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.
Events and Diary Dates
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. The fun starts from early November and runs to just before the big day. There are usually several event categories, like “Christmas Lapland Experience”, “Reindeer by Night”, “Christmas Eve” and “Toddler Day”. For full details go to blithburyreindeerlodge.co.uk.
Ice Village Manchester
Ice Village Manchester was a spectacular and welcome addition to Christmas in the city last year. It returns for 2019, running from November 8 to January 5. Cathedral Gardens will again be transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with stunning ice sculptors, seasonal market stalls, mini ice slide for the kids, the new Ice Tiki Bar for the adults and a new ice rink under a clear roof. Skating under the stars anyone? The showpiece is the Ice Cavern, a purpose-built structure with an interior temperature kept at minus-10º. The ice scultpors have hand-created a realm of ice and snow for 2019, inhabited by legendary ice beasts…a unicorn, a griffin, and a massive dragon bathed in fire-red light. These mythical creatures guard the entrance to a frozen royal castle. Carved from ice along the way are #iceselfie opportunities, including in the Royal Carriage made of ice. For more details and to book tickets go to icevillage.co.uk and for Skate Manchester tickets go to skatemanchester.com.
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
“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 some 24 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 this year. The iconic Coca-Cola Christmas Truck Tour will cover much of the UK. Over the last seven years, the truck has travelled more than 730,000 miles. That’s the equivalent of 29 times around the world. You can see the full list and times by visiting:
The Festive Gift Fair
Birmingham’s NEC is home to the Festive Gift Fair in November (for 2019 it’s Nov 14-17). 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 24th year. For more details go to festivegiftfair.co.uk.
Aled’s Barbican Christmas
Aled Jones presents a concert of seasonal classics, festive readings and joyful song at London’s Barbican for Christmas 2019, including a selection of favourite carols for all. Conducted by Adrian Lucas and with guest soprano Jennifer France, songs will include Willcocks’ “Jingle Bells”, Cullen’s “Joy to the World” and Blake’s “Walking in the Air”. It all takes place on December 23. The 2019 London Festival will run at the Barbican Centre from December 16, kicking off with Christmas with King’s College Choir and concluding on January 1 with the New Year’s Day Prom. For more details visit barbican.org.uk.
Bents Garden Centre Glee
Bents was a trailblazer for British garden centres embracing all things Christmas and has long since set the festive benchmark. This year’s Christmas experience is officially opened on October 16. The addition of the Alpine Lodge has been a big success, while the beautifully decorated trees again captivated the thousands of visitors to the impressive centre at Glazebury in the Northwest of England. The mince pies there are our annual favourite and, for 2019, the annual Bents Bear soft toy has a new female companion. Visit bents.co.uk for more information on Christmas activities and goods.
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 late–November and runs until just before Christmas.
Discover the magic of Disney’s Enchanted Christmas at Disneyland® Paris from November 9 to January 6. 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 Disney’s Enchanted Christmas celebration. It’s an annual delight. Check out the Disneyland® Paris website for more details at disneylandparis.co.uk.
Padstow Christmas Festival
Padstow’s Christmas Festival is always a seasonal Cornish highlight in December. 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.” For all the details visit padstowchristmasfestival.co.uk. For 2019, the event runs from December 5 – 9.
Country Living Christmas Fairs
Country Living Magazine’s Christmas Fairs take place in November and December in London, Glasgow and Harrogate. Find all kinds of ideas and inspiration as you aim for that perfect Christmas. Book tickets in advance and you can save 30 percent win the door price. Check out countrylivingfair.com.
Birds & Beasts in Festive Farnham
Christmas at Birdworld in Farnham, Surrey is the place to meet Santa’s reindeer and friendly farm animals before you enter a world of animated characters in winter wonderland settings. For tickets and information go to birdworld.co.uk.
Farnham in Surrey is also home to the Rural Life Centre, where there are more animals to meet at Santa Specials. Each Christmas, the museum exhibits are moved and the seasonal lights and decorations are put in place. Please note that Santa will only be able to see children who have pre-booked. Ticket information at rural-life.org.uk.
