From Christmas markets to Christmas lights and trees adorning famous London landmarks, Britain is ready to welcome the holiday season. Expect to see no less from stately homes across England, Scotland and Wales. These former and current family homes, all open to the public, are ready to welcome you with their holiday events unique to each home’s history and heritage.
With rooms so grand and impressive, expect to attend extravagant festive events and see Christmas decoration that will wow you at these 8 stately homes.
1. Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Winston Churchill, a World Heritage Site, and home to the Dukes of Marlborough is open for Christmas events all season long. Until January 5, step down the rabbit-hole into the whimsical world of Alice in Wonderland on a festive indoor trail, Alice in the Palace as corridors are filled with surprises, mirrored hallways and illusions. Outdoors, take a festive walk along the Illuminated Light Trail to see Christmas decor including the Tunnel of Light made with over 100,000 pea-lights. And get Christmas shopping done at The Christmas Market for a range of gifts like ceramics, textiles, homeware, jewelry, toys and more.
2. Longleat, Wiltshire
Longleat is more than just an Elizabethan stately home and residence of the Marquess of Bath’s family. It’s also home to Britain’s first safari park. The grand interiors of Longleat House, 900 acres of landscaped grounds designed by Capability Brown, and safari drive to see cheetahs, lions, monkeys and more are open for visitors.
And during the holiday season, Longleat hosts The Festival of Light, from November 9 until January 5. Discover hundreds of Chinese lanterns across the grounds, hop aboard the Santa Train, go on a winter safari, and see Longleat House decorated for a 1920s style Christmas party.
3. Castle Howard, Yorkshire
Castle Howard has been the family home of the Howard family for generations, who are descendants of Lord William Howard, youngest son of Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk. Visitors are welcome to the house’s interior, including the Chapel and surrounding 1,000 acres of parkland, walled garden and Skelf Island for a treetop adventure. This welcome is extended to the Christmas season when the house’s grand state rooms are made even more magnificent with festive decor, including a 25 foot Christmas tree during Christmas at Castle Howard from November 16 to January 5. Make your visit extra special with a Christmas Afternoon Tea from November 16 until December 18 or join Castle Howard for one of four Twilight Evenings.
4. Highclere Castle, Berkshire
Highclere Castle, famously known for its role as Downton Abbey in the TV series and film, is open during the Christmas season for special ticketed events, all including a chance to see the interior of the castle dressed in Christmas decor. A Castle Tours and Shopping event allows for a festive castle tour, plus a chance to discover the shopping marque to get your Christmas shopping done at hand picked stalls. Other special events include the Charles Dickens Evening at Highclere Castle for a tour plus an opportunity to enjoy the story of ‘A Christmas Carol’ performed by Charles Dickens’ great-great-grandson, Gerald Dickens; the Christmas Gala Dinner, a formal dinner by the castle’s head chef hosted in the State Dining Room; and a Talk by Lady Carnarvon all about Christmas at Highclere.
5. Chatsworth House, Derbyshire
Discover the magic of Christmas at Chatsworth, home to the Dukes of Devonshire and their families for 16 generations. From November 9 until January 5, this estate in the Peak District is dressed for Christmas with an explorer theme, following in the footsteps of Phileas Fogg and Amelia Earheart. Browse through more than 100 stalls at the Christmas Market or join a Twilight Evening after public hours for mince pie, a glass of wine and live music. There’s also weekend nativity performances throughout December and a special Masquerade Ball with drinks, a house tour, 3-course dinner at the Carriage House restaurant, and entertainment while kitted out in evening dress and masks.
6. Abbotsford, Melrose, Scotland
While the historic house, chapel and gardens are closed for maintenance over the winter in Abbotsford, the home of author Sir Walter Scott in the Scottish borders, it is open for several events during the Christmas season. The Visitor Centre is still open year round and is where Olchiltree’s Cafe is located for a two or three-course festive Christmas lunch menu from December 1 to 24. Meanwhile, the Festive Family Fair is on December 7 to 8, featuring a craft fair from local traders, festive trail, storytelling sessions, and activities suitable for the whole family. Also, the chapel will be open on December 15 for the annual Chapel Carol Service followed by festive mince pies and hot drinks.
7. Tredegar House, Newport, Wales
Tredegar House is a 17th century mansion house, the home of the influential Welsh family, the Morgans (later Lords Tredegar) for over 500 years until 1951. See the majestic state rooms, the Great Kitchen below stairs and the 1930s bedrooms, now managed by the National Trust and decorated for the Christmas season with trees and wreaths in every corner from November 30 to December 22. Father Christmas visits the home every weekend and children can have breakfast and receive a gift from him too. Additionally, Tredegar House hosts murder mystery nights. Transport back to the 1830s at one of the Morgan family’s Christmas parties and uncover the culprit while enjoying a two-course dinner.
8. The Hall at Abbey-Cwm-Hir, Powys, Wales
The Hall at Abbey-Cwm-Hir is Wales’ finest example of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture. It was built in 1834 by Thomas Wilson, who later became the Mayor of Adelaide in Australia. The home was purchased by the Philips family 35 years later, who doubled the size of the house and in 1997 was purchased by its current owners Paul and Victoria Humpherston. Along with 12 acres of Victorian gardens, the home’s 52 rooms are open to visitors during the Christmas season from November 1 to January 6, where no two rooms are alike.