Book a day of Christmassy crafts, fun and magic at these resplendent historic houses.

No one does Christmas in such splendour as Britain’s many beautifully kept stately homes. And while a wintry walk in their grounds is a perennial joy, most also put on a spectacular show for the festive season, as well as hosting a smattering of craft classes and markets. These are the ones that will feature on our festive stately home crawl.

Dennis Severs’ House


Spitalfields, London


Although not quite a stately home, this living museum on Folgate Street makes the list by dint of that fact that, quite simply, no one did Christmas like the inimitable Dennis Severs. And now, in his memory, no one recreates it like its devoted custodians. There is no more magical place on earth, especially at this time of year, when theatrical guided tours are by candlelight. Don’t delay; book it here. Until 9th January.


Twenty Years Of Christmas Magic At Chatsworth


Derbyshire


This year, Chatsworth celebrates 20 years of Christmas the estate. They say, ‘Entrancing scenes will combine nostalgic references to Christmases of years past with the traditions at the heart of Chatsworth’s seasonal celebrations. The Chapel will come alive with festive music; a kaleidoscope of colour will mingle playfully with gems and minerals from our collection; inventive use of recycled materials will illustrate the potential of sustainable decorating; and no winter celebration would be complete without a sprinkling of the white stuff...’ There is a limited number of tickets available for after dark too, when the wintry wonderland becomes all the more magical. Book it here. Until 9th January.


Wreath-Making At Tyntesfield


North Somerset


Crafty Bristolians should make a beeline for Tyntesfield, the Victorian Gothic Revival house and parkland, to learn how to craft a stunning wreath with florist Sarah Pepper. Book it here. And do note, there are wreath-making workshops at a selection of other National Trust properties too. Explore and book them here. 2nd December, plus other dates in December.


Christmas Cake Modelling Decoration At Petworth


West Sussex


The resplendent Petworth estate is home to one of the finest collections of art anywhere in the National Trust, as well as one of the most enviable kitchens. It is at the latter that keen bakers can join a workshop run by Aspire Sussex, who will share tips for creating festive characters from sugar paste. Book it here. 16th December.


Designer And Maker Fair At Charleston Farmhouse


East Sussex


Are you dreading hitting busy shopping centres? Sick of shopping online? Why not support independent craftspeople this Christmas instead? The beautiful Charleston Farmhouse, former refuge of the Bloomsbury Set and home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, is the ideal backdrop for the talented likes of The Fabled Thread, Windmill Pottery and Shiv Textiles to sell their handmade wares. Book it here. 27th – 28th November.


Design Your Own Christmas Stocking At Souter Lighthouse


Sunderland, Tyne & Wear


Home-made Christmas decorations are invariably the most magical. But what about going one further and creating your very own stocking? Go wild with your favourite festive motifs and then hand it down the generations. Available to children of three and over. Book it here. 11th & 12th December.


Christmas In Narnia At Castle Howard


Yorkshire


Imagine a world where it’s always winter, but never Christmas. Whilst the resplendent Castle Howard has had a Narnian makeover for the festive season, happily we surmise that Christmas will go ahead regardless. Go to enjoy the decorations inside, as well as the ‘dramatic installations, lighting and soundscapes’, all evoking the most wonderful time of the year. Even Santa himself will be paying a visit or two. They recommend timing your visit to coincide with twilight for maximum enchantment. Book it here. Until 2nd January.


Crafternoon Tea At Clumber Park


Nottinghamshire


Join Sunflower Wellbeing at Clumber Park's Discovery Centre for four hours of crafting for adults at which you’ll learn how to make needle-felted baubles and macramé gnomes – all while being fed cream tea. In other words: sheer joy. Book it here. 4th December.


Blenheim Palace


Oxfordshire


Blenheim Palace pulls out all the stops when it comes to Christmas. This year, in addition to the lovely annual festive market, there is a magical light trail to follow in the Capability Brown-designed grounds after dark, as well as The Nutcracker reimagined in its glorious public rooms. They say, ‘explore the Palace rooms, each one exquisitely transformed and filled with hidden surprises – from the toymaker’s workshop on a frosty Christmas Eve; through the glistening Land of Snow and onto the candy-cane Kingdom of Sweets adorned with the sweetest of treats and larger-than-life gingerbread men. It’s a fairy-tale world where nothing is quite as it seems, from a dashing Nutcracker Prince and an army of mice to a Sugar Plum Fairy and a music box with a difference.’ Book it here. Until 2nd January.


Enchanted Eltham Palace


London


Eltham Palace, with its glorious mix of the medieval and trailblazing Art Deco luxury, is enchanted all year round in our books. But at Christmas, it becomes even more so as you are invited to explore the grounds and gardens ‘to discover a magical world of illumination, sound and colour, and see the outside of the Great Hall bathed in light.’ All with a mulled wine in hand, naturally. Book it here. 9th – 30th December.


English Heritage Christmas Adventure Quests


Various locations


One of the most wonderful ways to enjoy visiting heritage sites with family in-tow is to engage everyone of all ages in the magic of the place. English Heritage makes that all the easier, thanks to its adventure quests, which allow you to unearth secrets and stories and make history come alive. Available at 1066 Battle Abbey; Beeston Castle; Belsay Hall; Bolsover Castle; Brodsworth Hall; Dover Castle; Framlingham Castle; Kenilworth Castle; Osborne; Pendennis Castle; Stonehenge; Whitby Abbey; and Wrest Park. Book it here. Until 2nd January.

By Nancy Alsop
November 2021

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