Christmas at London Zoo
ZSL London Zoo is festooned in festive sparkle from late November through to the New Year with an illuminated after-dark experience for all the family. There are tunnels of light, singing trees and shimmering fountains en route through the zoo. Father Christmas and his elves are on hand to make the experience even more magical. Check out zsl.org/zsl-london-zoo/whats-on/christmas-at-zsl-london-zoo for more information.
Christmas Festival at Royal Albert Hall
Join in the festive fun at the historic Royal Albert Hall with carols, music and entertainment during the Christmas Festival in December. 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. For more information check royalalberthall.com or visitlondon.com.
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. 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 dates and information.
Tulleys Farm Christmas Experience
The Christmas Experience is set within the beautiful woodland grounds of Tulleys Farm and is suitable for all ages, running from late November. 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
Liverpool Philharmonic Hall is the destination for a festive feast of music in the week leading up to Christmas. 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. Check liverpoolphil.com for more details.
Natural History Museum Ice Rink
The ice rink at The Natural History Museum in London is open from October 19 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.
Festivities at Speke Hall
Liverpool’s Speke Hall offers magical meetings with Father Christmas and so much more (sometimes ghostly, occasionally tranquil, often foody) for Christmas from late November. Listen to carols and enjoy seasonal food in the restaurant. For more Christmas events at Speke Hall and additional details, go to nationaltrust.org.uk/speke-hall-garden-and-estate/whats-on
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 December. Check times and availability at [email protected].
Harry Potter Festive Magic
Hogwarts in the Snow is not to be missed. Harry Potter’s school will enter the festive season from November 16 until well into the New Year 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
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 Christmas Market and lights switch-on, to be held in late November, with more than 50 stalls lining the High Street selling a fine selection of Christmas gifts and food. There’s a Carol Service in the afternoon followed by the arrival of Father Christmas and the exciting town illumination.
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.
Mining for Underground Santa
Delve into the depths of the National Coal Mining Museum for England from late November to late December this year and you can meet Father Christmas in the most unlikely of places. That’s because you can book to meet Santa 140 metres below ground at Caphouse Colliery in Overton, Wakefield. There will be a gift for each young visitor. Check all the events, ticket availability and more at ncm.org.uk. Do you think the mining museum is where Santa gets his coal to put in the stockings of naughty children? We like to think so.
Stonehaven Fireball Festival
The Stonehaven Fireball Festival on December 31 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.
Now That’s What I Call A Show
First it was a must-have album. Now it is a must-see show. We’re talking “Now That’s What I Call Christmas” and it is taking place at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall on December 17. The singalong pop classics in the show include “Merry Christmas Everybody”, “Fairytale of New York”, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and “Baby It’s Cold Outside”. John Rigby is the conductor, while Kerry Ellis is the guest singer alongside Capital Voices Choir. The Manchester Festival runs at the Bridgewater Hall from December 8, when ‘Christmas with Russell Watson’ is staged. For the full list of shows go to bridgewater-hall.co.uk.
Christmas at Kent’s Hever Castle
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 21. 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.
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.
Portsmouth’s Dickens Christmas Festival
The Dickens Christmas Festival returns to Portsmouth’s historic Dockyard this festive season. There are more than 150 stalls in the Christmas Market and Father Christmas is in attendance in his ‘olde worlde’ green colours. The Dickensian festival is a hugely popular event for which you can ordinarily purchase your early bird tickets before October 31st. For ticket availability and more information go to historicdockyard.co.uk.
Chessington World of Adventures
Celebrate Christmas with the Gruffalo, visit Father Christmas in his grotto and enjoy popular rides at Chessington World of Adventures in Greater London. You will also be able to see the animals in Chessington’s Zoo and Sea Life Centre. You can visit for a full day of festive fun or visit for a Twilight opening. Selected dates from early December to early January. Tickets are on sale from September at chessington.com, where you will also find dates and times.
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 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.
