Christmas Markets and Festive Thrills

lantern in the shape of an owl

Glow Wild at Wakehurst

GTO’s Fiona Horan has taken another look at what’s on this Christmas, as the situation changes by the hour … It’s bad news for Christmas Markets and better news for Christmas lights and theatre.

Christmas Markets

The desire of both the Government and the devolved administrations to discourage travel and gatherings in November and December has inevitably led to the cancellation of most Christmas Markets in the UK.

At the time of writing, Birmingham’s German Christmas Market has been cancelled, as have the Christmas Markets in Manchester, Hyde Park in London, Darlington, Plymouth, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Bristol, York, Lincoln, Harrogate, Oxford, Leeds, Liverpool, Winchester, Newcastle and Norwich (Norfolk Christmas Fayre). Several of the cancelled markets will offer a “virtual” experience instead. These include York and Lincoln. Annual Christmas Markets at stately homes such as Chatsworth have also been cancelled. It seems that the Christmas Markets in Aberdeen and Swansea are still going ahead, as is Truro’s December Farmer’s Market.

Seasonal Ice Rinks

Most of the festive open air ice rinks around the country have been cancelled for 2020, including the well-known ones in Hyde Park and Somerset House in London, and those in Liverpool, Cambridge, Edinburgh and York. However, some are still going ahead and – with capacity reduced due to Covid-19 restrictions – it could actually be one of the best winters to get out on the ice with some real room to show off your Torvill and Dean moves.

These are some of the temporary rinks around the country that are open or planning to open as we went to press. Most rinks close just after New Year:-

Hampton Court Palace

Queen’s House, Greenwich

Calverley Grounds, Tunbridge Wells

Bluewater Shopping Centre, Kent

Eden Project, Cornwall (this runs until 21st February)

Aberystwyth Winterland

and Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland is planning to open in February 2021.

Illuminated Trails

Check here for our article about some of the illuminated trails that are going ahead this year. Several, such as Waddesdon Manor, have since extended their run into 2021. Things have improved in recent days and we’ve also heard about some additional delights such as Stourhead, Dunham Massey, Belton House and Kingston Lacy (all National Trust). Other properties now offering sparkly fun include Wollaton Hall near Nottingham; Lightwater Valley, Yorkshire, and the lantern trail at Wakehurst, Sussex.


At almost the last minute, many theatres have come back to life with pantomime fun – some with the help of funding from the National Lottery. Once out of lockdown, these shows should be able to go ahead unless the theatre is in a Tier 3 area, as it seems indoor theatre performances are permitted in Tiers 1 and 2. Read more about what’s on in my previous article here.

Heritage Rail

Many heritage rail lines are still running special festive events this year – though dates are limited, capacity reduced and tickets selling fast. Companies running various versions of a “festive express” this December include Bure Valley Railway, Norfolk; the Bluebell Railway in Sussex; the Blaenavon Heritage Railway; the Talyllyn Railway, Cardigan Bay; Isle of Wight Steam Railway; The Keighley & Worth Valley Railway, West Yorkshire; and The North Yorkshire Moors Railway.