This post is created in collaboration with Visit Stoke and Blogon Visits, where I was given the opportunity to go on a group press trip to Stoke-on-Trent.
As much as I love to travel to far-flung destinations, there’s something incredibly comforting about travelling close to home.
Located just 50 minutes from my hometown, Stoke-on-Trent ended up being the Christmas break I didn’t know I needed. With stunning Christmas displays to the funniest panto I’ve ever seen, it actually showed me that I don’t need to hop on a plane to experience that all-important Christmas cheer.
So, where is Stoke-on-Trent?
Stoke-on-Trent, also known as the Potteries, is a Central England town in Staffordshire. With a fascinating history and lots of opportunities for crafts, Stoke is the perfect city break for couples, families and those interested in cities with an industrial past. The city is a modern federation of six much older towns - Hanley, Burslem, Fenton, Longton, Stoke-upon-Trent, and Tunstall.
But what makes Stoke-on-Trent so special at Christmas?
A Chance To Learn About The Incredible Pottery History
One of the main reasons people visit Stoke-on-Trent is to learn about the incredible pottery and ceramics history, which started in the 17th century. Although the number of potteries and bottle kilns has started to diminish over the years, there are lots of ways for you to get a hands-on taste for the ever-growing industry.
Companies such as Royal Doulton, Wedgwood and Baker & Co. were all established and based here, some of which still produce pottery there today. Luckily, we had a chance to visit some of these incredible potteries to see them in action.
Middleport Pottery - Home of Burleigh, Middleport Pottery is an award-winning visitor destination in the heart of Burslem. Built in 1888, traditional pottery-making methods have been used here for years. We didn’t spend a lot of time walking around the museum but it was incredible to walk through the heritage trail to see the pottery making process from start to finish.
Afterwards, we grabbed a quick bright to eat in the tea room before heading to the factory shop to bag some absolute bargains.
Gladstone Pottery Museum - We were given the opportunity to walk around the museum - seeing how to expertly throw a pot, how to carefully decorate ceramics and how to make the infamous ceramic flower. We even had the chance to speak to a lovely lady who had been working in Gladstone Pottery for 40 years, where she makes 30-40 flowers per hour. Could you imagine?
For just £2, we were also able to decorate our own piece of pottery and so to remember my trip to Stoke-on-Trent I decided to decorate a bottle kiln. It may or may not have also been because it was the easiest thing to decorate, but I’ll leave that up to you to decide 😉
If you don’t fancy visiting Middleport Pottery or the Gladstone Pottery Museum, there are plenty of other options for you to choose from. For more information, you can visit the Stoke-on-Trent website here.
The Opportunity To Create Handmade Christmas Gifts
One of my favourite experiences in Stoke-on-Trent was visiting the Emma Bridgewater Factory, where we spent a couple of hours decorating our own pottery in the Decorating Studio.
When we arrived we were shown to our table and immediately served drinks. We were given a quick demonstration and shown how to choose the colours and stencils we wanted to use and I opted for a little bit of everything as honestly, I’m incredibly indecisive. I wasn’t expecting it but it was actually an extremely relaxing two hours and I think I speak for all of us when I say it was definitely the highlight of the trip.
Once our designs were finished, we had to wait a couple of weeks for them to be fired and sent to our home address. Mine arrived on Christmas Eve so it felt like a real ‘To Me, From Me’ moment.
Although I played it safe with my design, my Emma Bridgewater pasta bowl is now my favourite bowl to eat basically anything out of. Ice cream? Of course! Pasta? Most definitely! Popcorn? Even better! I’m hoping to go back soon to create a matching mug and as well as a few other bits.
The Perfect Location For Christmas Shopping
I honestly hadn’t thought of Stoke-on-Trent as being a great location for shopping but I had so much fun visiting all of the unique stores in the Trentham Estate Shopping Village. The wooden huts are absolutely stunning and with all of the Christmas lights, it feels just like walking through a Christmas market.
If you don’t get a chance to visit any of the pottery factory stores during your visit, you’ll be happy to know there are a number of stores here with reduced pottery. For a full list of stores you can visit this site here.
A Festive Pantomine With Local Celebrities
What is Christmas without the pantomime? With inappropriate jokes, lots of singing and dancing and an incredibly happy ending - pantomimes are an absolute must during Christmas time.
Luckily, the Stoke-on-Trent Regent Theatre puts on a production with local royalty (Jonathan Wilkes and Christian Patterson) every year. We were lucky enough to spend the evening watching the hilarious Sleeping Beauty, set in the magical town of Stokey. Although the Christmas pantomime is now officially over for the year, the amount of time and effort than went into the production was absolutely incredible and I’m positive it is the same year in and year out.
If you get a chance, definitely add a trip to the theatre to your Stoke-on-Trent Christmas itinerary.
Stunning Walks With A Magical Touch
There’s nothing better than a winter walk on a Sunday morning, right? Well, how about a winter walk with FARIES? Although the incredible Fairy Trail at Trentham Gardens Estate is now over, I’m sure there will soon both another magical installation in its place.
Until then, there are lots of other festive touches to explore whilst you visit the gardens. From giant baubles made out of natural materials to festive-themed photo opportunities for the whole family, you definitely don’t have to wait until summer to take a stroll around Trentham Gardens. For a guide to installations and what’s on at Trentham Estate, you can visit this site here.
Delicious Restaurants And Cafes (with ALL The Oatcakes)
Finally, I couldn’t finish this blog post off without mentioning my love for oatcakes.
If you’ve never tried oatcakes before they’re kind of like a savoury pancake, filled with things like bacon, cheese, sausages and beans. They’re absolutely delicious and a Stoke-on-Trent favourite. If you get a chance, I recommend heading to the Glost House to try them, followed by a slice of the biggest fresh cream victoria sponge you’ll ever eat.
Have you ever been to Stoke-on-Trent during the holidays? What was your favourite festive activity? I’d love to know!