Events & Diary Dates

The Christmas build up is full of fantastic events and attractions, many of which we highlight in our Christmas News section. For your convenience we have put them all in one place, on one page, for you to peruse and perhaps put in your diary. See what earns your festive thumbs up.

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Events and Diary Dates 2018/2019

Reindeer Magic at Blithbury Lodge

Nestled in the heart of Staffordshire, Blithbury Lodge is home to England’s largest working reindeer herd. More than 150 reindeer freely roam across a thirty-acre site, which opens to the public for special events throughout the year – with the most magical coming at Christmas. This year’s festive fun runs from November 10th to December 24th. There are several event categories, like “Christmas Lapland Experience”, “Reindeer by Night”, “Christmas Eve” and “Toddler Day”. Improvements for 2018: new soft play area; indoor feeding area; Christmas Punch and Judy; new catering facility; licensed bar area; video screens; souvenir photo opportunity; singing reindeer. For full details go to blithburyreindeerlodge.co.uk.

Manchester Markets

The 2018 Manchester Christmas Markets will be open from November 9th to December 23rd. Spread across the city centre, the Christmas Markets are located within about a quarter of a mile of each other. Albert Square is open 10am to 9pm daily. Known as the original, biggest and best Christmas Markets in the UK, Manchester Christmas Markets have previously been voted one of the best in Europe by the European Best Destinations organisation. Manchester was the only UK city to make the top ten list at that point. While some stalls pack up shop on December 22nd, the main market hub in front of the Town Hall in Albert Square will stay open for an extra day until December 23rd.

Check out other Christmas markets at christmasmarkets.com or visit our City Lights & Markets page for more on markets/festivals and illuminations switch-on dates in towns and cities near you.

Coca-Cola Christmas Truck Tour 2018

“The holidays are coming, the holidays are coming…” This Coca-Cola jingle has long been a part of the Christmas advertising season, with the illuminated truck arriving in town to the wide-eyed wonder of children. The commercial first aired in the UK 23 years ago and will be returning to our screens this year from mid-November.

Then, of course, came the tour we could all see in person – and that is also back for 2018. Now in its eighth year, the iconic Coca-Cola Christmas Truck Tour will cover much of the UK. Last year, it started in Glasgow on November 11 and visited 42 locations across the UK, making its final stop at the Lakeside Shopping Centre in Essex on December 17. Expect a similar itinerary for 2018. At each stop, fans can project festive selfies across the side of the vehicle. Over the last seven years, the truck has travelled more than 730,000 miles. That’s the equivalent of 29 times around the world.

The Festive Gift Fair 2018

Birmingham’s NEC is home to the 2018 Festive Gift Fair from November 15th – 18th. Some 350 stalls will be selling all manner of wonderful gifts, food and drink for Christmas – and it’s all just a few minutes’ walk from Birmingham International station. The event is now in its 23rd year. For more details go to festivegiftfair.co.uk.

Canterbury Cathedral Services

There are special services through Advent and Christmas at the magnificent Canterbury Cathedral, including the Crib Service just before the big day itself. For a full list of public events at the cathedral go to canterbury-cathedral.org. Also note, Canterbury Christmas Market will return this festive season, with some fifty cabins throughout Whitefriars. You can shop for unique Christmas gifts, decorations and food specialities amid the scents of barbecued bratwurst and mulled wine. It opens in lateNovember and runs until just before Christmas.

Disney Enchantment

Discover the magic of Disney’s Enchanted Christmas at Disneyland® Paris from November 10th 2018 to January 6th 2019. Disney says: “Immerse yourself in the festive atmosphere and enjoy a range of special events that are sure to get you into the Christmas spirit.” Yes, Disneyland® Paris delivers its usual magical sparkle to the 2018 Disney’s Enchanted Christmas celebration. It’s an annual delight. Check out the Disneyland® Paris website for more details at disneylandparis.co.uk.

Bents Garden Centre Glee

Bents Garden Centre, off the East Lancashire Road in Glazebury in the Northwest of England, opens its renowned Christmas display in mid-October 2018. This was the first Garden Centre in the UK to take Christmas to such sumptuously decorative heights. Bents has won numerous awards and has a deserved reputation as one of the UK’s biggest and best garden centres. It has grown in size and stature in recent years and is a festive destination for thousands of visitors every year. The mince pies served in the restaurant – with or without a blob of clotted cream – are among the best dished up anywhere. Last year, a new alpine-style winter lodge area was added, offering a new way to enjoy delicious food and drink. The collectable Bents Bear is back for 2018 and celebrates a special birthday. Visit bents.co.uk for more information.

