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.Stately homes pride themselves on the spectacular festive displays they create each year – both inside and outside there’s lots to capture the imagination of your members.
Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire is bringing the fairy-tale story of Cinderella to life in a magical day out for all generations to enjoy from 23rd November to 6th January 2019 (some exceptions apply).
The story begins in The Great Hall, where a special Christmas dinner is about to be served, and continues through many of the historic house’s rooms where the famous tale inspires more displays, such as the The Long Library which is transformed into a glass-inspired Ballroom.
As the story ends, visitors can hang their own wish upon the Wishing Tree in the candlelit chapel.
Also new for 2018, the Blenheim winter trail will feature over a million pea-lights, lasers and projections. Open from 23rd November to 1st January 2019 (some exceptions apply), visitors can wander beneath tree canopies adorned with silvery shards of light, frosty snowflakes, stars and baubles.
Other attractions include a new ‘Field of Light’ and a garden filled with colour changing globes. Traditional refreshments such as spiced cider, mulled wine or hot chocolate will be available and visitors can toast their own marshmallows at one of the fire pits and enjoy other traditional fare before browsing the gift shop.
At Stonor Park near Henley-on-Thames, this season’s festive theme will be ‘Star of Wonder’ (22nd November to 9th December) and visitors can expect to see the rooms beautifully decorated, whilst maintaining the traditions of the family Christmas.
Each room will have its own design, in keeping with the family antiques and portraits. Larch, mistletoe and holly will be brought in from the park and a 20 foot Christmas tree will be in the Gothic Hall by the magnificent log fire.
New for this year, Candlelit Tours will give visitors the opportunity to see rooms by candle and twinkly star lights and there’s an option for drinks followed by early dinner in The Pantry, located in the 13th century medieval hall.
Did you know?
Stonor Park’s festive theme this year is ‘Star of Wonder’ with beautiful, traditional room decorations. Each room has its own special design.
Group visits will be on a free flow basis. For bookings from 22nd to 25th November, groups will also be able to visit the Country Homes and Interiors Christmas Fair, with over 100 stands, as well as the house. Organised by ICHF Events this is located in the grounds of Stonor Park and tickets are available through ICHF only.
Meanwhile, Waddesdon Manor will be celebrating a Christmas Carnival with beautiful decorations in the house, events, food and gifts from 10th November to 2nd January 2019, Wednesdays to Sundays and 31st December and 1st January. (Closed 24th to 26th December).
From dusk there will be a light show on the front of the house bathing the ornate façade in rainbow colours, while the two giant candlestick sculptures, Lafite, by artist Joana Vasconcelos, will be illuminated.
A winter light trail winds around Aviary Garden and at the Stables visitors will be treated to another six-minute imaginative light and sound performance projected onto the exterior walls using the latest in video projection mapping technologies created by video design students from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.
Festive shopping will include the Manor Shop and the Wine Shop – the perfect place to pick up a Rothschild wine. In addition, the Christmas shop in the Old Coach House at the Stables offers both traditional and contemporary decorations and unusual Christmas gifts.
Also at Waddesdon, the Christmas Fair (10th November to 16th December, Wednesdays to Sundays), is set against the backdrop of the floodlit North Front of the Manor with 20 foot Christmas trees and a light and sound show. With over 80 exhibitors, visitors will be offered a great selection of unusual Christmas gifts and festive foods.
Groups can also enjoy a magical visit to Hever Castle & Gardens in Kent this Christmas where they will discover 700 years of history in the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. The award-winning gardens include the Italian Garden with a 38-acre lake and spectacular Loggia.
Groups of 15 or more can enjoy the beautifully decorated rooms of the Castle, the welcoming crackling log fires and the twinkling Christmas trees.
The theme this year is Christmas Stories. Visitors can also follow the festive trail around the 125 acre grounds, do some shopping in the gift shops and enjoy a traditional festive lunch in the restaurant.
Did you know?
The Waddesdon Manor Christmas Fair is set against the floodlit North Front of the Manor with a light and sound show.
As dusk falls, the gardens are illuminated with up-lighting and colour washes. Groups are welcome on weekdays from 28th November to 24th December this year (excluding 3rd & 4th December) and must pre-book at least 10 days in advance.
Leeds Castle near Maidstone in Kent is inspired by the 60th anniversary of the first story of Paddington Bear in its ‘Once Upon A Time’ themed Christmas displays that decorate the Castle’s magnificent rooms from 24th November to 1st January.
Look out for other literary characters too from The Nutcracker, The Snow Queen and The Fir Tree as you walk through the rooms filled with glittering decorations and fragrant pine trees while the showpiece 20ft Christmas tree dominates the Inner Hall.
The annual Christmas Market will take place from 10am to 5pm on selected dates in November and December with a splendid array of seasonal gifts, toys, festive decorations, specialist food and drink and a chance to meet reindeer and birds of prey.
In the centre of the market, a nostalgic fairground includes a Victorian carousel and big wheel offering spectacular view of the Castle.
Tissington Hall, Derbyshire is staging ‘Christmas in Neverland’ (17th November to 3rd December), based on the novels of JM Barrie. Ghost Stories by the Fireside’ will take place on selected evenings in November enabling your members to experience Tissington Hall by candlelight as they walk through the Hall decorated for the story of Christmas in Neverland and enjoy Ghost Stories from times gone by.
‘Food Glorious Food’ is the theme for Christmas this year at Tatton Park in Cheshire. On selected dates in November and December your group will see the house dressed from the state rooms to the servants’ quarters with fresh foliage and stunning decorations, and you can also book a festive lunch as part of the visit.
Discounted rates start for groups of 15 plus people – National Trust members will pay for entry for this seasonal visit. The Christmas Fair is from 7th to 9th December. During December, Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland will be turning the clock back to the 1890s when composer Lady Arthur Hill lived there.
Groups visiting will be able to see how the family and servants prepared for the annual Christmas bazaar and Twelfth Night. Group bookings (minimum 20 people) must be made at least 48 hours in advance.
Other Historic Royal Palaces, The Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace, will also welcome groups over the festive season. Glittering decorations, live merriment and special events will be on offer at these Royal Palaces to entertain and enthrall all age groups.