From majestic castles and stately homes to grand country houses and estates, the British countryside is dotted with historic buildings perfect for evoking that festive feeling, especially when bedecked in sparkling Christmas decorations and lights.
Head to a county house this winter for the perfect pre-Christmas day out. Wrap up warm and wander through snowy woodland and frosty parkland, looking out for winter wildlife as you go. Explore lamp-lit gardens that resound with the gentle hum of Christmas carols, then, as dusk falls, head inside for Christmas shopping, tasty food and warming drinks.
Our selection of the best country houses to visit this Christmas includes something for everyone, so what are you waiting for?
Chatsworth House, Derbyshire
This year, Chatsworth is marking 20 years of Christmas celebrations in style. Wander among the spellbinding decorations that cloak the house from floor to ceiling, and visit the Chapel for festive music. Online timed tickets only: –
Find out more on the Chatsworth House website.
More festive content:
- Best traditional Christmas carol concerts in the UK
- Britain’s best Christmas markets
- How to have a traditional country Christmas
Wimpole Estate, Cambridgeshire
Start your visit by getting into the Christmas spirit with a walk along the winter trail, where festive decorations can be found around the estate. As darkness falls, the gardens come alive with lights, lasers and seasonal sounds, perfect for all the family. Tickets available from 26 November 2021–2 January 2022.
More information on the Wimpole Estate website.
Dunham Massey, Greater Manchester
Marvel at a million lights, lasers, seasonal sounds and a sparkling tunnel of bulbs. Grab some delicious street food for Dunham’s independent vendors, and sip on a hot chocolate or spiced winter wamer as you wander through the lit-up grounds. Don’t miss the glittering deer, bejewelled trees and the mesmerising flickering flames in the fire garden. You may even get a glimpse of Father Christmas himself. Limited capacity with timed entry – book tickets from 19 November 2021 to 2 January 2022.
Find out more on the Dunham Massey website.
Percy the Park Keeper’s winter wander trail is the perfect way to start your day out at Mottisfont. Once you’ve finished exploring the grounds, head back towards the house where lanterns and twinkling lights line the garden pathway. Discover a traditional nativity scene in the Cellarium, while within the main house visitors will find trees decked with traditional decorations and mantelpieces adorned with festive floral arrangements.
Find out more on the Mottisfont website.
Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire
There is all sorts going on at Fountains Abbey this winter. Indulge in a bit of Christmas shopping, explore the family trail and warm up with a mug of hot chocolate. As the afternoon light starts to fade, make your way to the abbey and wander through the ruins aglow with bright and colourful lights. Sing along to festive carols by candlelight and enjoy family crafts at Swanley Grange.
Find out more on the Fountains Abbey website.
Dinefwr and Newton House, Carmarthenshire
A flurry of white flakes, a crunch underfoot. As winters warm, the white-spotted fallow deer and sound of trampled beechnuts might be the closest you get to snow at Dinefwr near the town of Llandeilo. Nevertheless, December will be dark and Newton House in the grounds will be cosy.
In fact, it’s cosy all year. Light glances off gilt frames. Staff and volunteers are cheerful. And you’re allowed, nay encouraged, to sit on the sofas.
Christmas begins on 4 December. Find out more on the Dinefwr website.
Pollok House, Glasgow
Picture a country house on a winter’s day. A silence fills the air as snowflakes fall, swaddling the surrounding parkland as if it is wrapped in candy floss. The front door of the house opens and inside all is merry and bright. A gaily decorated tree fills the entrance hall, flanked by staircases, reaching up, up to the ornate ceiling.
If this sounds like the stuff of storybooks, that’s exactly what the National Trust for Scotland’s Pollok House is aiming for. Each Christmas there’s a different theme – find out this year’s on the Pollok House website.
Burghley House, Lincolnshire
Just south of the Georgian town of Stamford in Lincolnshire is one of the finest Elizabethan houses in England: Burghley House. Burghley’s tree-peppered gardens are filled with enigmatic installations of rusty faces, silver spirals and turf mazes, which sparkle in mid-winter light. Don’t miss the Burghley Christmas Fair from Thursday 25–Sunday 28 November 2021.
Find out more on the Burghley House website.
Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire
Waddesdon Manor was built between 1874 and 1889 for British politician and banker Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild as a weekend retreat where he would throw summer parties for important guests.
Queen Victoria visited in 1890 and was most impressed by the electric lighting, repeatedly requesting it to be turned on and off. However, she refused to use the lift installed specifically for her visit because she didn’t quite trust the magic of electricity. Nowadays, the magic of electricity is displayed in all it glittering glory at Christmas.
Find out more on the Waddesdon Manor website.
On the Cornish side of the River Tamar, the Cotehele estate encompasses 526 hectares of woodland, meadow and riverside countryside. As you enter Cotehele’s house, it is easy to imagine age-old Christmas celebrations around the huge fireplace.
Flowers have long had festive significance and Cotehele’s stunning Christmas garland, first created in the 1950s, is a popular seasonal feature. Crafted by staff and volunteers from this year’s bumper crop of over 30,000 flowers grown and dried on the Cotehele estate, the Christmas garland is about 20m long and hangs in splendour in the Great Hall. For the first time this year, there will be an accompanying exhibition about the history, growing and construction of Cotehele’s magnificent garland.
Find out more on the Cotehele House website.