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TravelSleuth's Travel Diary
Festive Fairs, Nov./Dec. 2006
Festive jollity starts early in England's shires as the Squires and Chatelaines of Britain's Stately Homes and Castles "Deck the halls with boughs of holly" and open their doors to celebrate the Winter Holiday. Here are some of this year's Christmas highlights and festive opportunities that caught The Travelsleuth's eye. See also Out & About in London for Christmas Festivities in the Capital.


 Chatsworth Photo Library
Chatsworth House
Address: Chatsworth House, Bakewell, Derbyshire, DE45 1PP. Tel: +44 (0)1246 565300.
Palatial seat of the Dukes of Devonshire, Chatsworth is one of Britain's best loved historic houses and estates set in Derbyshire's Peak District National Park. The house and gardens are historic. Mary Queen of Scots was held in captivity here prior to her execution. Variously described as "The Palace of the Peak" and "the true National Gallery of the North", Chatsworth contains one of Europe's finest private collection of fine art and sculpture, collected by members of the family over the centuries and representing 4000 years of European culture and craftsmanship, from ancient Greece to modern work by British artists. These treasures are seen in magnificient rooms on all three frloors of the house; from the grandeur of the 1st Duke's Painted Hall and State Apartments with their rich decoration and painted ceiling frescos, to the 19th century Library, Great Dining Room and breathtaking Sculpture Gallery. Throughout the house, there are magnificent displays of paintings, furniture, silver, tapestries and porcelain and a gallery of new-classical sculptures. Unlike many stately homes which close in September for the winter, Chatsworth House remains open until 23 December.

Event: Christmas at Chatsworth
Date: 4 November - 23 December. Daily. 11am-5.30pm.
Description: A colourful celebration of the Twelve Days of Christmas at Chatsworth. Explore the origins of the well-loved song as you walk through the house marvelling at the rich decorations, many different real trees, scented candles, music and thousands of beautiful lights. Twelve rooms are open, on the first two floors of the house, each richly decorated and full of unexpected delights along the way. A free leaflet will give you fascinating facts and figures about the song and its original meaning.
Family fun in the farmyard includes Christmas craft activities every day and children's entertainment every weekend. There are tractor and trailer rides every Saturday and Sunday and horse drawn dray rides each weekend in December. Family Nativities with costumes, music and real animals are performed every weekend in December, with a Carol service in the oak barn on Sunday 10 December.
The House and Farm Gift Shops are stocked with a superb seasonal selection for Christmas gifts and local produce. A meal and Christmas drink in the Carriage House Restaurant & Grill round off what will be a memorable visit.
Tickets: From 4 November. £10.50, (Concessions). After 4pm: £9.75. Gardens only: £6.
Getting There: Directions online

Britannia Accommodation Choice: The Chatsworth Hotel on the estate was originally the Peacock Inn and also served the local turnpike. Converted into a hotel in the 1970s by the Chatsworth Estate, with considerable decorating influence of the duchess of Devonshire, the hotel now offers rural elegance and luxuriously appointed bedrooms together with fine dining, a frequently changing seasonal menu and a memorable wine list.
Britannia Reservations. Book this hotel




Castle Howard
Castle Howard
Address: Castle Howard, York, North Yorkshire, YO60 7DA. Tel: +44 (0)1653 648 444
Castle Howard, the seat of the Earls of Carlisle for the past 300 years, is one of Britain's finest historic palaces and this is an excellent opportunity to see the magnificent house designed in 1700 by playright-soldier turned architect John Vanbrugh, (who also designed Blenheim Palace), with considerable help from Nicholas Hawksmoor.

Event 1: The Annual NSPCC Christmas Market
Date: 8 November 5-9pm Gala Preview. 9 November 9.30am-3.30pm.
Description: An exclusive opening of the House for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children's Charity Christmas Shopping Fair. Over 50 stalls selling a variety of gifts, homewares, festive foods, clothing, accessories handcrafts, children's toys and clothing.

