen. Its an amazing planting scheme, lastly we looked at the Poison Garden, inspired by Agatha Christie which includes opium poppies, cyanide, and various other poisonous plants that are used in her books, and that Agatha learnt about during her time working in the pharmacy in Torquay Town Hall. If you’re an Agatha fan you can read more about my recent visit to Greenway here

Reading the map to check on some of the room names for this post, I’ve just found a great reason to return!! We completely missed the Arid house! As a garden lover, I’m disappointed we missed it, but I will be back to see that. We didn’t get a chance to see the Spanish Barn either, although I have been in there to see the Anthony Gormley – Field of the British Isles exhibition and I watched some great folk bands in there at Grinagog Festival.

Top Tips for Group Organiser’s:

You can vary your length of visit depending on what you want to see, so you could spend 4-5 hours there as easily as an hour.

One of the great things about the abbey is that is is suitable for ALL – school groups, garden groups, U3A with history, garden, art, and photography special interest groups – you hit the jackpot with this attraction.

Although the Abbey is over 800 years old, the renovations to the building have been carried out so you can see the modern additions including lifts, wheelchair lifts and new staircases, so accessibility isn’t really a problem even if you have a group that it less mobile, although part of the charm for me, is that the building is a bit higgledy piggledy.

Transport – you can get off most Paignton bound bus services at opposite the Grand Hotel, next to Torquay Train Station and its a 5 minute walk from both. There isn’t any on-site coach parking but its within a few minutes walk for your driver.

The Abbey is convienently situated near the main hotel area of Belgrave road, so you can walk to the Abbey within minutes from many of the main hotels including the newly refurbished Grosvenor (which is nothing like the TV programme anymore!), the newly rebranded Riviera hotel (formerly the Rainbow) and the TLH resort complex is directly behind the abbey.

You could use the abbey for a coffee stop if you are a walking group too, as its not far off the South West Coast Path.

If your group is staying elsewhere in Devon, like Exmouth for example, the abbey would make a great stop off either at the begining or the end of your day in Torquay.

Last thoughts – without the Torre Abbey monks there wouldn’t be Torquay as they built the quay at Torre.

 

The calm after the storm

I just wanted to share this video I shot on my way to the office this morning after Storm Orphelia passed over the bay yesterday

Group Leisure and Travel Show 2017

So I’m off to the NEC in Birmingham tomorrow to attend the annual Group Leisure and Travel Show. I realised yesterday that this will be my 11th show, since I first went to exhibit as Groups Supervisor for Daish’s Holidays with the then Sales & Marketing Manager Tim Wickson. At that point the show ran for 2 full days with the associated Group Leisure Awards.

I recall being super excited when Daish’s were nominated for their first ever award in 2008, and when I won the Group Leisure Excellence Award in 2010 for my own personal customer service, voted for by Group Travel Organisers I was literally quaking in my boots (or the very high heels I was wearing that night!) but that was definitely one of my career highlights. So good luck to those who are nominated in this year’s awards! The show has seen many changes including only taking place on one day now and has faced competition from other rival exhibitions, but the show still goes on with the recent rebranding of the show and magazine.

A couple of years ago I was there to represent Dunwood Travel, who I was working for at the time, with one of their brand new coaches in the hall, I really enjoyed that day too.

So this year, will mark my second year there to represent Alfa Travel as their Groups Sales Executive, and I always look forward to the buzz of a busy show, catching up with  collegues and seeing all the new initiatives and tours that companies are offering always interests me. Plus talking to existing or potential new customers face to face is what the day is all about.

So if you are attending the show I will be on stand 267 with our Leisureplex Hotel ladies, Alyson and Gayle, it would be great to say hello! You can register as a visitor here

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Great Greenway!

Last weekend my friend Sam and I took advantage of my National Trust trade pass and visited Greenway – the holiday home of one of the most famous Torquinians – Agatha Christie. I have wanted to visit the property since it first opened, and with the recent annual International Agatha Christie Festival that took place in Torbay in September, it seemed like the perfect time.

