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

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The Independent Travel

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; 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; 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; 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;, has a similar four-night break for £2,295 per room (also from the 23 December), and Amberley Castle in West Sussex (01798 831992; has a two-night version for £1,245 per room (from Christmas Eve).

Meanwhile, The Grove in Pembrokeshire (01834 860915; 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;, 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 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.