Tickets:£12.50 Gala Preview. £6, 9 Nov.
Dress:The 8 November preview is a social event and visitors will wish to dress accordingly

Event 2: The Family Home at Christmas
Date: 6 - 17 December, 11am-4pm.
Description: Castle Howard is decked out for the festive season with the family's collection of decorations alongside traditional foliage displays, the flickering of candlelight and the warmth of a Great Hall fire. Music will delight visitors as they move between the rooms listening to tales of Christmas past and present. The gardens can be explored by following Christmas trails, and Father Christmas will welcome families into his Grotto. Seasonal menus are available in the restaurant and cafés. Our Farm Shop, Plant Centre, Chocolate Shop and gift shops offer a range of festive foods and gifts, as well as Christmas trees, wreaths and decorations.
Tickets: £9.50, (Concessions), at door. Wheelchair accessible.
Dress: It will be chilly in North Yorkshire at this time of year. Dress accordingly for outside walking.

Event 3: Candlelit Christmas Dinner
Date: 14 December.
Description: A candlelit festive Christmas Dinner with music in the famed Grecian Hall. As well as the traditional roast turkey with all the trimmings and Christmas pudding, the sparkling evening includes a reception, guided tour of principal rooms in the house, Christmas music in the Private Chapel.
Tickets: $75. Advance booking & information: Telephone +44 (0)1653 648631

Getting There: Castle Howard lies 15 minutes north of York. Directions online.

Britannia Accommodation Choice: York and its immediate environs has a wide range of delightful hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs to offer the discerning visitor. The Travelsleuth particularly likes the 3-Star Middlethorpe Hall, restaurant & Spa, Bishopthorpe Road, York, North Yorkshire, YO23 2GB; a beautifully furnished William III house, (built 1699), set in award-winning gardens and parkland just 5 minutes from York's city centre. A Pride of Britain hotel, Middlethorpe Hall offers its guests the relaxing pleasures of a spa with pool, jacuzzi and steam room; superb, candlelit dining in its oak-panelled restaurant, and luxuriously furnished four poster bedrooms.
Britannia Reservations. Book this hotel




Capesthorne Hall
Address: Capesthorne Hall, Siddington, Macclesfield, Cheshire, SK11 9JY.
The distinctive Jacobean style house with its Georgian Chapel and delightful gardens and lakes is set in over 100 acres of parkland.The fresh and vibrant interior contains an amazing collection of historic paintings; marbles; sculptures; porcelains; English; European; Far Eastern and American antique furniture collected by eight generations of the family living here since 1719, including the present Squire, Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire William Bromley Davenport and his wife, the New Jersey born wildlife artist E. B. Watts, whose work can be seen at Capesthorne Hall.

Event 1: Mary Howard Christmas Fair
Date: 31 October - 1 November, 2006.
Description: An exciting one stop venue for Christmas Shopping with 100 stalls providing original, high quality and well priced gifts. There is a licensed restaurant, free parking and customer collection facilities. For your convenience, at the entrance, there will be a list of stalls and their location. Sponsored by Homes and Gardens Magazine.
Tickets: £7 at the door. £6 Online

Event 2: Christmas at Capesthorne
Date: 24 November 6pm-8.30pm. 25/26 November 2-5.30pm.
A visit allows a personal glimpse through the doors of a family-owned stately home traditionally decorated for Christmas. During your walk around the house you will be entertained by local musicians, bell ringers, and school choirs, and a special visit from Santa. After pausing to listen to the music the tour takes you upstairs through the house then down into the basement where there is an opportunity to visit craft stalls. There are more crafts to be seen outside and across the courtyard in another part of the house. Mulled wine and mince pies are on sale in the refreshment marquee.
Tickets:
Pre-booking essential. Contact: Hall Office 01625 861221. Adults £6.50 Children £3.50 (under 4 free). Bookings can also be made for private functions.

