Top 10 country houses to visit this Christmas: Festive Events

As part of our guide to the best 30 heritage properties to visit this Christmas, Lucy Fulford introduces the the top ten places to visit for fantastic Christmas events from festive falconry to pie making

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There is nowhere more idyllic at this time of year than our many heritage properties when these houses and gardens provide beautiful settings for a range of Christmas themed events to get you in the seasonal spirit. The period finishings offer the perfect settings to step back in time to bygone eras, and indeed many properties offer special period events, offering a chance to meet Victorian Father Christmas or celebrate an Edwardian Christmas.

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We’re bringing you the best 30 properties to visit this Christmas. Here we introduce the top ten properties with Christmas events… 

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Kenilworth Castle & Elizabethan Gardens
Festive Falconry

26 – 27 November, 11am – 4pm

A popular sport, falconry was also essential at this time of year in order to provide the necessary game for the medieval Christmas Feast. Visitors will learn how hawks were trained to catch specific birds and animals and all about medieval Falconry. There are also lots more events at Kenilworth over the Christmas period.

Tickets cost £8 for adults, £4.80 for children 5-15 years, £7.20 for concessions and £20.80 for a family.

Kenilworth Castle & Elizabethan Gardens, Castle Green, off Castle Road, Kenilworth, Warwickshire, CV8 1NE
 

Anglesey Abbey, Gardens and Lode Mill, Cambridgeshire
A Lantern-lit Christmas
3 December 2 – 8pm

This popular event sees Anglesey Abbey busting with activity as visitors partake in craft workshops and events. Between 2 and 4pm 20 minute Festive Craft Workshops allow you to make your own paper lantern or snowman tree decoration using Alpaca wool. From 5pm a lantern procession showcases this work alongside local, festive music and the chance to visit the gift shop.

Normal admission charges apply plus late night opening fees – £3 for adults, £1.50 for children. Craft activities cost £5 per child.

Anglesey Abbey, Gardens and Lode Mill, Quy Road, Lode, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB25 9EJ

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Osborne House, Isle of Wight
Festive Wreath Making

2 December, 10am – 3pm

This winter workshop uses winter foliage to build your own festive wreath or table arrangement. Lunch is provided and you can also enjoy a tour of the house. Similar events run at Walmer Castle and Gardens, Kent and Belsay Hall, Northumberland. See English Heritage’s dedicated wreath making page for more details.

Tickets cost £60 for adults and £50 for English Heritage members.

Osborne House, The Avenue, East Cowes, Isle of Wight, PO32 6JX
 

Scotney Castle
Christmas Carols & Victorian Fairground

3 – 4 December 12 – 3pm

Scotney Castle provides a magical setting for enjoying Christmas carols. Local choirs will be singing carols around a Christmas tree all day and there’s lots more on offer – Victorian fairground rides, children’s craft activities, mulled wine and non-alcoholic spiced apple, as well as hot chestnuts.

Entrance is free, for more information call 01892 893820.

Scotney Castle, Lamberhurst, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN3 8JN

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Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, North Yorkshire
Christmas Music and Lights

3-4, 10-11, 17-18 December 3.30 – 5pm

This beautiful 12th-century abbey is a World Heritage Site set in 800 acres of countryside. At Christmas, the site comes alive with lights – the Abbey ruins are floodlit and trees adorned with Christmas lights. An aural as well as visual feast, seasonal music will be playing through the site.

Normal admission charges apply.

Fountains Abbey, Ripon, North Yorkshire, HG4 3DY
 

Wimpole Estate, Cambridgeshire
Christmas at Wimpole
3-4, 10-11 December 11am – 4pm

A family Christmassy day out doesn’t get much better than this – the hall is decorated for Christmas Eve Supper and you’ll find a brass band playing carols in the Stable Block, where you can also indulge in some mulled wine or roast chestnuts. Children will love the Great Barn, which has been filled with a bale maze to wile away the afternoon in.

Entrance for non National Trust members costs £8.90 adults, £4.90 for children and £25.80 for a family.

Wimpole Estate, Arrington, Royston, SG8 0BW

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Audley End House and Gardens, Essex
Game Day

5 December, 10am – 2pm

Part of English Heritage’s Handmade Christmas programme, this unique event celebrates the extravagance of Victorian cuisine. A 3 hour interactive session instructs you all about game in the Victorian period and you leave with your own raised pie to cook at home in time for Christmas.

Booking is essential. Call 0870 333 1183 for more information.
Tickets cost £70 for adults and £60 for English Heritage members.

Audley End House and Gardens, off London Road, Saffron Walden, Essex, CB11 4JF
 

Dover Castle
Family Christmas Stories in the Great Tower

10 December, 4.30 – 6.30pm

Dover Castle is situated in spectacular settings above the White Cliffs of Dover and makes a great day out. Venture up to the colourful and opulent Great Tower – created to evoke the royal court of King Henry II – for an afternoon of Christmas stories for the family amongst vibrant surroundings. Historical interpreters and musical minstrels will tell medieval stories around the fire.

Booking is essential via customer services on 0870 333 1183.
Tickets cost £25 for adults, £20 for English Heritage members.

Dover Castle, Castle Hill, Dover, Kent, CT16 1HU
 

Pendennis Castle, Cornwall
Nadelik: A Cornish Christmas

18 December, 11am – 4pm

A key coastal artillery fortress, Pendennis Castle was built by Henry VIII to counter French and Spanish threats. Today it has more festive functions, hosting a special Cornish Christmas. This family day out includes mince pies, mulled wine, Christmas lights, carol singers and fireside tales.

Tickets can be bought on site on the day of the event and cost £6.30 for adults, £3.80 for children 5-15 years, £5.70 for concessions and £16.40 for a family. English Heritage members go free.

Pendennis Castle, Castle Close, Falmouth, Cornwall, TR11 4LP
 

Knightshayes Court, Devon
Winter Wonderland Skating Rink

26 December – 1 January 11am – 3pm

This Gothic Revival property plays host to a skating rink for the second year. The synthetic rink is 8 by 10m and is sure to provide a fun family day out. Visitors need to purchase timed tickets for half hour slots, so there will be plenty of time to explore the house too.

Booking is essential and tickets cost £4 for adults and £3.50 for children. Call 01884 253665.

Knightshaves Court, Bolham, Tiverton, Devon, EX16 7RQ
 

There are plenty more events at heritage properties this Christmas. For more information, visit the National Trust or England Heritage sites.

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