Wolsey Lodges B&Bs are perfect to stage a grand reunion
- Travel Guide
As time and geography parts old friends and families the importance of reconnecting with loved ones becomes increasingly evident. There is no…Read More
It would be easy to succumb to the long December nights, but the runup to Christmas brings a show of defiance. Across the country Christmas Markets bring communities together over mulled wine and mince pies, dispelling the darkness with bright lights and cheer. Some of the largest stately homes put on lavish light displays, banishing the gloom in state-of-the-art laser displays, vivid art that transforms night skies. Town squares ring with carols and everyone gets swept up in seasonal cheer.
The biggest markets take place in the biggest cities. London is a prime example, where major commercial displays take over. The biggest – and arguably the best – is Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland, where hundreds of stalls cluster around a huge range of attractions and experiences. Although Wolsey Lodges B&Bs are not often found in cities London is something of an exception and there are two here: 113 Pepys Road on Telegraph Hill and One Fanthorpe Street in Putney. London’s excellent transport links mean access to Hyde Park is easy – but it’s not the only Christmas market in London. Go south of the river for the Southbank Centre Winter Festival, where global cuisine and an artisan market create a wintry wonderland on the banks of the Thames.
Head East to Tower Bridge and the Tower of London and there’s another Christmas Market on the edge of the Thames at London Bridge City, with views of some of London’s most iconic skylines. If the weather isn’t kind – and this is December after all – there are undercover Christmas Markets at Spitalfields, Greenwich, Borough and Kings Cross: all bring their own variations on how best to get into the festive spirit.
There are more festivities north of the border, with Scotland’s largest Christmas Market taking over much of East Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh’s historic city centre. Brought to you by the same company that runs Edinburgh’s Hogmanayy celebrations, it has a big Ferris wheel, any number of artisan stalls and itinerant Santas telling stories to any little ones they can find. Once more, Edinburgh does have a Wolsey Lodge B&B to perfect your stay: 23 Mayfield is within easy walking distance of the Christmas Market and has that all-important Edinburgh asset: private off-street parking.
Inside 23 Mayfield all is cossetting and comforting, with leather-upholstered Chesterfields, stripped floors and rugs, board games and a selection of malts from an honesty bar. A highlight here are the breakfasts, served under the flickering light of candles held in gleaming candelabras.
Bath’s Christmas Market takes place at the foot of the Cathedral, beautifully lit at night and wonderfully atmospheric. You need to be quick as it closes, in 2023, on the 1th December: till then it has more than 170 stalls bringing you the best of crafts and gifts from the area.
There’s no Wolsey Lodge in Bath itself but Priory Steps is in nearby Bradford-on-Avon: you can walk to their train station and Bath is your next stop on a frequent rail service.
While Bath’s Christmas Market attracts plenty of tourists, but all the surrounding villages have smaller, more intimate Christmas Markets of their own. These are examples of rural communities coming together and form a charming counterpoint to the sophistication of the city offer. They don’t last as long, flitting by in the course of a day or weekend, but offer an useful insight into local life and usually an opportunity to buy a Christmas tree. Your hosts will be able to tell you what are taking place, where and when.
There are a number of excellent Christmas market that breathe life into market towns around the country – and a number of Wolsey Lodges to help you enjoy them. Head to Matlock in Derbyshire for their Victorian Christmas Market: this houses more than 200 stalls in two marquees and across Hall Leys Park, with entertainment provided throughout. It takes place over three days from the 1st of December with gift stalls, fun fair rides and a spectacular firework finale on the final Sunday night. It’s authentic, local, and a chance to meet Derbyshire at a very special time of year.
Stay at Glendon House, and you can walk to the market: it is a GradeII listed ‘Victorian property in the heart of the town. It has five en-suite guest bedrooms, a sunsoaked walled garden and offers stylish and sophisticated accommodation.
You might expect the Christmas Market at Stratford-upon-Avon to step further back in time, but they spurn their Shakespearean heritage and go back only to the Victorian era. You can expect more than 300 stalls with traders dressed in period costumes, with roasted chestnuts, traditional mulled wines and ciders, and a genuinely festive atmosphere. Running from the 7th to the 10th December it’s a genuinely local affair
Don’t stay in town here though: sleep quietly at Marston House in nearby Southam. Set alongside a path taken by countless Norman armies heading off to conquer Wales – and often used by them to return the same way – this is a wonderful property in a conservation village just outside Stratford. There are three guest bedrooms, electric bikes to hire, and a croquet lawn in the grounds.
As Shropshire’s county town, Shrewsbury is a natural place to experience Christmas in this, perhaps the most bucolic of the English counties. Here Hardwick House is a natural choice: it’s right in the centre, with off-street parking provided by an idiosyncratic car turntable system. Hardwick House is Grade II listed, of course, with ancient floorboards, period furnishings, and very up-to-date comforts.
Shrewsbury’s Christmas Market builds on the traditional market that takes place every week, but adds new, exciting elements. On Saturday the 2nd December the town’s famous market hall opens late into the night, with street food, cool cafes, bars and Christmas Carols. The next week, on the 9th, the usual market is transformed with Christmas sparkle, bringing glassware, art, ceramic gifts, craft gins and chutneys: you’re sure to find the ideal Christmas present here. After a happy day’s shopping in the flagstoned market square your Hardwick House home is just a stroll away and if you’ve still got gaps on your Christmas list there’s another Christmas Market on that day at Shrewsbury Prison: entry is free but tickets need to be booked in advance.
Like any other British region there are other Christmas Markets locally. Much Wenlock’s Christmas Fayre takes place on the 2nd December, starting early and culminating in a candle-lit procession and carols in the town square. On the 2nd and 3rd December there’s also the Christmas Food and Craft Fayre at Weston Park. Weston Park is seasonally decorated, there’s a miniature railway for children and the park and garden to explore, but don’t miss the 100 artisan food and craft stalls. Visit both in one day and this could be a busy weekend.
Should you miss all these dates the weekend of the 15th and 16th December presents one final opportunity to experience a town-centre celebration of the season. This sees the Shrewsbury Chronicle Christmas Market, with another range of local traders and artisans bringing more mince pies, mulled wine and gifts.
Whatever your expectations of a Christmas Market, Wolsey Lodges can provide the perfect accommodation to ensure a comfortable stay – and the local knowledge to ensure your visit goes smoothly.