Thrilling Christmas Attractions & Places To Stay


The holiday season is upon us, and the glittering lights and seasonal scents fill us with irresistible cheer and anticipation.

With so many magical events to enjoy and thrilling places to visit, we’re swept up once again in the festive season. Here we pick the top ten Yuletide days out across the UK and the best hotels nearby, for a fun, relaxing break, recommended by The Good Hotel Guide.

Enchanted Christmas at Westonbirt National Arboretum, Gloucestershire

Westonbirt Arboretum, photo credit Johnny Hathaway

Westonbirt National Arboretum is wonderful at any time of the year, showcasing the beauty of nature in a tree garden filled with 2,500 different species from the far corners of the globe, with five national tree collections. At Christmas even the foliage gets dressed up, with twinkly lights and a spectacular illuminated trail to explore.

Stay at: The Hare and Hounds, Tetbury, Gloucestershire

Just three miles from Westonbirt Arboretum lies the lovely Cotswold village of Tetbury, where this neo-Renaissance country house hotel offers a winning combination of contemporary hospitality and historic charm. Interiors are furnished with antiques, log fires blaze, and the stylish Beaufort restaurant is the place for food and fizz.

Christmas at Chatsworth, Derbyshire

Pic: Shutterstock

Home to the Dukes of Devonshire for 16 generations, palatial Elizabethan Chatsworth has an extra magic from November to January, when they deck the halls, dress towering Christmas trees and switch on the fairy lights. This year there is a Nordic theme, bringing to life legends and folklore, with illuminated trails, a giant snowball, and a Wish Tree on which to hang a wish…

Stay at: The Cavendish, Baslow, Derbyshire

…And you could scarcely wish for a nicer place to stay. Just follow a footpath from the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire’s spectacular stately home to their welcoming hotel with views across Chatsworth Park. You’ll find an ambience of cosseting luxury, antiques and artworks, a slap-up afternoon tea in the Garden Room, and fine-dining in the Gallery Restaurant.

Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, London

Paddington on ice at the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland. Pic: Giles Smith

Winter Wonderland has become one of the most anticipated extravaganzas of the holiday season in the UK, complete with food, drink, rides, games and Santaland. This year, from November 18 to January 2, you can graze in the Street Food Village, drink cocktails in the cool Bar Ice, groove to live music in the Fire Pit Bar, or gasp at the daring stunts in Cirque Berserk and Zippo’s Christmas Circus.

Stay at: The Beaumont, London

Revel in Jazz Age glamour at this Art Deco-style Mayfair hotel. Afternoon tea is served in the Gatsby Room where a live pianist plays. The Magritte Bar is the place to sink Manhattans and Negronis. After dinner in the New York-style grill room, retire to a bedroom with original paintings, vintage photos and Deco furniture.

Christmas carols at the Royal Albert Hall

The vast auditorium of the Royal Albert Hall can take your breath away on any occasion. For Christmas, this London icon hosts the finest sing-along carol concerts of the season. With all the favourite traditional carols and modern festive arrangements there are daily singalongs from Saturday December 17-Saturday 24, so come all ye faithful.

Stay at: Portobello Hotel, London

Now rest ye merry at this boutique hotel, occupying two converted Neoclassical mansions with a history of rock ’n’ roll glamour, which riffs to the beat of raffish Notting Hill. Each bedroom is unique and special. Relax with a drink in the honesty bar in the sitting room, before heading out to take your pick of the local restaurants. Or ring for room service and enjoy smoked salmon sandwiches and champagne!

Edinburgh’s Winter Festival

Pic: Shutterstock

Historic Edinburgh teems with Christmas markets and events, that come together in the form of their Winter Festival. The city positively sparkles with magic at this time of year, and from November 19-January 3, it is awash with an array of events from whisky festivals to lights, markets, rides and good cheer.

Stay at: The Dunstane Houses, Edinburgh

There are festive tea-time treats in the Ba’ Bar at this five-star boutique hotel conversion of two Jacobean/baronial style villas, with 35 beautifully decorated rooms. A favourite room has a four-poster bed and a freestanding roll-top copper bath. Food is served all day and there’s plenty of space in which to sit and enjoy a dram from the vintage whisky cabinet or one of the artisan gins before dinner.

