12 days of Christmas in Torquay and Devon

17th Nov 2019

There is so much to do in the build-up to Christmas here on the English Riviera. We've done the hard part for you and listed the festive happenings not to be missed. Take a look at our festive cracker of a countdown here:

  • Step back in time with Bygones’ Victorian Christmas
  • Torquay’s Christmas Lights Switch-on and Carnival Procession
  • A Winter Wonderland at Coleton Aglow
  • Torre Abbey Museum’s Winter Fest
  • Puttin’ on the Glitz at The Holly Ball
  • The Rotary Christmas Grotto at Fleet Walk, Torquay
  • Panto comes to town - oh yes it does!
  • Travel on the Train of Lights and Santa Express
  • Brixham Lanterns, Lights and Luminations
  • Artisan Crafts Christmas Shopping at Cockington Court
  • Getting Christmas Crafty at Occombe Farm
  • Boxing Day Walk in to the Sea

Day 1 - Step back in time with Bygones’ Victorian Christmas

The Victorians created many of the Christmas traditions that we know today. From Saturday 1st December, Bygones, an independent attraction and eccentric treasure trove of nostalgic treats housed in a former cinema in St. Marychurch, Torquay, is transformed into a Victorian Christmas wonderland with a spectacular real 12 ft tree. Stroll down a life-sized Victorian street and enjoy the festive season as you take in three floors of fun with 100 years of history, interactive displays and unique curiosities on display. Take part in a St Nicholas’ workshop, Gingerbread Decoration weekend or a special breakfast/lunch with Santa.

Day 2 - Torquay’s Christmas Lights Switch-on and Carnival Procession

The highlight of Torquay’s festive calendar for families has to be the switching on of the Christmas lights and the carnival procession which begins at Lymington Road coach station at 4.45 pm, arrives at Castle Circus at 5pm and travels through the main shopping area to the clocktower on the harbour. All monies raised through collections on the night will be donated to local charities. Taking place on Saturday 17th November this is a not-to-be-missed treat for the whole family and look out for Santa who will be making a special appearance.

Day 3 - A Winter Wonderland at Coleton Aglow

Wrap up warm, bring along a torch and explore the house and grounds at National Trust’s Coleton Fishacre during the annual Coleton Aglow evening spectacle from Friday 30th November onwards. There’s a truly magical feel in the air with hundreds of pretty lights illuminating the trees and route that leads you around the formal terraces and woodland of this RHS accredited garden.  An opulent party atmosphere with live music played on the piano in the Saloon inside this grand country retreat, once owned by the D'Oyly Carte family, will transport you back to the decadent, roaring 1920s. Check out the Christmas Carols, Cocktails and Canapés events on Thursday 6th & Wednesday 12th December for a chance to dress up in 1920s attire.

Day 4 - Torre Abbey Museum’s Winter Fest

This popular museum attraction in Torquay hosts an enchanting two-day indoor craft and gift fair, which has already become a festive favourite in the Bay. Wander through the majestic, historic Abbey setting and browse the 30 stalls selling unique handmade gifts and local crafts for great Christmas present ideas.  You can expect seasonal music, a Christmas trail for the children and some indulgent nibbles and beverages including the traditional mulled wine. Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd December, 10 am to 5 pm.

Day 5 - Puttin’ on the Glitz at The Holly Ball

One of the longest-running and hottest social events on the English Riviera calendar for adults. The Grand Hotel, Torquay hosts this sparkling extravaganza each year, with top quality food on sale, great live bands covering many music genres and some of the sharpest dressed people in town. Friday 21st December will be a night full of glamour and sophistication with ladies adorned in stunning ball gowns and suave tuxedo dressed gents dancing the night away. Join in as the crowds gather together for the traditional midnight Christmas carol singing. The Holly Ball promises to be an evening of pizzazz and festive frivolity with a complimentary glass of fizz included in the ticket price. Organised by Torquay Rowing Club all proceeds support a local charity, but be warned this is guaranteed to sell out quickly!

