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There’s some compensation with the shortening days as Christmas Markets and festive fun arrive in towns and cities across the UK. The shopping is only part of the experience: it’s a chance to brighten up the gloom with festive lights, the scent of gluhwein and smoke from roasting chestnuts.
At Wolsey Lodges your hosts will always know what is going on, where and when. They’ll tell you where to go and how to get there. It’s one of the things that makes Wolsey Lodges special, the fact that your hosts are fully immersed in local life and share their knowledge with guests.
Take Nicki Dalton from Hrempis Farm. As she serves a full English breakfast in front of her dining room’s log fire she has the following suggestions for making the most of the Christmas celebrations across the East Midlands.
Nottingham’s Winter Wonderland has been voted by Vogue as the No 1 Christmas market in the UK. With an ice rink, ice bar, fairground rides and traditional European style Christmas market it opens on November 15 and runs through until the end of January. Best of all, it’s only 20 minutes from Hrempis Farm.
Staying closer to Hrempis Farm and there is a wealth of other events to choose from. The National Trust properties at Calke Abbey and Belton House have magical Christmas themed events and speciality food fairs. The East Midlands is a foodies heaven one of the best food fair at this time of year is the Melton Victorian Fayre, running from Friday, 29th November across the weekend.
The market towns of Loughborough, Oakham, Uppingham and Stamford all have their special events and of course Chatsworth, the estate that really launched Christmas themed opening events has announced this year’s theme of a journey around the globe and Lands Far Far Away.
Even closer to home Belvoir Castle’s Christmas Extravaganza is a not to be missed event – its setting really is a fairytale castle.
And when all the shopping is done, what better way to relax than with tea by a roaring log fire at Hrempis Farm.
There are other Wolsey Lodges in this area. They include Horseshoe Cottage Farm in Cropston, Woodlands Retreat in Barton-under-Needwood and Glendon House in Matlock. Each has their own individual appeal.
Many of these lodges are also close to Birmingham, where the Frankfurt Christmas Market is already underway. This is the largest German Christmas Market outside Germany and Austria, and runs until the 23rd December.
Bath’s Christmas Market, with 150 chalets, a skating ring and more, is certainly the biggest and best in the West. It is certainly the longest-running. This year’s market opens on the 28th November and runs every day until Sunday 15th December, for nearly three weeks, with a host of things to see and do.
There are two Wolsey Lodges here that give good access to Bath. Pitfour House in the village of Timsbury is just four miles from two Park and Rides, giving a hassle free way into central Bath, where parking is always a challenge. Alternatively Priory Steps is in Bradford-on-Avon, a short walk from the railway station from which Bath is one stop away.
One of the country’s largest, but also briefest Christmas Market takes place around the Gothic stones of Lincoln Cathedral. Running just from Thursday the 5th to Sunday the 8th of December, more than 250 stalls invade the city centre in a glorious long weekend of festive fever at the Lincoln Christmas Market, celebrating the best of the season without outliving their welcome.
There’s a fine Wolsey Lodge that is perfect for making the most of the experience. Brills Farm Bed and Breakfast is in Norton Disney, a 20-minute drive out of town, allowing you escape to the country after your retail experience.
They take Christmas seriously in Durham, and for the last 25 years Durham Christmas Festival has gained a few awards and built a great reputation as the place to stock up on presents and food. Running over the weekend from Friday the 29th November until the Sunday the 1st December. For three fun-filled days it takes over the Cathedral, Castle and city centre. There’s a huge range of exhibitions and events, from carol singing to a falconry display, and ‘Park and Ride’ makes access easy.
Dowfold House is just fifteen minutes from the city, allowing you to relax in rural luxury after joining in the celebrations. This comfortable Victorian establishment, built for mine managers in the heyday of the coal industry in the North East, has great views over the Wear Valley and gives easy access to the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
As the commercial heart of the UK, it is perhaps not surprising that London plays host to the Christmas Market that runs for longest. Winter Wonderland starts up in Hyde Park for an official opening on the evening of Thursday the 21st November and then stays open from 10am to 10pm right through until the 5th of January, closing only briefly for Christmas Day.
Hyde Park Winter Wonderland has a wide range of ice-related activities, including skating, ice sculpture, and an Ice bar, a huge variety of retail opportunities and also giant wheals and funfair rides. Live shows include circus shows for children and a slightly darker ‘Cirque Beserk’ for adults. All in all it is perhaps the most ambitious festivals in the country.
Unless you live in London, the problem is finding somewhere convenient to stay. City-centre hotels are impersonal, expensive and unsatisfactory. Fortunately there are two Wolsey Lodges in London that provide character accommodation with the Wolsey Lodge welcome. Both provide easy access to Hyde Park. In Putney, on the District Line, One Fanthorpe Street is a charming and stylish home with two guest bedrooms. the Christmas festival is just a tube-ride away but you can enjoy the village atmosphere of this, one of London’s most civilised southwest districts. Driving in from the north or east head to 113 Pepys Road, with unrestricted street parking and twinkling city views over Telegraph Hill.