Christmas with the National Trust in the South West
Christmas has landed at National Trust places across the South West. With enchanted houses, fairy tale stories, handmade garlands, seasonal food and gifts, here is what Christmas looks, feels, sounds, smells and tastes like in the South West.
Cotehele’s traditional 60ft long flower garland has a red, white and blue theme this year, in honour of the centenary of Armistice Day, and is complemented with a collage of thousands of cut paper flowers by Dominique Coiffait. Carols, a family trail, crafts, workshops and Mother and Father Christmas bring further festivity to Cotehele.
The Barn Restaurant has a tasty winter menu, including traditional roast turkey Christmas lunches. The Edgcumbe tea-room on Cotehele Quay offers warming, seasonal dishes as well as mulled cider and mulled apple juice.
At weekends, you can relax in the house, traditionally decorated both inside and out. With carol singing and warming fires, it’s perfect for sparkling that festive feeling. Christmas events include a theatre production for all the family, and Christmas high tea tours. For some fresh air, a walk to the top of Godolphin Hill enjoys one of the best views over West Cornwall, and the garden is open for exploring daily (excluding Christmas Eve and Christmas Day).
You can see the past come alive at Lanhydrock this Christmas. The halls, dining room and garden are decorated for a Victorian Christmas, with grand trees sparkling, the table laid for Christmas dinner, and fires roaring. The kitchens bustle with the excitement of the dinner ahead; you can help the servants prepare the festive food and decorations from studding oranges with cloves to stirring puddings and rolling gingerbread. Outdoors, enjoy a walk amongst the 1,000 acre estate and see baubles, wreaths and herds of wooden reindeer in the garden.
For festive food and shopping, the gift shop, plant centre and bookshop are filled with gift ideas and Stables Tea-Room and Park Café have tasty treats and even Christmas lunches (on selected dates, pre-booking essential).
After dusk, see the garden in a new light as it becomes an illuminated wonderland. The lights lead you through the garden and on into the house to warm up, where the halls are well and truly decked. Reds and golds adorn Christmas trees, which, along with a roaring fire, create warming glow. Little ones can gather round Father Christmas for festive storytelling, meet his reindeer or get crafty making their own wooden reindeer to take home. For last minute gifts, the shop has a range of seasonal options, and craft stalls in the stables are perfect for local gifts. Here you’ll also find the 'Tuck Room' selling warming soups and mulled wine. In the house, a little café tucked away in the old kitchen specialises in eggnog.
For a bit of magic this Christmas, why not head to Trerice, where the barn is filled with a sky of hundreds of handmade golden stars? You can even have a go at decorating your own to take home and pop on the tree at a Christmas craft workshop. As well as this, a Tudor Father Christmas shares traditional tales, local choirs perform carols and two Tudor banquets take place.
As you walk through Arlington Court, journey through Victorian Christmases with true-to-the-era decorations. The festivities continue in the Carriage Museum, where Father Christmas, in his traditional green will be setting up a grotto in the stables. The shop and café are decorated and filled with tempting treats, and in the garden a family trail invites kids discover the history of Christmas.
Francis Drake's Devon home is a place of Elizabethan home of feast and festivity, filled with greenery and floral displays, and the Great Barn adorned with 20,000 pine cones. On selected dates the Lord of Misrule tells Christmas tales of life on the high seas and costumed characters cook in the kitchen. A home-made mince pie or hot chocolate in front of the restaurant’s cosy wood burner is sure to warm you up a treat.
At Castle Drogo you can escape the Christmas rush for a leisurely shopping experience, with local crafts and gifts on sale at the Christmas Market (Sat 8 & Sun 9 Dec, 11am-4pm). Or recharge your batteries out in the fresh air of the garden and Teign Gorge, followed by a treat in the café with the winter warm-up menu. There’s a winter trail for little ones to follow around the garden and grounds.
At the country home of the D’Oyly Carte family, decorations have been inspired by a party that took place in 1929. Sparkling lights, a tower of Champaign glasses, white ostrich feathers and even an Art Deco cake set the scene, party music plays and Pathé footage of Charleston dancers get toes tapping. After dark at Coleton Aglow, an illumined trail leads through the exotic garden and a pop-up mulled wine and mince pie station is the perfect place to warm up.
With vintage toys dotted around ready to be played with, a 1950s Christmas fills Agatha Christie’s holiday home with colour. In the 1950s pop-up cinema, classic crime films curated by best-selling crime author, Sophie Hannah, are screened under a twinkling canopy of lights. Uniformed ushers welcome you to the cinema, where popcorn pops in the foyer and a range of traditional sweets are for sale. They show you to your seat and have cosy red blankets to hand for snuggling up under during the film. Father Christmas’s grotto in the House Kitchen is open on Saturdays in the run up to Christmas, where his helpers in 1950s outfits tell festive stories, and the man himself hands out keepsake gifts from his sack.
