Around the country between November and January, historic houses, gardens and city centres stage festive events and Brenda Watkinson brings you the latest update of what’s on offer this year.Opt for a visit to a Christmas market and your members will find a host of ideas for gifts and food to serve over the festive season.
The historic streets of York come alive during the winter months. Visitors will be able to soak up the city’s medieval charm and scents of spiced mulled wine this season, as fairs, family fun and festival flavours transform York into a festive fairy-tale.
During the York Christmas Festival 2018 (15th November to 23rd December) groups can visit St Nicholas Fair on Parliament Street, don some skates at the Ice Factor or spend an evening in the stalls for some panto fun.
At St Nicholas Fair groups can meander through the market stalls and explore traditional chalets decorated with festive lights. Mulled wine and yule themed Yorkshire food will be served in a new Yorkshire Barn.
In addition to the Fair there are a host of festive events at York’s visitor attractions, from Advent and concerts at York Minster to the daily Shambles market. It is advisable to book festive events and accommodation in advance and Visit York has produced a free guide to Christmas in York to help GTOs with their plans. York’s ‘Ice Trail’ will now take place on Saturday 2nd February 2019.
Skipton in North Yorkshire celebrates its 24th Christmas market this year. The popular event takes place on Sunday 2nd and Sunday 9th December and will feature food and gift stalls alongside festive entertainment throughout the town.
Situated in Guildhall Square, Salisbury Christmas Market (29th November to 2nd December) is an authentic German Market with wooden chalets offering crafts ranging from intricate jewellery to handmade furniture.
Entertainment includes a unique lantern parade – in partnership with Salisbury Arts Centre – street entertainers, live music and school choirs. Overnight packages for groups and festive food are available at the Holiday Inn Salisbury Stonehenge, The Red Lion Hotel, The Old Mill Hotel, The Cathedral Hotel and Sarum College.
Visitors to the three-day Dickens Christmas Festival at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard (Friday 30th November to Sunday 2nd December) will be transported to a bygone era as they explore the snowy streets with colourful characters and toe-tapping entertainment.
This year, the Festival will be celebrating the works of Portsmouth-born Charles Dickens – a man influential in promoting the essence of modern Christmas – with the presence of many characters from his most famous novels such as Oliver Twist, The Old Curiosity Shop, Great Expectations, David Copperfield and A Christmas Carol as the dockyard is transformed into Victorian Portsmouth.
Other characters will include grumpy Scrooge, fearsome Miss Havisham and the loveable pickpocket, Fagin.
Visitors to the festival can enjoy access to 11 attractions, including HMS Warrior and HMS Victory plus shop for gifts at the Christmas markets, and enjoy a drink at Fagin’s Tavern or the brand new Gin & Prosecco Parlour.
Bristol Christmas Market is a magical mile-long experience connecting the city’s harbour-side to Bristol Shopping Quarter. Taking place between 10th November until 24th December the themed markets include the Harbourside Christmas Market, Christmas-themed markets on Corn Street, and the award-winning daily indoor St Nicholas Market.
Brunel’s SS Great Britain will celebrate a Victorian Christmas Weekend in early December when costumed characters stroll among visitors.
On-board Christmas dinners and parties can also be booked from November to January for a truly unique celebration, including wintry drinks on the Promenade Deck and food in the ship’s first-class dining saloon.
On the outskirts in Clifton Village’s Victorian Arcade, groups can enjoy shopping for vintage jewellery and relax at the Hotel du Vin which overlooks the Avon Gorge and the floodlit Clifton Suspension Bridge.
This year the cathedral city of St Albans launches its first-ever winter festival. The Meraki Christmas Festival will run from Tuesday to Sunday from 30th November to 22nd December and is free to enter.
Seasonal activities range from ice skating, funfair rides and an ice bar, to a three-tier tipi bar, complete with fire pit, mulled wine, traditional food, live music and entertainment. The Festival will also be hosting the St Albans Christmas Market with festive stalls and chalets.