Santa Express, North Yorkshire

It’s full steam ahead on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, where passengers can join Santa and his team of elves on the Santa Express from Pickering or Grosmont Station. Mr Claus and his jolly helpers pass through the heritage carriages meeting and greeting guests. So, all aboard for fun and games. Deserving children receive a soft toy – so, kids, be good, for goodness’ sake!

Stay at: The White Swan, Pickering, North Yorkshire

Looking for somewhere to spend the night after your railway adventure? This family-run, family-friendly, dog-friendly 16th-century former coaching inn is just the ticket. It’s a winning blend of homey comfort and five-star amenities, with crackling fires, cosy nooks, great food in the bar and restaurant, and walks in ‘God’s own country’ on the doorstep.

Dickensian Christmas, Rochester, Kent

Pic: Shutterstock

Great expectations are exceeded annually on the first weekend in December, when this Cathedral city celebrates its connections with Charles Dickens, in a joyful evocation of Victorian England. Festivities include stalls, readings, song and dance. The streets are thronged, as strolling players in full fig bring to life favourite characters from the great man’s oeuvre.

Stay at: The Pig at Bridge Place, Canterbury, Kent

Where better to enjoy a Christmas carol than in ancient, hallowed Canterbury Cathedral? Evensong is at 5.30pm, and this branch of the much-loved Pig hotels group is just three miles outside the city. You’ll find lots of cosy corners with merrily burning log fires. Food is locally sourced and home grown, the style shabby chic, with no dress code: wear ‘whatever makes you happy and comfortable’.

Christmas Illuminations at Babbacombe Model Village

Thousands of miniature lights twinkle at the illuminations at Babbacombe Model Village, in award-winning gardens, with beautifully crafted buildings, vehicles, people and landmarks evoking Britain through the decades. The little folk form seasonal tableaux and guests can use a Christmas character spotter sheet to spot holiday guests and miniature Santas. Visit on December 10, 11, 17, 24, 2731 and January 2. Sit down to lunch in the café and arise like a giant refreshed.

Stay at: Cary Arms & Spa, Babbacombe, Devon

A five-star boutique hotel, the Cary Arms is perched above the pebbly Babbacombe Beach and Bay, giving you impressive sea views from every area of the hotel. Interiors combine coastal chic with New England cool. The cosy inn serves pub classics, while accommodation is split between the main building and luxurious beach chalets.

Bath Christmas Market, Somerset

There are Bridgerton vibes all round at the annual Bath Christmas Market. The Georgian streets become a feast of shopping, celebration and style as more than 170 chalets sell seasonal gifts, food and drink. Browse Christmas decorations and handcrafted jewellery, and meet local artisans at your leisure.

Stay at: Royal Crescent Hotel and Spa, Bath

At the centre of the glorious, honeyed-stone sweep or a Georgian crescent, this five-star hotel offers very much a luxury experience without being snobbish or stuffy. Christmas package deals are snapped up like hot mince pies, but you can still book a room outside the peak festive period, drop in for a light lunch in the Montague Bar, have drinks in the Champagne Lounge, or go for the full blow-out restaurant tasting menu.

Durham Christmas Festival, Co. Durham

Pic: Shutterstock

A place of Harry Potter-esque enchantment, the traditional Durham Christmas festival is fun for the whole family. Across Durham’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city hosts a wide range of  entertainments, plus a huge craft and gift marquee on Palace Green, with more than 170 stalls against the impressive setting of Durham Cathedral’s cloisters. From Friday-Sunday, December 2-4. Reserve a lantern for the Saturday children’s lantern parade.

Stay at: Headlam Hall, Darlington Co. Durham

This grand Jacobean country house has something for everyone, whether it’s a family seeking a country escape or the solo traveller seeking rest and relaxation. The gardens are not only a joy to look at, but also provide much of the produce served at dinner (after all, it has its own working farm). Guests can choose to stay amidst the grandeur of the main hall, in contemporary spa bedrooms or rustic mews and coach-house rooms.