At Killerton, the story of The Snow Queen has been brought to life. You can follow Gerda’s journey to rescue her friend Kay from the Snow Queen’s palace, as the mansion is completely transformed into scenes from the story. The story continues on a twinkling outdoor family trail, with Christmas trees lining the way and family activities to complete. In the café, a hot chocolate in front of a crackling fire is the toastiest way to warm up.
Knightshayes celebrates yuletide traditions from throughout the ages, with decorations telling the story of a traditional family Christmas. A 15ft Christmas tree welcomes you to the Great Hall, and decorations in each room celebrate Victorian Christmas traditions. As night draws in, twinkling fairy lights and swathes of colour bring festive magic to the garden. In the café you can tuck into a hearty carvery; perfect for warming up after a walk through the garden.
At Lydford Gorge’s winter fair, you can pick up a Dartmoor Christmas tree and do some Christmas shopping, supporting local craft and food producers. The stalls tempt you with goodies from honey to textiles, woollens, glassware, jewellery and more.
Lydford Gorge’s Whitelady Waterfall can be dramatic in winter, whether cloaked in frost and mist, lit from above by the late winter sun, or a raging torrent after rain. With three walking routes leading to the waterfall to choose from, it’s perfect for a festive walk with friends and family.
Saltram has been visited by some much-loved fairy tales; rooms have been transformed with sparkling lights and carefully-crafted decorations to tell their stories. The enchantment continues outside: you can brighten up dark winter nights with a stroll around the illuminated gardens, and warm up in the atmospheric outdoor café amongst sheepskin rugs and twinkling lights. Father Christmas stops by in the stables for a selection of story time sessions for kids and adults.
Join the Lord of Misrule for a flavour of Christmas in Tudor times in the castle, made magical by contemporary lighting, lanterns, beacons and braziers. Six Christmas wish trees line the gatehouse bridge, where you can share your special memory or wish, and inside a 23ft Christmas tree and Tudor-themed decorations adorn the castle. After dark on selected dates, Tudor storytellers bring the revels of an Elizabethan Christmas to life, and you can see the illuminations at their best. For little ones, there are crafts and a 12 days of Christmas quest to complete.
From wintry walks through Thorncombe Woods, to crafts in front of a roaring open fire, you can experience the tastes, sights and sounds of a traditional Victorian Christmas at Hardy’s Cottage. The cottage is decked with natural decorations of evergreen collected from the garden and surrounding woodlands. There are treats for you to sample, prepared by volunteers using traditional recipes. On selected dates, music and storytelling bring added warmth to this festive visit.
Three local female artists have created contemporary decorations to adorn the house, all inspired by the women of the Bankes family. In the Dining Room, hundreds of handmade paper flowers, created by Isobel Barber, adorn the Christmas tree, alongside a paper Edwardian feast, and in the Saloon, paper fans hang from Christmas tree and presents nestle underneath it. Using digitally printed fabric inspired by Kingston Lacy’s stained glass windows, textile artist Sarah Appleton has designed a freestanding textile installation for the Spanish Room, along with luxurious soft furnishings. A beautiful floral display up the staircase that leads to the Loggia has been created by Florist Kay Williams, along with an elaborate, Edwardian-style floral display in the Dining Room.
With twinkling Christmas trees in the corner of each room, the contemporary decorations and classic Christmas sparkle create a very festive atmosphere. After darkness, the garden is bathed in light: along the Lime Avenue there’s an interactive experience where you can have fun pushing the buttons to light each tree with a bold colour. This year the Cedar Avenue and the Japanese Garden are lit for the first time. The colours of autumn in Japan light the Acer Glade, where rich reds and warm oranges are complimented by hanging Japanese Lanterns.
In the Stables Café, you can get a festive fix from the seasonal menu: Roast Onion Soup, Roast Turkey Dinner and Christmas Pudding with Brandy Sauce all hit the spot.
A festive welcome awaits you in the house, decked out for a Victorian Christmas with traditional decorations. It’s a treat for all the senses in the house; the smell of delicious yuletide treats cooked in the Kitchen greets you, which taste as good as they smell. Craft activities for children as well as musical and theatrical performances on selected dates bring the festivities to life.
