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Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons A fairytale romance for Francophiles
Magnificently, the restaurant at this 32-room hotel outside Oxford has held onto its two Michelin stars since it was opened by the über-charming Raymond Blanc in 1984. So you can be sure its wine tasting and cookery demonstration (creative canapés) will be good — and its seven-course Christmas menu (roast duck with clementine curd, jasmine and all the trimmings) even better. It looks a picture, too, with a Christmas tree in each individually styled bedroom, and two more at the top of the lavender path.
Address: Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons, Church Road, Great Milton, Oxford, OX44 7PD Book your stay
PORT LYMPNE, KENT
A country escape that feels a world away from the UK
A stay at this Kentish nature reserve is 2020’s answer to taking off on safari for a Christmas getaway – the 600 acres here are home to lions, tigers, bears and giraffes at which to gaze during a bracing tour. Christmas Eve supper at The Garden Room is followed by mince pies and a visit from Father Christmas. On Christmas morning presents are opened in bed, with breakfast hampers delivered to bedrooms, and during the afternoon there’s live music for making merry.
Address: Port Lympne Reserve, Aldington Road, Lympne, Hythe CT21 4LR Book your stay
THE LYGON ARMS, THE COTSWOLDS
The quintessential Cotswolds hideout
Tramping across Cotswolds countryside is never more charming than in winter when the winding cobblestone streets sit pretty under a sprinkling of frost and the roaring fires create a cosy glow. At Broadway’s Lygon Arms, Christmas Eve is marked with an appearance from local carol singers, a country-style lunch is essential on Christmas Day, and a Boxing Day walk is preceded by warm hunks of pork pie and spicy mulled wine.
Address: The Lygon Arms, High Street, Broadway, Worcestershire WR12 7DU Book your stay
THE MITRE, LONDON
A royal affair on the river
There’s a sense of aristocracy at the Mitre, one of the UK openings of the year. It’s just footsteps from Hampton Court Palace, a favourite residence of King Henry VIII and one of London’s cheeriest festive façades. The Grade II-listed hotel sits right on the Thames, overlooking icy Arcadian river banks. Wake up on Christmas morning in a plump four-poster bed in a candy-coloured bedroom and wrap up for a spin on the much-loved Hampton Court Palace ice rink. Keep your fingers crossed for snow: Hampton Court’s grounds under a fresh blanket are Christmas card-worthy.
Address: The Mitre, Hampton Court Road, Molesey, Surrey KT8 9BN Book your stay
19th-century charm on the edge of London
Media titan Lord Beaverbrook bought this pile in Surrey in 1910, but its most recent iteration as a hotel opened a few years ago. It’s peak country house: parquet floors, open fires, restored antiques and art – all a brilliant canvas for a liberal dusting of traditional Christmas trimmings. Enter through a giant storybook, inscribed with the words from Rudyard Kipling’s poem
Christmas at Cherkley Court (the estate’s former name), which he wrote while staying as a guest. There’s an ice rink for working up an appetite before a traditional turkey lunch, matched with free-flowing mulled cider. Recover on Boxing Day with a stint in the excellent spa. Address: Beaverbrook Hotel and Spa, Reigate Road, Leatherhead, Surrey KT22 8QX Book your stay
Heckfield Place, Hampshire
The homely Georgian house that’s more downtown than Downton
This grown-up country house hotel that manages elegance and homeliness without the swagged formality of others. Christmas at Heckfield feels like having the run of your own pile, with cocktail-making workshops, screenings
The Polar Express and Father Christmas and his reindeer is popping by on Christmas Eve. If you can stay awake, there’s midnight mass in the church next door, too. Stay for the Boxing Day children’s Olympics, archery and falconry, or better still, jazz and cocktails back at the ranch.
The Connaught, London
Artful treats in an updated classic
For a magical Christmas in London, Claridge’s 121-room sister hotel The Connaught offers a similar mix of seasonal specials: carols on Christmas Eve, carrots for the children to leave out for Santa’s reindeers, stockings for all and carriage rides. The Christmas tree here follows the annual artist-designed tradition and sits outside the hotel on Carlos Place. Other highlights include impeccable Martinis in the glittering Art Deco Connaught Bar, a four-course Michelin-starred Christmas Eve lunch at the Hélène Darroze restaurant and a moment of serenity in the Aman Spa, one of the best spas in London.
