Order Christmas breakfast in bed, then hang up the 'do not disturb' sign

1 Seasons greetings in Scotland

Celebrate Christmas at Norton House, a 19th-century country retreat six miles outside Edinburgh city centre. The hotel is characterised by a good mixture of the old (sweeping tree-lined driveway, pea hens strutting around the 55-acre gardens plus plenty of oak panelling and deep-buttoned leather furniture) and the new (plasma-screen TVs in the bright contemporary-style bedrooms and two, rather smart, modish restaurants). The price for a three-night stay, commencing Christmas Eve, is £285 per person, based on two sharing, including traditional afternoon tea on arrival, Christmas Eve dinner, Christmas Day breakfast and presents, Christmas lunch with champagne aperitif, buffet supper, full Scottish breakfast on Boxing Day, a light lunch, and Boxing Day dinner. The price also includes a free return visit to Norton House for one night on a b&b basis between January and March 2004.

For more information contact Handpicked Hotels (0845 458 0901; www.handpicked.co.uk)

2 Welsh Christmas choirs in the Brecon Beacons

Spend Christmas in a converted Welsh hunting lodge, The Lake Country House, on the edge of the Brecon Beacons in mid-Wales. It is set in 50 acres of parkland and is home to a well-stocked, trout lake and long, rhododendron-lined pathways that are perfect for post-prandial riverside walks. Built in 1840 and remodelled in 1900, The Lake has a rather distinct look, combining Tudor-style half-timbering with French, Colonial-style verandas, and used to function - between the turn of the 20th-century and the Second World War - as the only barium spa resort outside Germany. A four-night break, commencing Christmas Eve, costs £650 per person, based on two sharing, including all meals, morning coffee and afternoon tea each day and entertainment from a Welsh male voice choir on 27 December. A member of Pride of Britain Hotels, The Lake has just been named one of the top 200 hotels in the country by the AA.

For more information contact The Lake (01591 620202; www.prideofbritainhotels.com).

3 Five-star festive season in Bath

Take a luxury Christmas break in Britain's only World Heritage City. The five-star Bath Spa Hotel, within a short walk of Bath's perfectly preserved Georgian squares and crescents, is offering two or three-night breaks over the Christmas period. A Christmas Eve champagne reception kicks off the stay, followed by dinner, after which guests are invited to attend Midnight Mass in the 12th-century Bath Abbey. The 25th sees a five-course lunch followed by a visit from Father Christmas and a trip to the panto (Jack and the Beanstalk) playing at Bath's Theatre Royal, on Boxing Day. Guests also have full use of the hotel's health and leisure spa, with indoor swimming pool, gymnasium and beauty treatment rooms. A two-night break, arriving on 24 or 25 December, costs £550 per person (£235 per child, aged 5-15, sharing their parents' room) and a three-night break costs £720 per person (£370 per child), based on two sharing, including all meals. Children under five stay free. For more information call the hotel on 0870 4008222.

4 Christmas in the Cotswolds

Set in 13 acres of wooded grounds, Studley Priory is an elegant, Elizabethan, country-house hotel in the Oxfordshire village of Horton-cum-Studley, on the edge of the Cotswolds. Originally a Benedictine nunnery founded in the 12th century, Studley Priory has been lovingly converted into an 18-room, family-run hotel complete with modern en-suite bathrooms (with jacuzzis) and antique-furnished master bedrooms, that date back to the 16th century. A three-night break, starting on Christmas Eve, costs £650 per person, based on two sharing a four-poster suite. This price includes afternoon tea, pre-dinner drinks and dinner, followed by the possibility of attending midnight mass in either the little church at Horton-cum-Studley, or in Oxford, with mulled wine and mince pies on return to the hotel. On Christmas Day itself, there is a traditional breakfast that can be taken in the bedroom. This is followed by champagne and a four-course Christmas lunch, with a light supper in the evening. After Boxing Day breakfast, guests have the chance to try their arms at clay-pigeon shooting and, assuming you can still work up an appetite, this is followed by a traditional Boxing Day lunch, afternoon tea and an Oriental buffet supper.

For more information, contact Studley Priory (01865 351203; www.studley-priory.co.uk). Studley Priory is a member of Cotswolds Finest Hotels (www.cotswoldsfinesthotels.com) which still has selected availability at seven of its 22 hotels in the Cotswolds and surrounding area.

5 Hit the sherry and the London sales

Located between Harrods and the chic boutiques of Knightsbridge and Kensington, The Gore could not be better located for the sales. This six-storey Victorian townhouse hotel is also a rather splendid spot to celebrate Christmas, packed with antiques (some 4,500 pictures cover the walls alone) and comprising 53 decadently decorated bedrooms named after the celebrities who have stayed there. Still up for grabs over the Christmas period is the bed formerly slept in by Judy Garland and the former suite of opera singer Dame Nellie Melba (she of the peachy desert) who favoured the Gore for its proximity to The Royal Albert Hall. The price for a two-night break, commencing Christmas Eve, is £260 per person, based on two sharing. This includes a three-course a la carte dinner on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day breakfast, a four-course Christmas lunch plus a late-morning breakfast on Boxing Day to prepare guests for the scrum of the sales. Those who wish to stay on to recuperate on Boxing Day evening can take advantage of the bargain-hunter's room rate of £50 per person, per night. For more information contact The Gore (020-7584 6601; www.gorehotel.co.uk)

6 The star of Michelin

Make a Christmas pilgrimage to the Vineyard Hotel, a viticulturalist's haven in Berkshire that comes complete with a one-star Michelin restaurant. The Chef, John Campbell, is in charge of the Christmas Day tasting menu that will start with champagne and canapés and include such highlights as terrine of squab, foie gras and a traditional, free-range, roast Christmas turkey. This 31-room hotel near Newbury takes its inspiration from the Californian wine-growing region's hotels, and along with paying particular attention to its guests' gastronomic needs, the spa offers the chance to unwind in the pool, jacuzzi, sauna and steam room. A two-night package, starting on Christmas Eve, costs £500 per person, based on two sharing. This price includes afternoon tea, a candlelit Christmas Eve dinner with carol singers accompanied by a classical pianist, Christmas Day breakfast, and the Christmas lunch tasting menu, supper and brunch on Boxing Day followed by a Californian wine evening hosted by the hotel's sommelier - with food to compliment from the chef. Packages for one and three-nights are also available (from £190 per person, to £650 per person).

For more information contact The Vineyard (01635 528770; www.the-vineyard.co.uk)

Sarah Barrell

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