By Rose Shepherd
Summer’s lease may barely have expired, but for the Guide it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas, as we check out what’s on offer for the festive season. Whether you plan a private party, a three-night stay or one-night New Year break, you need to book well in advance, as availability is quickly snapped up. Here are a few of our choices for 2023, from the historic and deeply atmospheric to the fun and family oriented.
Christmas is very much for the kids, and there are few more child-friendly hotels in the Guide than cliff-top Bedruthan Hotel and Spa in Mawgan Porth, Cornwall, the perfect place for a multi-generational stay with none of the hard work that Christmas at home can entail. You can book a three- or four-night family stay (of course, singles and couples are welcome, too), enjoy the great annual calorie-fest, then work off the excess with beach walks or a swim in the spa pool.
Don’t expect boar’s head, larks, swan, or peacock in full plumage as in Henry VIII’s day, when seven-hour banquets were not unheard of, but there will be no want of merrymaking at Thornbury Castle in Gloucestershire. Revellers booking for a three-day Yuletide break at this fortified Tudor manor house are promised a cream tea on arrival. Pastimes with good company will include axe-throwing and archery. On New Year’s Eve there’ll be dancing, champagne, a piper and fireworks to see in 2024.
‘In England! Brightly o’er the cheerful hall/Flares the heaped hearth, and friends and kindred meet,’ wrote poet Robert Southey on Christmas day 1795. In later years he would meet with such kindred souls as William Wordworth around the heaped hearth at Georgian Storrs Hall, which stands in 17-acre grounds on the shores of Lake Windermere. Today a country house hotel, it is offering a three-night Christmas package. On Boxing Day and 31 December there will be a lake cruise from the hotel’s jetty, and guests will be seeing in the 2024 with a champagne reception, and dancing till midnight to a live band.
The New Forest is magical in winter, especially with a little frost or a dusting of snow. After a forest hike or ramble, you might treat yourself to a pub lunch in child-friendly, dog-friendly Monty’s Inn, at the cosy Montagu Arms, on the Beaulieu River, or opt for the fine-dining Terrace Restaurant. Three-day Christmas packages include mulled wine and mince pies by the fire with carols by the Beaulieu choir, a Christmas Eve champagne reception and three-course dinner accompanied by a resident saxophonist, Christmas lunch to the strains of a harp, and a Boxing Day house party with dancing and live band.
Sharing platters, mulled wine and a magician await guests on Christmas Eve at Brockencote Hall, Chaddesley Corbett, Worcestershire. The very model of a Loire château, set in parkland and overlooking a lake, the hotel is offering three-night Christmas packages, with a six-course Christmas lunch and afternoon quiz. Those who wish to can attend Christmas Eve midnight mass at the local church, and take a Boxing Day trip on the Severn Valley Railway. For New Year’s Eve they are promising a champagne cream tea, a 1920s-themed gala dinner, a pianist and singer, and dancing till 1am to the house band.
They’ll be decking the halls at Prestonfield, a 17th-century country house in parkland beneath Edinburgh’s iconic Arthur’s Seat. Here fires blaze in theatrical, antique-filled interiors. There will be fixed-price festive lunches and champagne afternoon teas for weary Christmas shoppers in search of respite, as well as Winter Wonderland party nights, and gourmet dining in Rhubarb restaurant. Or book a private dining room for your own party for ten to 50 guests. They don’t do things by halves here, and Hogmanay celebrations will include a champagne reception, four-course dinner, Celtic cabaret, ceilidh band till midnight, and disco until 1am. Dress code black tie/tartan.
With a history of glittering hospitality since the days when hostess Eva Astley Paston-Cooper entertained the likes of Noël Coward and Malcom Sargent in the drawing room, Tim and Stefa Hart’s Hambleton Hall observes Christmas traditions. Look forward to log fires, candles, tree and tinsel, and, on 11 December, mince pies and Glühwein before a concert at neighbour St Andrew church, followed by a black-tie gourmet dinner. All over the festive period there’ll be Michelin-starred dining, and there is word of a Boxing Day picnic, and dancing as the Old Year gives way to the New.
On the western slopes of Pydew mountain, Elizabethan Bodysgallen Hall, near Llandudno, Conwy, is today a hotel in the care of the National Trust. Champagne afternoon tea in the oak-panelled drawing room is a great indulgence, and three-night Christmas stays include mulled wine and mince pies on arrival, a champagne reception, three-course dinner, traditional Christmas lunch and buffet supper, and Boxing Day pampering in the spa before a black-tie gala dinner. Private dining options include a Taste of Wales menu. If you can’t wait that long, in downtown Llandudno they’ll be getting into the spirit with a Christmas extravaganza from 16–19 November, with food, drink, gifts, funfair and entertainments.