Christmas Festival at Royal Albert Hall

December 2018

Join in the festive fun at the historic Royal Albert Hall with carols, music and entertainment during the Christmas Festival. Hosting a series of traditional and joyful concerts and performances, the festival gets the Christmas spirit flowing in the beautiful surroundings of the historic hall.  A 30th Anniversary celebration of television comedy “Whose Line is it Anyway?” and Handel’s “Messiah” are among the highlights of the Christmas schedule for 2018.

With traditional family favourites in place alongside new, diverse events, the programme includes Guy Barker’s Big Band Christmas, a gospel celebration and traditional carol concerts. James Bond composer David Arnold’s new version of “Silent Night” will celebrate the carol’s 200th anniversary. For more information check royalalberthall.com or visitlondon.com.

Padstow Christmas Festival

December 6 – 9, 2018

Padstow’s Christmas Festival is always a seasonal Cornish highlight. You can find festive treats in the Christmas Market, see demonstrations from top chefs and take part in the Cornwall Hospice Care’s annual Santa Fun Run. On the festival website, chef, businessman and TV favourite Rick Stein comments on the growth of the festival across a decade, stating: “It’s extraordinary to think that it’s the tenth anniversary of Padstow Christmas Festival. Looking back to the first one in the Seaman’s Mission and Padstow Institute, with just one or two demonstrations, to what it is now with two enormous marquees on the quayside and demonstrations by chefs from across the country, it really is a testament to the popularity of the event. As ever, we have a fantastic line-up of chefs including Angela Hartnett, Michael Caines, Brian Turner, Roy Brett, and Tom Kerridge.” For all the details visit padstowchristmasfestival.co.uk.

Ideal Home Show at Christmas

Join fellow Christmas lovers this November for The Ideal Home Show at Christmas. The venue in the English capital is London’s Olympia from November 21-25. There will be inspirational demonstrations, the Eat & Drink Festival and a wealth of ideas to help your Christmas hopes and aspirations become reality. Check out idealhomeshowchristmas.co.uk for more information.

Tulleys Farm Christmas Experience

November 24 – December 24, 2018

The Christmas Experience is set within the beautiful woodland grounds of Tulleys Farm and is suitable for all ages. You can climb on to Santa’s Sleigh and ride through the forest to visit Father Christmas in his log cabin. And that’s just the start. There’s so much more to enjoy at Tulleys Farm this festive season like puppet shows, gingerbread decorating and reindeer food making. You can also book for ice skating sessions. Tulleys Farm is between London and Brighton in the heart of the Sussex countryside. More information on tickets, opening times and directions can be found at tulleyschristmas.co.uk.

Liverpool’s Spirit of Christmas

December 16 – 23, 2018

Liverpool Philharmonic Hall is the destination for a festive feast of music in the week leading up to Christmas 2018. The long established carol concerts Spirit of Christmas see the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and choruses provide the beautiful sounds of the season in December. Sing along to favourite carols and enjoy what has become a seasonal staple of Christmas in Liverpool. The Philharmonic Hall also stages Singalong with Santa shows for youngsters. Classic FM’s John Suchet presents. Mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnston performs. Check liverpoolphil.com for more details.

Natural History Museum Ice Rink

The ice rink at The Natural History Museum in London is open from late October and stays up and running until early in the New Year – except Christmas Day. It’s normally open 11am to 9pm most days, although this can vary. We advise you check for ticket information and opening times at nhm.ac.uk. Rest assured, this is a superb way to enter into the festive spirit.

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Agatha Christie Christmas

Greenway in Devon, Agatha Christie’s holiday home, always enters into the festive spirit. It has traditionally hosted seasonal activities throughout December and has been decorated with hundreds of handmade puddings, inspired by her short story “The Adventures of the Christmas Pudding” – Christie’s only first edition published in the UK that involves both Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. There will be visits from Father Christmas in 2018 on three Saturdays in December: the 8th, 15th and 22nd. Check times and availability at greenway@nationaltrust.org.uk.

Harry Potter Festive Magic

Hogwarts in the Snow is not to be missed. Harry Potter’s school will enter the festive season from November 17th 2018 until well into the New Year (January 27th) at the fantastic Warner Brothers Studio Tour in Leavesden, Hertfordshire. The winter theme wonderfully captures the feeling of the Christmas scenes in the Harry Potter films, with the Great Hall laid out for a festive feast. You can find out how the studio brought Hogwarts to Christmas life with its use of special effects and artificial snow. Check out wbstudiotour.co.uk – the seasonal set will be in place long after Christmas.

