Tuesday, 30 October 2018

5 hotels for atmospheric Christmas markets



Canterbury Cathedral Lodge


Make your Christmas shopping a festive event to look forward to by staying at one of these convenient and cosy hotels near atmospheric Christmas markets in southeast England. Think handmade gifts and twinkly Christmas lights followed by mulled wine, roaring fires and some of the most welcoming hotels around.

A stately new Christmas market near a cosy, eccentric bolthole in the Cotswolds

Brand new for 2018 is Blenheim Palace’s Christmas Market (23 November – 16 December). The latest addition to Blenheim’s super seasonal festivities will fill the Great Court with wooden chalets piled high with textiles, jewellery, toys, ceramics and plenty more. Give the crowds of the high streets and malls a wide berth as you browse, then take a stroll through the palace’s grand rooms – lavishly outfitted to a Cinderella theme – and along Blenheim’s Illuminated Christmas Lights Trail (23 November – 1 January). Afterwards, spread out your haul in one of the splendid bedrooms in Artist Residence Oxfordshire, a charmingly eccentric small hotel in a 16th-century, thatched village inn in South Leigh. Downstairs, the bar has flagstone floors, a wood-burner and plenty of nooks and crannies; mulled wine is practically mandatory.


Cathedral views and Christmas shopping in Canterbury

Book one of Canterbury Cathedral Lodge’s comfortable, uncluttered rooms and absorb the Christmas spirit with splendid views of Canterbury Cathedral. Housed within an architect-designed complex, this contemporary hotel has a prime position in the serene grounds of the awesome cathedral, a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site. A stay here comes with after-hours access into the precincts, which make a peaceful retreat from the merry bustle of Whitefriars Christmas Market (16 November – 24 December), a continental Christmas market packed with 70-odd colourful cabins selling everything from handmade glassware to hot toddies. If your timings allow, don’t miss one of the cathedral’s advent carol services and Christmas concerts, or seasonal events at The Canterbury Tales attraction (pre-booking advised).

Hurley House


Thames-side walks and Country Homes and Interiors style near Henley-on-Thames

Hurley House, Marlow, brings great service, chic style and impressive cuisine to a picturesque stretch of the Thames Path. The smartly rustic bar has a cosy wood-burning stove, exposed brickwork, wooden beams – perfect for mulled wine or a Christmas afternoon tea, especially after a few Christmassy hours at Stonor Park, a grand family home with medieval roots located the other side of picturesque Henley. Country Homes and Interiors Christmas (22–25 November) in Stonor’s grounds is the perfect place to pick up creative Christmas gifts from more than 100 makers and brands. From 28 November to 9 December you can tour the house’s rooms, dusted with twinkling stars for the season, and pick up Christmas pressies and decorations in the gift shop.

The Milk House


Indie producers, twinkling polar bear statues and Christmas dining with a modern twist in Kent

With its indie shops and cosy cafes, Tenterden is a great place to pick up festive gifts and trinkets come Christmas shopping season, but when the Tenterden Christmas Market arrives Santa’s workshop couldn’t beat it for seasonal atmosphere (23-25 November). As well as local artisan producers, there are real reindeer, a snow machine, fairground rides, live music and late-night shopping in stores that have pulled out all the stops for the Christmas shop window competition. Take your haul back to Sissinghurst’s The Milk House, a pub-with-rooms in a 16th-century hall house that blends a buzzy, village-hub feel with a jocund dairy theme – think creamy-coloured bedrooms with such names as Byre and Churn, decorated with fresh flowers in milk pails. The Tudor fireplace is lit on cold days and the bar has timber beams, cask ales and local beers. You could dine on traditional Christmas turkey or change up your 2018 Christmas menu with blood orange duck confit, celeiac purée, pecan sautéed kale and redcurrant jus.

The Old Vine


A pub-with-rooms with Christmas market views in ‘England’s Christmas Capital’

The Old Vine, an 18th-century pub-with-rooms built over a subterranean 14th-century tavern, is just a short stroll from Winchester Cathedral. In fact, The Osborne and Little Room (bedrooms are named after fabric and wallpaper designers) has Georgian plaster panelling and views over the green of the cathedral – which just happens to be the atmospheric setting for what is recognised as one of Europe’s best Christmas markets. Inspired by traditional German markets, Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market (17 November – 20 December) has a British Crafts Village, nativity scene, open-air ice rink and more than 100 chalets in the cathedral’s historic Close. Mulled wine, bratwurst, mince pies and stollen fill the air with irresistible seasonal scents.