Gleneagles Hotel, Scotland
Non-stop fun in the land of snow
Refurbished in an understated modern style, this 232-room Perthshire estate with two Michelin-starred restaurant pulls out all the stops at Christmas, laying on an ice rink and organising a visit from Santa Claus and his elves. The Gleneagles Suite becomes a place to taste global delicacies, and listen to carols; and on Boxing Day, non-golfers can try cocktail-making and off-road driving, join the annual clay-pigeon-shooting competition and treasure hunt, or have their fortune told. You may well even get snow.
Chewton Glen, Hampshire
A family house party mere steps from the beach
Frederick Marryat stayed at Chewton Glen while writing
Children of the New Forest, and this historic favourite is a great choice for Christmas. Book a treehouse suite with freestanding bath and outdoor hot tub for family time and forest views, then join the house party in the 18th-century main house: a kids’ movie night with pick ‘n’ mix and popcorn is planned in the Beehive Treehouse den with treasure hunts and beach walks. In between it’s one long feast, with turkey, cranberry and chestnut stuffing sandwiches for afternoon tea, and a three- or five-course meal. Address: Chewton Glen, Christchurch Road, New Milton, BH25 6QS Book your stay
The Pig at Bridge Place, Kent
The sexiest and newest Pig hotel
Set in a 17th-century manor, the sixth Pig from the cult brand lies within five acres in Kent’s bucolic landscape. The hotel’s rich navy and deep berry burgundy tones, lit by puffing fires and candles, make for an especially cosy Christmas backdrop, and this being only 10 minutes from Canterbury Cathedral, a carol sing-along should be on the cards. While there will be no tinsel (come on, this is The Pig, after all), festivities will be simple but merry. Try and nab the rustic barn, with a private terrace, countryside views and a bathroom with a roll-top tub and chaise longue. If there’s a time to wallow, this is it.
Address: The Pig at Bridge Place, Bourne Park Road, Bridge, Canterbury, CT4 5LF Book your stay
Babington House, Somerset
A country livener for hip Londoners
It’s been over 20 years since the Soho House group opened their first rural outpost in a listed Georgian building outside Frome. Numerous celebrity weddings and an extensive renovation later, it still has its original hip factor. Christmas here is both buzzy and laid-back, with members swinging by for a hot mulled Somerset cider at the zinc-topped bar, a swim in the heated indoor or outdoor pool, and a treatment at the Cowshed Spa overlooking the kitchen garden. As seasonal specials, the hotel lays on a visit from Father Christmas with presents for the children, drinks and canapés in the bar and candlelit carols in the adjacent chapel. Of course, there’s a big sit-down lunch and a choice of outdoor activities: archery, clay pigeon shooting and pony rides on Boxing Day.
Gara Rock, Devon
A solitary seaside design hotel just outside Salcombe
There’s nothing quite like the outrageous snugness of a seaside location in winter, topping a high, jagged peninsula along Devon’s historic South West Coast Path. At Gara, winter is probably the season when it really comes into itself – the book-brimming den where you can curl up on Christmas Eve, followed by a proper knees-up in the glass-walled restaurant the following day; a traditional Devonshire turkey lunch washed down with extravagant views, sea and sky a glittering pewter hinge. Spend Boxing Day skimming rocks down at the beach below, working off that lunch before a cream tea awaits.
Forest Side, Lake District
A Cumbrian adventure for foodies and walkers
Wordsworth called Grasmere the ‘loveliest spot that man hath ever found’, and from 20-room hotel Forest Side guests can attend Midnight Mass at St Oswald’s, where the poet is buried. As befits a gourmet hotspot, the festive menu by Cumbrian native and keen forager Kevin Tickle does tradition a little differently: local mead on arrival, a six-course Christmas lunch including venison pastrami and wild boar, and a hog roast in the evening. There’s a quiz of the year, and for those who don’t care to scramble up Helm Cragg on Boxing Day, the hotel has 43 acres of kitchen gardens and woodland to amble around.