Getting There: Directions online

Britannia Accommodation Choice: Shrigley Hall Hotel. An impressive 19th Century country mansion sitting in 262 acres of Cheshire countryside. The hotel sits high above the estate on the edge of the Peak District National Park and has exceptional views. Historically a private family house, Shrigley Hall opened as a hotel in 1989 and was carefully restored to its original beauty. Fine dining at the hotel's award winning Oakridge Restaurant and 4 poster en-suite bedrooms. The hotel also has an excellent 18 hole championship golf course and outstanding health and leisure facilities.
Britannia Reservations. Book this hotel




Blenheim Palace at night. Photo Blenheim Palace
Blenheim Palace
Address: Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire. Tel: 02392 863871
Arguably the grandest of England's stately homes, Blenheim Palace was designed and built by John Vanbrugh, (1705), for John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough at the request of a grateful Queen Anne and Parliament for defeating the French in the War of the Spanish Succession. Another saviour of Britain, Sir Winston Churchill was born here. The sweeping gardens and parkland setting was designed by Capability Brown. The Palace is filled with a priceless collection of porcelain, fine art, tapestries and furniture maintained by the present duke and his family.

Event 1: Christmas at Blenheim Palace
Date: 11 November - 10 December, Weds-Suns inclusive..
Description: Experience the beauty and majesty of a great Palace at Christmas. Christmas trees, decorations, choirs, organists and bands bring the Palace alive. Christmas Trees will sparkle in the colonnades, elegant Victorian decorations will adorn the Great Hall and Long Library and in the Saloon, visitors can see the Marlborough family's spectacular Christmas table decorated with sparkling silverware, beautiful crystal, flowers, ribbons and baubles. A traditional nativity scene will be set in the impressive chapel, while carol singers, organists and brass bands will bring the music of Christmas to life at weekends. Tickets: £12, (Concessions). Park & Gardens only £7. (Concessions). At the door. The Palace and gardens are available for hire of private functions, Christmas parties, banquets, weddings etc. Tel: 01993 813 874.

Event 2: Living Crafts for Christmas
Date: 17 - 19 November, 2006.
Description: A festive celebration of the very best of British Crafts and an opportunity to find that unique gift, whether it be a special present or an individual stocking filler. Around eighty talented British craftsmen and women will be carefully chosen to exhibit a stunning range of both traditional and contemporary crafts. Visitors can also sample and buy the finest cheeses, chocolates, Christmas puddings and festive savoury pies; a delicious selection of Christmas drinks including spiced ales, meads, festive liqueurs and mulled wines.
Tickets & Advance Booking only:£7 or £12 with tour of Palace. At door or Online booking.

Getting There:Directions online. Blenheim Palace is within easy reach of London for a day excursion by car or coach.

Britannia Accommodation Choice: Blenheim Palace can easily be visited on a day's car or coach ourting from London. Visitors may however prefer to see Blenheim at greater leisuure and overnight in nearby Woodstock. Follow in the footsteps of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton and enjoy the hospitality of the famous The Bear hotel, Park Street, Woodstock, Oxfordshire OX20 1SZ . Originally Woodstock's main coaching inn, this is now a 4-Star de-luxe Macdonalds hotel. The ivy-clad frontage, oak beams, open fires and old world hostelry hospitality remains, together with fine dining in an award-winning restaurant. Luxurious 4-poster bedrooms and suites complete the picture and make the Bear an enticing venue for a weekend break.
Britannia Reservations




Rockingham Tudor Hall Photo: Rockingham Castle Estate
Rockingham Castle
Address: Rockingham Castle, Market Harborough, Leicestershire, LE16 8TH.Tel: 01536 770240
This Norman castle stronghold, built on the instruction of William the Conqueror to dominate the area, has been continuously occupied for nearly 1000 years, and by the present family for 450 of these. Prior to this it was owned and maintained by the Crown. Richard Lionheart stayed here as did his infamous brother King John, who enjoyed hunting in Rockingham Forest. King Henry VIII granted the deeds of the castle to the family's forbear who converted it from a draughty mediaeval fortress into palatial Tudor mansion. It was taken in the Civil War first as by the Royalists and then by Cromwell's Roundheads. During the Victorian era the castle was a backdrop to a glittering social round of entertaining. Dickens was a frequent visitor, giving readings of his own plays in the Long Gallery. The castle remains in immaculate condition as an example of comfortable Tudor living and houses a fine collection of furniture and fine art. Winner of the Visit Britain Gold Award of Excellence.
Event: Christmas at Rockingham Castle
Date: 20 - 24 November, 2006. 11am-8pm.
Description: The Castle courtyard decorated with illuminated trees offers a warm welcome to visitors. The Castle hall and its Elizabethan rooms are decorated for a nostalgic Victorian Christmas and open for guided tours. Private hire arrangements for weddings and receptions at the castle on application.
Tickets: Christmas Shop, Restaurant & Grounds: FREE. Castle tour: Adults £4 Children £1
Getting There: Directions online