All Aglow: Birmingham Botanical Gardens

November 2018 – January 2019

Trees and glasshouses are invitingly lit and all aglow this Christmas at Birmingham Botanical Gardens from late November until early New Year. A sparkling path winds through the gardens for a special after-dark experience, with hedgerows glistening and tree canopies shimmering as seasonal melodies drift on the air. For more information go to birminghambotanicalgardens.org.uk.

Cotswolds River Tree

The Cotswolds can be a magical place at Christmas. One of the famous seasonal attractions in Bourton on the Water is the Christmas tree the Chamber of Commerce and the Parish Council erects in the river each year. The tree is normally lit on the first Friday in December. Christmas looks set to be wonderful there once again. Check bourtoninfo.com/news-events/christmas.

Moreton-in-Marsh Christmas: Staying in the Cotswolds for Moreton’s eighth Christmas Market, to be held in late November 2018, with more than 50 stalls lining the High Street selling a fine selection of Christmas gifts and food. You will find candles, jewellery, hand-made products for the home, festive wreaths and garlands. There will be more charity and local organisation stalls in the Redesdale Hall. There’s a Carol Service in the afternoon followed by the arrival of Father Christmas and the exciting Light Switch-On. Father Christmas will then be in his Grotto in The Redesdale Hall for Children to visit him. It all sounds incredibly festive.

Festive Events at Fortnum & Mason

Visit the Fortnum & Mason website to discover its full range of Christmas activities. Events traditionally include Christmas Wine Tasting and Children’s Workshops – where youngsters could learn wreath-making, cake decorating and more. Go to fortnumandmason.com.

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Stonehaven Fireball Festival

The Stonehaven Fireball Festival on December 31st 2018 is one of the most spectacular in Scotland and takes place at the stroke of midnight on Hogmanay. During the procession 45 expert fireball swingers march through the town in Aberdeenshire, swinging a flaming metal cage, attached by a long wire handle, around their heads. This dazzling display lasts about 25 minutes before the swingers reach the harbour where they throw their flaming fireballs into the water, after which the procession is rounded off by a glorious fireworks display. Check out: visitscotland.com/info/events.

Christmas at Kent’s Hever Castle

November 24 – December 24, 2018

Hever Castle in Kent, once the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, knows how to deliver Christmas delight. You can walk through the Castle, adorned with gorgeous decorations and with log fires burning. For an extra special day visit Father Christmas in his Grotto (available on select dates, pre-booking is essential).  There are seasonal dining options in the festively decorated cafés and restaurants and a fine array of seasonal gifts, luxurious decorations, toys and stocking fillers in the Hever Shop. There’s so much to enjoy at Hever Castle this Christmas and by going to hevercastle.co.uk you can find out more.

Burning the Clocks

A splendid spectacle on the shortest day of the year (December 21st), Burning the Clocks brings the Brighton community together as paper and willow lanterns are carried through the streets before being burnt in a bonfire to mark the year’s imminent end. Created by Same Sky, this event is only made possible by support of the council, local businesses and local people. Burning the Clocks is a free spectator event. Check out samesky.co.uk/events.

North Pole in Cambridge

The North Pole Christmas Festival Cambridge is expected to start in mid-November and runs until the New Year. There’s a 600m open air ice rink (family tickets are available), alpine lodge, sky wheel, festive food and fairground rides. Head to Parker’s Piece to experience Christmas in the heart of Cambridge city centre.

Belgravia Christmas Sunday

Elizabeth Street will be transformed into a winter wonderland for “Belgravia Christmas Sunday London SW1″, with craft stalls and boutique market sellers, children’s entertainment, choirs, brass bands and festive food and drinks. Just a 10-minute walk from Victoria (national rail & tube stations), Knightsbridge and Sloane Square (tube stations), “Belgravia Christmas Sunday London SW1” takes place in early December (in 2017 it was Dec 3 from 11am-5pm).

Exmouth Xmas Sail with Santa

Take a break from the normal Christmas activities and enjoy a cruise along the Exe in Devon. Available from early December 2018 and lasting about an hour, the trip is a magical adventure with fun activities and music – as well as seasonal refreshments. During the trip, each child is invited in to the specially built grotto to visit Father Christmas for a gift. There is room in the grotto for the whole family to have their picture taken with the big man. For booking details and more check out: stuartlinecruises.co.uk.