Day 6 - The Rotary Christmas Grotto at Fleet Walk, Torquay

Santa’s little helpers from the Rotary Club of Babbacombe and St Marychurch run this charming Cinderella themed fully animated winter wonderland on the gallery level of the Fleet Walk shopping precinct. Each year Santa welcomes about 12,000 children and their families into his spectacular sparkling grotto, which is open every weekend from Saturday 17th November and daily the week before Christmas. All proceeds raised go to local Rotary charities.

Day 7 - Panto comes to town - oh yes it does!

Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without a trip to the theatre during Panto season. With slapstick comedy and custard pie throwing, ugly sisters and pantomime horses, there’s plenty of fairy tale stories and theatrical fun for all generations of the family. The English Riviera’s top-class theatres offer a range of Christmas shows from locally produced productions to professional touring companies featuring famous names and amazing theatre sets, this is the ultimate feel-good experience. Audience participation is optional but who can resist booing the evil villain or shouting ‘It’s behind you!’ You’ll find Mother Goose at the Palace Theatre, Paignton; Jack and the Beanstalk at Brixham Theatre as well as Christmas Crackers, a yuletide show featuring a comedy magician and a master of illusion at Babbacombe Theatre, Torquay plus much more on offer.

Day 8 - Travel on the Train of Lights and Santa Express

Brand new for 2018 is the simply stunning Train of Lights, a spectacular illuminated journey starting at Queens Park Station, Paignton travelling towards Churston Station, through Greenway tunnel and onwards to the charming hillside town of Kingswear. You’ll be dazzled by this extraordinary light show with its thousands of sparkling lights decorated inside the vintage carriages as well as outside. This is the ultimate magical Yuletide experience with the chance to upgrade and travel in the Devon Belle observation carriage. For children, a ride on the Santa Express is a great chance to tell Santa how good they’ve been all year and their Christmas wish list!

Day 9 - Brixham Lanterns, Lights and ‘luminations

The quaint fishing town of Brixham will celebrate its Christmas Lights Switch on with a spectacular ‘Lanterns, Lights and ‘luminations’ parade with street entertainment and food outlets offering local produce and scrumptious Christmas delights. Organised each year by Brixham Town Council this much anticipated local parade on Saturday 24th November will process along The Quay, Middle Street, Fore Street, Strand and Kings Street. The festive merriment continues with the Brixham Christmas Market at Scala Hall.  

Day 10 - Artisan Crafts Christmas Shopping at Cockington Court

You’ll find Christmas spirit aplenty at Cockington Court as you countdown the days to Christmas on the English Riviera. If you’re looking for that extra special gift visit Cockington Craft Centre and the forge where you’ll find resident artists and makers creating and selling unique handmade items including leather goods, jewellery, chocolate, traditional wooden toys, ceramics and glass and much more. Every weekend in December there’ll be pop-up festive family activities while you browse the shop, galleries and craft studios within this stunning country setting, as well as a range of wonderful winter warming dishes and drinks to purchase from the tea room.   

Day 11 - Getting Christmas Crafty at Occombe Farm

Down on the farm in December, you’ll find plenty to keep the children entertained with weekend workshops with a crafty theme. Occombe Farm’s  Cookery School in Paignton is the location for the Kids’ Christmas Cookery workshop, a hands-on baking day where festive foodie treats like reindeer poops, angel’s snowdrops and gingerbread hearts and stars to hang on the Christmas tree are made; as well as a Gingerbread House decoration workshop for children and families. Adults can get creative too with a Christmas Hamper workshop to learn how to make a selection of delicious sweet and savoury delights including everyone’s favourite, the Christmas pud to give as gifts to loved ones and friends.

Day 12 - Boxing Day Walk in to the Sea  

Paignton Lions Club Boxing Day Walk into the Sea is a tradition that began in 1976. This wonderful event takes place on Paignton Beach and is open to anyone willing to put on their bathers, brave the elements and take a midday dip. This is a firm favourite in Paignton’s festive calendar bringing the local community and seasonal visitors together, with spectators very welcome to cheer on the hardy swimmers. There’s a modest entry fee to take part in the dip with all money raised going to local good causes.