Christmas 2015 is fast approaching…and if you want to get away from it all, you don’t need to board a plane to escape. Check out 42 of the most inspiring and exciting no-fly Christmas breaks 2015.
Where better to spend a quintessentially English no-fly Christmas break than in the heart of Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon. At the Welcombe Hotel (shown above) you can indulge yourself in the luxury spa, four-poster bedroom suites, a full English breakfast every morning, massive open fireplaces and picturesque grounds. Stratford-upon-Avon train station is just three miles away, or you’re eight miles from J15 on the M40 by car. The three-night Christmas package (from £550 per person) starts on Christmas Eve with a festive afternoon tea followed by a four-course candlelit dinner in the award-winning, 2 AA rosette restaurant. On Christmas Day, Bucks fizz and canapés are served before a four-course traditional lunch during which Santa will visit the children. And, on Boxing Day, there’s a traditional English fayre buffet plus afternoon tea and a four-course black tie gala dinner in the evening with dancing until midnight. Christmas bliss!
Are you planning a Star Wars themed Christmas? The Forest of Dean is not only a magical setting; Puzzlewood was also used as one of The Force Awakens’ atmospheric sets. You could head to the nearby Tudor Farmhouse on Christmas Eve for a quirky festive getaway – prices start at £1,000 for three nights in a Bantam room and include a visit to Puzzlewood or a tour of Clearwell Caves on Christmas Eve, a traditional Christmas Lunch and afternoon tea and a six-course tasting menu on Boxing Day.
Fancy spending Christmas in a castle? Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn stayed at Thornbury as part of their honeymoon tour – and you’ll have a Christmas fit for a king here. Devour cream tea on your Christmas Eve arrival, then attend a black tie champagne reception with entertainment from local carol singers followed by a fabulous five-course dinner. Christmas Day will be relaxed with a leisurely breakfast in the bedchamber…then the Christmas feast will begin, followed by an evening of port tasting and cocktail drinking. There’s even a falconry display on Boxing Day. The price starts from £1,110 for two-nights in a classic bedchamber for up to two adults (children stay free of charge when sharing their parent’s bedroom with food charged as taken).
Another gorgeous castle you could opt for is Kinnettles Castle in the Angus countryside. For a truly spectacular Christmas, you can pay for exclusive use of the whole castle with its 11 bedrooms, casino, games room and wine cellar. Wellies will be provided so you can explore the woodland and you’ll have a team at your beck and call throughout your stay. Cost for hire is £2,000 for three days (not including food and drink).
Why not do your Christmas shopping with a cruise-twist, visiting wonderful Christmas Markets along the River Rhine. From the mouth-watering smell of baked gingerbread to the warming taste of Glühwein and the twinkling outdoor lights, this is Euro-Christmas at its most traditional. With River Cruise Line prices start from £269 per person and there are a number of flexible travel options, whether you want to travel to the port of departure or directly to the ship. Options include Eurostar, coach and ferry depending on the cruise option you choose.
You don’t have to trek to Lapland for an encounter with a reindeer: you can get up close with Rudolph and his chums at the Gwel an Mor resort, nestled in the North Cornish countryside. As well as enjoying the Christmas themed activities, guests can also indulge at the wellbeing spa, use the indoor pool and leisure facilities and try the locally sourced winter menu in the Terrace restaurant. Prices start from £419 for a festive short break (from November 28 to December 18) in a luxury lodge sleeping four. As well as a real-life reindeer encounter, you will also meet Father Christmas, enjoy a family film afternoon and receive a festive welcome pack and gifts for the children.
Castell Farmhouse in Pembrokeshire enjoys sweeping views over Fishguard Bay and National Trust properties Dinas Island and Pen Anglas. The pretty farmhouse stands in a fantastic location, within a couple of hundred metres of the sea, with a network of footpaths over Castell Farm and the Pembrokeshire Coast Path running close to the cottage – so it’s perfect for Christmas walking. Sleeping six, prices start at £963 for seven nights
An unusual and exciting getaway at any time of year, Spitbank Fort, between the Isle of Wight and Portsmouth in the Solent, is a brilliant Christmas destination, too. This year, guests will be “all at sea” as the former Victorian Fort is offering a once in a lifetime opportunity for a group to have the venue to themselves for a two night festive getaway. The package costs £16,000 and includes nine bedrooms, full use of facilities including the hot tub and sauna, champagne on arrival, a generous lunch, a spot of afternoon-tea, a banquet dinner and a team to look after you during your stay.