Legoland Christmas

December 1st & 2nd; 8th & 9th; 15th to 23rd 2018

Journey to the heart of the Legoland Windsor Resort and discover a Christmas setting with more than thirty rides, shows and attractions. See Christmas come to life in Miniland, where visitors can spot special LEGO additions to London and Scotland and perhaps spy LEGO Father Christmas delivering his gifts. Families can build together, adding to a festive LEGO scene, enjoy a stunning 8-metre-high LEGO Christmas tree and take part in the LEGO scavenger hunt. For more information go to legoland.co.uk.

Isle of Wight Festive Guided Tours of Osborne

At Osborne on the Isle of Wight the Indian-inspired banqueting room, where Queen Victoria hosted visiting royalty, will be in its festive finery for the annual programme of Christmas tours from mid-November to just before Christmas. Osborne’s ground floor rooms will be seasonally dressed and experienced guides will explain Christmas traditions for the royal family and those who served them. Check the website for the specific dates the tour runs. Pre-booking is essential. Visit: english-heritage.org.uk.

For a whole host of festive, enchanting and captivating events in and around beautiful buildings in this glorious, historic land this is an address you should bookmark: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/christmas/christmas-events/

Christmas Adventure at Stockeld Park

Yorkshire’s Stockeld Park stages a Spring Adventure and a Halloween Adventure before it gets Christmassy in November. The park’s Christmas Adventure opens in early November 2018 and runs through to early January 2018. After dark, the park is illuminated by thousands of twinkling lights. There’s a Christmas gift shop, ice-skating, an enchanted forest, a magical maze and more. The park is located between Wetherby and Spofforth on the A661. Check out stockeldpark.co.uk for more details.

Tingle Creek Christmas Festival Race Day

December 9 at Sandown Park

This is day two of Sandown Park’s December jump racing festival. Tingle Creek Christmas Festival Chase Day attracts crowds of racing fans and horses from afar. The day combines Grade 1 racing with a celebratory festive atmosphere. The two Grade 1 races are the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase and the Tingle Creek Chase, both run over two miles. The Tingle Creek Chase was first run in 1979 and named in honour of Tingle Creek, a popular National Hunt racehorse in the seventies.

Elizabethan Christmas at Hampton Court Palace

November & December 2018

Schoolchildren can find out how Christmas was celebrated in the past at Hampton Court Palace, unlocking the history through games, storytelling, art and craft. The session includes a tour of the Tudor Palace and the opportunity to make a crown to take home.

Booking information: Ticket Availability Daily – November 12th to 30th 2018 (10.30, 11.45, 13.15); Duration – One hour; Capacity – Up to 35 pupils; Price – £95 plus admission.

Also, look out in December for Christmas events at Hampton Court for all the family. You can find more details at hrp.org.uk.

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Christmas at The Ritz London

Christmas arrives at The Ritz London in late November. The celebrated hotel will transform into a winter wonderland with a 25ft Christmas tree taking pride of place in the lobby. Pre-Christmas celebrations start in The Palm Court, where the quintessentially British Afternoon Tea will have a festive twist and you may even be accompanied by carol singing. Check: theritzlondon.com.

Full Steam Ahead

There are Santa Steam Specials in Wales throughout December. Father Christmas is the VIP passenger on weekend rides on Wales’s narrow-gauge Great Little Trains. Check greatlittletrainsofwales.co.uk/events.

Eden Project’s Santa and Elves

It’s destination Eden Project in Cornwall to meet Father Christmas and his elves on selected dates between November 24th and December 30th. The Eden Project website reads: Inside the cosy tent you’ll get to see ‘behind the scenes’, including the elves’ bunkbeds, the pigeonholes full of children’s letters, and all the stockings laid out ready for the big day.” Go to edenproject.com for more information on the festivities planned for 2018. The Eden Project, an educational charity, connects us with each other and the living world, exploring how we can work towards a better future.

Portsmouth’s Dockyard Delights

Christmas Dickensian style returns to Portsmouth’s historic Dockyard this December. There are more than 150 stalls in the Christmas Market and Father Christmas is in attendance in his ‘olde worlde’ green colours. The event takes place in early December 2018. For tickets and more information go to historicdockyard.co.uk.

Waddesdon Manor at Christmas

Christmas decorations and festive fun at Waddesdon Manor in Aylesbury. From dusk, you can enjoy a light and sound show projected on to the Buckinghamshire manor from November 2018 to early January 2019 and there’s a Christmas Fair from November 10th to December 16th.  Most of the rooms in the house are ‘put to bed’ for conservation and cleaning from October to March, but some rooms are opened for Christmas. Waddesdon Manor was built by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild between 1874 and 1885 to display his collection of arts and to entertain the “fashionable world”. Check out waddesdon.org.uk for more information.

