It’s January, which means wassail is round the corner! Love a wassail? Never heard of a wassail? Want to get involved this year, but not sure where the best wassails in Somerset are? I’ve got the lowdown on the best places to take part in a Somerset wassail in 2024. Hail Apple Tree! Hail good health! Wassail! Wassail!
What is a wassail?
Wassailing dates back to Anglo-Saxon times, traditionally taking place on Twelfth Night (originally the 17 January, before the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar in 1752). The centuries-old ritual has Pagan roots and is intended to awaken the apple trees from their winter slumber. This involves blessing the orchards, reciting incantations, dancing, singing traditional songs and clattering pots and pans to scare away evil spirits and secure a bountiful apple harvest come autumn.
Wassail gets its name from an Old English term meaning ‘be well’, which was shouted like a toast at festivities in the darkest days of January while drinking hot spiced alcohol and cider.
Traditions vary slightly from place to place but usually, the wassail starts at dusk and is sometimes led by a Wassail King or Queen. Branches of the trees may be hit to frighten away evil spirits, cider is often poured on the roots of the oldest tree and pieces of toast, cake or bread are put into the branches to feed the good spirits or entice robins – believed to be the ‘guardians of the orchard’.
Afterwards, the trees of the orchard are serenaded with songs, Morris dancing and tasting the wassail drink. So if you thought a good crop of apples was all about the soil type and climate, now you know that’s not the case! If you’d like to experience this ancient tradition, there are of course loads of places to take part in a Somerset Wassail – this is cider country after all!
Where to take part in a Somerset Wassail 2024
Wassail, The Railway Inn – Thatchers Cider, Station Road, Sandford
- When? 10 January 2024, 6.30pm
- How much? £27.50 per person
Boost the chances of a plentiful apple harvest with a two-course meal at this traditional country pub, followed by sea shanty singing, mulled cider and Morris dancing.
Clevedon Community Orchard
- When? 13 January 2024, 2.30pm
- How much? Food bank donations welcomed (see list here)
Bring a pan and something to bash to Clevedon Community Orchard, found through the grounds of the new Baytree School (currently under construction), at the junction of Brookfield Walk and Kelting Grove.
There will be mulled cider and apple cake.
Rich’s Cider Wassail, Watchfield
- When? 20 January 2024, 7.30pm-midnight
- How much? £15, children under 12 free
Dance, sing and drink the night away at this traditional annual charity Wassail ceremony (raising funds for Cancer Research UK. Tuck into delicious hot food from the Cider Press Restaurant and frolic along with Scrumpy and Western band, The Skimmity Hitchers.
Wassail at Somerset Rural Life Museum, Glastonbury
- When? 13 January 2024, 7.30-10pm (doors open 6.45pm)
- How much? Adult £12, Child (5+) £8, under 5s do not need a ticket
Wrap up warm and join in with music and merriment at one of Somerset’s longest-running Wassails. The event will take place in the museum’s 14th century Abbey Barn and around the oldest apple tree in the orchard. Les Davies MBE, will join us as Master of Ceremonies for the evening; crowning the Wassail King or Queen and blessing the cider trees. Local band Rapscallion will provide musical entertainment.
Tickets include a seasonal drink on arrival and a piece of apple cake. Other drinks will be available to purchase along with hotdogs and burgers (cash only).
Wassail Night, Bere Cider Company, Langport
- When? 13 January 2024, 6-11.30pm
- How much? Free entry, no tickets required
BBQ from 5pm, Morris Dancing at 6pm, wassail at 6.30pm and live music from The Somerset Paddies at Bere Cider Company at 7pm! Pop along for a glass of mulled cider or hot choccie. Snacks and Cake also available.
- When? 13 January 2024, 11.30am-1.30pm
Alfred Gillett Trust Wassail, Clarks Village, Street
- When? 14 January 2024, 2-5pm
- How much? Free
This traditional Wassail will be led by ceremony master extraordinaire, local legend, Les Davies MBE. As well as stories from Somerset celebrating the apple, from Jane Flood, there will be a musical performance by local troupe, the Langport Mummers. Make and wear your own head dress for your chance to win a special prize!
Buttercross Community Orchard Wassail, St Georges Street, Dunster
- When? 17 January 2024, 7.30pm
Help preserve the traditional Dunster Wassailing ceremony with drum-banging, music, song and stories followed by the firing of the Wassail guns, finishing off in The Forester’s Arms for more ditties and storytelling. Cake and mulled cider provided.
