Get into the festive spirit this Christmas and discover authentic British and Irish arts, crafts and food by the sea. Words: Madeleine Barber
1. FOR ARTISAN FOOD
Padstow Christmas Festival, Padstow
Now in its ninth year, Padstow’s harbourside Christmas Festival is well known for delighting foodies with locally produced fare, top-chef cookery demonstrations and mouthwatering tasting sessions. This year's market will have more than 100 stallholders, including food and drink manufacturers from all over Cornwall. Think bakeries, charcuteries, cheese-makers, preservative producers, fisheries, farm shops, and more sweets companies than you can count. For a tasty tipple to wash down all those artisan tidbits, choose from locally produced beers, ales, ciders, liqueurs and spirits. Open Thursday 1 December 12-5pm; Friday 2 December 10am-8.30pm; Saturday 3 December 10am-5.30pm; Sunday 4 December 10am-6pm (01841 533449, padstowchristmasfestival.co.uk). Photo: James Ram.
2. FOR FANTASTICAL FUN
Glow: A Cork Christmas Celebration, Cork City
There’s so much to do in this seaside city this Christmas season that visitors won’t know where to start. At Glow, celebration-goers can expect to be immersed in a 3D version of Narnia, ‘a winter wonderland’, in Bishop Lucey Park and explore lines of Christmas market stalls on the Grand Parade. The markets will include products of local crafts such as ceramics, textiles and jewellery, and a food zone bound to tickle your tastebuds. To top it all off, for children, there’s a 30m-high Ferris wheel, vintage carousel, and the opportunity to post a letter to the North Pole. Open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays 25 November – 18 December 12pm-8.30pm (+353 21 492 4344, corkchristmascelebration.ie).
3. FOR FAMILIES
Family Christmas and Craft, Birling Gap and the Seven Sisters
The Christmas event at the National Trust’s Birling Gap visitor centre will welcome a special visitor this year: Father Christmas himself. Inside the family room, he’ll meet and greet little ones for a £3 entry fee before they toddle off to take part in some festive craft activities. Meanwhile, adults can explore the site’s shop, which offers trinkets made by local artists, jewellers and craftspeople for stocking fillers and jolly gifts. Afterwards, families can take a winter walk along the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs and enjoy some crisp sea air before returning home. Open Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 December 11am-3.30pm (01323 422511, nationaltrust.org.uk). Photo: NTPL Paul Harris.
4. FOR BRIGHT ENTERTAINMENT
Christmas Market at The Alnwick Garden, Alnwick
Home to one of the world’s largest treehouses and a pristine ornamental garden, The Alnwick Garden is a pleasure to visit at any time of the year. But at Christmas, a little magic is added to the greenery with a handmade, artisan and traditional gifts market. Each maker from around the region has been handpicked by The Alnwick Garden, as has a selection of festive nibbles and show of live carolling. On the last Sunday, 18 December, a spectacular live music and light performance dubbed ‘Spark’ will see a lantern parade tour the gardens before finally coming to a halt in front of the Grand Cascade. Open every weekend 26 November – 18 December, then 19-22 December, 10.30am-5pm (01665 511350, visitnorthumberland.com). Photo: Graeme Peacock.
5. FOR A MAGICAL GROTTO
Carew Castle Christmas Fayre, Carew
Pembrokeshire’s Grade I-listed Carew Castle is thought to have been built in 1270, but the site’s history can be tracked back at least 2000 years. The building, which has transformed from a Norman fortification to an Elizabethan country house, overlooks a 23-acre millpond and is nearby Tenby. It’s a magical place to visit Santa’s Grotto, which will be tucked away within the stone walls. The castle’s family-friendly fayre takes place in the ancient corridors and courtyards, and offers locally made arts and crafts. Open Sunday 4 December 10am-3pm (01646 651782, pembrokeshirecoast.org.uk).
6. FOR A FESTIVAL VIBE
Fowey Christmas Market, Fowey
Launched in 2005, the Fowey Christmas Market will this year be hosted inside the Leisure Centre. It presents tons of goodies from across Devon and Cornwall, including handmade fudge, locally fired clay pottery, driftwood art, glass mosaics, silver jewellery, hand-sewn quilts and decoupage giftware. Plus, don’t miss the tea and cake at the Kitchenside Bakery and Lesley’s Café. Open Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 December 10am-5pm (01726 67719, foweymarket.co.uk).
7. FOR A HISTORIC HOUSE SETTING
Christmas Fair at Plas Newydd, Isle of Anglesey
Cross the Menai Strait this festive season to get to Plas Newydd, an elegant 18th-century house with sweeping views across the water to Snowdonia. Inside, over 60 stalls will be there for your perusal; from foodie treats like chocolates, pastries and cupcakes to non-edible pieces such as handmade jewellery, artisan soaps and locally made slate products. If you’re in search of Santa, head to the cosy Octagon room where a £5 entry fee will grant a meeting and a gift. Open Friday 2 – Monday 5 December, varied times from 10.15am-4pm (01248 714795, nationaltrust.org.uk).
8. FOR HANDMADE CRAFTS
Eden 2 Christmas Art, Craft and Food Fair, Inverness
Located just two miles from both the Beauly Firth and the Moray Firth, this festive market organised by Exclusively Highlands is a craft-lovers paradise. Over 70 exhibitors will be showcasing their handmade arts, crafts and foods at Eden Court for market-goers to purchase. The makers originate from all across Scotland, but the majority are from the Highlands, where they draw inspiration from the surrounding isles and their coastlines. The market is also a charitable event, with some of the proceeds going to support Alzheimers Scotland. Open Friday 9 December 12-8pm; Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 December 10am-5pm (01381 621962, exclusivelyhighlands.co.uk).
9. FOR A HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE
Christmas Fair and Handmade and Vintage Market, Ramsgate
On the eastern tip of the Kent coast you’ll find Ramsgate, where a fourth annual Handmade and Vintage market, and an outdoor Christmas Fair, will be taking place this month. During the day, visitors will have the chance to browse everything from felt baubles and glass decorations to handmade cards, chocolate and jewellery, and listen to a number of musical acts. If you’d like to get in on the action, there will be family-friendly craft workshops run by Arts in Ramsgate. And of course, don't miss out on the mince pies and mulled wine. Open Sunday 4 December 11am-5pm (07939 542990, visitthanet.co.uk).
10. FOR ONE-OFF GIFTS
Deepdale Christmas Market, Burnham Deepdale
Dalegate Market, situated off the A149 coast road and in the heart of the Norfolk Coast AONB, is open all year round, but at Christmas adds three giant marquees and expands to St Mary’s Church for the Deepdale Christmas Market. Independent traders offering unique gifts from all over the region will set up over 100 carefully curated stalls. Examples include handcrafted stained glass ornaments, illustrated and hand-printed textiles, decorative recycled glass and ceramics inspired by the coast. If you get peckish while shopping, head to The Proper Pizza Co, Pie Central, or The Duck Truck. Open Friday 2 December 12-7pm; Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 December 10am-4pm (dalegatemarket.co.uk). Photo: Andy Davison Photography