Manchester is the shopping capital of the north, so it’s the perfect no-fly destination if you want to do your Christmas shopping away from the London crowds. It is also home to one of the UK’s most famous Christmas markets; spread over several locations, the Manchester markets have stalls inspired by Europe, so it’s as easy to pick up paella as it is a pretzel. If you’re keen, book a room at the fabulously-named Hotel Gotham. The art deco inspired 5 star hotel, with the charm and grandeur of a 1960s New York hotel, is within a short walking distance of Manchester Piccadilly train station and Director rooms start from £284 per night.
For a self-catering getaway with a large group, Eden Lodge in Cumbria is a luxurious Edwardian property within easy reach of the Lake District National Park. The main house sleeps up to 25 guests with 13 bedrooms and 15 bathrooms. The stunning open kitchen/diner is the perfect place to cook up a storm with facilities including a double electric oven, three fridges and two freezers. The dining room will seat all 25 guests and after your Christmas dinner you can retire to the large sitting room with its sumptuous sofas and cosy wood-burner – or try a game of table tennis table if you’re feeling energetic enough. Seven nights from December 22 start from £4,497.
At the White Lion hotel, opposite the beach and fishermen’s huts in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, you can book a three night, full board package starting on Christmas Eve (from £535 per person). The White Lion has 38 stylish bedrooms, many with panoramic views out to sea and as the hotel faces east, sea view rooms offer a great vantage point to watch the morning winter sun rise over the sea.
Manoir la Croix de la Jugie is a rural escape with six acres of mature grounds, perfect for winter walking and tobogganing, and furnished by owner and vintage upcycler Clio Wood. Situated in Limousin, France, the Manoir sleeps up to 21 and has a fully fitted kitchen, free WiFi and a TV lounge. The village of Saint Priest Ligoure is five minutes by car (for the morning croissant run) and there are plenty of good restaurants in the nearby villages. The price for a Christmas break (arriving on December 20) starts at £2,750 including seven nights’ accommodation, bed-linen and towels and end of stay cleaning. Trains from London to Limoges take around six hours and can be booked through Voyages-sncf. The Manoir can arrange to pick guests up from the station.
If you’re looking for a romantic bolt-hole for a cosy Christmas for two, Idlers Cottage in South Petherton, Somerset is a peaceful option for the festive period. Curl up in front of the wood burner or explore charming South Petherton. The cottage has its own compact kitchen or the nearby Brewers Arms offers a Christmas menu. The price for seven nights from December 22 starts at £393.
If you’re after luxury in London this Christmas, The Wellesley, London’s first boutique-grand hotel, kicks off a series of special Christmas treats from December 14. To celebrate the festive season, the hotel will unveil a sequence of indulgent surprises to mark the 12 days of Christmas, including the opportunity to win a luxurious weekend break in the penthouse suite. From the 14th, guests will receive a complimentary surprise in the turn-down service every evening: you could win tickets to Christmas with Aled Jones at the Royal Albert Hall, a Burlington Arcade Beadle tour and VIP shopping experience, ice-skating at the V&A or tickets to the English National Ballet’s Nutcracker at the London Coliseum, arriving in style in The Wellesley Rolls-Royce. Festive experiences for all guests at the hotel during the festive period will include a merry afternoon tea with mince pies and mulled wine, Christmas carols and seasonal cocktails – and Father Christmas is scheduled to make an appearance on the big day.
Christmas isn’t Christmas without a little snow – and if you love to ski, celebrating the festive season on the slopes will be a dream come true. Chalet Marini is a sprawling 20 bed chalet at the entrance to Meribel Village. It has homely communal areas and a huge balcony overlooking the Meribel valley. The resort is approx 600 miles from the Channel ports and served by motorway to within 12 miles of the resort. Or, Eurostar runs directly from London St Pancras and Ashford International to the town of Moutiers, which is a 25 minute drive from Meribel. Chalet Marini can be booked exclusively from just £499 per person (based on 20 people sharing) – and if you book for the Christmas week, two guests stay for free.