The property was first mentioned in 1497 as Greynway, the crossing point from Dittisham on the opposite bank of the River Dart. In the late 16th Century a Tudor Mansion called Greenway Court was sited here by the Gilbert Family. the Georgian house was built in the late 18th century by Roope Harris Roope and extended by subsequent owners with the gardens remodelled by Humphry Repton. Agatha Christie or as she was known locally by her married name Mrs Mallowan, and her husband Max bought the estate in 1938 and enjoyed many summer holidays there until their deaths in 1976 and 1978. Agatha’s daughter lived there from 1968 until her death in 2004. The grade 2 listed house has belonged to the National Trust since 2000.

We set off on a perfect autumnal day, both of us looking forward to visiting, but aware that rain was forecast for later that day, so once we had driven through the village of Galmpton and arrived a friendly gentleman told us what do to and where to go for our pre-booked car parking. (Do make sure you pre-book your parking if you are travelling by car!) We set off to the visitor centre and once we entered the site, we thought we would do best by exploring the gardens first, in case the weather was right for a change!

But first as suggested by the National trust staff, we went to the stables to watch the short film about Greenway including some footage of her grandson Matthew Pritchard. which was a great informative start to your visit.

We took the long route through the top garden towards the summerhouse which is in need of restoration, where we saw some beautiful herbaceous borders still in full bloom, as well as signs of Autumn creeping in, with some trees starting to turn and views across the valley and River Dart. With yachts moored on the river, and the ferries to Greenway and Dittisham and tourist boats going between Totnes and Dartmouth, giving their commentary.

We loved the surprise of the statue of Kwan Yin, Buddhist Goddess of Compassion and Mercy hiding in her pool as we made our way down through the wooded gardens towards the river and the famous boathouse, that featured as the murder site of Marlene Tucker in Agatha’s book – Dead Man’s Folly.

It was quite exciting to reach the boathouse, with its log burner, you could imagine the family warming up in front of the fire after using the plunge pool under the boathouse. The balcony of the boathouse offer wonderful views along the river with all its coming and going’s. I couldn’t resist a quick read in Agatha’s actual chair, that was specially made for her.

Leaving the boathouse and plunge pool we made our way along the riverbank path and found ourselves at the battery. It was so quiet sat by the river. Sam and I could imagine men there during World War 2 when the US Navy made its home there with Agatha’s permission. Of course there are plenty of other local sites you can visit relating to the D-Day landings too, if your group is interested in military history.  The path made its way back uphill until we were surprised by a brilliant view of Greenway House.

Sam and I decided we had worked up an appetite after our garden exploration, so we headed for the Courtyard Café in search of lunch. The staff were very friendly and the food was great value and delicious. I enjoyed a wild mushroom and pearl barley soup with a chunk of granary bread, and Sam ordered a jacket potato with cheese and beans. Now we were lucky to get a table in the small indoor eating area, but most seating at the 2 cafe’s in outside which is something to consider when planning your groups itinerary, due to the weather and numbers of other visitors I can imagine it being very busy in peak season. Although you could buy your refreshments and enjoy them sat on the lawn or on a bench in the gardens, which would be a nicer option if its crowded.

So it was now time to go and discover the main attraction of the day – Greenway House! As you enter the house, you are welcomed by a volunteer, who reminds you to look out for the scrapbooks in each with more information. As Agatha and Max were collectors, there is so much to see in the house. We made our way through the Morning room with its displays of china and Chinese antiquities and into the drawing room where we were treated to another visitor playing on Agatha’s piano, it really bought the room to life. Onto the one of my favourite rooms – the winter dining room, with its large display cabinets, stuffed full of china. As all my friends know, after working in hospitality for many years as a restaurant manager I love china, especially vintage, so it was a real treat for me to peer at the collection. I loved seeing Agatha’s DBE and her honourary National Trust membership in there too. Seeing her National Trust  membership, it felt so fitting that the trust now look after the property for us all to enjoy.  Going down the service corridor into the kitchen, again full of Agatha’s china collection, you can imagine the cook, making meals on the big Aga cooker, keeping warm on a winter’s day.

