Christmas and Castles with the National Trust

Some of Devon’s most beautiful National Trust properties are within a few miles of Hazelwood Holiday Park.

Many of the castles, country estates and manor houses have Christmas fairs and festive events for the whole family to enjoy during the winter season too, not forgetting the beautiful grounds for the children to run around and explore.

Killerton House & Gardens


This fine 18th century Georgian house was given to the National Trust in 1944 by Sir Richard Acland, who gave away the family home because of his strong political beliefs. The 6,400 acre Killerton estate has glorious landscaped gardens which are beautiful all year round and are surrounded by calm green parkland and working farmland, woods, orchards and cottages. Have fun exploring winding paths, or climb an extinct volcano, discover an Iron Age hill fort and admire panoramic views towards Dartmoor, all in one day. Killerton is an ideal place to visit for families, with plenty of space for adventurous kids who like exploring, to walk, cycle and play. During the summer season, Killerton holds regular events aimed at children.

Killerton also has three hidden gems. The first, nestled aside the River Clyst is Clyston Mill, a working watermill. Then in the midst of Broadclyst sits Marker’s, a fascinating medieval house, and just a little way from Killerton House is a 1950’s post office complete with it’s own quaint cottage garden.

This Christmas step through the doors at Killerton and enter into Kenneth Grahame’s world of Wind in the Willows with adorable Toad, Rat, Mole and Badger and go on an adventure through rooms in the Georgian mansion transformed into scenes from this much loved tale. Christmas at Killerton wouldn’t be complete without Father Christmas waiting in his magical grotto, tucked away within the stables every weekend in December (booking essential). There is also a Christmas trail through the grounds and inside the estate shop you’ll find seasonal goodies and award-winning estate produce suitable for Christmas gifts. See the National Trust website for all the Killerton Christmas event details.

For more information and opening times see Visit Devon.

Greenway House in Brixham, the holiday home of best selling author Agatha Christie.

Spend the day at the holiday home of world famous author Agatha Christie. In the 1950s Agatha and her family spent summers and Christmas holidays here with friends, passing the time on the river, playing croquet on the lawn, and reading her latest book. The house is filled with collections of archaeology, Tunbridgeware, silver, china and books and curiosities which the family had amassed, adding intrigue to the 1950’s setting.

The lush woodland creeps down the hillside towards the glistening River Dart. The walled gardens enclose a restored peach house and vinery, as well as an allotment nurtured by local school children. Not to be missed is a visit to the Boathouse at Greenway, scene of the crime in Dead Man’s Folly.

There are many scenic ways to travel to Greenway, including ferry and steam train. If you’d like to arrive by car you must pre-book your parking space online or by telephone (01803 842382).

December is a great time for a family visit to Greenway, this Christmas the house will be going back in time to the 1950s, decorated with 1950s decorations, and vintage toys to be wrapped and played with. A vintage style pop-up cinema will be showing classic Agatha Christie films in a marquee in the Walled Garden, and Father Christmas will be in his grotto in the cosy House Kitchen.

For more information and opening times see Visit Devon.

Saltram, near Plymouth

The perfect family day out: close to Plymouth and yet in a world of its own. The Parker family residence for almost 300 years, the house with its original treasures is an illustration of country-estate life over three centuries. Housing fine Robert Adam interiors and beautiful collections including personal correspondence between Frances, the first Countess, and Jane Austen.

A programme of conservation is underway to protect the Axminster carpet, restoring threads, removing damage and carefully matching colours and to make good the ceiling’s paint and plaster, filling cracks and retouching. A scaffold structure will mean you can get closer to the ceiling than ever before and ever again.

The house is a set in a beautiful 20+ acre garden, full of interesting plants as well as historic statuary, follies and an orangery. The grounds which have excellent accessibility all year round, have a secret garden and a park that cyclists, walkers, and dogs love.

This Christmas the house looks enchanting with decadently decorated trees and festivities. The garden will be illuminated with a magical glow as an evening trail is lit up with a rainbow of colours. There are yet more opportunities to get your festive feelings going in the Winter Courtyard Café and pop-up shop. The exciting build up to Christmas continues with ‘Storytime with Father Christmas’ and the ‘Peter pan trail’.

See the National Trust website for more information about the Christmas events.

For opening times and more information see Visit Devon.

Castle Drogo near Exeter, overlooking the Teign Gorge

Currently undergoing a six year conservation project to make it watertight (but staying open during the conservation work in spite of being covered in scaffolding), providing the opportunity to see behind the scenes. Inside the castle has been creatively displayed and brought to life illustrating its remarkable history.

Outside the beautiful Lutyens-designed terraced garden enjoys panoramic views over Dartmoor and the gardens have much more to see from the rose garden to the charming Bunty House (Wendy House) with its own miniature garden, newly created dog walking path and winding paths leading into the lush Teign Valley. It’s worth exploring this ancient gorge, and as you follow the trails along the river much wildlife can be spotted, and they are also great to explore by mountain bike.

A Christmas treat is in store for children on the weekends of the 9, 10, 16 and 17 of December when they can follow the trail through the gardens to find Father Christmas’s grotto and receive a special present.( £2.50).

The whole family will enjoy some festive treats like the home made cakes in the café or something more hearty from the festive food menu, there will also be a three course Christmas lunch special on Wednesday 14, Thursday 15 and Friday 16 December. (Booking is essential on 01647 434143). There is also a gift shop and plant centre stocking a wide range of plants, books, cards and local produce.

Every weekend until the 17 December the castle is open for special behind the scenes guided tours.

For opening times and directions see the

Coleton Fishacre, Kingswear

Travel back in time to the Jazz Age at this 1920s country retreat – the country home of the D’Oyly Carte family- with fabulous gardens by the sea. Built in the Arts & Crafts style, and consequently abundant with Art Deco elegance. Music fills the rooms, echoing the family’s Gilbert and Sullivan connections. See inside the 1920s life ‘upstairs and downstairs’ from the glamorous reception rooms to the servants’ quarters.

The garden is accredited by the Royal Horticultural society and has viewpoints with glimpses of the glistening sea, meandering paths through glades around tranquil ponds, and delicate plants from the Mediterranean, South Africa and New Zealand thrive in this rich valley.

This Christmas the garden at Coleton Fishacre is aglow with festive light. The streams, beautiful trees and exotic features of the garden are lit up in fabulously festive fashion. Above your heads disco balls glitter. You’ll pass the Quarry where a giant cocktail glass spills champagne bubbles. This walk takes about 40 minutes, after which you can warm up in the gazebo with a mulled wine. Dogs are also welcome in the grounds on short leads. The house is staged as if ready for a 1920s Christmas party this December. You can to try on a party outfit, take in the party music playing in the Saloon and there are even parlour games in the Sitting Room such as Gilbert and Sullivan charades. Café Coleton serves take-away hot drinks and food which you can be enjoyed as you explore the garden, and the shop is filled with gift ideas and festive decorations.

Coleton Fishacre is open on Saturdays and Sundays, 11am-4pm until Christmas and then daily from 27-31 December. Click here to see the opening times. Coleton aglow is running on Fridays – Sundays from 1 to 17 December and Wednesdays – Sundays from 20 to 31 December. There are two time slots available to book for your visit: 5-6.30pm or 5.30-7pm. Booking is essential; please call 01803 842382 to book.