How to get into the seasonal spirit

There are so many ways to enjoy the festivities this year, whether it's Christmas carols, ice rinks or winter walks

What's the attraction?

Love it or loathe it, the festive season is in full swing, with carols ringing out of medieval cloisters, lantern-lit parades, merry German markets, Santa fun runs and reindeer road shows spiralling out across the country.

 

But don't worry, if you're not already roasting chestnuts on an open fire or dreaming of a white Christmas there's still time to get into the festive spirit. For instance, if you're in Glasgow today, you can snuggle up on a sofa at the open-air cinema in George Square and watch the classic film White Christmas on a giant screen from 6-8pm as part of the Glasgow Loves Christmas festivities (glasgowloveschristmas.com); next Wednesday it's Scrooge, the 1951 adaptation of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. More events are listed on enjoyengland.com/things-to-do/Christmas-2011; visitwales.co.uk/christmas-breaks; discovernorthernireland.com/christmas and visitscotland.com.

If you're jaded by the commercial razzmatazz a new website, our-land.co.uk, could offer the remedy. It features low-key attractions across the south of England that hark back to simpler times. At Wilderness Wood (01825 830509; wildernesswood.co.uk) in Sussex, for example, you can cut down your own Christmas tree and collect pine cones, holly and woodbine to make wreaths and decorations.

 

Ring out the solstice bells

Celebrate the eve of the winter solstice in Brighton next Wednesday. Thousands of people will gather to walk along the seafront then burn lanterns on the beach to observe the shortest day and greet the lengthening daylight. Burning the Clocks, the Winter Solstice Parade starts on Madeira Drive at 7.15pm (burningtheclocks.co.uk).

Perhaps the most evocative observance of the solstice will be at Stonehenge in Wiltshire. A three-mile guided Midwinter Solstice walk through the surrounding landscape starts at 1pm next Wednesday (01980 664780; visitwiltshire.co.uk).

 

The ghost of Christmas past

The Grassington Dickensian Festival (0845 094 2819; grassington.uk.com) in the Yorkshire Dales celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. On Saturday, the village will be peopled by locals in Victorian dress and the cobbled square peppered with stalls.

At Rochester Castle in Kent, the Dickens Christmas Market (dickenschristmasmarket.com) runs until Sunday, with roast chestnuts, gluhwein, festive food and craft stalls.

And at Ironbridge Gorge in Shropshire, Blists Hill Victorian Town celebrates Christmas this weekend in period style, with events including Punch and Judy and cookery demos (£14.95; ironbridge.org.uk).

 

A Christmas carol

For a seasonal sing-song, head to the bustle of Trafalgar Square in central London. It wouldn't be Christmas without a stirring rendition of Good King Wenceslas or The First Noël and every evening from 5-9pm until next Thursday, choirs from around London and South-east England will perform festive favourites in the shadow of the giant Norwegian Christmas tree (visitlondon.co.uk).

 

Chills and thrills

For ice skating with atmosphere, head to the outdoor rinks in the shadow of the Tower of London, Edinburgh Castle, Hampton Court Palace or the Gothic grandeur of Winchester Cathedral. At the newly designed, icicle-ringed rink at the Eden Project in Cornwall there are also Chilly Penguin sessions for six to 12 year olds on Sunday mornings with rink races, team games and prizes (£5; 01726 811972; edenproject.com).

 

Walking in a winter wonderland

Fairy lights have been strung from the branches at Westonbirt, the National Arboretum in Gloucestershire, transforming it into a twinkling wonderland. After a frosty stroll you can warm up with roast chestnuts and a glass of mulled wine (5-8.30pm Friday, Saturday and Sunday; £9; 03000 680400; forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt).

The Ramblers Festival of Winter Walks sets off on Christmas Eve and runs until 2 January with more than 800 walks across England, Scotland and Wales (ramblers.org. uk). A number of National Trust properties are also hosting walks over the Christmas period (nationaltrust.org.uk).

 

Festive fatigue?

Then let someone else do the cooking. The Llawnroc (01726 843461; thellawnrochotel. co.uk), a new boutique hotel in Gorran Haven in Cornwall is celebrating Christmas with a three-night Christmas break that includes a three-course lunch on Christmas Day and a Boxing Day walk around The Lost Gardens of Heligan. From £670 per room, based on two sharing.

The Gilpin Hotel (015394 88818; gilpinlodge.co.uk) in the Lake District has a four-night break from 23 December including lunch on on a boat on Lake Windermere on Christmas Eve. From £2,240 per double.

 

Festive family fun

At the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in Welney, Norfolk, from Saturday until Tuesday 3 January, children can feed the wild swans daily at 3.30pm. Plus next Tuesday they can spend the day making Christmas cards and decorations and baking festive treats (01353 860711; wwt.org.uk; children £6, adults £7.10. Booking essential).

At Chatsworth in Derbyshire, children can take part in a traditional nativity at the farmyard, starring real animals at Chatsworth in Derbyshire this weekend (01246 565430; chatsworth.org).

If your child is a budding chef, the Lucy Cooks cookery school in the Lake District is offering the chance to learn how to conjure up festive treats. The one-day cookery course this Sunday costs £125 for one adult and a child, including lunch (01539 822507; lucycooks.co.uk).

The West Somerset Railway is making its way to Santa's grotto through the Quantock Hills and along the Exmoor Coast this weekend, next Wednesday and on Christmas Eve (01643 704996; west-somerset-railway.co.uk; adults and children from £8.50).

And for some post-Christmas fun, children can learn how to make wooden toys at Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire. There will also be carols, games, storytelling, mince pies and hot spiced cider (27–31 December; 0870 333 1183; english-heritage.org.uk/kenilworth; adults £20, children £10).

 

Who said that?

"Bah!" said Scrooge. "Humbug!" – A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

"Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won't make it white." – Bing Crosby

"Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart." – Washington Irving

"Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more." – How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Dr Seuss

 

Insider information

"We have around 150 reindeer in the herd and Christmas is a busy time of year for us – 45 are trained to pull the sleigh and are taking part in parades around the country. This weekend you can see them in Edinburgh, Congleton and Banff. At the end of the season all our reindeer go back to the mountains where they belong." – Tilly Smith, owner of The Cairngorm Reindeer Herd (cairngormreindeer.co.uk)

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
    Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

    Take a good look while you can

    How climate change could wipe out this seal
    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

    Farewell, my lovely

    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
    Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

    Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

    Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

    John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
    Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

    Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

    The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
    The 10 best pedicure products

    Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

    Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

    Commonwealth Games 2014

    Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
    Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

    Jack Pitt-Brooke

    Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
    How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game