We explored upstairs next, and Agatha’s bedroom was really homely with clothes in her wardrobe, and  the eiderdown on her bed, but I found Max’s fax room to be really interesting, with original boxes in the cupboards, marked “Max Mallowen Books” and his pipe stand and desk, completed by yet more wonderful views down on the gardens and river.

Making our way back down the stair case, we went to discover the joys of the dining room and library, with more of Agatha’s china on the dining table and the mural in the library painted by a US Naval Man in the second world war, which Agatha insisted on keeping, which is a truly unique historical piece of artwork. I loved her cocktail table and could just picture the family meeting up in the library for a pre-dinner aperitif. Sam and I couldn’t resist taking a few moments respite on the sofa!

So we left the house and went for one last bit of exploring en-route back to the car park to the tennis court and walled gardens. I loved the gardens and vinery. It was great to see all the herbs and autumnal produce ready to be harvested.

Top tips for group organisers!

Think about your transport!! You can arrive by midi-coach, although parking is limited and you will need to pre-book parking of cars or coaches. You can arrive by ferry or steam train, either of which would be brilliant options and really add to your itinerary. The other option is the shuttle bus, which departs from both Churston Station and Greenway Halt, the new station that was built specially for Greenway visitors.

Accessibility – this does need thinking about if you have people with mobility problems in your group, as the gardens are steep and uneven in places. however the visitor centre, house, walled gardens and café and all pretty flat, so if group members are ok on the flat, you shouldn’t have a problem. There is  a buggy service between the car park and visitor centre and the quay car provides transport to the visitor centre for those arriving on the PV Christie Belle ferry. The site also has free lockers where you can leave your bags and wheelchairs available from reception.

For more information visit https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/greenway or call the English Riviera National Trust on telephone 01803 842382 and they will answer all your queries and be able to book your group in.

I would recommend Greenway to most groups from school groups, garden groups, to women’s institutes and obviously literary groups etc. Whatever the age or interest and there is so much to see and do. Sadly it was time to go, as we had slightly overstayed our allotted 3 hours in the car park, and we still didn’t see it all, so Greenway we will be back again, and we might even bring our husbands with us next time, if they are lucky!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Festive Fun in the Westcountry – Christmas Markets

The festive season is a really popular time for group travel, with so many events on offer throughout the region, with some being more well known than others. I love being out and about and seeing groups, some more official than others, but its great to see everyone embracing the festive season and spending time with their nearest and dearest.

There are more groups carrying out lots of different types of activities including:

  • Pantomines – family/friends groups, school/PTA groups
  • Santa’s Grotto’s/Sail with Santa/Santa Steam Train rides etc
  • Christmas Shopping trips including designer outlets, Christmas Markets/late night shopping, such as Cribbs Causeway in Bristol, or Atlantic Village’s Gift Fair
  • Festive Holidays – the ever popular Tinsel & Turkey seasonal festive breaks that many older groups take part in, usually as a coach holiday or self drive group which often include theatre, shopping and Christmas Market excursions
  • Events at Gardens – Longleats Festival of light, Eden Project’s Festival of Light and Sound, Coleton Fishacre’s Coleton Aglow, and Hestercombe in Somerset has a variety of events including a Christmas Market, Skating, and Santa’s grotto.

You see an increase in group dining with clubs, groups and associations all enjoying festive fayre of Christmas themed lunches and dinners, including the infamous office Christmas party.

