(cover image of London's Winter Wonderland by MrT HK)
I must confess, I almost prefer the run-up to Christmas to the day itself! I consider the festive season to start the day after Bonfire Night, or Guy Fawkes and am happy to keep on celebrating right up until January.
I adore the twinkling lights, the seasonal scents and the general spirit of goodwill. Oxford’s Christmas lights went up in the middle of November, but I’m looking forward to becoming a frequent visitor to London’s beautiful Marylebone High Street. I’m taking part in a pop-up, Spree, which can be found at 63-65 Marylebone Lane, London. I’ll be splitting my time between there and another pop-up, hosted by the Lone Design Club during December. If you’re based in London or planning a trip please come and say hello! If you message me on Instagram I can tell you exactly where I’ll be and when.
Whilst I’m in the capital I will also make some time to head to one of London’s iconic department stores; Harrods, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols or my personal favourite, Fortnum and Mason. Each will be a source of inspiration and temptation. I’m also eager to explore more off-beat stores like The Shop at Bluebird and Goodhood, where cutting edge clothes and lifestyle pieces from the latest British designers are curated with exquisite taste.
I know that the festive atmosphere will prevail in Marylebone, but if time and energy permit, I’ll also seek out one of London’s best Christmas Markets:
- Winter Wonderland Hyde Park
- Christmas Market at Tate Modern
- Southbank Centre Christmas Market
- Leicester Square Christmas Market
- Greenwich Christmas Market
- London Bridge City Christmas Market
Of course, there are gorgeous markets right across the UK. I haven’t visited all of these myself, but wish I could! (Oh, for Santa’s magic sleigh…)
Christmas markets outside London:
- Broad Street, Oxford (ok, I’ll probably manage this one)
- Abbey Churchyard, Bath
- Victoria Square, Birmingham
- Millennium Square, Leeds
- Albert Square, Manchester
- Winchester Cathedral
- Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
- Glasgow's George Square Christmas Market.
- Belfast Christmas Market (recently named the UK’s best market!)
- Caerphilly Christmas Market
- Leeds Castle Christmas Market, Kent
- Christkindelmarkt, Leeds
Lastly, not strictly a market, but just as eclectic and festive is a trip around the Cardiff Arcades. These Victorian arcades are transformed at Christmas into a Dickensian wonderland.
One Christmas tradition I aim to uphold is a visit to one of the country’s magnificent stately homes. In fact, I have bookmarked the National Trust, English Heritage and The Royal Collection Trust so that I can keep up with all of the wonderful events taking place across the UK.
Last year I took my team to Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire. What a sensational experience it was - the palace is beautiful at all times of the year, but it becomes a magical place during the Christmas season. Each room had been transformed to tell the story of Cinderella and this year they have taken Alice in Wonderland as their theme. Happily, the display coincides with a Christmas market in the courtyard so our visit was capped off with glühwein and any many of the other treats.
As I will be in London anyway, this year I plan to make Dennis Severs house in Spitalfieds a must-see. Severs refurbished the entire building to recreate its Huguenot heritage. Each year it hosts a glorious Christmas Advent installation.
Also tempting are Castle Howard, which this year will be decorated to the theme of ‘A Christmas Masquerade’. Apparently, the 25-foot tree will be decorated with over 3,000 baubles. The event was featured in The Telegraph and the vibrant colours and dramatic displays look mesmerising.
(Picture by ALH1)
Equally spectacular, Longleat in Somerset is hosting its own Festival of Light and its Christmas exhibition takes Myths and Legends as the theme. The House itself is to be decorated as if for a glamourous 1920s party, nodding to heyday of the 6thMarquess of Bath who first opened the house to the public 70 years ago this year.
Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire is always delightful and I very much want to visit to experience their interplay between light and music which is the focus of this year’s display. I’m very intrigued by the promised light installation which will feature kinetic orbs synced with a soundscape, in addition to all the traditional decorations, trees, carols and Christmas hits. The lights extend to the stunning grounds of the House and Gardens with sparkling glitter balls.
Holkham Hall in Norfolk is focusing on light of a different nature, their tour is to be lit by candles and I can only imagine the impact this will have on the greenery and scented pine trees with which each room will be filled.
I visited Edinburgh earlier this year but am tempted to return by the promise of the glittering decorations at the Palace of Holyroodhouse and the velvet garlands on display at the historic State Apartments. I’m particularly drawn to the prospect of seeing the Royal Dining Room which will be laid with pieces from a silver service marking the Silver Jubilee of George V and Queen Mary in 1935. If I don’t make it there before 25thDecember, perhaps I’ll be able to go to Scotland once again to celebrate Burns’ Night on 25thJanuary.
All of which is predicated on my resisting the lure of a trip over the Irish Sea to the State Rooms at Hillsborough Castle. Here the decorations themed around the Twelve Days of Christmas have been created by local craftspeople and there is also the promise of live music to add to the festive cheer.