Address: Forest Side, Keswick Road, Grasmere, Ambleside, LA22 9RN Book your stay
Country platters for the elegantly rustic
This seriously smart country hotel strikes a pertinent balance between full, heel-clicking hotel-ness and the privacy and space of your own country retreat. Christmas here is a wholesome, organic affair with a seasonal-packed feasting menu at the Ox Barn (just-caught oysters, roast goose with all the trimmings), alongside roaring outdoor fire pits and brisk, rosy-cheeked wintery walks.
Address: Thyme, Southrop Manor Estate, Gloucestershire, GL7 3PW Book your stay
Unadulterated magic for the whole family
Claridge’s is always magical but come Christmas the London hotel is practically glistening in fairy dust. There’s always a fashion designer-decorated tree, and festivities as jolly as you’d imagine. Come here for a holiday-inspired afternoon tea, while sweet-cheeked singers from the Southend children’s choir serenade. There’s plenty to keep children happy, from arts and crafts with Sharky & George to a horse-drawn carriage ride with hot chocolate and marshmallows. All of which leaves you free to retreat to the Lalique-panelled Fumoir with a bottle of Champagne before Christmas lunch, which could be a treat at Davies and Brook, the 2019 opening from New York Chef Daniel Humm (they’ll sort you out a babysitter, too).
Hotel Tresanton, Cornwall
A seaside haven for yachties and romantics
The prospect of Midnight Mass at St Just in Roseland — a 13th-century church in semi-tropical gardens that Betjeman described as the ‘most beautiful churchyard on earth’ — would be reason enough to spend Christmas in nearby St Mawes. Another is Olga Polizzi’s gracious and grown-up, yet very family-friendly 30-room Hotel Tresanton, on the edge of Cornwall’s south coast. Mass is preceded by carols and followed by stockings for all, the Queen speaks on a big screen, and on Boxing Day you can walk along the Carrick Roads – the estuary of the River Fal – by way of a castle built by Henry VIII.
Address: Hotel Tresanton, 27 Lower Castle Road, St Mawes, Truro, TR2 5DR Book your stay
Lucknam Park Hotel and Spa, Wiltshire
Period drama in a country pile to call your own
Father Christmas drives a horse-drawn carriage at this 42-room estate with tree-lined avenue and Palladian frontage, and Boxing Day pursuits include strolls in the 500-acre grounds, a ride on one of the 35 horses, a treasure hunt and a black-tie dinner. Lucknam Park is also an epicure’s dream, with mince pies and mulled wine in the library after Midnight Mass at Colerne Parish Church on Christmas Eve, and a black-tie dinner on 26 December at the Michelin-starred Restaurant Hywel Jones – and there’s a thoroughly modern spa (one of the best spas in the UK) to swim it all off in.
Address: Lucknam Park Hotel and Spa, Colerne, Chippenham, SN14 8AZ Book your stay
Coworth Park, Ascot
An eco-friendly country estate for good sports
At Christmas, the wildflower meadow at The Dorchester’s exquisite 70-room country cousin, Coworth Park, makes way for glossy greenery and twinkling lights. There’s a lovely programme for children, starting with story time and Christmas card-making by the fire; a green-roofed spa for the health-conscious; a full menu of gourmet treats (including a five-course tasting menu courtesy of Adam Smith in the Michelin-starred Restaurant Coworth Park); and live music and a family game show.
Address: Coworth Park, Blacknest Road, Sunningdale, Ascot, SL5 7SE Book your stay
Covent Garden Hotel, London
A home from home for show girls and boys
From this 58-room hotel in Seven Dials, you can walk to West End shows and the London’s best ice rink at Somerset House, as well as some of London’s best pop-up and one-off fashion boutiques. It’s popular with A-list actors and musicians, but interconnecting rooms also make it a good choice for families, and seasonal treats include family afternoon teas, stockings for children and screenings of some festive classics in the bijou cinema.
Address: Covent Garden Hotel, 10 Monmouth Street, WC2H 9HB Book your stay Like this? Now read: The best hotels in the UK
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