However, I really want to focus on the rise of the Christmas Market in this post. The Vienna December Market was the forerunner to the modern day Christmas Markets and dates back to 1294. Most markets take place in Germany, Austria, eastern parts of France and Northern Italy, many of these date back to the late middle ages. Recent years have seen the popularity of the markets grow here in the UK with many large towns and cities now hosting their own German style market, like Bournemouth, Salisbury, Winchester and Birmingham.

The most famous Christmas Market in the South West region has to be the award winning Bath Christmas Market. It is the largest market in the region with its wealth of stalls, and the obvious beauty of Bath with its historical and architectural charm is a big pull to people who visit it. The market will be held from 23rd November to 10th December 2017. Visit their website here for more details including arranging coach trips to the city.

Exeter is the county capital of Devon, and a historical city.  There is lots to see and do in the city including visiting the Underground Passages, the refurbished Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery (RAMM) or exploring the Quayside with its pubs and cafes. Exeter Christmas Market is held on the Cathedral Green in the center of the city, from 16th November to 17th December 2017 and is organised by the cathedral. You can visit other markets in Exeter such as the weekly Farmers Market on Thursdays at the junction of Fore Street and South Street. For more details on markets in the city throughout the year, see the Visit Exeter website here 

Tavistock is one of the most famous market towns in Devon, with its ancient Pannier Market at the heart of the town centre. The town was granted a royal charter in 1105. The pannier market is open 5 days a week with many regular traders and themed market days. Many coach tour operators include Tavistock Market in their excursion programme for both day trips and holidays. The most famous market day in Tavistock is the towns Goose Fair, which is held anually on the 2nd Wednesday of October, so this year is on 11th October 2017. The Tavistock Warm up to Christmas Market takes place in the Tavistock Town Hall on Saturday 11th November and is free entry. The town will be hosting a Dickensian Evening on Friday 1st December 2017 which includes its Christmas Lights switch on. However I’m sure with the historical pannier market you will never be short of a market to attend in the town!

 

totnes xmas market 3

Totnes is one of the oldest Boroughs in Devon. An ancient walled town located on the banks of the River Dart, upstream from the famous Naval town of Dartmouth, which you can take a boat trip to. Or you could visit the nearby Dartington Cider Press with its unique shops. With its motte and bailey castle, operated by English heritage, and its historical Guildhall, Totnes is always worth a visit. Locally its known for its market, which takes place in the Civic Hall Square on Fridays and Saturdays throughout the year. Totnes Christmas Night Markets are held on Tuesday evenings in December, with many of the High Street’s shops remaining open late and stalls up and down the High Street as well as in the Civic Square selling their wares including some very yummy mulled wine, which I can personally highly recommend!! There are further details on their website here

 

Plymouth is the nautical city of the Westcountry and the largest shopping center outside of  Bristol. Plymouth Christmas Market takes place from 30th November to 21st December 2017 on Armada Way in the main city centre. With its German style stalls and newly enlarged bar area with Bavarian Beer, complete with heated seats to keep you warm on a chilly day! You could combine your day with a visit to the National Marine Aquarium or take a tour of the Plymouth Gin Distillery.

Kingsbridge Celebrates Christmas will take place on Saturday 2nd December 2017, with the Farmers Market set up in the Town Square and stallholder selling lots of Devon produce including Salcombe Gin, and gifts galore! Be good as Santa will be there on the day, marking you off on his list! Kingsbridge, like Totnes have a selection of electic shops on the high street and the market town is located on an estuary in the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the South Hams area of Devon.

