Dunster Village

Dunster By Candlelight

Dunster By Candlelight

Each year on the first Friday and Saturday night of December, the quaint Somerset town of Dunster holds its candlelight event. By day this mediaeval village is steeped in history and a sight to behold; lit only by candlelight, it takes on an ethereal and magical feel as visitors from far and away come to participate in the event.

The streets are lined with Christmas market stalls, and there are plenty of possessions and festivities with street performers all lit by twinkling, glowing lanterns and candles.

The History Behind the Event

The event first started in the mid-1980s. If you have visited this stunning town, you likely did so with the bulk of the tourist trade who descend during the warmer summer months. The narrow streets are snaked with cars as it’s also a route to the popular beachside resort of Minehead. People tend to stop because of the town’s unusual and historically significant look and feel.

Dunster Castle, now a National Trust property, attracts many visitors, primarily in the spring and summer. At the time, the castle closed to visitors at the end of October.

Passing Trade Fell in Winter

The knock-on effect on local traders was a distinct lack of business, leaving them struggling to pay their bills and survive the winter season. Hannah Bradshaw and others reformed the Dunster traders Association and came up with the idea of starting at Dunster by Candlelight.

They decided that the event should be held on the first Friday and Saturday evening of December each year and that money would be raised for charity. Initially, this was St Margarets Somerset Hospice, but over the years, many other local charities have benefited from the annual event.

The idea was to present visitors was a completely different experience of the town which would be lit by candles and lanterns, creating a warm glow as people got into the spirit of the season.

Visitors Love Dunster by Candlelight

The organisers hoped the event would generate a new level of activity in the winter, but none of them could have predicted just how popular and how much the event would grow over the coming years. There are street performances, a procession with flaming torches and drums and many other activities that change annually alongside a myriad of stalls selling Christmas gifts, food and drink.

 The event was so successful that it presented a challenge in terms of parking because Dunster has limited space, so much so that now a park-and-ride service operates from Minehead, which is just up the road and ferries visitors to the event. It grew so quickly that High Street and Church Street were initially closed to traffic to keep visitors safe. More recently, once the park-and-ride had been set up, West Street could also be closed, allowing visitors to see the charming cottages that still exist.

If you have never experienced Dunster by day or night, it is certainly worth adding to the bucket list, Exmoor is a stunning area to explore, and the candlelight event offers something for everyone of all ages.

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