Mid-Somerset Show, North Wootton Wassail
- When? 17 January 2023, 6.30pm
- How much? £12
As darkness falls in North Wootton village, a Wassail Queen will be chosen from the assembled crowd and a bonfire lit to ward off the evil spirits. Wassail festivities will continue in the Village Hall, with Trevor Hoddinot playing traditional music, and performances from the Langport Mummers and the Beetle Crusher Clog Dancers.
Tickets (available from the Show Office) include ploughman’s supper with one of Denela’s infamous Apple Muffins.
Dowding’s, At The Chapel, Bruton
- When? 20 January 2024, 5-9pm
- How much? £10, including drink and nibbles. 50% of the ticket prices will be donated to the Pitcombe Rock Falconry.
Dowding’s have teamed up with At The Chapel in Bruton for a Wassail. Expect talks followed by a performance from @wildmoonmorris. Wassail dress optional, pots and pans to bang encouraged.
- When? 21 January 2024, 6pm
Wassail trees and earth at White Street, North Curry. Wassailers will gather at White Street Pavilion and then process to the orchard at the back of the community woodland for dancing, toasting trees, singing songs and making wishes for the New Year. BYO warm drink and food, bring things to bash and dress up if you fancy it!
There will also be a band and singing fire bowls.
Wassail at Tyntesfield, Wraxall
- When? 27 January 2024, 1.30-2.30pm
- How much? This is a free event, no booking is required. Normal National Trust admission applies.
This coming January, Tyntesfield will be hosting its annual Wassail. Bring your noisiest pots and pans to bang to scare away those evil spirits, and join in the merriment blessing the apple trees for a fruitful harvest in the autumn.
The Sheppy’s Cider Wassail, Bradford-on-Tone, Taunton
- When? 26 January 2024, 5.30pm-10pm
- How much? £15
Toast the apple harvest for the year ahead with noise, fire, guns, hot cider and lots of people to sing the Wassail chant at Sheppy’s Cider. As well as all the evil spirit-dispelling, there will be winter-warming food, a cider bar, open fires, Morris dancing and folk music.
Jubilee Wood Wassail, Hinton St. George, TA17 8SE
- When? 20 January 2024, 6,15-9pm
Head to Jubilee Wood Wassail for free spicy mulled cider and apple juice, followed by a procession along a candlelit path, led by the Lord of Misrule and Lyme Morris, to the centre of the wood and the guardian apple tree for rousing wassail songs.
Hornblotton Wassail 2024, Orchard Park Farm, BA4 6SF
- When? 20 January 2024, 5pm
- How much? Tickets £15 adults, £2.50 children In aid of Hornblotton Village Hall, Church, and funding a new Defibrillator
Make sure the village apple trees get a hale and hearty start at Neil and Emma Macdonald’s barn in Hornblotton. This year’s event kicks off in style with singing from a 60-person Wassail choir, followed by hot food, drinks and music from the Four Foot Four. Wrap up warm and bring pots and pans to bang!
West Croft Farm Wassail, Brent Knoll
- When? 20 January 7pm
- How much? £20 per person, Children under 14 are free. The wassail supports Brent Knoll Parish Hall. Call 01278 760762 for tickets.
Wake the good spirits with cider and songs, scare evil spirits with shotguns and gongs!
West Croft Cider Farm will hold its long-running wassailing ceremony with a torch-lit procession followed by entertainment from The Funky Monkey Bubble Klub, Belly Dancers and Tim Dean. There will be Mulled Cider plus hot food options, apple cake, bread and cheese.
The Newt in Somerset Wassail Prune, near Bruton
- When? 8 March 2024, 11am-9pm
- How much? £195
The Newt celebrate their wassail slightly later, in March. Sign up for a Somerset Wassail Prune, kicking off with an introduction by Andy ‘Apples’ Lewis, Specialist Fruit Grower, who will teach the art of pruning apple trees. Lunch is served in the Farmyard Kitchen, followed by an exclusive cyder tasting in the cellar with the King of Wassail.
Explosive celebration is the order of the evening with hearty Somerset fare, shooing-out of evil spirits, bringing in the benign spirits, toasting good health, and breaking bread to cannon-fire and live music, all washed down with lashings of cyder.
Know of a brilliant Somerset wassail taking place near you? Let me know and I’ll add it to the list!