The dark nights, the faint smell of wood smoke, Christmas decorations and celebrations: Ashbourne is a great place to be during the Festive Season.
The month starts with the town already decked in its spangly Christmas clothes. With the big lights switch-on happening in November many shop fronts have a Christmas tree, and Christmas-themed window dressing. The Town’s lights are across the street and there is a Christmas tree in the Market Square. The Town Hall has its own illuminated tree and CW Sellors wraps itself up as a Christmas present to spectacular effect. We’re already in the Christmas spirit when the town hosts it’s Christmas Shopping evening on the first Friday in December.
This is one of the highlights of the year. The streets are closed off and the shops stay open. There are stalls all along the streets, music and Carol singing. All the organisations in Ashbourne take a role and do a little fund-raising. There is a real family feel to the night. It shows the town off at its very best – everybody is there and its a good chance to catch up on the latest news while eating some warm mince pies, having some homemade soup, fresh popcorn, roast chestnuts or a glass of mulled wine. The pubs and cafes do a roaring trade and kick off the season well. It’s a good night to call into the butchers and get the turkey and ham ordered as well as pick up a few gifts. Best Wishes will be open to allow you to buy Christmas Cards.
This year the traders have put together a prize draw for £1000. I am a big advocate of Try Ashbourne First. We have some excellent shops on our High Street and some great online traders too. Many people have been brainwashed into thinking out-of-town will always have more choice and be cheaper. They don’t even have a look through the door to compare with local traders – and as a result they miss bargains closer to home. There are some retailers which can offer unique gifts – our galleries, Vintage Bluebird, The Olive Tree. We also have good deals on electronics through Corner House. There is absolutely no excuse for buying your Christmas dinner anywhere but from local butchers, green grocers and the market. You will pay more and get poorer quality in the supermarkets. Christmas Shopping night is a great time to take a leisurely stroll through the door of your independent High Street stores.
As the weather gets colder and the nights are dark the local pubs are excellent. Christmas Eve is a particular favourite. Everyone seems to finish work a little early and the town fills up. In the Smiths Tavern there is Carol singing with a Brass Band. When the nights get darker and the weather gets colder its the snugger pubs and cafes you want to be in. I think it takes a lot to beat the roaring fire in the Horns, the warm welcome in the Smiths Tavern or the steamy welcome of the Gingerbread Cafe.
After the Christmas celebrations, the Boxing Day tradition is to see off the Four Shires bloodhounds from the market square. typically at around 12:30 the hounds lead the hunt up from Shaw Croft and they take a stirrup cup on the Square before heading off. It’s a spectacular event. The hounds are incredibly well trained and full of character. They weave their way in amongst the crowds oblivious to what is going on before being summoned by the horn. The horses stand patiently while their riders talk to friends and supporters then the group moves off for an afternoon galloping through fields. The audience head off to the best meal of Christmas in my opinion – cold turkey, ham, salad and pickles – the fridge will be starting to wane but is nowhere near defeated.
Ashbourne in December is probably not the best time of year for tourists but for those in the area visiting friends and family its a fine welcoming place to rest up.