Britannia Accommodation Choice: The Horse and Trumpet, Medbourne, Leicestershire, Tel: 01858 565 000, is the Travelsleuth's unqualified recommendation for rural accommodation and award winning dining at its English best. The eighteenth century thatched farm house, formerly run as a village inn, has been lovingly restored to accommodate a restaurant and four charming en-suite guestrooms with cozy atmosphere.
Britannia Reservations.


Althorp House
Address: Althorp House, Althorp, Northamptonshire. NN7 4HQ. Tel: 01604 770107
Seat of the Spencer family where Diana Princess of Wales was born and lies buried. The house, which has been in continuous occupation by this family of courtiers since it was built in 1508, reflects the changing fortunes of this family through the succeeding Tudor, Stuart, Hanoverian, and Saxe-Coburg/Windsor royal dynasties they have served, (and finally married into).

Event: Christmas at Althorp
See website for details of the Christmas Fair and for private bookings of the house for weddings and receptions. The Gift shop which donated large sums each year to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund will be open during the Fair weekend.
Date: 25/26 November, 2006.
Description: Annual Christmas Fair and decorations. Fuller details available on the Althorpe website.
Tickets: See website.
Getting There: Directions online.
Britannia Accommodation Choice: The nearby rural hostelry Ye Olde Saracen's Head provides award-winning en-suite accommodation and inspired local cooking within its 16th century walls.
Britannia Reservations.
Tour to Althorp, Birthplace of Lady Diana
10 hours - Gain appreciative memories of the tranquil and beautiful setting of Althorp and its grounds located in Northamptonshire, England. Visit the birthplace and final resting place of Lady Diana, Princess of Wales. Take a guided motorocoach tour to one of the great country houses of England where the Spencers have lived and died for nearly five centuries and twenty generations.
Starting from USD $88.80 per adult, $77.70 per child
Click for details




Ludlow Castle
Address: Ludlow Castle, Shropshire. Tel: 01584 875053.
The Norman ruins of Ludlow Castle provide an historic and picturesque backdrop to what the late Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman described as "the most perfect town in England". The castle has a turbulent history of murder and mayhem, ambition and treachery, power and failed attempts to usurp the crown. The market town of Ludlow on the Welsh border is situated in one of England's most beautiful stretches of countryside and has gained an enviable reputation as a gourmet's paradise, with more Michelin stars per square mile than anywhere else outside London.

Event: Ludlow Mediaeval Christmas Fayre
Date: 25 November 10am-4pm, or 6pm to 9pm. 26 November 10 am-4pm
Description:Jugglers, jesters, entertainers, archery, historical re-enactments create a medieval atmosphere for your Christmas shopping! You can buy all sorts of goodies for your Christmas stocking from over sixty stalls within the castle walls presented by traders from across the UK as well as popular local Ludlow traders, all dressed in medieval costumes. On Saturday evening mediaeval music and merriment add to the general jollity to make a great day out. Join in the fun and come dressed in mediaeval garb! Other themed events in Ludlow town also add to the Christmas spirit.
Tickets: £5.50, (Concessions).
Getting There: Directions Online
Dress: Mediaeval dress will gain you considerable respect, and possibly free entry.

Britannia Accommodation Choice: The Bull Inn is a fine old hostelry with a history dating back to the 13th century or earlier. Refurbished through the centuries it now offers modern comfort in a Tudor and Georgian setting. Bedrooms are simple but the breakfast that goes with it will set you up for the day. The bar has a friendly pub atmosphere where you can gain an appetite for dinner at one of Ludlow's famed restaurants. Britannia Reservations.




