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Christmas markets, markets, food festivals and festive events across Kent

By Angela Cole

With Christmas lights a-twinkling, there's plenty to have you reaching for the tinsel across Kent. Here's our guide to what's on offer this weekend across the county

WARTIME CHRISTMAS, GILLINGHAM

Experience a wartime Christmas at the Royal Engineers Museum in Gillingham on Saturday, December 8 and Sunday, December 9 with 1940s-style entertainment and the chance to learn how to lindy hop and cook a Christmas dinner on rations. Visitors can browse vintage market stalls and listen to familiar wartime songs and Christmas carols. Students from MidKent College will be replicating 40s hairstyles, and there will be talks and demonstrations, plus hands-on crafts, and an opportunity to visit Sapper Santa Christmas and receive a traditional Christmas gift. There will be live music from Miss Holiday Swing and on the Sunday the Brompton Military Wives Choir will be singing live. The museum is open from 10am to 5pm. Details at re-museum.co.uk.

A Wartime Christmas at the Royal Engineers Museum, Gillingham
A Wartime Christmas at the Royal Engineers Museum, Gillingham

ROCHESTER CHRISTMAS MARKET

The market in the grounds of Rochester Castle makes its final appearance of the festive period from Friday, December 7 to Sunday, December 9, with guaranteed snowfall. After the excitement of last week’s Dickensian Christmas Festival, there’ll be more time to browse stalls and pick up unique gifts and unusual stocking fillers. There will also be live performances, a funfair and a Bavarian food village where guests can buy German Bratwurst sausages, a hog roast and churros. The funfair rides will cost £1 on the Friday. Festivities will be open from noon to 8pm on Friday, and 10am to 6pm on Saturday and Sunday. Details at medway.gov.uk/christmas

Rochester Castle Gardens Christmas market Picture: Steve Crispe
Rochester Castle Gardens Christmas market Picture: Steve Crispe

CHRISTMAS AT BEDGEBURY

The magical illuminated trail turns Bedgebury Pinetum into a forest of festive lights. The winter wonderland trail, which runs after dark until Sunday, December 30, has highlights including the Tunnel of Light, with more than a million tiny lights twinkling along a 70m-long immersive walkway under a tree canopy; lanterns and fountains of light and a scented Fire Garden. There will also be artworks from Tilt and Pitaya nestled into the forest landscape. There are also some hidden surprises to look out for, including snowflakes, shimmering stars and gigantic baubles in unexpected places. Tickets are £17 and £10.50 for children or £50 for a family. Under fives and carers free. There are extra costs for some activities. Book by calling 0844 995 1365 or go online at christmasatbedgebury.co.uk

Read our review here.

FOOD FESTIVAL & CHRISTMAS AT WHITSTABLE CASTLE

Festive foodie goodies will be on offer at Whitstable Castle on Sunday, December 9 for the annual Food Festival. Besides the food there will be fairground rides and face painting at the castle in Tower Hill between 10am and 4pm. There will be music from the Useless Pluckers Ukelele Band and a visit from the Lindley Players panto. There’s also the chance to visit Santa in his grotto if you pre-book at £5 per child. Call 01227 281726 or visit whitstablecastle.com

Whitstable Castle has a grotto Picture: Andy Jones
Whitstable Castle has a grotto Picture: Andy Jones

FESTIVE ROLLER RINK, DREAMLAND

If ice skating feels a bit chilly for you, try the Festive Roller Rink where you can skate indoors at Dreamland in Margate.

Held in the Roller Disco, you can glide along to tunes from the Frosted FM DJ, between noon and 4pm on Saturday, December 8, and again on Saturdays, December 15 and 22 and Sunday, December 23 and Christmas Eve. Other festive events on at the theme park include a visit from The Snowman and the Snow Dog and a giant snow globe. To find out more go to dreamland.co.uk To find out where else to go ice skating click here.

WALMER CASTLE & DOVER CASTLE

Get a look at Walmer Castle out of hours with a tour when the rooms are festively decorated. Tours are on Thursdays December 6, 13 and 20 at 3pm and 6pm. Tickets cost £14 and £10 for ages five to 15. Visit english-heritage.org.uk/walmer to find out more.

Nearby Dover Castle’s Second World War Christmas continues this weekend with a trip into the wartime Home Front days on Saturday, December 8 and Sunday, December 9. Hear stories about the officer’s’ mess at the castle garrison and help bake some Christmas treats on rations. There’s also a chance to see a festive falconry show and watch lindy hop dancing. Tickets for the event between 10am and 3pm cost £20 and £12 for ages five to 15. Find out more at english-heritage.org.uk/dover

Walmer Castle has Christmas tours Picture: English Heritage
Walmer Castle has Christmas tours Picture: English Heritage

CLIFTONVILLE LIGHTS SWITCH-ON

Most Christmas lights are now twinkling but there is one switch-on left. The Cliftonville Partnership host the Christmas lights switch-on at St Paul's Church on Northdown Road, Cliftonville on Thursday, December 6. There will be children's entertainment and a free mince pie from 4.45pm to 6.30pm.

MAIDSTONE MUSEUM CHRISTMAS MARKET

Maidstone Museum in St Faith's Street will be opening its doors over two Saturdays in December for Christmas craft markets. Expect stalls selling a variety of local produce, handmade gifts and presents this weekend on Saturday, December 8 and again on Saturday, December 15. There's also a chance to meet Santa at Father Christmas's Fireplace which runs from Saturday, December 8 to Saturday, December 22, but there are very few tickets left. For more details visit museum.maidstone.gov.uk

Christmas lights will be sparkling Picture: Matthew Walker
Christmas lights will be sparkling Picture: Matthew Walker

QUEX PARK CHRISTMAS FAYRE, BIRCHINGTON

The fayre between noon and 8pm on Sunday, December 9 will be in aid of Louie's Helping Hands charity to help fund the Llewellyn School & Nursery for children with multi-sensory and physical complex difficulties. There will be face painting, stalls, a raffle, birds of prey, meet the Alpacas and Father Christmas, plus mince pies and mulled wine. For details go to quexpark.co.uk

KENT LIFE, MAIDSTONE

There will be a living farm nativity at Kent Life in Lock Lane, Sandling, on Sunday, December 9, at 3pm, featuring the attraction’s own farmyard friends. Working with Maidstone Family Church, visitors can take a journey through the grounds and see the nativity story scenes, as well as the chance to join in with some Christmas carols. Children are encouraged to dress up to be part of the nativity. This is part of the general admission cost. You can also book to see Santa on selected dates up to Christmas Eve. Jump on board the land train driven by the head elf to meet him, with kids getting a gift - and parents getting a cheeky mince pie. Tickets cost £7.95 and £12.95 for one to 15-year-olds. Book by calling 01622 763936 or visit kentlife.org.uk

Nativity at Kent Life
Nativity at Kent Life

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