Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Seasonal cheer: Christmas needn't be stressful with these indulgent breaks

The family feuds have started. The John Lewis advert has aired. Christmas is coming. But if you've already lost patience with the approach of Advent, remember: the end of the year is really just a chance to spoil yourself (and those around you). So shop in style, slump beside a crackling fire or see out 2012 at a Scottish castle. These seasonal escapes should help to make the festive period suitably splendid.

In London, the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park (020-7235 2000; mandarinoriental.com) has drafted in Harrods to help with its decorations. It has also devised a festive package for stays between 8 December and 8 January, with a night's B&B, a Harrods teddy bear, Ormonde Jayne candle and Papabubble sweets in the room, plus a meeting with Santa in the Harrods grotto for £438pp.

In Wiltshire, Bowood Estate (01249 822228; bowood-hotel.co.uk) is hosting a three-day "Christmas Shopping Extravaganza" from 5‑7 December, when 40 stalls will stretch across the Capability Brown-designed grounds. Tickets cost £8-£15 depending on when you go, but make a night of it and stay at the adjoining Bowood Hotel, and entry is included in the price of a double room (£260 during the event), plus you get breakfast, dinner and a spa treatment too.

For the big day itself, Brownsword Hotels has packages at three of its country estates. In Somerset, The Bath Priory (01225 331922; thebathpriory.co.uk) has a four-night stay from 23 December for £1,290pp, with meals, a Michelin-starred Christmas Day lunch and activities. Its sister property, Lower Slaughter Manor in the Cotswolds (01451 820456; lowerslaughter.co.uk), has a similar four-night break for £2,295 per room (also from the 23 December), and Amberley Castle in West Sussex (01798 831992; amberleycastle.co.uk) has a two-night version for £1,245 per room (from Christmas Eve).

Meanwhile, The Grove in Pembrokeshire (01834 860915; thegrove-narberth.co.uk) has a two-night stay from 24 December for £315 per room, full board, with carols and mulled wine.

The period after Christmas, known as "Twixmas", can also be great value. For £99pp, you can combine winter walks on the South Downs with cosy rooms at South Lodge Hotel (01403 891711; southlodgehotel.co.uk), between 27‑30 December, with breakfast and a three-course dinner included.

And why not end the year with a Highland fling? The Stonefield Castle Hotel (0844 414652; stonefieldcastle hotel.com) on Loch Fyne has a three-night Hogmanay party for £450pp, from 30 December. Treats include a hearty Scottish breakfast, a haggis hunt and dinner with a ceilidh and bagpipes on New Year's Eve.