At Christmas, Britain’s most beautiful hotels are far grander than our four walls and come with stately proportions, splendid traditions and no arguments over the washing-up. Check into one of these luxury hotels and you’ll find gargantuan feasts and even bigger Christmas trees, plus estates and beautifully tended gardens to explore.
Most offer a package that starts on Christmas Eve and allows you to depart gently on Boxing Day after a blissful few days because luxury sometimes needs time – and this Christmas, we deserve both.
If you want the full English countryside experience, head to Bovey Castle on Dartmoor. Once guests pass through the gates on Christmas Eve, the rangers will whisk children away to explore its 275 acres while adults can relax, making and tasting sloe gin followed by afternoon tea, with the day rounded off by the arrival of carol-singers.
Christmas Day at the Fife Arms in Braemar (pictured) includes a blow-out feast and a treasure hunt in hidden rooms
Baronial panache: The Roux family (Albert and Michel Jr) oversee the kitchens at Inverlochy Castle Hotel in the west Highlands
Magical: If you want the full English countryside experience, head to Bovey Castle on Dartmoor
Christmas Day sees a visit from Father Christmas, followed by a brass-rubbing trail around the estate, a leisurely dinner and a relaxed slide into evening.
Boxing Day brings choices: a golf tournament, a treasure hunt around the castle and grounds and – with impressive novelty for a luxury hotel – ferret-racing, all finished off with a black-tie dinner with live music.
All activities are included in a three-night break that starts at £2,910 per double room, including meals (prideofbritainhotels.com).
Spruce-forest-filled Scotland scores when it comes to seasonal scenery, too.
On the west coast near Fort William, Inverlochy Castle Hotel has 19th Century panache, including plenty of baronial fireplaces. The Roux family (Albert and Michel Jr) oversee the kitchens and the result is as traditional as the setting, with turkey and Christmas pudding that’s timed to allow everyone to watch the Queen’s Speech.
On Boxing Day there will be sheepdog trials in the grounds as well as clay pigeon-shooting. This part of the West Highlands is also famous for game-shooting; including snipe, foreshore duck and geese, plus partridge and pheasant.
And for the festive season there will be a resident clarsach player adding to the atmosphere on the traditional Celtic harp. A three-night break starts at £3,200 per double/twin room, including meals and activities apart from game-shooting (inverlochycastlehotel.com).
Heading east, near Balmoral Castle, the Fife Arms in Braemar will aim for full tartan Victoriana this year.
It’s hard to imagine this award-winning 46-room hotel, bedecked with antiques and art works, as a former 19th Century coaching inn, although it retains a wonderful, warm atmosphere.
Guests can hunker down on Christmas Eve to make baubles and decorate gingerbread, before storytelling around a fire in the woods and carols performed by a local choir. On Christmas Day, a blow-out feast takes place in the Clunie Dining Room, followed by a treasure hunt through the hotel’s corridors and hidden rooms. Boxing Day has an optional walk up Creag Choinnich and a screening of The Muppet Christmas Carol followed by a Highland feast and Scottish fiddle music in the hotel’s bar, The Flying Stag. Double rooms start at £543 per night including activities and some meals (thefifearms.com).
Guests at Bailiffscourt in West Sussex can enjoy evening carols in the hotel’s chapel on Christmas Eve. Pictured is one of the bedrooms
Increasingly, country-house hotels focus on their most famous era when it comes to design. Beaverbrook, when it opened in 2017, chose to channel a 1920s vibe, from subtly chintzed bedrooms to the peacock-blue velvet cocktail stools, plus a stunning spa with an indoor swimming pool.
Set in the Surrey Hills, this Victorian mansion was once the home of the newspaper magnate Lord Beaverbrook, and famous friends flocked here, including Rudyard Kipling. This year, in tribute to the novelist and poet, guests will arrive to find its entrance has become a giant book.
Beaverbrook is also the only British hotel to have its own ice-skating rink this December. A new winter terrace will offer guests warming toddies, rugs and hot-water bottles (in place until January 31).
On December 25 its Garden House restaurant will have a traditional Christmas menu while the Japanese Grill will mix wagyu beef with fresh kinome. A three-night break starts from £2,316 per room, including breakfast (beaverbrook.co.uk).
Beaverbrook (pictured), set in the Surrey Hills, is the only British hotel to have its own ice-skating rink this December. It also does a good Christmas spread…
Fit for royalty: Standing above the beautiful Dee Valley, Pale Hall is an 18-room hotel with a country-house vibe. Queen Victoria stayed here in 1889
You’ll find plenty of board games, festive films, Christmas Eve feasts and a turkey dinner on Christmas Day at Pale Hall. Pictured is the dining room
Bailiffscourt in Climping, West Sussex, may look medieval but it was created by the Guinness family in 1927 in a flurry of inspired eccentricity.
At Christmas its ancient looks come into their own, including evening carols in the hotel’s chapel on the 24th.
