It’s too strong to say I have been waiting for this moment, but I am really glad it’s now November so that I can start talking about Christmas! Grinches beware, I really love this season. I know our Christmas spirit is being stretched longer and longer into the rest of the year by commercial interests, but I just can’t help but enjoy the cheerful lights, the bustle and the uniquely Christmassy smells.
So, what are you doing for Christmas? If you’re not hosting, and your invite is not 100% in the bag you might want to consider contracting the job out and book into a hotel? At one point in my life I would have abhorred this idea, but now it fills me with pleasure. Many hotels offer special Christmas packages which turn the experience into a sort of fancy house party where your hosts have done loads of work on the decorating and cooking, and yet have very low expectations of what you’re going to give back to the occasion in the way of company, and they’re happy for you to sit in a corner with your nearest and dearest and really get on with enjoying yourselves.
Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it? I have a few good suggestions for where to stay:
With the shop windows all lit up, Piccadilly, Covent Garden and Regent Street looking like fairyland, and London’s public spaces rife with fairs and markets, London https://www.thehotelguru.com/best-hotels-in/united-kingdom/london is a really cheerful pleasure at Christmas time. The Southbank does it nicely, Hyde Park goes fair crazy, Leicester Square has its own Santa, London Bridge has beautiful wooden chalets and loads of incredible food and gifts, the Tate modern has fantastic gifts at their Christmas Market and Greenwich and Clapham have big plans too. Plus there’s skating at the Natural History Museum, The Tower, Hampton Court Palace and Somerset House. And the beautiful decorations in Knightsbridge and along Bond Street, Oxford Street and Regent Street. And the pantos…
Where to Stay? Hazlitt’s is a 27 room boutique hotel, converted from a beautiful Georgian house, on Frith Street, right in the heart of Soho and the West End. The decor is charming and traditional, with lots of wood panelling and gilt where it’s needed. Leave your Christmas shopping until the last minute if you like, it’s all here on your doorstep, or else get it all done in advance and relax in one of the local bars or restaurants and watch everyone else get their Christmas shopping done. There are still has rooms available, starting from around £300 per night.
Practical Details: Come in by plane to Heathrow, Stansted, City or Gatwick, or by train into Waterloo, Victoria, St. Pancras or Euston. And how cold will it be at Christmas? Frost and snow are fairly rare in London, but everyone gets really excited when it snows. The average temperatures during December are between 5 and 7°C. There’s a fair bit of rain, but the rain does keep it a bit warmer.
There’s a lot to be said for spending Christmas in the country. Not having your own family seat or country pile might just be an advantage, seeing as it means you can stay somewhere with a chef who will do it all for you. Someone else will do the washing up too. Many of the UK’s grand country house hotels really know how to put on a show at Christmas, but so do the numerous National Trust properties, many pretty country villages with welcoming pubs, and there’s nowhere better for strolling off a Christmas lunch.
Where to Stay? The Pig in Brockenhurst in the New Forest is the original Pig in the group, a country escape and foodie’s dream. The restaurant is well worth the visit alone, with a locally sourced menu – some of it comes from The Pig’s kitchen garden – and the accommodation is comfortable and luxurious with rustic chic decor that feels cosy and countrified. And I’ll bet it looks beautiful at Christmas. Rooms start from around £245 per night (min stay 2 nights) and there’s still availability if you get in quickly.
Practical Details: Brockenhurst Rail Station has rail links to major destinations including Southampton and London, if you don’t want to drive. Christmas in the New Forest is usually quite mild, with a daily maximum average temperature of 9°C, but often a bit damp with it.
Penventon Park Hotel, a glamorous Georgian manor house conversion in Redruth, in the heart of Cornwall, is offering a three night Christmas break. Starts from around £285 per night per double room, including dinner and breakfast. Expect individual decoration in all of the 63 rooms, incorporating many original features. Plus there’s an atmospheric bar and restaurant and a health club with a lovely pool and a good range of facilities.
Practical Details: Redruth is right in the tip of Cornwall, so if you live in the north you might fly to Cornwall, coming into Newquay Airport. There’s a good rail service to Redruth. Like the New Forest and Hampshire, Cornwall is also mild and wet, and also expecting about 9°C as the maximum temperature on Christmas day.
Or what about the Cotswolds at Christmas?
As well as stately homes done up in lights and cosy pubs with roaring log fires, the Cotswolds is also wonderful for Christmas markets, late night shopping events and choral concerts.
Where to Stay? The Howard Arms, a 400 year old stone-built inn overlooking the Stour Valley, is offering a three night package including supper on Christmas Eve – followed by carols, and then the full works on Christmas Day, and a Boxing Day walk followed by brekkie and a glass of fizz. Doubles start from £825. There are just eight rooms, so it’s intimate, but also friendly, and there’s every contemporary comfort as well as all the traditional charm.
Practical Details: The Howard Arms is right on Ilmington’s village green, which is just 15 minutes from the M40 – making it a perfect place to stop off after a visit to the relatives to the north or south. Ilmington doesn’t have a railway station, the closest are in Banbury and Moreton-in-Marsh. Interestingly you’re only about 12 minutes drive from Chipping Campden, but if you want to get there by public transport you need to go via Stratford-upon-Avon. The Cotswolds is chilly and bright at Christmas time, with the average maximum daily temperature of 7°C in Ilmington. But it’s not generally cold enough to snow…And you’re got a fairly good chance of it being dry – perfect for that Boxing Day stroll.
Christmas on Sea
Not everyone associates Christmas with the coast, but there’s something uplifting about being by the ocean, whatever the season. Windswept wintery walks aid an appetite, and there’s the same promise of roaring log fires overlooking beautiful cold views.
Where to Stay? The Pier at Harwich, which is right on the waterfront at Harwich in Essex, overlooking the old quay, is offering a three night break from the 24th to the 27th of December, which includes a champagne breakfast, a four course lunch and supper on Christmas day… plus more if you can manage it. Prices start from £400 per person. The decor is fairly contemporary, and the restaurant is known for its seafood. But it’s the view which will really win you over, whichever season you’re visiting.
Practical Details: Harwich is close to Stanstead if you want to fly, it also has it’s own ferry port with links to Europe and Scandinavia, but you’re probably going to arrive by train or car – and there are easy connections by road and rail. Even though you’re on the sea, Harwich can be quite cold in December, with the average maximum daily temperature only 7°C – pleasant if it’s sunny, and wonderfully dramatic if it’s windy!
May all your Christmases be the real kind of warm and happy, and ideally stress-free…