Christmas at Stately Homes

Published on: 27/11/21

If you think the closest you can get to enjoying Christmas like a Duke or Duchess is using a cup and saucer for your brew and binging on Downton Abbey, then think again! 

The UK has some incredible stately homes, and after having to close the doors last Christmas, this year they’re resplendent in their finest festive frivolity. Special tours, breathtakingly decorated trees, merry mulled-wine afternoon teas, even light and sound spectaculars, it’s enough to make the Countess of Crawley jealous!

From timbered family homes to National Trust favourites and impressive palaces, there’s sure to be somewhere near to you. Be aware that many events require pre-booking, and as everyone looks to celebrate again, tickets are flying out faster than Lady Mary in an open-top. 

Historic houses like North Lancashire’s Leighton Hall excel in group visits, with their atmospheric candlelit tour culminating in mulled wine and mince pies before a roaring open fire. So keep an eye on what local tour operators are offering, or get your butler to cast his eye over our suggestions below.

Hever Castle, Edenbridge, Kent

See the childhood home of Anne Boleyn transformed into a festive paradise this Christmas. Inside the castle, you’ll be met by beautifully and traditionally decorated rooms, welcoming log fires and twinkling Christmas trees- more than enough to get you into the festive mood. And all that’s before you get tempted outside into the light trail, festive fairground rides, and even the chance to cuddle fluffy Huskies!

A specially curated Adventures of Pinocchio Christmas Trail will delight and captivate the whole family, beginning in Geppetto’s Workshop surrounded by his wonderful woodcarving creations, before journeying through the land of toys and under the sea. See Pinocchio in Stromboli’s puppet show before he is captured in a cage by the Fox and Cat. Fearless adventurers must head under the sea, past the whale and shipwreck, to rescue Pinocchio’s father and. As you journey to a fairy tale Happy Ending, will the Blue Fairy grant Pinocchio’s wish of becoming a real boy?

Once the sun goes down, enjoy a walk under the stars on the Magical Christmas Light Trail to witness the enchantment of the Castle, gardens and lake festooned with fabulous colours and twinkling lights, capturing the spirit of Christmas. Bring torches and pop on your wellies to see the spectacular, after-dark, illuminated trail and Hever Castle’s much-loved landmarks lit up with glorious colour washes, include new areas of the grounds not previously lit before.

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire

It’s not just Cinderella who gets to dress up and party at a Palace - at Blenheim, you can too. The classic Christmas tale of the Nutcracker has been brought vividly to life on a magical tour of the grand Palace rooms, each one exquisitely transformed and filled with hidden surprises. Discover the toymaker’s workshop on a frosty Christmas Eve; head 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.

Outside, lights, lasers and seasonal sounds fill the air with festive fun through the Palace’s picture-perfect gardens. Explore glittering tunnels of light, dancing lakeside reflections and trees drenched in jewel-like colour. For a moment of reflection, pause at mesmerising flickering flames in the fire garden, gaze up at the larger-than-life illuminations and don’t forget to catch a glimpse of Father Christmas along the way. This fantastical winter wonderland is where the magic really begins!

There’s festive afternoon teas or Christmas lunches with extra fizz. Or stay in the crisp outdoors and complete your walk under the stars with a choice selection from the finest independent street food vendors.

Hillsborough Castle, County Down, Northern Ireland

Hillsborough Caste is famous for its glorious 18th century gardens, with lakes, glens, ice house, statues, all festooned with gorgeous trees and flora. Maximising this magical landscape, a brand new after-dark illuminated festive trail brings it alive with twinkling lights and fills the air with seasonal sounds.

Discover sparkling tunnels of light, walk under giant baubles, and beneath sparkling trees. Complete your walk under the stars by treating yourself to a spiced winter warmer, hot chocolate, or toasted marshmallows with someone special; no better way to kick start your festive celebrations with family and friends.

Osborne House, Isle of Wight

Our modern Christmas traditions at Osborne House were largely introduced by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, so where better to immerse yourself in the Christmas spirit than its very heart? Designed by Prince Albert in the style of an Italian Renaissance palace, it was the family’s beloved holiday retreat.

Reflecting the Royal couple’s passions, tastes and style, stroll through the staterooms and corridors where Victoria entertained heads of state, all festively decorated fit for a Queen, or enjoy a promenade on the estate’s private beach. Enjoy extra-special festive treats in the café or elegant Terrace Restaurant.

Perfect for families, English Heritage have designed a special family-friendly Christmas adventure quest, just the ticket for running off holiday energy. Follow the trail to find clues dotted around the grounds, and discover fun facts and festive folklore along the way. And because they know what it’s like keeping everyone entertained over the holidays, it’s on through till 2nd January!

Latest Articles