Christmas at the fairytale Gingerbread Lodge in Lochgilphead, Scottish Highlands, is uber-festive. With a pointed roof and overhanging eaves, this peaceful Victorian cottage sleeps up to four people and offers views over open countryside and Kilmartin Glen. Spend your Christmas exploring the local area complete with relics of prehistoric Scotland including stone circles, chambered cairns and sculptured stones. Prices for a seven night stay from December 23 start at £715.
The Frankfurt Christmas and craft market in Victoria Square Birmingham is the largest German Market outside of Germany with 180 traditional stalls. Running from November 12 to December 22, the market is open until 10pm each evening. The Hyatt Regency is a seven minute walk from the markets and an 11 minute walk from Birmingham train station. The hotel has a wide range of luxurious facilities, including a large spa centre with a Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room, and the Aria restaurant with some of the best European-inspired dishes in Birmingham. Prices start from £172.89 for a twin room.
For heaps of British glamour, the three-night Christmas stay at the Black Swan Helmsley, Yorkshire, begins with a miniature afternoon tea before joining fellow guests for pre-dinner champagne and canapés. Then you can savour a seven-course Gala dinner in the hotel’s 3 AA rosette restaurant. Christmas Day includes is a leisurely four-course menu with a delicious choice of dishes accompanied by a live saxophonist, and on Boxing Day there is a cheese and wine tasting afternoon, a three-course dinner and then a night of jazz and swing. The price starts at £1,310 per couple (based on two sharing a twin or double room) or £850 for a single room.
If you want to get away to the sun – sans plane – there are two cruises departing from London’s Tilbury Docks that might take your fancy. Sailing with Fred Olsen, you can depart on December 21 on the Boudicca for a 14-night itinerary to the Canaries via Madeira and Portugal (prices start at £1,469 per person) or depart on December 22 on the No-Fly Christmas Markets Cruise, sailing on The Magellan. You can check for last minute availability via Reader Offers Ltd.
For food lovers, Watergate Bay in North Cornwall is one of the best places to be for Christmas. Swap the sledge for a surfboard and take a surf lesson, walk along the beach and take a dip in the cliff top hot tub for that cosy alpine feel. Sample bubbly, canapés and carols around the tree, Christmas crafts and games for the children, a festive feast and a champagne breakfast to celebrate. Prices for a four night break start at £705 per person (based on two sharing).
A very special Christmas is planned at the Killiecrankie Hotel in Perthshire. The Celebrations start on Christmas Eve with afternoon tea followed by a Champagne reception and four-course dinner. On Christmas Day, a chilled glass of sherry sets the tone for a sumptuous lunch. Then there is a scavenger hunt through the Pass of Killiecrankie before a casual Christmas buffet supper. On Boxing Day, try your hand at archery, with tuition for novices, with mulled wine available in abundance. A selection of traditional Scottish music will be played live in the evening.
In the Peak District, Darfar, a pretty Staffordshire cottage, sits on the north bank of the River Manifold in a “get-away-from-it-all” location. There are outstanding walks on the doorstep and the Mainfold Way cycle trail runs alongside the cottage. The cottage has exposed beams, a wood burner and flag stone floors and has been sympathetically converted into comfortable holiday accommodation. It sleeps four and prices start at £717 for seven nights.
A traditional Christmas in an area of outstanding natural beauty is offered at Rampsbeck on the shores of Ullswater. Taste seasonal specialties with local twists here such as Colston Basset Stilton with Westmorland pepper cake and vintage port. The six-course Christmas feast features Rampsbeck’s signature cured Arctic Char with horseradish ice cream, as well as Cartmel Valley pheasant roasted with chestnuts. You could stay for three nights from 24 to 27 December from £600 per person.
At Aikwood Tower on the Scottish Borders, 10 guests can enjoy Christmas week (Sunday 20 to Sunday 27 December) for £5,750. Newly-renovated, Aikwood Tower has an interior style of understated luxury, in tune with the ancient building. On Christmas morning, you could gather the family in front of the fire in the Great Hall for present opening, then spend the afternoon in the games room for a healthy dose of Christmas competition before heading to the cosy mezzanine level or the wood-panelled study for some blissful quiet time.
