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20th Jan, 2022

Why go to Europe when some of the best Christmassy things to do are closer to home?

Stratford Editorial 29th Nov, 2021

Twelve months always feels too long a wait for Christmas to roll around again, so two years has been almost agony. But festive plans are forging ahead this season, with many winter wonderland events and festive markets being held across the UK… some right on our doorstep!

Find unique gifts and foreign foods sourced globally, sold alongside regional farm produce and crafts made by local artisans. Vintage funfair rides and workshops turn a shopping spree into a day out, while historic backdrops – ranging from medieval castles to 18th century stately homes – create a magical atmosphere.

Yes, it’s been a long time coming – but Christmas 2021 has been worth the wait…

Celebrate Christmas Past

Where: Stratford-upon-Avon

The streets of Stratford-upon-Avon are steeped in history, providing an atmospheric setting for a historical festive fair. Held from December 9-12, the town’s Victorian Christmas Market features stalls helmed by vendors in period costume, along with a stage in Henley Street hosting a programme of entertainment and a traditional funfair with a carousel.

A novel way to experience the festivities is by canal boat. It’s a six-hour journey from Drifters’ canal boat hire base on the Stratford Canal at Wootton Wawen, passing through 17 locks in the Warwickshire countryside.

How: The 48ft Teddington 4 narrowboat (sleeping four) is available December 10-13 for £605, including bed linen, towels, cancellation protection, first pet, parking and tuition on arrival. A £50 non-refundable damage waiver and fuel deposit (£50 for a short break, £90 for a week) are extra.

Go big on festivities

Where: Lincoln

From a humble collection of 11 stalls, Lincoln’s Christmas Market has expanded to become one of the biggest yuletide events in Europe. Set against the city’s cathedral spires and castle turrets, more than 250 vendors sell handcrafted jewellery, candles, ceramics and art. Mulled wine and a selection of street food kitchens provide shoppers with much-needed fuel.

Combine the four-day event, taking place from December 2-5, with a stay at the 450acre Bainland Lodge Retreats, a 30-minute drive away. Accommodation is divided between 78 luxury lodges, shepherd’s huts, safari tents, tree-house retreats and new family villas.

How: From £549 for a 3-night stay in a one bed property. Visit bainland.co.uk or call 01526 352903.

Make it an international affair

Where: Belfast

If you can’t get to the continent this winter, Belfast City Hall offers a fine alternative. Designed to resemble a European village, chalet-style stalls will sell food and gifts until December 23. Savour tasty treats from 32 nationalities, including crepes from France, Dutch pancakes and German bratwurst.

Get an aerial view of the site by riding a vintage helter-skelter – although perhaps not advisable after a few too many mulled wines – or play safe with an old fashioned carousel.

How: To enter, you will need to provide a Covid passport, proof of vaccination, proof of a negative Covid test or lateral flow test taken in the previous 48 hours, or evidence of a positive PCR test taken in the previous 30 to 180 days.

Meet king Santa and his merry elves

Where: Warwick Castle

Medieval kings and queens were renowned for hosting grand banquets. The tradition continues with a supreme spread of festive foods at Warwick Castle’s Winter Stalls. Eat German sausage and pretzels cooked on an open grill, or dine on locally farmed slow roasted pork with homemade chutneys.

Wander around the 64-acre grounds to admire a Light Trail and zip across an ice rink. New this year, an Elf Workshop invites families to make a board game and listen to bedtime stories from Santa.

How: Tickets for Castle entrance and Stories With Santa cost £26pp. Both the ice skating and Light Trail cost £14.50pp each. Visit warwick-castle.com.

Deck the halls of a stately home

Where: East Lothian

A cross between a Victorian carnival and a contemporary fair, a new Christmas Winter Wonderland event at Gosford House puts an alternative spin on the festive season. Held in the grounds of an 18th century stately home in East Lothian, just outside Edinburgh, the event will take place from December 17-23.

Enjoy an afternoon tea, whisky tours, mini train trips and a Christmas tree maze. Workshops include Christmas table styling by Style Your Spaces, wreath making from Feathergrass Florals and ballet classes from Art East, former Royal Ballet principal dancers.

How: Tickets from £4.50 for a child and £6.50 for an adult (plus booking fee) per day. Visit roguevillage.com/gosford-house-winter-wonderland

Stay at the Papple Steading retreat, featuring four self-catering properties. A one-bed Ploughman’s Bothy costs from £695 for seven nights. Book through Crabtree & Crabtree (crabtreeandcrabtree.com; 01573 226711).

Walk through the pages of a fairy tale

Where: Blenheim Palace

A baroque Oxfordshire palace provides a superb setting for a month-long market held until December 19. Browse wares from more than 70 traders housed in wooden chalets in the Great Court after taking part in some of the venue’s excellent seasonal activities.

Inspired by The Nutcracker, the palace’s state rooms have been transformed into a fairy-tale land of candy canes and gingerbread men, while a new illuminated trail creates a glittering tunnel through the woods.

How: A combined ticket for the above attractions costs £50 for adults and £30 for children. Visit blenheimpalace.com or call 01993 810530.

If you have any recommendations of fun things to do this festive season in Worcestershire, Warwickshire or the West Midlands let us know so we can tell our readers. Email Claire.Bullivant@BullivantMedia.com

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