Durham Christmas Festival Returns

November 30 – December 2, 2018

Durham City’s traditional Christmas Festival returns this year, based around the Cathedral, Castle and other city centre locations. The Craft and Gift Marquee on Palace Green features more than 190 stalls, while 30 regional food and drink producers will be in the Cloisters of Durham Cathedral. There will also be outdoor markets in Durham Market Place and Millennium Place, as well as more than 50 traders in Durham’s Market Hall. Join in the ‘Carols for All’ services over the weekend or attend an evening concert performed by Durham Cathedral Choir. Booking for such performances is essential.

York Minster Christmas Carol Concerts

December 2018

What a setting, what a sound. The evening concerts feature traditional Christmas music sung by the full York Minster Choir and each night promises to be enchanting. The Yorkshire Volunteers Band will lead the audience in Christmas carols and celebrity readers will perform seasonal poetry and readings. Visit yorkminster.org for dates and details.

Mousehole Lanterns

The historic lantern procession through Mousehole, Cornwall on December 23rd follows in the footsteps of legendary fisherman Tom Bawcock. He tried to feed the village in time of famine and traditional stargazey pie is served to celebrate his efforts. The 54th year of the Mousehole Harbour Lights will be in delightful evidence from mid-December 2018. Opening night, there will be an open-air Carol service at the entrance to North Quay. Check out mouseholelights.org.uk.

Spirit of Christmas Fair at Olympia

October 29 – November 4, 2018

Discover a fine array of gift ideas at the Spirit of Christmas Fair at London’s Olympia, in association with House & Garden. You can browse the stalls for design items, winter fashion and gourmet food, with a collection of 750 independent boutiques represented. Relax with friends at one of the stylish Louis Roederer Champagne Bars or dine in style at Mosimann’s Winter Restaurant. You may even be inspired by festive workshops, from gin tasting to biscuit decorating. Check out spiritofchristmasfair.co.uk, where you can book tickets.

Ramsgate Harbour Illuminations

Enjoy coastal illuminations at Ramsgate Royal Harbour as it enters into the Christmas spirit for a fourth successive year through December 2018. In recent times, more than 40 boats were illuminated for the season in an event organised in a joint venture between Royal Temple Yacht Club and Ramsgate Marina Association, sponsored by the local council and Ramsgate Town Team. It’s a wonderful spectacle and a tradition that appears here to stay.

Melton Mowbray Victorian Fayre

Melton Mowbray’s Christmas lights switch-on takes place this year on Friday November 30th, with the annual Victorian Fayre to savour into the bargain. On Friday night, there’s a Christmas lights switch-on ceremony at around 6.45pm. Santa parades down Nottingham Street from about 4pm, before he takes residence in his magical grotto in the Market Place. On Saturday, there’s a Victorian Market to enjoy and on Sunday streets are closed to traffic as a Victorian Fayre is held throughout the Leicestershire town. There’s also the annual Christmas Tree Festival at Melton St. Mary’s Church and a Festival of Cribs at Sage Cross Methodist Church. For more details go visit goleicestershire.com.

Christmas at Beamish

Beamish, the open-air Living Museum of the North in NE England, is open every day from November 17th to December 24th 2018 to give visitors a taste of Christmases past. Enjoy a Christmas experience to remember as you discover the wondrous sights, sounds and mouth-watering tastes of traditional festivities in the 1820s, 1900s and 1940s. Visit Father Christmas in his cosy fireside grotto, stroll around the Beamish Bazaar or visit the new Winter Fun Fair to take a spin on the ice rink. There are also special Christmas evening events at Beamish in December, for which tickets sell fast. For more go to beamish.org.uk.

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Christmas at Castle Howard

Yorkshire’s magnificent stately home will embrace the season from November 17th to December 31st 2018. Doors are closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. The 300-year-old home will flicker with the light of hundreds of candles and roaring log fires, while soaring trees and traditional twigs glisten with hundreds of baubles. The thousand acres of parkland take on a beauty of their own in the winter months and will twinkle with the lights of Christmas trees that line the drive. You can indulge in festive menus at the cafés, before browsing the gift shops, farm shop and garden centre. The theme this year is ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ and sees the return of the inspirational theatrical design duo of Charlotte Lloyd Webber and Brette Gerecke, who masterminded the spectacular 2017 ‘Angels on High’ displays. Visit castlehoward.co.uk for more details.

