Christmas comes but once a year and at many of our historic homes and heritage properties it really is that most wonderful time of the year.
As the season of goodwill approaches, many properties continue to welcome visitors through their doors and help get everyone into the yuletide spirit.
It is also a great opportunity to see how stunning these fabulous places look when decorated in all their splendour for Christmas. More often than not, you will find hosts and organisers draw on the history of their property and focus their attention on capturing the essence of what Christmas would have been like at these historic settings in years gone by.
With that in mind, here is a selection of great historic properties in the local and regional area to think about visiting in the lead-up to Christmas.
Canons Ashby, Northamptonshire
From earthy Tudor treats, austere Puritan practices, generous Georgian feasts, to fashionable Victorian customs and familiar 20th century traditions, the sights and sounds of ‘Five Centuries of Christmas’ will fill Canons Ashby, located near Daventry in Northamptonshire.
Between 10th and 18th December, visitors to this lovely Elizabethan manor house and 18th century gardens can look forward to being inspired by 500 years of Christmas traditions throughout the house and spirit-lifting treats in the Tearoom.
Help decorate Canons Ashby’s giant tree while keeping warm by the glowing fire in the Great Hall, discover the origins of our best-loved festive habits and see what life was like without Christmas in Puritan England.
Look closely and you may even meet Father Christmas early this year as he checks that everything is in order, with a special visit from his reindeer on Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th December.
There are also plenty of reasons to get out in to the garden at Canons Ashby, even if the flower beds are not in bloom. Costumed scarecrows will show off fashion styles of the five centuries in the house, whilst the leafless trees open up the garden’s spectacular Baroque vistas. Free walks, details of which are available to pick up from the Coach House shop, take you into the rolling Northamptonshire countryside and across the crisp grounds of the parkland.
Stay a little while after the house closes on Friday 9th December to join the Northamptonshire National Trust Association’s annual carolling event in the Pebble Court. Alternatively on Saturday 10 December experience some musical merriment during your visit in the day, with traditional bell ringers at 1.30pm and the Middleton Cheney Singers on Saturday 17th December.
Five Centuries of Christmas
Saturday 10th to Sunday 18th December, 11.30pm – 3.00pm (Last admission to house at 2.30pm)
Telephone: 01327 861900
Upton House and Gardens, near Banbury, Oxfordshire
Visit Upton House and Gardens during late November and December and you will see the festive preparations being made in the lead up to a Victory Christmas on the home front.
As Upton House are celebrating their Victory Year, from 26th November to 19th December 2016 you will notice most of the decoration will be in red, white and blue. Rooms will be hung with knitted victory bunting, trees filled with peace doves and bells as the sound of joy and celebration rang out over Upton once again. Discover how bank staff lived at Upton House and prepared for Christmas with ‘make-do and mend’ decorations and gifts.
Join the wartime festivities at the Christmas Fayre on Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th December (11.00-4.00pm) with local stallholders offering handmade gifts, perfect presents and food and drink. See the house decorated for Christmas using handmade crafts and warm yourself up with rations served in the restaurant.
There is also chance to experience the atmosphere of an exclusive evening tour after dark with Upton House’s Evening Blackout Tours. See the house dressed for Christmas in Victory Year, hear stories of what the bank staff did at Christmas and warm up with mulled wine and fruitcake.
There are also a lot of new crafting workshops at Upton House this winter. From wreaths to cooking to paper crafts, there’s something new to try at one of their workshops. All materials and tuition included.
Children are invited take the trail round the house and discover more about a wartime Christmas and how to make it fun. Follow the family trail to see Christmas come to life. Find out about the clever tricks and traditions involved in a 1940s Christmas as you explore the house and answer the questions. But can you discover the hiding place of the Christmas Elf in order to receive your prize?
Why not book one of Upton House’s exclusive tours and hear how the British spirit made for a very special Christmas, even in the toughest of times. With coffee on arrival and a tasty two course lunch, their daytime tours are perfect for work or social groups as a Christmas party or just a nice day out to end the year.
