19 Christmas grottos and festive events in Devon

PUBLISHED: 16:47 21 November 2018 | UPDATED: 17:00 21 November 2018

Father Christmas arrives at Pennywell Farm

Father Christmas arrives at Pennywell Farm


Seeing Santa surrounded by fake snow and several plastic elves is part and (gift-wrapped) parcel of the festive build-up. We've tracked down 19 of Devon's greatest grottos and festive events guaranteed to delight all the family

1) The Big Sheep, Woolly’s Winter Wonderland, Bideford

Santa will be waiting in a log cabin in an enchanted forest, complete with snowmen, reindeer, and, er, sheep at this top North Devon attraction.

The wonderland is made even more special with a light display, which will illuminate in time to popular festive tunes. Woolly’s Winter Wonderland opens on December 1 and then runs until December 24. With lots of festive things to do from ice skating to a magical light show, you will be fully catered for! To book your tickets in advance go via the BIG Sheep website.

2) South Devon Railway, Buckfastleigh

These guys have got the whole meet and greet Santa thing well and truly sussed. Santa by Steam regularly attracts thousands of people from all over the country who come for the trip of a lifetime to see the grotto train. “It’s the atmosphere and the steam that makes it so special,” says South Devon Railway spokesman Dick Wood.

“The kids get so excited. The adults do too. Some people whose children have all grown up still come because they love the atmosphere. Others remember it from their childhood and want to come back with their families.” Santa by Steam, which includes a present for every child, runs between December 1 and 24.


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3) Christmas at Pennywell Farm, Buckfastleigh

The animals are the stars here with a series of Nativity plays that capture the spirit of Christmas. Pennywell supplies the costumes and organises the whole direction, giving every child (and adult) the opportunity to dress up and star in a performance. After the play, every child gets to meet Santa in his grotto.

You can even meet Santa’s family of reindeer in the Pennywell Farmyard. The plays start on November 24 will continue until Christmas Eve.

4) Santa in the Caves, Kents Cavern, Torquay

The Big Man is heading underground for this magical grotto event, which has been running for the best part of 30 years. Expect plenty of magic and fun during an hour-long show, a meet-and-greet with Santa, plus mulled wine and mince pies for the grown-ups.

“It’s a very magical event and one of our most successful,” says James Hull from Kents Cavern. “It certainly brings the excitement of Christmas.” The fun starts on December 2 and runs until Christmas Eve.

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5) Santa’s Grotto at Dart’s Farm, Exeter

The chance to buy lovely local produce and keep the kids entertained is too good an opportunity to miss. The grotto at this foodie haven promises ‘real’ falling snow, with Santa sat in his cosy armchair, ready to chat to his customers.

All profits will go to Hospiscare. The grotto is open from December 1 until December 23.

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6) North Pole Express, Trago Mills, Newton Abbot

It’s all aboard to see Santa at this popular event. Visitors can enjoy a ride on a steam train at one of the largest model railways in the country, before visiting Santa in his grotto.

The event runs until December 22.

7) Dartmouth Steam Railway

Brand NEW and for the very first time in the UK, you can take a trip on the magical Christmas ‘Train of Lights’. This truly spectacular illuminated journey starts at Dartmouth Steam Railway’s Paignton station, where a period carriage awaits you – settle back into your seat and wait for the dazzling light show to begin.

If that’s not enough, the famous Santa Express is also running until Christmas Eve and this year features Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Follow the link above for dates of each activity.

8) Drake Circus, Plymouth

Sometimes you just can’t beat a good old shopping centre grotto. Expect to see a winter wonderland on the ground floor as Santa comes for his traditional stay at Drake Circus.

The grotto is open from now until Christmas Eve.

9) National Trust Killerton

Christmas at National Trust Killerton is always a joyous experience, this year they have sparkling displays with Killerton House transformed into the icy world of the Snow Queen, inspired by Hans Christian Andersen.

The story continues outside where you can follow the twinkling trail through the garden and parkland. On selected dates you can meet the traditional Victorian Father Christmas dressed in green. You could also enjoy a delicious Christmas lunch if all of these activities leave you drained!

10) Crealy Adventure Park

There’s a Crealy Christmas Spectacular on offer this year at Crealy with ten brand new attractions, featuring the South West’s first ever Christmas Ice Show in their heated Big Top Arena. Watch the sensational international ice skaters and aerial artistes perform in this magical extravaganza.

Then enter Santa’s Magical Toy Shop, where every child gets to choose their own present and join Mary Christmas and her team of merry cookie makers in her Christmas bakery as she shows you how to decorate your own festive gingerbread treat. It runs between December 1 and 23.

11) The Donkey Sanctuary

It’s ‘Walter’s Winter Trail’ at the Donkey Sanctuary this Christmas and through to February, help Walter keep warm this winter and get a prize on completion!

And don’t miss ‘Carols by Candlelight’ on the 14th December, a special evening of carol singing by candlelight alongside the resident donkeys and Santa himself.

12) Seaton Tramway

Back by popular demand is the ‘Polar Express’ Tram ride at Seaton Tramway, relive your favourite Christmas film! Take the magical tram ride to Santa’s home at the North Pole in one of the specially decorated single deck tramcars.

Enjoy a hot chocolate, a delicious treat, speak to Santa and admire the awesome lights while you make your journey to the North Pole.

13) Milky Way Adventure Park, Bideford

Head to the Milky Way Adventure Park and meet Santa, explore Buzzlewick’s Elf Emporium, decorate gingerbread and make Reindeer Food.

Help Father Christmas to sort and load the children’s letters ready for him to take back to the North Pole. A fun-filled festive family day out for all. The event first runs on December 8.

14) Stuart Line Cruises, River Exe

Sail with Santa onboard Stuart Line Cruises, a great way to see the man in red, cruising up the calm and sheltered waters of the stunning River Exe and plenty for everyone to do on this fabulous hour-long trip.

Or enjoy a special festive River Cruise on board their festively decorated boats while enjoying a glass of homemade mulled wine and a tasty warmed mince pie.

15) National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth

Dreaming of a blue Christmas? Fortunately, the National Marine Aquarium has got this covered with their Christmas at the Aquarium. Enjoy the special Christmas crafts and events with the focus this year on ‘Magical Migrations’ Take the winter trail around the Aquarium for families to work together and find the clues.

You might even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Santa himself diving in the tank with the sharks and rays and watch him feeding the fish.

16) Pecorama, Beer

Take a ride on the Pecorama Santa Special. Back by popular demand are the Santa Specials on the Beer Heights Light Railway.

Experience the Santa Special Train followed by a visit to Santa with a Christmas treat for the children and a traditional Christmas refreshment for the adults. Under 12’s can then let off some steam in the indoor Play Station.

17) Dartington Crystal

There’s Santa Sundays at Dartington Crystal, take the little ones along to meet Santa in his Mary Poppins themed grotto and enjoy a day of festive fun for all the family.

There will be grotto gifts, face painting and themed glass painting and don’t forget there’s a great shopping experience there too!

18) Woodlands Park, Dartmouth

Christmas at Woodlands this year includes a mesmerizing walk through Santa’s Workshop and lots of hidden surprises that must be seen to be believed, before meeting Santa himself and receiving a very special gift.

Santa and his festive friends will help you make magical memories from December 1.

19) Morwellham Quay

Take the train ride to visit Santa in his underground grotto at Morwellham Quay and receive a present from December 1.

Each child can bake some festive bread in the bakery and paint their own Christmas tree decorations, while the adults can enjoy mulled wine and mince pies in The Ship Inn.


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