Christmas Carols in Trafalgar Square

December 2018

This annual programme of Christmas carols returns to London’s Trafalgar Square. The Greater London Authority provides one-hour sessions for groups to use for carol singing at the base of the famous Trafalgar Square Christmas tree. In all, some 40 carol groups or choirs will each sing beneath the Christmas tree and provide free concerts, while raising funds for voluntary and charitable organisations. All the details are available at london.gov.uk.

Longleat Lights

There’s the return of the Longleat Festival of Light from November 9th 2018 as the Safari Park rounds off its 52nd year of existence. But this year there is a new theme as stunning light installations again transform Longleat’s landscaped grounds. The event will run alongside Longleat’s traditional Christmas celebrations that include the Santa Train and outdoor Ice Skating Rink. There are selected dates from early November 2018 for the Festival of Light so check out longleat.co.uk/christmas for more details.

Sail with Santa

Meet Father Christmas this December on London’s River Thames as he swaps his sleigh for a boat. Children will receive a present, along with a soft drink and a cookie, while adults can enjoy a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie. Should you grown-ups feel like drinking hot chocolate or even toasting the occasion with champagne, there is a café bar to hand. For cruise dates, times, other details and how to obtain tickets visit citycruises.com/special-events/christmas/sail-with-santa.

Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park

London’s Hyde Park will again be home to a festive Winter Wonderland from November 16th 2018 to January 1st 2019, building on last year’s 11th anniversary success. Gates open at 5pm on the first night and Wonderland will be open from 10am-10pm daily thereafter (except Christmas Day). Entry is free but tickets will be required in advance for such pastimes as ice skating and watching festive shows. The ice skating rink is the biggest outdoor rink in the UK, illuminated by more than a hundred thousand lights. There’s also a giant observation wheel.

Grassington Dickensian Christmas Festival

Weekends in early December 2018

Situated in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales, the picturesque village of Grassington is transported back to the time of genius author Charles Dickens for its annual festival and market. Shopkeepers, villagers and even some visitors dress in Victorian costume, entering into the spirit of the occasion. There’s a full entertainment programme over the two weekends of December 1-2 and 8-9, including bands and Victorian street entertainers. For children, there’s a chance to meet Father Christmas in his grotto and to take part in a torch-lit Nativity procession. Grassington offers a traditional Christmas Market in the village square and the local shops will be full of Christmas gift ideas.

Oxford’s Christmas Light Festival

November 16 – 18, 2018

Oxford’s festive season gets off to a sparkling start with the annual Christmas Light Festival weekend. There are dozens of free events to accompany a Christmas market and food stalls. There are light and sound installations in the Westgate Oxford and Oxford Castle Quarter, along with performance stages in Broad Street and Gloucester Green. And, of course, there’s the now iconic lantern parade led by local youngsters. More details can be found at oxfordchristmas.com.

Polar Express Train Ride Returns

After the huge success of recent Polar Express experiences at Telford Steam Railway, the fun and adventure returns for Christmas 2018 through December. Tickets sold out in double quick time. Therefore, this serves only as a reminder to sign up to the newsletter and be among the first to hear about tickets going on sale for next year. It just has to return next year, right? The experience is based on the wonderful Christmas film “The Polar Express” – based on one of the most magical of festive books by Chris Van Allsburg. Check out midlandsthepolarexpressride.com for information.

Christmas at Kew Gardens

One million twinkling lights and thousands off laser beams – that’s the view this Christmas at Kew. The celebrated Kew Gardens is organising another magical Christmas and bookings for this year’s event will be eagerly snapped up. The popular after-dark Christmas event is returning for a sixth year, with stunning new installations. The festive adventure will begin with a path lit by hundreds of illuminated globes winding through glittering trees. You can delight at the sound of a chorus of ‘Singing Trees’ as you head towards perhaps one of Kew’s most stunning attractions, its glistening lake. Christmas at Kew starts on November 22nd 2018 and runs through to January 5th 2019. Check out kew.org. Tickets are on sale from June 26th, 2018.

Oban Winter Festival

With growing success delivered with each passing year, the Winter Festival returns to Oban, Argyll, Scotland from November 16th to 25th 2018 with a Victorian Market, ice skating and a reindeer parade among the planned activities in late November. Check out obanwinterfestival.com.

Market Days in Historic Harrogate

Harrogate Christmas Market takes place this year from November 15th – 18th. Held on The Stray in the historic Montpellier Quarter of Harrogate town centre, this four-day festive market will be filled with quality Yorkshire products. In 2018, it’s expected there will be around 200 stalls selling such fayre as Yorkshire cheeses and chutneys to handmade gifts and Christmas decorations. There’s also Santa’s Grotto and real reindeer to visit. More information can be found at harrogatechristmasmarket.org.