Victory Christmas on the home front
From 26 November to 19 December 2016.
Telephone: 01295 670266
Warwick Castle, Warwick
The majestic fortress of Warwick Castle is open every day apart from Christmas Day offering a feast of events and attractions including A Very Victorian Christmas, a Winter Wedding in The Princess Tower and Story time with Santa in the Red Drawing Room.
The Castle will once again be decked out in the finest festive grandeur, with the main focal point, the beloved 20-feet-high Christmas tree gracing the Great Hall.
Keep warm inside the Red Drawing Room and enjoy festive tales told by none other than the man himself, Santa Claus, throughout the day. Suitable to delight children of all ages and included in the cost of day time entry.
The spectacular Winter Birds of Prey Show showcases the Castle’s very own beautiful and powerful birds of prey, with a focus on owls for the winter months. Always a popular attraction, the birds take to the skies to provide a breath taking display of grace and power.
The festive spirit at Warwick Castle also includes the annual Carols at the Castle, held this year on Saturday 17th December, where people of all ages join together to sing carols led by the excellent choir of St Mary’s and Royal Spa Brass Band.
Telephone: 0871 265 2000
Kenilworth Castle and Elizabethan Garden, Warwickshire
Kenilworth Castle gets ready for the festive season with a Christmas wreath making workshop and weekend of Christmas fun in December.
The Christmas wreath making workshop is on Friday 2nd December. Visitors can get creative and learn about the different techniques used to make a wreath, with the opportunity to make something special to take home.
Immerse yourself in all things festive with Kenilworth Castle’s weekend of Christmas fun for all the family. On Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th December, enjoy crafts and storytelling and for all those who have been good this year, share an audience with our very special guest, Father Christmas in his grotto.
Be entertained by the Castle’s very own fool, Master “Posh” Peter Cooper who will educate you in the history, art and practice of comedic folly and slapstick. Or listen to traditional tales in the Gatehouse before watching a display of the traditional way to catch your festive lunch and hear stories of seasonal game hawking and rural life.
You can also join in with traditional Christmas carols with musical accompaniment from Blast from the Past. There is a £3.00 additional charge for Father Christmas. Limited tickets are available and should be purchased on arrival at the Visitor Centre.
Telephone: 0370 333 1181
Ragley Hall, Warwickshire
Ragley Hall in South Warwickshire is to host a number of festive master classes and unique candlelit evening walks around the Staterooms in the run up to Christmas.
Visitors can learn how to make festive wreaths with Head Gardener Mark Morell on Friday 25th November and create Christmas table decorations on Monday 5th December. The classes start at 10.00am and finish at 12.00 noon followed by lunch. The cost is £35 per person with an optional lunch of a Ragley Pie served with a glass of cider. Also on offer is Festive Chutney making on 7th December with Head Chef Rachel Tudor from 10.30am with lunch served at 12.00 noon.
The candlelit walks take place on the weekends of Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th, and Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th December. Visitors will be greeted with mulled wine and mince pies, before a guided tour of the impressive Staterooms including the Great Hall, Red Saloon, State Dining Room, Prince Regent’s Bedroom, Mauve Room, Music Room, Breakfast Room, Green Drawing Room as well as the South Staircase Hall and its spectacular mural, ‘The Temptation’.
The cost of the candlelit walks is £12.00 per person. There are three walks each evening with arrival times being 4.00pm for 4.30pm, 5.00pm for 5.30pm or 6.00pm for 6:30pm. Each lasts approximately 20 to 30 minutes. Tickets must be pre-booked in advanced.
A three-course Christmas dinner is also available following the 6.30pm events on the 3rd and 10th December. The cost is £48.00 per person with dinner served in the Terrace Café or £85.00 per person with dinner served in the Red Saloon. Pre-booking is essential.
Telephone: 01789 762 090