Fowey is most famous for being the home of Daphne Du Maurier, and her home Menabilly was the inspiration for Mandalay the house in her iconic book Rebecca. Fowey now hosts the Du Maurier Festival (but Du Maurier and Fowey are a whole other blog post or 2!) The Fowey Christmas Market takes place from Friday 24th November at 5pm until Sunday 26th November at 4pm, with over 100 local suppliers in the town you can buy anything from Cornish tea, cornish honey, cornish teatowels, or gin and pastis from the Southwestern Distillery. How great to be able to take a piece of Cornwall home with you! as they say in Cornwall “Its a proper job!”  for further details you can visit their website here

Padstow-festival_chefs-5

The 10th Padstow Christmas Festival runs from the 7th to 10th December this year. With a host British chefs invited to the small picturesque fishing port on the Camel Estuary by Rick Stein, and Paul Ainsworth (two of the most famous Cornish based chefs), the charity Santa Run & Cycle through the town on 9th December, Christmas Film Festival and the Christmas Market on the harbourside selling food, drink, arts & crafts and pop up food stalls.

I have visited Padstow on many occasions both on family holidays and whilst hosting Group Organiser Familiarisation weekends in the area. I can imagine the town looking even more beautiful with the Christmas lights and throngs of people enjoying the festival and the many pubs and eateries in the town, including the ever popular Cornish Pasty or some obligatory Rick Stein Fish and Chips after a few local mulled ciders!

Obviously Rick Stein is the reason the town has become so famous after being mentioned and appearing in many of his television programmes, so this would be a great day out or weekend away for any groups with a culinary interest. The chef demonstrations play a major part in the festival with nearly 60 chefs giving demonstrations across the 4 days, all of which are free to watch, including Tom Kerridge, Michael Caines (who took hospitality at Exeter College with the same Tutor I had! See Mrs Wilson I remember!), Mitch Tonks, Paul Dodd, Angela Hartnett, and Nathan Outlaw amongst the many others.

For more details you can visit their website here

Last but by no means least, I want to write about  Weymouth’s Big Christmas. The actual Christmas Market takes place on Saturday 27th November in Weymouth Pavillions, with adult entry at £2.50pp and children are free, so you can do some last minute shopping whilst you enjoy some mulled wine, hot chocolate or roasted chestnuts.

Weymouth's Big Christmas 2015.

Weymouth’s Big Christmas Event however goes on for much longer! With the real ice skating rink open from 2nd December to 2nd January and can be found in New Bond Street in the town centre with 45 minutes sessions from just £6 including skate hire, which is great value in my opinion.

Saturday 3rd December is a date you won’t want to miss in the town! It’s the day of the Weymouth Christmas Lights switch on. With some Weymouth stores offering in-store activities you can find more information by clicking here The entertainment starts at 2pm with various musical, dance and theatre performances before Santa arrives and the lights are turned on. Visitors to Weymouth will be honoured to hear that Santa is visiting Weymouth on certain dates through December and you can see more info on the website here

There are lots of other events so just click through for further details on their website including free parking. Don’t forget there are lots of other places nearby worth a visit at that time of year including Bovington Tank Museum, Swanage Railway, as well as the collection of museums in nearby Dorchester.

Of course this is not a definitive list of ALL the Christmas markets or events across the region but a quick internet search will show you a variety of events, shows, carnivals near where you are visiting. I have left some website links below that you can see for more information.

I think markets are great to visit for groups and really get you in the Christmas spirit, especially if you are near the mulled wine stalls! However when the destination makes extra efforts with ease of access from train and/or bus stations, ample coach parking, printed town guides for the visitors make the visit easier for the group organiser.

Photo credits: Padstow – James Ram, Totnes – Maggie Towsend via Visit Totnes, Weymouth – Weymouth BID, Plymouth – Visit Plymouth

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/united-kingdom/articles/britains-best-christmas-markets/ 

https://www.mallcribbs.com/events/winter-wonderland-2017

www.visitcornwall.com/search?search_api_views_fulltext=Christmas+markets

http://www.devonlife.co.uk/home/christmas-markets-in-devon-12-of-the-best-to-visit-1-4749302

http://www.whatsonindorset.co.uk/events.aspx?m=12

http://www.somerset-life.co.uk/home/christmas/christmas-markets-in-somerset-1-4716151

https://www.xmas-markets.org/devon-christmas-markets/