The Spyglass in Cornwall is just a stone’s throw from the sea with private steps to the beach and interiors to die for. The luxury self-catering cottage is one of Gorran Haven’s best kept secrets and, over Christmas and New Year, prices start from £2,750 for a week based on four people staying. The nearest train station is St Austell.
The Isle of Skye is a fairy tale setting for a festive break – and the tranquil, Michelin-starred Loch Na Dal, Kinloch Lodge is the perfect spot to enjoy a classic Scottish Christmas. The festivities start with seasonal cocktails and a sumptuous seven-course Christmas Eve dinner and then, on the frosty lawn, an astronomer will help guests look for the North Star in the island’s dark skies…before Father Christmas arrives to deliver handpicked local gifts. On Christmas day there is a traditional celebration lunch and, on Boxing Day, take part in a wintry walk to neighbouring Letir Fura Forest where a rustic Huntsman’s lunch will be served. Prices for this three night break start from £600 per person and include dinner, bed and breakfast each night.
Five-star boutique hotel Seaham Hall perches on a cliff top on Durham’s Heritage Coast, just three hours by train from London. The hotel’s glorious seaside setting, extraordinary history (Lord Byron’s wedding took place here in 1815) and Serenity spa (including a 20-metre pool, 17 therapy rooms, a hammam with walk-in snail showers, ice fountain and outdoor hot tubs) make it a magical place to spend Christmas. The two-night “Christmas Wishes” package (departing on Boxing Day) costs from £525 per person and includes a festive Champagne afternoon tea on Christmas Eve and a five-course traditional Christmas Day lunch in Byron’s Bar & Grill.
Imagine spending an idyllic Christmas in a luxury log cabin on the shores of Lake Windermere… Lodge on the Lake offers a large deck with panoramic views and access to a private beach. Inside, there is stylish and spacious accommodation with a well-equipped kitchen and dining area – great for a family Christmas dinner. Guests also have access to the holiday park’s 5 star facilities including a restaurant, pub, shop and children’s play area. The price for seven nights from December 22 starts at £1,439.
With an enviable location on the beach in Sandwich Bay, the Restoratory is a luxury self-catering option for Christmas in Kent. With a seafront position and far-reaching views you can book beautiful sister property, The Butlery, to sleep an additional four guests. Prices start from £1,745 for a week based on four people staying. The nearest train stations are Sandwich and Deal.
A fab Cornish option, Looe Island View combines a fabulous coastal location with contemporary style and is child and dog-friendly. A detached house, it sits on the hillside in Downderry on Cornwall’s south east coast, with panoramic sea views to Looe Island. Four beautifully furnished bedrooms sleep up to eight adults and two children, there’s a huge L-shaped living space with dining area, plus a fabulous sea view deck for Christmas morning fizz. WiFi, TV with Freeview and a collection of DVDs, games and books are provided, the village pub is a short stroll away and Downderry Beach is at the bottom of the hill. Arrive December 22 for five nights at £2,415 for a party of up to 10 (seven nights is £2,835).
For a romantic Christmas getaway, the festively named Hollyhocks in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire is a charming, secluded cottage. Set at the foot of the Cotswolds Bredon Hill, the property is ideally located for country walks in The Forest of Dean and Wye Valley. With one bedroom, the cottage sleeps up to two people and is less than a mile away from the local pub and village shop. A seven night stay from December 23 costs from £490.
Refurbished to the tune of £7 million, Highbullen Hotel provides easy access to walking, riding or cycling on Exmoor and its locally sourced seasonal menus will make you feel indulged in the best way. Christmas Packages at the hotel, from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day, start at £165 per person per night for a standard room and include a Devonshire afternoon tea buffet and four-course Christmas Eve dinner, a seven-course Christmas Day lunch and a Boxing Day breakfast buffet/brunch followed by a three-course supper in the evening.
If you want your Christmas break to have a vintage twist, Yachtsman’s Cottage in Lymington is a magical whitewashed property close to Lymington’s quay and historic old town. A stylish and cosy retreat, perfect for Christmas, it has a wood burner and a courtyard garden and the wild ponies of the New Forest are nearby. Prices for a week’s stay, arriving Monday December 21, start from £391 per person (the cottage sleeps four).