Sandringham Estate 
Royal Sandringham
Address: Sandringham, Norfolk, PE35 6EN. Tel: 01283 820548.
Sandringham is the much-loved country retreat of Her Majesty the Queen, and has been the private home of British monarchs, since it was acquired by Edward VII then Prince of Wales. The house is perhaps the most famous stately home in Norfolk - and certainly one of the most beautiful. Set in the 60-acre gardens which have been called "the finest of the Royal gardens", with a fascinating museum of Royal vehicles and mementoes, the principal ground floor apartments with their collections of porcelain, jade, furniture and family portraits are open to the public from Easter to 29 October, (£8, Concessions). The Visitor Centre however is open all year, (no admission charge), and is the centre for Sandringham's annual seasonal Fairs. Its Gift Shop offers all sorts of unique and unusual British-made gifts and quality local foods; next door are the Plant Centre stocked with produce from the Sandringham greenhouses, and the Restaurant, serving home-made lunches, snacks and hot and cold drinks.

Event 1: Sandringham Food & Drink Fair
Date: 9/10 December.
Description: The annual Sandringham Food and Drink Fair offers the best of British produce from hand-picked quality suppliers, grouped around the Sandringham Visitor Centre. There is plenty to see and try; an excellent opportunity to track down gifts for those hard-to-buy-for people on your Christmas list. While there, be sure to visit the Royal Gift Shop and see the unique range of Royalty china, crystal and jewelry, Collectables and Christmas decorations.

Event 2: Christmas Crafts at Sandringham
Date: 25-27 November.
Description and tickets: Full details of this and other to be announced events will be published on the Sandringham website.

Getting There: Directions Online.

Britannia Accommodation Choice: Garden House, formerly the residence of Sandringham's Head Gardener, (a beautiful Victorian building adjacent to Sandringham House), and the converted granary are both available for weekly lets. This lovely old house set in its own garden very well appointed with a fully fitted kitchen including an Aga stove. There are three twin rooms and one double room, two bathrooms, drawing room, sitting room and dining room, as well as the kitchen and cloakroom. The holiday lettings are fully furnished, providing bed linen, towels and tea towels, as well as a washing machine and microwave. Book online.



Berkeley Castle
Address: Berkeley Castle, Berkeley, Gloucestershire, GL13 9BQ. Tel: +44 (0)1453 810332.
Completed in 1153 by Lord Maurice de Berkeley at the command of King Henry II, Berkeley Castle was built to keep the marauding Welsh out of England. Despite a turbulent history which includes the imprisonment and murder of Edward II in 1327 within its walls, and seige and capture by Cromwell's forces during the Civil War, it has survived nearly a millenium in near intact condition and is possibly the most outstanding example of Mediaeval domestic architecture in the country. Where other Castles were romanticised or "modernised" by the Georgians or the Victorians, Berkeley quietly survived as what it is: a Norman fortress with an enclosing curtain wall, built and enlarged through the mediaeval period and beyond into a secure, comfortable, substantial home for the Berkeley family who remain its chatelains to this day. The magnificent mediaeval Great Hall completed in the 14th century remains the historic centre of the castle's social life and features prominently in Christmas festivities.
The castle is open to the public March through October and hosts a variety of entertaining events from mediaeval reenactment weekends to music and theatre. It is available throughout the year as a venue for wedding receptions and other functions. See website for further details.sMarch through October

Event 1: Festive Christmas Concert
Date: 3 December.
Description: A musical celebration of Christmas in the Great Hall, performed by the internationally renowned English String Orchestra directed by Michael Bochmann (violin). Join your host, chatelain Charles Berkeley, in the Great Hall around the Christmas Tree and soak up the festive spirit.
Tickets: £35 including wine and mince pies. Early booking for the 130 seats essential. Box Office: 01386 791 045.

Event 2: The Castle by Candlelight
Date: 8 - 10 December, 5pm-8.30pm daily.
Description: See the Castle ablaze with candlelight and traditionally decorated for Christmas. Meet Father Christmas in his grotto, enjoy the carols in the Great Hall, sip a glass of mulled wine by the fire and try some of our mince pies and other refreshments.
Admission: Adults £5, Children under 16 FREE when accompanied by an adult. At the portcullis.