You can escape the crowds for a winter walk at Studland Bay; the beach and sand dunes are atmospheric in winter, and the café and fire pit are great places to warm up while you enjoy the views over Studland Bay to Old Harry Rocks. In the café, special Christmas pizzas are served fresh from the wood-fired oven. If you fancy something more traditional, there’s roast turkey followed by Christmas pudding on the menu too.
With natural garlands, Christmas trees and sparkling lights, the decorations at Barrington Court have been inspired by the Christmases of three generations of the family that lived in the house from the 1920s. The fun of festive get-togethers with extended family and friends is recreated: you can play gramophone records, play old-fashioned games, try on 1920s-style accessories and take part in (or just enjoy watching) music and dancing. In the garden, you can spot animal willow sculptures, the work of local artist, Jo Sadler. In the Strode dining and tea-room, you can tuck into season fare in a cosy setting with views over the South Lawn or lily garden.
In the castle, the ground floor rooms are decorated for Christmas as the Luttrell family might have with experienced it, with crackling fires, traditional red bows adorning Christmas trees, and games ready to be played with. On selected dates, live festive music adds to the atmosphere. Once the sun goes down, illuminations lead you through the garden; down to the illuminated Watermill where you can see the wheels turning and learn about how flour is milled.
The Watermill Tea-Room serves a range of hot drinks and light lunches, including warm seasonal soups and mince pies. You can pre-book festive lunch: Turkey with all the trimmings and red lentil cottage pie are two of the tempting choices.
The Lord of Misrule presides over the Christmas celebrations, popping up around Montacute to tell stories, lead parades and spread mischief. A throne presides over his courtroom, and in the stables courtyard, strings of lights and fire pits bring light and warmth. Here, the smell of mulled wine and festive food fills the air and you can enjoy displays and performances.
Prior Park Landscape Garden
Prior Park is a peaceful place to escape the city crowds. At this 18th-century landscape garden in Bath, an advent calendar has taken over the garden. There are 24 doors to find; as you find them all, you piece together a Georgian Christmas song – great fun for families. In the Tea Shed, a brazier and festive treats provide a warming escape from your winter wander.
At the immersive Victorian experience, you can meet members of Tyntesfield’s Victorian household, play games, join in with festive sing-alongs and listen in on some seasonal storytelling. The house is decorated for a very Victorian Christmas, with every detail adding to the wow factor.
The decorations continue in the Cow Barn shop, where there are a good range gifts and decorations to tempt you. Seasonal fare is on offer in the Cow Barn restaurant and in the Pavilion cafe, at the bottom of the estate, you can warm up your toes by the wood burning stove and enjoy hot drinks and sweet treats.
After dark, a tranquil wander through the subtly-lit formal garden and through the ground floor of the house gives you a chance to see Tyntesfield in a new light.
The Story of St Nicholas is told in Avebury Manor, from his origins in Turkey to his transformation into the modern day Santa Claus. The traditions and stories associated with him are represented in the Christmas decorations and through interpretation. After your festive journey through the Manor, warming dishes and Christmas aromas tempt you into the café, or you can brave the cold for a walk through the garden and on around the Henge and stone circles.
With wreath making workshops, guided winter warmer walks and Christmas tours of Avebury Manor, there are a selection of festive events to choose from which help to showcase Christmas at Avebury.
The Great Hall decorated for Christmas is the true show-stopper at Lacock, where a roaring fire and a beautifully decorated Christmas tree bring a festive glow to this grand room. On Thursdays and Fridays, the sounds of Christmas carols being sung by a big Christmas tree in the abbey courtyard are the perfect accompaniment as you explore the annual community Christmas tree festive: over 20 Christmas trees decorated by local community groups fill the abbey cloister. For families, the abbey grounds are dotted with clues that make up the festive family trail.
At this homely and welcoming townhouse you can see Christmas through the ages brought to life, from a Regency Christmas in the dining room to 1950s festivities in the library. Beautifully decorated Christmas trees, displays of festive food and gifts and a fun Christmas trail for children all set the scene for a festive visit, along with the smell of mulled wine and mince pies drifting from the Garden Tea-Room.
A roaring log fire welcomes you to the house, where each of the rooms has different traditional-themed decorations reflecting the family who lived at Stourhead for generations. Floral arrangements, handmade decorations, twinkling lights and towering trees steal the show. On into the garden, where many of the garden buildings are adorned with wreaths and festive decorations, leading you on your way. You can stop off at the Gothic Cottage, where a log fire warms up cold fingers and toes, and you may even find a warming hot drink is available.
Decorations continue in the café and shop; over 20 Christmas trees and 50 wreaths can be found across Stourhead. Seasonal treats are on offer in the café, and a country pub can also be found at the heart of the Stourhead estate.