Over a few days, some of the region’s finest sparkling wines will be showcased alongside traditional Christmas fare, while a short walk on Boxing Day allows you to get some sea air at the beach which runs from a path at the end of the grounds. Take time for a dip in the hotel spa, which has both indoor and outdoor pools. A three-night break starts from £1,105pp, including most meals, some with wine (hshotels.co.uk).
When it comes to festivities, Heckfield Place in Hampshire definitely ploughs its own furrow: this is a hotel that’s so serious about food provenance that it started its own biodynamic farm to provide fresh vegetables, fruit and honey.
Rooms in the stables have a Scandi feel that dovetails nicely with the Regency drawing rooms and bars in the main mansion. This year, the Christmas celebrations veer between the earth and the stars. Arrive early – on December 21 or 23 – and Heckfield is in winter solstice mode, with the hotel’s astronomer taking guests on tours of the night skies.
As well as a visit from Father Christmas, guests can go duck and geese herding, while films will be shown in the private cinema. This sense of equilibrium comes at a cost. Only suites are now available over Christmas, starting at £2,500 a night. This includes breakfast (heckfieldplace.com).
When it comes to festivities, Heckfield Place in Hampshire definitely ploughs its own furrow: this is a hotel that’s so serious about food provenance that it started its own biodynamic farm to provide fresh vegetables, fruit and honey
Eye-catching: The Fife Arms will aim for full tartan Victoriana this year, reveals Sarah
Guests can hunker down on Christmas Eve at The Fife Arms this year to make baubles and decorate gingerbread, before storytelling around a fire in the woods and carols performed by a local choir
At The Fife Arms on Boxing Day guests can take an optional walk up Creag Choinnich and enjoy a screening of The Muppet Christmas Carol followed by a Highland feast and Scottish fiddle music in the hotel’s bar, The Flying Stag
The city of Bath’s Georgian grace will be on full display this year – but even if there isn’t its usual Christmas market, instead the streets will be prettily adorned with lanterns and a series of light shows.
At the heart of it all – in perhaps the most photographed street in Bath – the Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa will provide well judged indulgence. Christmas Eve sees both the chance to head to its spa but also to beautiful Bath Abbey for Midnight Mass. Away from the log fires and libraries, guests can hunt the nutcrackers in the gardens to win festive treats or explore Bath itself, rounding off on Boxing Day with a casino with play money and small prizes.
A stay here starts at £1,593pp for three nights, including all meals (royalcrescent.co.uk).
Former dukes of Westminster used Pale Hall in Gwynedd as a hunting lodge, but today, if you want to feel like royalty, one of its suites still has the bath that Queen Victoria used when she stayed in 1889.
Standing above the beautiful Dee Valley, this 18-room hotel has a country-house vibe; guests will find a decanter of madeira by their bed and log fires in the drawing room. You’ll also find plenty of board games, festive films, Christmas Eve feasts and a turkey dinner on Christmas Day.
On Boxing Day, after a traditional Welsh breakfast, guests can choose whether to take packed lunches on a walk around Bala Lake or fish on the River Dee. If you want to mix and match privacy with hotel life, Harper’s Barn is a two-bedroom cottage with its own kitchen, but room service is just a phone call away.
A three-night break starts at £1,775 per room, including meals (palehall.co.uk/christmas-new-year).
Those passionate about their festive food should head to the pretty market town of Helmsley in North Yorkshire, where the Feversham Arms Hotel has morphed from a 19th Century coaching inn to a serious slice of foodie luxury, complete with spa and acclaimed menu.
Arrive on Christmas Eve for tea and a glass of champagne before dinner. Then hop next door to Midnight Mass at All Saints church, with mulled wine and mince pies on your return. There’s bucks fizz at breakfast and champagne and canapes before Yorkshire turkey and all the trimmings are served at lunch.
Opulence: Your festive meal can be rounded off with a horse-drawn carriage drive around Mayfair at Claridge’s, London
There’s a buffet in the evening, with log fires to warm you while you tuck into a book or spread out a board game. On Boxing Day there’s plenty of time to use a pool heated to spa temperatures, while walks to the ruins of Rievaulx Abbey allow guests to take in the splendour of the past. A three-night break starts at £1,409 for a double room, including meals (fevershamarmshotel.com/festive).
And so to Claridge’s in London, this famous temple to traditional luxury. There are hand-stitched stockings and children’s stories under the tree on Christmas Eve. Santa drops in for a visit on Christmas Day, as do carol-singers, and your festive meal can be rounded off with a horse-drawn carriage drive around Mayfair. Each suite has a Christmas tree and there’s a welcome bottle of champagne to kick-start the fun.
Christmas dinner comes with goose rillettes, Claridge’s own Christmas pudding, delightful canapes and decidedly posh crackers. A two-night package, including breakfast and Christmas dinner, starts from £2,630 per room (claridges.co.uk)