Event 3: The Mediaeval Christmas Banquet
Date: 14 December, 7.30pm for 8pm.
Description: Celebrate Christmas in true noble style in the spectacular setting of the castle's Great Hall where Kings Richard II, Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth I once dined in state. Join master bowman and ace raconteur William of Berkeley, the feuding mediaeval Lord Berkeley and his arch enemy Lord Talbot, jester Devil Stick Peat and the Mediaeval Fortune Tellers for a merry evening of mediaeval mayhem and a feast of the highest standards which caters for the traditional palate and also for those who have vowed not to eat meat.This is an unprecedented opportunity to experience a mouth-watering, authentic gastronomic banquet in the most sumptuous and unique of settings. With all the dishes cooked to original recipes using locally sourced ingredients, the Feast is prepared by one of the UK's leading chefs - Rob Rees MBE, food columnist and writer on gastronomic topics. Consulting for Rob in the preparation this mediaeval banquet is Caroline Yeldham, one of the leading authorities on mediaeval and Tudor cookery. Wash down the many removes with mead, wine or ale. Full menu online.
Organizers Joust have created many great mediaeval feasts, jousting spectaculars and events at Berkeley Castle at this promises to be a truly memorable evening.
Tickets:£90. Online booking or telephone hotline +44 (0)20 7482 0115. Early booking essential as places are limited.

Dress:Mediaeval garb is preferred, (If you do not own cape and codpiece or gown and wimple, the castle's costumier Mistress Maggie will rent you attire fit for a noble lord and his ladie. Tel: 01543 275 580. Otherwise modern formal.

Getting There Directions Online. The castle is roughly two hours drive from London and lies near Bristol by the River Severn.
Britannia Accomnmodation Choice Thornbury Castle Hotel, Thornbury, Nr. Bristol, BS35 1HH.,Make this a truly memorable mediaeval experience and overnight (as once did Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn), at this castellated Tudor gem now converted into a luxury 5-Star hotel. Sleep regally in four poster bedded comfort and dine in style, sampling perhaps the castle's own wine from its walled vineyard.
Britannia Reservations



Beaulieu

Address: Beaulieu Village, Brockenhurst, Hampshire. Tel: 01596 612345.
The name Beaulieu is a colloquial rendering of the Latin "Bellus Locus" or "Beautiful Place", a name coined by King John who hunted in the New Forest here. The estate was acquired by Lord Montague's family in 1538 following the dissolution of Beaulieu Abbey by Henry VIII. The Cistercian Abbey was founded in 1204 on land granted to them by King John. Much destroyed at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, there is still much for visitors to see today. Palace House was formerly the Abbey's 14th century Great Gatehouse. It is set in magnificent gardens overlooking the Beaulieu River.

Event: Beaulieu Victorian Christmas
Date: 9 - 19 December.
Description: Christmas shopping in Beaulieu's wonderful 13th century Palace House. The annual Countryside Education Trust Christmas Fair offers a whole range of Christmas goodies to entice you. Festive foods, Designer and Bargain Second Hand Clothes, Accessories, Books, CDs and Videos, Antiques, Jewelry, Gifts in Silver, Pens, Portuguese Pottery, Plants; plus a Christmas Draw for some great prizes, tickets to Wimbledon Centre Court, Glyndebourne Opera, London Theatre and more. This is a good opportunity to tour Palace House, decked as for a Victorian Christmas. Tickets: £2. at door.
Getting There: Britannia Accommodation Choice: Balmer Lawn Hotel is a onetime New Forest hunting lodge from the Victorian era, now converted to a most comfortable hotel with AA 3-Star rating and an award-winning restaurant. This is a perfect weekend retreat and immensely popular in the summer months.
Britannia Reservations.



Christmas Fairs
Many cathedral cities now host outdoor festive fairs in the European tradition made so popular by the month-long Christmas Markets in mediaeval German cities of the Rhineland and Bavaria. These historic and picturesque cities are well worth a visit and overnight stay at this festive time of year.


Bath Christmas Market
6th Bath Christmas Market
Date: 30 November - 10 December, 2006.
123 English, European and Oriental stalls by the floodlit mediaeval Abbey selling original hand crafted gifts, decorations, cards, toys and candies for Christmas. England's original Spa town, Bath is a Regency architectural gem built around its Roman hot-spring thermal baths and mediaeval cathedral. The baths have recently been reopened and you can include a swim in the thermal waters as an added bonus to your visit to this beautiful city.