Cowes Christmas Festival

Cowes Christmas Festival takes place over a celebratory weekend in mid-December. There are special guests involved in cookery demonstrations in the interactive cookery theatre, there’s music, Santa’s Grotto and a fine selection of Isle of Wight food, drink, arts and crafts. Saturday opening hours are 11am to 6pm and on Sunday 10.30am to 4pm.

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Tatton Park’s Illuminated 

Get set for some festive illumination in the Northwest of England with a glorious Lantern Parade at Tatton Park, Knutsford, Cheshire on Friday December 7th 2018. Father Christmas is welcomed to Tatton Park, lit by the gorgeous glow of lanterns. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own lanterns but they can also be purchased on the night. As well as the Lantern Parade, you can count down to Christmas with a visit to the grand house at Tatton Park on selected dates from November 27th to December 23rd 2018. The theme this year is “Food Glorious Food”. Embark on a magical journey through the festive Christmas Mansion, decorated with fresh foliage and greenery. There’s music, festive treats and seasonal craft demonstrations on offer. Also visit Santa at Tatton in “Father Christmas at the Farm” events on select dates in December and there will be “Christmas Carols in the Stableyard” on December 23rd. Check out events.tattonpark.org.uk.

Chester Zoo’s Lantern Magic 

This festive delight runs from November 23rd to December 23rd 2018 but has been sold out in quick time the last few years so early booking is advisable to enjoy the Christmas sparkle at Chester Zoo in the Northwest of England. You’ll be invited to stroll around the zoo after dark to enjoy all of the night time sounds, the beautiful lantern-lit gardens and the magnificent, imposing animal lanterns. Festive characters will also lead Father Christmas and his sleigh through the zoo. A colourful oversized Butterfly Garden, Nordic markets, striking Christmas trees and a magical ice kingdom all come together with favourite animal lanterns from Christmas seasons past.

The 2018 dates can be viewed and tickets booked at chesterzoo.org or by calling 01244-380280.

Thursford’s Christmas Spectacular

It’s destination Thursford in Norfolk for the annual Christmas Spectacular, set amid fairground carousels and mechanical organs with a cast of 130 professional singers, dancers and musicians performing a three-hour extravaganza. It runs from November 6th to December 23rd 2018, with show times each day at 2pm and 7pm. Bookings can be made online or by calling the booking office on 01328 878477. Click on ‘How to Book’ to access the online booking facility. Tickets sold out in record time in 2017. Use the same booking details for ‘Santa’s Magical Journey’ tickets. The address is Thursford Collection, Thursford, Fakenham, Norfolk, NR21 0AS and is one mile off the A148 between Fakenham and Holt. There’s more at thursford.com.

25th Anniversary Worcester Victorian Fayre

This year marks the 26th anniversary of the Worcester Victorian Christmas Fayre in the West Midlands and there will be many established favourites for visitors to enjoy. There will be a traditional Victorian carousel, juggling stilt walkers, Victorian characters and local choirs, plus more than 180 market stalls selling gifts and crafts. You could combine your trip to the Fayre with a visit to Worcester’s historic attractions. For more information check out visitworcestershire.org.

Ely Cathedral Christmas Fair

Ely Cathedral Christmas Gift and Food Fair is an annual must. The biggest Christmas fair in Cambridgeshire, it boasts 150 stalls and 15,000 visitors are expected to attend in November 15th – 17th. Also visit Ely’s historic cathedral in the build up to Christmas for a host of joyous musical events and marvel at the beautiful tree and crèche.

Burghley House Christmas Fair

Burghley House’s biggest ever Christmas Fair, with special fundraising Angel Fair, runs from December 6th – 9th 2018 and will offer visitors the chance to find perfect gifts in the beautiful Elizabethan surroundings of the Chestnut Courtyard and Brewhouse. During the Christmas Fair, Burghley’s pop-up Christmas Shop will once again appear, while the Christmas Fine Food Market will take place in the Stable Courtyard. There’s free entry and free parking.

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Skate at Somerset House with Fortnum & Mason

Celebrate Christmas in capital style at London’s famous Fortnum’s ice rink from mid-November 2018 to mid-January 2019. Enjoy memorable winter experiences on and off the ice. By day, skate in the splendour of the stunning Somerset House courtyard. At night, the rink hosts some of the best international clubs and festivals. Make your visit extra special with one of Fortnum’s ‘Skate Extras’, including Wine & Fondue for Two served on site in the Fortnum’s Lodge. The West Wing is transformed into The Christmas Arcade, a pop-up version of the classic Fortnum & Mason Piccadilly store, that’s open until the New Year. Check out: somersethouse.org.uk.