Journey to the heart of the Legoland Windsor Resort and discover a Christmas setting with more than thirty rides, shows and attractions this December. 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 this festive season. 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 mid-November. 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. There’s also an autism friendly Santa’s Grotto. 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 at Sandown Park
Day two of Sandown Park’s December jump racing festival is the Christmassy one. 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 2019
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.
Also, look out in December for Christmas events at Hampton Court for all the family. You can find more details at hrp.org.uk. There is Hampton Court’s ice rink, too. Skate around with Henry VIII’s royal palace as your impressive backdrop, day or night.
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 late November and late December. 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 this season. The Eden Project, an educational charity, connects us with each other and the living world, exploring how we can work towards a better future.
Waddesdon Manor at Christmas
Waddeson Manor in Aylesbury promises decorations, lights and festive fun. From dusk, you can enjoy a new light and sound show projected on to the Buckinghamshire manor stables from November 16 to early New Year and there’s a Christmas Fair. 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
Durham City’s traditional Christmas Festival returns each year in late November-early December, based around the Cathedral, Castle and other city centre locations. For 2019 it runs Nov 29-Dec 1. 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.
Saltram Santa and Lights
Father Christmas is setting up home in the stables at Georgian Mansion Saltram on the outskirts of Plymouth, Devon in the run up to Christmas, where he will not only hand out gifts to young visitors but will also read stories perfect for the holidays. The house and gardens will be illuminated by colourful lights.
York Minster Christmas Carol Concerts
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.
The historic lantern procession through Mousehole, Cornwall just before Christmas 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 December 15. Opening night, there will be an open-air Carol service at the entrance to North Quay. Lights will be dimmed on December 19 between 8pm and 9pm. Check out mouseholelights.org.uk.
Spirit of Christmas Fair at Olympia
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.
Melton Mowbray Victorian Fayre
Melton Mowbray’s Christmas lights switch-on takes place in late November, with the annual Victorian Fayre to savour into the bargain. For more details go visit goleicestershire.com.
Christmas at Beamish
Beamish, the open-air Living Museum of the North in NE England, gives visitors a taste of Christmases past from November. 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. Tickets are on sale from September. For more go to beamish.org.uk.
Christmas at Castle Howard
Yorkshire’s magnificent stately home will embrace the season from November 16 to early New Year (The 2019 theme is ‘Christmas Masquerade’). 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. Visit castlehoward.co.uk for more details.
Christmas Carols in Trafalgar Square
This annual programme of Christmas carols returns to London’s Trafalgar Square in December. 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 you will need – be it to try to take part or simply watch – are available at london.gov.uk.
The Longleat Festival of Light returns in all its sparkling glory from early November at the Wiltshire Safari Park. This year, 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. 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 21. 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
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 in December, 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
Oxford’s festive season gets off to a sparkling start with the annual Christmas Light Festival weekend in November. 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 through December. Tickets sell out in double quick time. A reminder to sign up to the newsletter and be among the first to hear about tickets going on sale for any given year. 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 in late November and runs through to early January. Check out kew.org. Tickets are on sale from the summer. 2019: opens Nov 20 and runs to Jan 5.
Oban Winter Festival
With growing success delivered with each passing year, the Winter Festival returns to Oban, Argyll, Scotland in November (2019 dates: Nov 15-24) with a Victorian Market, ice skating and a reindeer parade among the planned activities. Check out obanwinterfestival.com.
Market Days in Historic Harrogate
Harrogate Christmas Market takes place this year in November (2019 dates: Nov 14-17). 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. 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 Fair
Cowes Christmas Fair takes place in November. There’s a fine selection of Isle of Wight food, drink, arts and crafts: a chance to buy all your Christmas gifts in one fell swoop. Entry is free. Check iow.gov.uk for opening times and more details.
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 in early December. 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 late November. Check out events.tattonpark.org.uk.
Chester Zoo’s Lantern Magic
This festive delight runs from November 22 to December 23 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. Dates can be viewed and tickets booked at chesterzoo.org.
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 6 to just before Christmas Day. 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. 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.