Britannia Accommodation Choice: The award winning Royal Crescent Hotel offers the ultimate in luxurious accommodation and fine dining. Situated in the famed Royal Crescent, built to the designs of John Wood the Younger between 1767 and 1774, the hotel is within walking distance of the city centre and the Christmas Market. The Crescent is justly considered one of the finest achievements of urban 18th century architecture and represents one of the finest examples of Palladian architecture in Britain. There is an excellent two day customized tour option taking in the sights of Bath. The tour overnights at this de-luxe hotel and also includes a visit to Stonehenge, quaint old Cotwold villages and Oxford University.
Britannia Reservations. Book this tour.



Yuletide York
Date: 23 - 26 November, 2006.
St. Nicholas Fayre. York's picturesque Christmas Fayre launches a variety of Christmas Markets and Festival of Angels near the floodlit mediaeval Minster during December. This ancient mediaeval city, jewel of England's north sparkles at this time of year and is well worth a weekend short break. The historic Minster and Old Town are essential viewing.
Britannia Accommodation Choice: The York Minster Hotel 60 Bootham, York, is a charming 3-Star hotel right in the centre of the city just minutes from York Minster that benefits from guest parking facilities. The hotel's Sixty Below Restaurant offers a varied quality menu and wine list at very reasonable prices for those visitors not wishing to dine out.
The Best Western Dean Court Hotel, Duncombe Place, YO1 7EF stands facing York Minster and boasts an award-winning restaurant as well as more informal bistro dining. Needless to say, the de-luxe bedrooms all have stunning views of the Minster, (the bells are muted at night). Some car parking facilities.
Britannia Reservations.


Rochester Dickensian Christmas
Date: 2 - 3 December, 2006.
Overlooked by its famous Norman cathedral and Castle, Rochester's High Street turns back the clock and comes alive with the sights and sounds of Christmas at the town's famous annual Dickensian Christmas Fair. Scrooge, the ghost of Christmas past, carol singers, bell ringers, street theatre and Dickensian characters are just a few of the wonderful surprises. This is an easy day trip out from London by car or coach excursion.


Durham Christmas Market
Date: 2/3 December, 2006.
The ancient university city of Durham with its imposing Norman Cathedral, mediaeval Castle and quaint winding alleys gets into the holiday mood for its annual Christmas Festival, described as Northumbria's most popular winter holiday event.. Buy gifts at the many specialist market stalls and enjoy the music and entertainment all over the city centre. No website available at time of writing.
Britannia Accommodation Choice: The 4-Star Durham Marriott Hotel Royal County, Old Elvet, DH1 3JN, offers bedroom views of the city's famed Cathedral, castle or River Wear. The hotel building itself dates back to the 11th century to the 17th century, and has been refurbished to provide modern amenities while preserving historic charm and exquisite features such as antiques and original prints. Full restaurant and bar facilities.
Britannia Reservations.


Worcester Christmas Fayre
Date: 30 November - 3 December, 2006.
Take a step back in time and enjoy the festive atmosphere of the medieval streets of Worcester as they are transformed into the late Victorian era for Worcester's 16th annual Christmas Fayre in the Cornmarket. Stallholders dressed in period costume will be offering Christmas gifts and crafts together with seasonal treats such as mulled wine and roasted chestnuts. Whilst browsing amongst the stalls you may wish to stop and watch the street entertainment, visit the traditional funfair rides or take the opportunity to explore the many attractions the City has to offer. Coach parties must pre-book and a booking fee is applicable, please tel - 01905 722337 for further details.
Britannia Accommodation Choice: The Elms Hotel, Abberley, Worcester WR6 6AT, is one of the renowned Von Essen group of luxury family hotels where standards of accommodation and fine dining are of the highest. The hotel is an imposing Queen Anne building designed 1710 by Gilbert White, a pupil of Sir Christopher Wren. Visitors will appreciate the ornate plaster ceilings, carved fireplaces and stained glass windows together with the fine art and antiques which add a degree of sophistication to the relaxing atmosphere provided by warm open fires. The Brooke Room Restaurant is noted for its gourmet weekend breaks. This is an excellent hotel option for visitors to Worcester, the Malvern Hills or the gourmet town of Ludlow, (see Ludlow Mediaeval Christmas Market above), or for the Christmas and New Year holiday.
Britannia Reservations.