Christmas at Blenheim

For just the third time, Blenheim estate will be illuminated for an after dark festive trail as the gardens transform into a winter wonderland. The Christmas trail is open from November 23rd 2018 to early January 2019. Visitors will be able to complete their winter stroll with spiced cider, mulled wine or hot chocolate while the smell of roast chestnuts fills the air. Blenheim Palace itself will be decorated for Christmas (look out for a Cinderella theme) and open throughout the festive season from early November, except Christmas Day. Visit blenheimpalace.com for more details, including ticket information.

Kielder Winter Wonderland

Kielder Winter Wonderland in Northumberland can be enjoyed on weekends from mid-November until late-December 2018. You can follow the winter wonderland star to the enchanted forest and meet Father and Mrs. Christmas. Bookings are expected to be taken from September onwards. You can book online at kielderwinterwonderland.com. Make a weekend of it and stay at one of the luxury Scandinavian style lakeside of Kielder Water. Panoramic views stretch over the lake and forest and on-site facilities include swimming pool, children’s play area and wildlife garden.

Edinburgh Christmas

The Scottish capital welcomes the New Year in style – but it also knows how to celebrate Christmas. This year Edinburgh Christmas festivities and events start on November 16th 2018 and run to January 5th 2019. Check the full programme of events at edinburghschristmas.com.

Taurus Crafts Christmas Market

In the first three weekends in December, Taurus Crafts in Lydney, Gloucestershire welcomes more than 30 independent traders to add to the onsite makers and businesses for a splendid Christmas Market. Entry is free and so, too, is parking. You might also find that perfect locally grown Christmas tree. The festive period is a vital time for the year-round craft, artisan and creative businesses at Taurus Crafts and that guarantees they pull out all the stops to make Christmas Market weekends so memorable.

Lowry Makers Market Victorian Christmas Fayre

November 2018

The Lowry Outlet Mall Plaza in Salford hosts the Victorian Christmas Makers Market, where you will find the finest festive local food, drink, art, design, vintage and modern craft selected from north west artisans in time for a magical Christmas season. Meet the producers, browse the stalls and enjoy the Victorian theme.

National Trust Christmas

National Trust properties celebrate the season in wonderful style. We have just a few selected highlights here, although you can find so much more to enjoy at nationaltrust.org.uk:

Aberdulais Tinworks, Neath Port Talbot: you can step back in to Victorian times at the Aberdulais Tinworks. You can dress up as a tin worker and embark on a lantern lit walk. These are Christmas lights with a difference.

Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire: November and December – You can take a stroll through Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, see the trees twinkling with light and the abbey lit in all its splendour. The Cellarium is the place to catch live festive music.

Powis Castle, Powys: December – The formal gardens, terraces and courtyard at Powis Castle will be gorgeously illuminated for the Christmas season – perfect for ambling and soaking up the atmosphere on a cold winter’s night.

Woolsthorpe Manor, Lincolnshire: Early December 2018 to late January 2019 – Visit, enjoy and savour the House of Light this winter. Around the Manor, local groups are creating a series of new artworks inspired by light and science. Take a tour through the rooms and see Isaac Newton’s home in a new light.

Carols by Candlelight at Goodrich Castle

Local choir the ‘Roaring Megs’ will entertain you with traditional carols in the atmospheric setting of Goodrich Castle Chapel in Herefordshire. The tearoom will offer mulled wine and mince pies to enjoy after the performance. Booking tickets is essential (Sales Team number: 0370-333-1183) as places are limited. The event is expected to take place in early December 2018. Goodrich Castle is on Castle Lane, Goodrich, Ross on Wye.

LaplandUK’s Christmas

LaplandUK returns in 2018 for an 11th magical year from November  17th to Christmas Eve. The laplanduk.co.uk website reads: “LaplandUK is an original adaptation of the Father Christmas story and the secret world of the elves brought to life through a 4-hour immersive experience of unprecedented scale and quality.” LaplandUK is at Whitmoor Forest, Swinley Road, Ascot, Berkshire. Ascot Station is about 1.5 miles away.

A Very Victorian Christmas at Tyntesfield

Victorian-style celebrations flow from late November 2018 to early January 2019 as visitors step back into Christmastime past at Tyntesfield, North Somerset. Tyntesfield is where they take the season’s best-loved traditions and bring them to life with an immersive Victorian experience.

For a list of some of the major pantomime productions being staged across the UK this Christmas you can visit our Pantomime & Theatre page. Simply CLICK HERE