Take a stroll down memory lane for top-end Christmas shopping
Hotels are constantly dreaming up ways to court our custom, parcelling up packages to entice us through their doors, even at the most expensive time of year.
Special offers in the run-up to Christmas can be expected to include such delights as a personal shopper or someone to carry those bulging bags. Yet, a handful of hotels has come up with shopping breaks that are a cut above the average.
In London, the St James's Hotel and Club (stjamesclubandhotel.co.uk) hopes to tempt us to book a bed for the night with a new walking tour of the district that takes in some of its most renowned artisanal establishments.
Offering exclusive access to the workshops of some of St James's most highly skilled craftspeople, the tour gives an insight into the history of this creative enclave. It reveals how the proximity of two royal palaces encouraged artisans to open for business within easy reach of the country's most influential customers.
During the 17th century, the rise of coffee houses and gentlemen's clubs along St James's Street gave birth to elegant outfitters to serve the growing appetite for fashion. And, ever since, the patronage of royalty, politicians, celebrities and sportspeople has forged and maintained a reputation for prestige and quality.
Step into John Lobb, Bootmaker – "the most beautiful shop in the world", according to Esquire – to watch artisans crafting handmade shoes. A Royal Warrant from King Edward VII boosted the client list here and its collection of lasts includes those of Enrico Caruso, Frank Sinatra and Andrew Carnegie.
Visit James Lock & Co, supplier of headwear to officers and gentlemen since 1676, which now provides millinery to designers such as Paul Costelloe and Stella McCartney. And finish at Burlington Arcade, where the Beadle was first appointed in 1819 to prevent "whistling, singing, playing of musical instruments ... [and, strangely] carrying of large parcels".
Meanwhile, the Prince of Wales is giving exclusive access on 7 and 14 December to his Highgrove Estate Christmas shop – usually by invitation only – in a deal with Cheltenham luxury boutique hotel The Montpellier Chapter (themontpellierchapterhotel.com).
Here, you can browse luxury products for the home and garden. Choose from traditionally hand-blown glassware, wooden toys and earthenware hand finished at one of England's last remaining Victorian potteries, then enjoy a cream tea, satisfied that profits go to the Prince's Charities Foundation.
And the Hotel du Vin Glasgow (hotelduvin.com/glasgow) is offering a tour of the oldest cashmere mill in Scotland – at Begg in Ayrshire – with the chance to purchase soft scarves at a fifth of the normal price.
But these seasonal sprees are no snip. Costing £120-£200 per person per night, it might be best to ask for one as an early Christmas present.
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