UK’s best festive days out, winter walks and Christmas markets

From Christmas markets to carol services and bracing winter walks, make the most of the festive season with our pick of days out and events to enjoy this 2018


Best Christmas markets to visit

Bath Christmas Market: 22 November – 9 December 2018

BATH, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 24: Christmas shoppers browse stalls at the traditional Christmas market that has opened close to the historic Roman Baths and Bath Abbey on November 24, 2016 in Bath, England. Originating in Germany, Christmas markets have become increasingly popular in British towns and cities in recent years as a way of boosting festive sales and visitor numbers. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
At Christmas, more than 200 stalls lining the pretty streets of Bath ©Getty

Soak up the Christmas atmosphere at the bustling Bath market. With more than 200 stalls lining the pretty streets of Bath, selling traditional handmade goods and crafts, plus festive food and drink. Once you’re done shopping, Bath is a lovely place to explore, visit the Roman Baths, Abbey or walk along the riverside.


Where to visit Santa this Christmas

Santa’s grotto at Clearwell Caves, Somerset: 24 November – 24 December

Christmas in Clearwell Cavern

As well as seeing Father Christmas in his unusual cave grotto, families can enjoy the seasonal story Cora and the Bloobious Bright, and browse stalls selling decorations and stocking fillers. The caves are remarkable – an underground world that has a history of mining going back to the Stone Age. Don’t forget to call in Clearwell’s underground café for a hot chocolate and slab of cake.

Best festive ice rinks

Cardiff Winter Wonderland: 15th November –  6 January 2018

Cardiff’s Winter Wonderland, set in the heart of the Welsh capital, includes an undercover ice rink, authentic bierkeller, alpine village and funfair.

11th Hour (107 of 151)
Enjoy ice skating in the Welsh capital of Cardiff this festive season (Paul Karalius)

Sparkling Christmas lights and gardens to visit

Heligan by Night, Cornwall: 12 December – 5 January

Heligan by Night, Ulf Pedersen 2017
Heligan’s illuminations by Ulf Pedersen

Throughout December, internationally renowned light artist Ulf Pedersen returns to The Lost Gardens of Heligan to reveal more of the night time magic of Heligan’s historic horticulture. New for this year Heligan will also debut a selection of Pederson’s unique sound and light installations, creating a dazzling nocturnal immersive experience.

Dunster by Candlelight, Somerset, 7-8 December

Christmas illuminations– every winter, the village of Dunster and its 11th-century castle remembers its medieval past, lighting up its streets and houses with lanterns and candlelight ©Alamy

High on a hill in north-east Exmoor, medieval Dunster Castle glows above lantern-lit houses, music-filled streets and bustling gift shops. It’s a magical scene best enjoyed after a winter

Christmas Eve Torchlight Procession, Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire – 24 December

Every year, the village of Goring-on-Thames hosts the Christmas Eve Torchlight Procession, a long-established annual event, attracting winter-loving visitors from miles around. Light a torch and join the parade at Streatley or Goring, meeting at a large bonfire for an evening of warm firelight and carols.

Feeling like burning off the indulgence of Christmas? Try this frosty walk from Goring to Pangbourne.

Blenheim Palace illuminated winter wonderland – 23 November 2018 – 1 January 2019

Enjoy the lights of the majestic Blenheim Palace/Credit: Blenheim Palace

Take a stroll along the Christmas Trail in the stunning gardens of Blenheim Palace. The trail has been transformed into an illuminated festive wonderland. Gather the family to explore the trail, hear stories and festive yarns, all set in the backdrop of this magnificent location.

Kew at Christmas – 22 November 2018 to 5 January 2019

Palm House and trees surrounding lake are illuminated by different colour lights for Christmas
For those in need of a warming drink, there’s spiced cider, mulled wine and hot chocolate, the perfect addition to a toasted marshmallow on Kew’s roaring fire ©Getty

There’s magic in the air at Kew this winter. From the end of November to the beginning of January, London’s Royal Botanic Gardens invite guests to an enchanting evening of lights, food and vintage fairground rides. Walk the one-mile sparkling trail – illuminated by more than a million lights – past kaleidoscopic projections, giant baubles and singing trees, before joining Santa and his elves at the North Pole village.

Christmas Carol Concerts and live music

Peak Cavern Carols, Castleton – 8, 9, 15, 15, 22 & 23 December

Throughout December, the sound of carols echoes from Peak Cavern ©Paul Deakin

The good folk of fortress-crowned Castleton, at the head of the Peak District’s Hope Valley, like to celebrate the Christmas period underground. And with an abundance of show caverns honeycombing the limestone in and around the village, there’s plenty of opportunity to do just that. Step into the darkness of Peak Cavern this December for mince pies, wine and music.

Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, King’s College Chapel, Cambridge – 24 December

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 11: The Choir of King's College Cambridge conduct a rehearsal of their Christmas Eve service of 'A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols' in King's College Chapel on December 11, 2010 in Cambridge, England. The Choir was founded by King Henry VI in 1441 and is regarded as one of the world's finest choral groups. It comprises of the Conductor Stephen Cleobury, 16 choristers, who are educated on scholarships at King's College School, as well as 14 choral scholars and two organ scholars, who study a variety of subjects in the College. The choir's performance of 'A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols', traditionally held on Christmas Eve in King's College Chapel, was introduced in 1918 and is broadcast to millions of people around the world. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
This year the concert celebrates its centenary year ©Getty

Perhaps the most famous carol concert of them all – broadcast around the world on BBC Radio 4 – is the Christmas Eve Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College Chapel, Cambridge. About 600 members of the public can attend the event, but beware, you’ll need to get there early – the queue to get in starts to form a day or so before the service.

Christmas Concert National Waterways Museum – 8 December

Join the Wirral Singers and Ringers as they take us through some classic carols and favourite Christmas songs. This annual event takes place at the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port on Saturday 8 December 2018, 7.30-10pm. To book or for further information visit

Carols by Candlelight, National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire – 22 December

The concert takes place on Saturday 22 December – it is a free event, though parking charges apply and donations are appreciated ©National Memorial Arboretum

 Heroes’ Square in the National Memorial Arboretum is illuminated by hundreds of candles and thousands of tree lights for the annual Christmas carol concert. This traditional carol service, suitable for all ages, features a variety of festive music, with carol books, candles and refreshments provided.

Carols by Candlelight, Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire – 9 December

Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire UK
The event itself is free, although normal National Trust admission fees do apply, so arrive early if you’d like a seat ©Getty

The flickering glow of 1,000 candles lights up the vaulted arches of Fountain Abbey’s celebrated cellarium during the annual carol concert, held this year on Sunday 10 December. Pick up a candle and a mulled wine or hot chocolate on
your way in before enjoying a sing-a-long to all your favourite

Best festive winter walks

Ramblers Festival of winter walks: 21 December 2018 – 6 January 2019

Wrap up warm and join the Ramblers on a festive walk this Christmas and New Year/Credit: Getty

Take part in fun festive-themed walks suitable for ages and abilities with the Ramblers over the Christmas break.

Walks take place across England, Scotland and Wales, from cities to the coast and from parkland to country fields. All our walks are led by experienced volunteers.

BBC Countryfile Magazine‘s top Boxing Day walks

Scots Pine above Loch Affric provides the foreground to the great Peaks of Mam Sodhail and Carn Eige in the North West Highlands of Scotland.
Walk through the meadows and mountains of Glen Affric, Highland ©Getty

There’s nothing better than a long winter walk after a day of Christmas indulgence – from the mountains of northern Scotland to the canals of southern England, here are some of our favourite Boxing Day walks.