Worcester Victorian Fayre
Worcester Victorian Christmas Fayre in the West Midlands will offer many established favourites for visitors to enjoy. There will be a traditional Victorian carousel, juggling stilt walkers, Victorian characters and local choirs, plus almost 200 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 mid-November. 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, is held from November 28 to December 1 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.
Skate at Somerset House with Fortnum & Mason
Celebrate Christmas in capital style at London’s famous Fortnum’s ice rink from November 13 to January 12. 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
Blenheim estate will be illuminated for an after dark festive trail as the gardens transform into a winter wonderland. 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 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 November. You can follow the winter wonderland star to the enchanted forest and meet Father and Mrs. Christmas. Day tickets are on sale from September. 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.
The Scottish capital welcomes the New Year in style – but it also knows how to celebrate Christmas. Edinburgh Christmas festivities and events run from mid-November. 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.
Black Country Living Museum
Experience the museum at its festive best at BCLM’s “Traditional Christmas Evenings”. You can stroll through the Museum’s gas-lit streets, visit houses being prepared for the season and immerse yourself in the atmosphere of Christmases past.
There will be traditional entertainment, including carol singing and brass bands, a Christmas market and delicious festive food to savour. There are more Christmas events to enjoy at the museum in the build-up to the holiday season. Check them all out, explore available dates and book tickets at bclm.co.uk.
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: December to January – 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.
LaplandUK returns from mid-November. 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. Lots of shopping stops here – just so you are forewarned.
A Very Victorian Christmas at Tyntesfield
Victorian-style celebrations flow from late November 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 tickets and more go to nationaltrust.org.uk/tyntesfield.
Enchanted Christmas at Westonbirt Arboretum
Enchanted Christmas runs through much of December. Just venture into Westonbirt’s magical, illuminated grounds to take in acres of Christmas magic. Bookings for the general public will be taken from late September but for Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum booking starts earlier. The National Arboretum near Tetbury in Gloucestershire is a remarkable place for people to enjoy and learn about trees, with 15,000 specimens from all over the world. There’s more information at forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt-christmas.
North Pole in Cambridge
The North Pole Christmas Festival Cambridge starts on November 16 and runs until early in the New Year. There’s an open-air ice rink (family tickets are available), undercover alpine bar, festive food and fairground rides. Head to Parker’s Piece to experience Christmas in the heart of Cambridge city centre. Go to thenorthpolecambridge.co.uk for more details.
Lights Galore at Edinburgh Botanic
Christmas returns to The Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh this year with new light installations and visual effects. The one-mile, after-dark trail will weave through the historic buildings and horticultural features of the garden, while the new Cathedral of Light, an immersive installation comprising more than 100,000 pea-lights, will run for 70 metres alongside the huge Beech Hedge. Christmas at the Botanic starts 0n November 22. For more go to edinburghguide.com.
Train of Lights in Devon
Around 100,000 lights will be illuminated on a moving steam train in Devon, with the accompaniment of line-side displays and music. The Dartmouth Steam Railway is staging the festive spectacular. The Train of Lights runs on selected dates in December. See the Dartmouth Steam Railway and River Boat Company website for more details.
Puzzlewood’s enchanted woods in Coleford, Gloucestershire will be dressed in Christmas finery this festive season. Also in the Wye and Dean area, you can enjoy a magical experience with the family this Christmas at Perrygrove Railway. For details on both events go to wyedeantourism.co.uk.
Alnwick Garden Lantern Parade
The Grand Lantern Parade at Alnwick Gardens in Northumberland, billed as a live music, light and movement spectacular, takes place in November. The procession makes its way through the garden and towards Alnwick Town, led by Father Christmas himself. For all festive events at Alnwick Gardens this Christmas season, go to alnwickgarden.com for full details.
Enchanted at Knowsley Safari
Knowsley Safari is inviting visitors to enjoy the park after dark with magical lights to guide people along an enchanted trail. Established in 2018, “Enchanted at Knowsley Safari” and will run from late November until just before Christmas Day. It gives families the chance to explore the foot safari in a new way, following a path of illuminated animals at their own pace. There’s festive food, music and more. Check out knowsleysafariexperience.co.uk for more details.