Thursday, 17 October 2013

Dunster by Candlelight 6th and 7th December: Christmas shopping (and more) Exmoor style

Over the last few years, it seems that there has been a big increase in Christmas markets in England. Many of them are German style. Nothing wrong with that, but how about a really English Christmas shopping experience?

Every year on the first Friday and Saturday evenings in December (the 6th and 7th this year), Dunster village on Exmoor has a ‘big switch off’ and the streets are illuminated by candle lanterns instead of electricity. It really seems like going back in time, especially as Dunster still has the look and feel of a medieval village. To complete this experience, no cars or other vehicles are allowed into the village during the candlelit festivities.  

 Most of the village shops stay open until 9pm on both nights. There’s lots of inspiration for original and unusual Christmas gifts (and even a special Christmas shop) but it’s not all about shopping. There will be plenty to see and do even if you are just browsing. Plenty of places to eat and drink, too, with everything from street snacks to a three course meal, or maybe simply some hot chocolate or mulled wine to keep you warm.

The festival kicks off on the Friday at 5.30pm, with a lantern lighting procession featuring stiltwalkers. Entertainment each evening includes a variety of musicians and singers, both in the streets and at the Parish Church, so there is a real buzz. You’ll also find displays by local attractions at various venues, and maybe talks by local celebrities. Full details are in the programme, available in advance and on the night (it costs £1, with all the proceeds going to the Somerset charity St Margaret’s Hospice).

You may be wondering: with no vehicles allowed into Dunster on the Candlelight evenings, how do we get there?  The answer: use the Park & Ride buses, which go to Dunster from various places including our village, Wheddon Cross. The buses from Wheddon Cross start from Cutcombe Market (where there is free parking, although if you’re staying here at Exmoor House it’s only about a 5 minute walk to the market). The first bus to Dunster is at 4.30pm, and they’re approximately every half hour after that, with the last bus back to Wheddon Cross leaving Dunster at 9.15pm. Return fare is £3.00.

As I write this, we have a few rooms left for the Candlelight weekend. Dunster itself will be pretty hectic, so if you stay at our place at Wheddon Cross you can experience all the fun of the fair (as it were) and then escape to a calmer atmosphere afterwards. Best of both worlds!

Visit our website for lots more information (including details of special dinner bed and breakfast breaks).

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