"It's the most wonderful time of the year..."
Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year - whether you are celebrating it or not, it's the perfect opportunity to cosy up with loved ones and friends over the long weekends that take us through to New Year's Eve. If you are out of holiday leave or cannot work a trip to Europe into your schedule, it doesn't mean you're out of luck though. There are plenty of incredible Christmas Getaway options right here in the UK, and this month we're taking some time to review 10 of our personal favourites...
Yorkshire county holds a spectacular blend of natural beauty, UK history and city attractions. If you or your family haven't been to York yet, there is no better time to appreciate it than the festive season leading up to New Year's Eve. The big Christmas tree in St. Helen's Square is a great place to congregate and plot your moves throughout the city, where museums, markets and specialty sites like the Jorvik Viking Centre make it a great city out in the countryside. The spectacular Yorkshire Dales are proud and beautiful in their snow-capped winter attire, giving you a chance to stretch your legs and work off the mulled wine and Yorkshire Pudding in some of the most picturesque settings in Northern England. www.visityork.org.
The Peak District
The Peak District is one of the UK's prime holiday destinations throughout the year, with Christmas bringing in a crowd of very jolly holiday makers. With over five hundred square miles of Lord Of The Rings inspired land available for walks, hikes and rides in the Peak District National Park, there is still an opportunity to get outside and enjoy the fresh air - it will just be a little fresher in winter. It's a touch of the old countryside that takes us back to a time before there were high rise buildings and tube stations.
Get The Best Of Both Worlds
Get the best of both worlds by visiting Alton Towers in nearby Staffordshire, for some highly festive and electrifying Christmas festivities at one of the UK's most loved theme parks. Their Winter Wonderland programme includes some some inedible fixtures during the day and night. The 'Ice and Diamonds' Ball nights are known for the warm atmosphere. Visit www.visitpeakdistrict.com for more details.
Railway Holiday To The Scottish Highlands
A Christmas train journey to the Scottish Highlands will show you a side of your own neighborhood that often remains unseen. With routes starting in Glasgow or Edinburgh, you can choose your route based on which Highland sights you'd like to see. Along the way you'll pass an endless slide show of unnamed lochs, fields and hillsides that show off some of Scotland's most picturesque viewpoints. The slow and relaxing train ride is contrasted by some pretty festive on-board entertainment, which will keep you and your loved ones Ho Ho Ho'ing all the way there and back. The journey includes meals, live music and overnight accommodation (with optional extras). At your final destination you can take walks along the sweeping mountainsides, which are snow laden during the festive season and as enchanting today as they were a thousand years ago. And if you want to go for a drive through the Highlands, make your way down to Edinburgh where you can do some shopping at one of the Top 10 Christmas Markets across the UK and Europe. For more information on the railway, have a look at www.railholidays.com
It's only a few hours from Central London, yet the Dorset countryside feels a million miles away from the traffic and constant rushing of life in the Big Smoke. Bournemouth is more commonly praised as a summer getaway, but the area comes alive in a whole new way during winter. The city and surrounding villages are draped with twinkle lights that brighten the mood and spread Christmas warmth like a heater; The Bournemouth Square Christmas Market is a great place to go wondering around for trinkets and good food. The famous hillsides and beaches are still open for walks, especially on those rare winter days when the sun pokes its head out for a few hours, and you'll likely be pleased at the thin crowds.
The Langtry Manor Hotel And Restaurant
The beautiful Edwardian Langtry Manor offers a very merry Christmas experience every year. If you are too late to check into the hotel, take some time to visit their incredible restaurant. For more information, take a look at www.langtrymanor.co.uk.
The medieval city of Lincoln is a hot pocket of local history, taking us back thousands of years through the local sites that have been preserved with pride and care. Lincoln Cathedral, which boats the second highest central tower in the UK, is simply magnificent; it's widely regarded as one of the most beautiful of its kind in the world. Over Christmas, the town heats up with a magical market that showcases the finest local cuisine and crafts. Landmark sites like the Cathedral and the Norman Castle set the scene for a vibrant, festive season in one of the prettiest urban settings in the UK. For more information about the festival, transport there over the season and accommodation options, log on to the festival website. www.christmasmarket.co.uk
A Christmas Carol is one of the most loved Christmas stories of all time, and with Rochester being the final resting place of Charles Dickens, it seems only fitting that the city celebrates the festive season with a festival in his honour. With its dramatic cathedral, castle and medieval architecture, Rochester becomes a perfect backdrop for the Charles Dickens Christmas festival, which sets the tone for a magical season. The streets comes alive with performers, markets, pantomimes and artificial snow. The overall effect turns the clocks back two hundred years during the festive season, bringing the world of England's most loved author back to life for a spell.
Southwold may be the quintessential English seaside destination, but it doesn't need to be summer for the town to come alive. Located along the East Anglian coast of Suffolk, this quaint village is home to the Adnams Brewery, which boasts a number a great hotels and restaurants that have been around for hundreds of years. The Swan and The Crown are the most popular, which both combine traditional English hospitality with local history and a menu that changes each week and takes advantage of the seasons. Over Christmas the streets are decorated and lively, as the town square becomes a Christmas market. adnams.co.uk
Center Parcs are the leaders in UK holiday packages for good reason. All four of their villages offer top quality accommodation and facilities (spas, restaurants, sports centres, hiking and biking trails) in prime areas across the UK, at very competitive prices. For families looking at a long weekend out of town, or a sneaky trip away with your partner, you will struggle to find better value for money.
All four venues are stunning, and over the Christmas season each of them is decorated for the occasion. Games, activities and workshops are also put on for the kids - for full details check out the Centre Parks website. www.centerparcs.co.uk
The Whinfell Village in Cumbria is located on the fringe of the gorgeous Lake District, set amongst 400 hectares of beautiful land.
The Elevdon Forest venue in Suffolk is another stunner, offering a taste of Mediterranean life right here in the UK.
Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire brings young ones right to the homeland of Robin Hood, giving their imaginations a chance to run wild.
Set amongst the magnificent redwoods, the Longleat Forest venue is an outdoor sensation.
Central London puts on its red suit and long, white beard during the festive season, lighting up like a big Christmas tree. From the West End to the far South, our nation's capital buzzes with activities that are geared towards spreading good vibes and holiday cheer. From the giant Christmas tree and caroling in Trafalgar Square, to the Nut Cracker ballet at the Royal Opera House, to outdoor ice skating rinks and the Christmas market in Hyde Park, to the London Eye's bright lights, the city is sparkles everywhere. Even a walk around Oxford Circus at night makes you feel like you're a cast member in a Christmas movie.
For all the latest happenings and other useful ideas for visiting London during Christmas time, check out www.visitlondon.com.
Arguably one of the most visually impressive and atmospheric cities in the UK, Edinburgh erupts with Christmas cheer over the festive season. The city is festooned with ferry lights, which bounce off crowded streets and illuminate the city markets like Santa's personal disco in Scotland's capital. From the Edinburgh Eye you can get a clear picture of the city's haunting architecture contrasting with the joyful outdoor ice rink. Unmissable... for more information about what is happening in Edinburgh this Christmas, take a look at Edinburgh's Christmas website.