At the Hotel Felix, a Victorian villa just five minutes’ drive from Cambridge city centre with 52 individually decorated bedrooms and an acclaimed restaurant, the two night Festive Break (from 24 to 26 December) costs from £299 per person (two sharing) including two nights’ accommodation with full English breakfast each morning, Christmas Eve dinner (£30 pp allowance), canapés and a three-course Christmas Day lunch followed by coffee and truffles. There’s also a buffet on Christmas night, parking and WiFi.
If you’d like a bespoke Christmas break, Wilderness Scotland provides a tailor-made holiday service for private groups of all sizes and budgets. They love planning creative holidays – including castle breaks. You could stay in a 4 star 16th century castle in the West Highlands with a “bottle dungeon” and a piano-playing ghost; or how about a 19th Century Castle near Fort William, with a restaurant that holds 3 AA Red Rosettes and a Michelin Star; or holiday in the Outer Hebrides at a castle that’s run as a sporting lodge. Wilderness Scotland sorts out your accommodation for a week, including breakfast and dinner options, provides detailed information packs, including walking routes and maps, and is on hand throughout your trip for personalised information and service. Prices available on request.
If you want to spend Christmas across the Channel, you’ll get a 20% discount on Brittany Ferries crossings if you book a break with Holiday France Direct. Options include La Forge in Brittany, a heavily beamed former “smithy” that’s been beautifully renovated and recently decorated throughout. Oozing with character, the cottage sleeps six and is situated in the lovely hamlet of Kerbourbon. It also boasts a heated pool and is handy for visiting Carnac and its famous ancient stones.
Extremely spacious – and welcoming up to three pets – Glynarthen holiday cottage is a good bet for dog lovers. The area has lots to offer including fantastic walks along the dramatic Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion coastal paths, and the picturesque harbour villages of New Quay and Aberaeron are rich with seafood restaurants, boutique gift shops and sandy beaches (you might spot bottlenose dolphins on a clear day). The price starts at £464 for three nights self-catered accommodation arriving December 23.
Book a three night full-board Christmas package at the Brudenell Hotel at Aldeburgh, overlooking Suffolk’s Heritage Coast, for a lavish festive break by the sea with all the trimmings. Packages from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day start from £600 per person. To reach Aldeburgh take the East Suffolk train line to Saxmundham and then a No 521 bus (or taxi) from Saxmundham to Aldeburgh.
One of the Yorkshire Dales’ most sought after venues, the Traddock is booked up for Christmas already, but you could check availability on one of its midweek pre-Christmas breaks in November and until December 23. The offer includes accommodation in a double ensuite room for two, full Yorkshire breakfast and a three-course à la carte dinner. Room rates start at £160 per night (for dinner, bed and breakfast).
At the Four Seasons in Perthshire, on the banks of Loch Earn, Christmas celebrations include a welcome dinner on Christmas Eve, The Meltith on Christmas Day (a traditional five-course Christmas dinner) and a final four-course feast on Boxing Day – good job there are so many country walks at your disposal! Prices start from £347 per person for four nights and from £299 per person for three nights.
In Cumbria, there are lovely views from two-bedroomed Courtyard Cottage, plus a pretty, two mile walk along the old canal and the River Kent into the market town of Kendal. Nearby Lake District attractions include the Beatrix Potter Exhibition, Aquarium of the Lakes and cruises on Lake Windermere. Prices start from £444 for a four-night self-catered Christmas arriving December 23 2015.
Finally, do you fancy spending Christmas in your own Sound of Music fantasy? Travelling with Leger Holidays (specialists in travel for retirees) to the city of Salzburg, this extra special Christmas break includes a guided tour of the enchanting city, encircled by mountains and dominated by the Hohensalzburg Fortress. You can squeeze in some last-minute Christmas shopping at the charming markets and an optional excursion on Christmas Day takes you to the snow-covered winter wonderland of Salzkammergut, before crossing the border into Bavaria on Boxing Day to discover the beautiful Lake Königsee. Prices start from £799 per person with travel by luxury Silver Service coach.
Words: Johanna Payton for Feet on the Ground
Images: As credited