Days Out: Dartington Crystal Visitor Centre and Tour

On our recent holiday to North Devon, we spent a rainy morning at the Dartington Crystal Visitor Centre and we also did the factory tour. My son had been learning about how glass was made at school, so seeing it happen before his very eyes was high on his list of things he wanted to do on holiday.

We set the satnav for the Dartington Crystal factory in Torrington and arrived early in the day. Glass production starts very early in the morning, so early that the glass blowers break for their lunch mid morning, which closes down the factory tour. Nevertheless there’s plenty to do at Dartington Crystal besides the factory tour.

Days Out: Dartington Crystal Visitor Centre and Tour

We arrived to find a large car park with plenty of parking. We walked around the building to the visitor centre and paid for our tickets. You can buy them online before your visit and save a few pounds if you want. I paid £9 per adult ticket (£7 in advance) and children under 16 go free.

We were warned the factory workers would be breaking for lunch in half an hour, so we began the factory tour. You can linger as long as you want in the factory, it’s very informative with the whole process from the glass making process to blowing and finishing the glass all explained in simple terms.

Days Out: Dartington Crystal Visitor Centre and Tour

It’s very warm in the factory and all the glass workers wear shorts and t-shirts. Each has his own job to do; a small part of the process and it’s really interesting (and almost relaxing) to watch. They take a molten lump of glass out of the furnace and slowly transform it into something beautiful.

The tour took us around half an hour, mostly because the boy was getting too hot and wanted to get outside. I could have stayed for longer watching these skilled craftsmen at work.

The factory tour ends with you back in the visitors centre. There we decided we wanted to try our hands at some glass painting, which cost us just £6. We also spent some time reading about the history of the Dartington Crystal factory and watching a film. There are lots of things of interest if you want to know more about glass making.

Days Out: Dartington Crystal Visitor Centre and Tour

Once we’d enjoyed all that the visitor centre had to offer, there is a large outlet where you can find some lovely glassware to take home. There are a few other outlet stores to explore too. I did end up spending an absolute fortune on really gorgeous things. I have no regrets.

Days Out: Dartington Crystal Visitor Centre and Tour

If you are planning on visiting, you can save a few pounds by booking your tickets in advance online. You can also book in for creative sessions; like glass hand casting for kids (which was fully booked when we visited which was a shame). You can also try your hand at glass blowing or jewellery making. There are lots to see and do if you plan ahead and book the things you’d like to try, otherwise you might be disappointed.

I really liked that children go free. I feel my son learned quite a few things about glass making and blowing that he didn’t know before. It’s always good to see how things actually work rather than just reading about it and imagining the process. He really enjoyed the glass painting, we both did. There were a few other activities for creative kids too. I’d say it’s well worth a visit if you’re in the area. This was my second visit and I’d happily go back again.

For more information about visiting Dartington Crystal Visitor Centre visit their website.

We paid for our visit in full.

Crafts: Glass Painting for the unartistic

Three million years ago I went to art college. People think this makes me some kind of Mancunian Monet but alas no, I studied journalism and thankfully never picked up a paintbrush other than to redecorate my flat.

Besides being able to draw a bit I genuinely have very little artistic talent. This doesn’t stop me from trying. I’m a firm believer in doing things you enjoy that you might not necessarily excel at. If you’re going to have a hobby it needs to be fun and enjoyable.

I like crafts. I enjoy drawing with my son and making things with him. I went through a cross stitch phase a few years ago which I loved, and last year I tried and failed to teach myself crochet. I was browsing the DoCrafts website and I happened upon the Aquaglass Glass Painting Starter Kit, I’ve always wanted to give glass painting a try so I ordered it.

It’s a cracking little kit which will go quite a lot way I think. It has a tube of black relief outliner and four little pots of coloured glass paint (red, yellow, green and blue) as well as a little paintbrush. It doesn’t come with an instruction sheet but it was easy to figure out.

Use the black outliner to create your design, once that’s dry then paint with the coloured paints. As it was my first go I chose a nice jar to paint. I thought I’d go with a really simple design and just paint coloured panels around the jar. This was quite easy to do, though my brushwork with the black paint was a bit splodgy.

glass painting

My first attempt was not beautiful, but I’m quite pleased with it. I’m looking forward to trying my hand at glass painting a few other things, I reckon I’ll ruin a few more jam jars first until I get the hang of it properly. I’ve got some lovely plain candle holders which I plan to decorate.

I enjoyed doing it, it was nice to focus solely on a task and to not think about the million other things you have running round your head if you’re a parent. It was a lovely piece of me time and a hobby I reckon I could get into fairly easily and cheaply.

Disclaimer: I was sent the Aquaglass Glass Painting Starter Kit for free for review purposes. These are my honest opinions and I really enjoyed playing about with it.