Lincoln Christmas Market
Date:7 - 10 December, 2006.
Sited in the shadows of Lincoln's magnificent cathedral amidst the pleasant distractions of the ancient Roman city, this annual event bursts forth with Victorian Yuletide cheer and atmosphere as street organists, carol singers, buskers, clowns and the smell of mulled wine set the scene. This long standing annual event now attracts over 150,000 visitors and encompasses some 300 vendors who take over the Cathedral Quarter with their colourful stalls.
Britannia Accommodation Choice: The White Hart Hotel with its historic traditions stretching back to the 14th century when King Richard II stayed there, is The Travelsleuth's preferred recommemdation in this ancient city. Now furnished to high standards of modern comfort, the hotel which is close to the cathedral and Chistmas Market, still retains its old world ambience, with superb 4 poster bedroom suites and fine dining in the King Richard Restaurant or its more informal Orangery Brasserie and Club Bar.
Britannia Reservations.


Edinburgh Christmas Date: 25 November - 24 December, 2006. The Princes Street Gardens Funfair and the colour of the city's traditional German Weinachtsmarkt is now a well established feature of Christmas in Edinburgh.
Britannia Accommodation Choice: The Balmoral Hotel, 1 Princes Street | Edinburgh EH2 2EQ, set in Princes Street, offers newly refurbished and opulent comfort with bedroom views towards Edinburgh Castle and the Old Town. The Michelin starred Number One Restaurant, Hadrian's more informal dining and the hotel's elegant Palm Court or NB's Bar, together with a superb Balmoral Spa with pool, sauna and steam room offer sufficient blandishments for you to enjoy every moment of your stay. Perhaps you will be persuaded to return for Edinburgh's lively Hogmaney celebrations over Scottish New Year!
Britannia Reservations.



Christmas Pudding Recipe

Ingredients
100g/3.5oz Dried figs chopped
100g/3.5oz dried cranberries or blueberries
100g/3,5oz raisins
100g/3.5oz sultanas
50g/1.75oz glace cherries, chopped
1 small sweet apple, peeled cored, grated
1 orange, juice and zest
1 lemon, zest
75ml/5tsp Dark Rum

115g/4oz butter
115g/4oz Dark Mauritius/Carribbean sugar
2 Eggs, large organic, beaten
75g/2.75oz self raising flower, sieved
75g/2.75oz fresh white breadcrumbs
2tsp sweet mixed spice

Method
Place all the fruit ingredients from group A into a bowl, stir in the rum and mix well. Cover and leave overnight in a cool place. On the following day lightly grease a 1 litre, (1.75 pint) pudding basin and cover base with a disc of parchment paper. Soften butter and beat together the the sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and creamy. Beat in the eggs a little at a time. Add flour, breadcrumbs, spices and overnight bowl of fruit and mix well. Spoon mixture into the pudding basin and level the surface with a spatula or the back of the spoon. Cut a large sheet of greasefroof paper and one of foil. Lay the foil on top of the greasefroof and fold a large pleat down the centre. Lay over the top of the pudding filled basin and secure with string. Stand pudding basin in a steamer or deep pan on an upturned heatproof plate. Pour in boiling water to come half way up the side of the pudding basin. Bring to simmer, cover with tight fittinglid and steam for 3.25 hours, topping up with boiling water from time to time. remove pudding filled basin and allow to cool. When cool replace foil and greaseproof and secure. Store in cool dark place until Christmas Day.

On christmas Day you will need to reheat pudding by steaming as before for 2 hours. Then remove and uncover basin, carefully turn the pudding out onto a serving plate and remove paper disc. To serve, you will wish to pour a small shot of brandy over the pudding and flambe. Spoon and serve with 'brandy butter', Bourbon vanilla ice cream, Cornish Cream or custard according to taste.
Serves 6 hearty eaters, or 8 with more delicate appetites.

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