If you're longing for a traditional British Christmas and New Year in a beautiful setting, you need look no further than Dartmouth. This South Devon gem looks particularly stunning when its historic buildings and cobbled streets are illuminated by twinkling lights and dusted with snow.
'Dartmouth is well-known for embracing the Christmas spirit,' emphasises Discover Dartmouth, the official tourist guide.
Every year, there's a host of uplifting events to enjoy throughout the festive season in and around the harbour town.
The festivities begin with Candlelit Dartmouth, a spectacular event held annually at the end of November. During the opening ceremony in Royal Avenue Gardens, Dartmouth's Christmas lights are switched on.
The merriment continues with a seasonal market, live music from the bandstand, mulled wine and carols sung around the town's Christmas tree. Santa Claus' arrival is eagerly anticipated – he makes his grand entrance at this coastal resort's seasonal festival not on a sleigh but (yes, you've guessed it!) by boat!
Imagine wandering through the town's charming streets one evening carrying a handmade lantern. At the conclusion of Candlelit Dartmouth, festivalgoers have the chance to do exactly that. The lantern procession is an unforgettable experience.
A combination of papier mâché and LED lights, the lanterns are made by adults and children at local workshops. Some are shaped like stars, others like sharks or jellyfish! The creativity on display at the procession is wonderful, as is the spectacle the lanterns create.
This year, Dartmouth witnessed what must surely be its most special lantern procession yet. Participants followed a large lantern inspired by the famous Mayflower ship (which docked in Dartmouth in 1620 before sailing to the New World) to the medieval St Saviour's Church.
With the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrim Fathers' arrival in the town fast approaching, the church was lit by 400 candles to launch the Dartmouth Mayflower 400 celebrations.
Specially written music, including the Mayflower Anthem sung by the choir, was the icing on the cake at the Night of 400 Candles.
Dartmouth Steam Railway's Christmas Train of Lights is a recent addition to South Devon's seasonal attractions – but it's already made a huge impression on residents and visitors alike. For this award-winning steam train service, vintage carriages, railway stations and rural landscapes are decorated with thousands of Christmas lights.
Travel between the seaside town of Paignton and village of Kingswear, marvelling at the festive wonderland. Will you spot the illuminated reindeer amid the trees?
During your journey, as the railway company remarks, you'll 'be greeted by the twinkling lights of Dartmouth reflected on the River Dart'. Magical!
On the big day itself, Dartmouth's 17th century Royal Castle Hotel serves its famous, six-course Christmas lunch. It's a festive feast!
The chefs make the most of the region's fresh, mouth-watering produce. Guests dine in surroundings that are as luxurious as they are iconic and enjoy stunning harbour views.
Just across the river from Dartmouth, you can take part in the much-loved Coleton Aglow event at the National Trust's Coleton Fishacre. With its stunning gardens adorned with festive lights, this country retreat is the ideal setting for a wintertime adventure. Explore the house to be captivated by a 1920s-style Christmas party.
Further along the Dart, the late novelist Agatha Christie's former holiday home, Greenway (another National Trust property), beckons. Christmas at Greenway is a hugely entertaining event – this year, Christie's story 'The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding' has inspired a terrific trail. Follow the clues to solve the mystery…
It's easy to picture Christie's famous creation, the private detective Hercule Poirot, exercising his 'little grey cells' on Greenway's trail or at the Royal Castle Hotel's Murder Mystery Dinner, which will take place just before New Year.
The Dartmouth Hotel organises stylish New Year's Eve parties – 2019's event is the Black & White Ball. Expect champagne, lounge suits and stunning gowns!
Alternatively, head to Dartmouth's Boat Float and soak up the jolly atmosphere. The town always greets the New Year with breathtaking fireworks.
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