As nights draw in, it’s time to cosy up around the crackling fire and plunge into the many traditions of this festive time of year. Discover our top suggestions for unique winter jaunts throughout the UK.
Oxfordshire Carol Concerts
Picture the scene. A stunning manor house sits amidst the frost-tinged fields and forests spread beside a sleepy town in Oxfordshire. The glow of a roaring fire and twinkle of fairy lights beckon you inside, where charming smiles and filled champagne flutes provide the warmest of welcomes. After a spell, don your coats and cross the magical countryside, guided by torchlight, to the ancient conclave of St. Mary’s Church, whose structure dates back to the Norman conquest of 1066. Inside you are treated to a stunning carol concert performed by some of the world’s finest vocal groups and choirs.
Full of festive cheer, head back to the manor and take your seat for a stunning five-course two-Michelin star dinner, replete with seasonal specialities and innovative twists on traditional classics. Let the wine flow; it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
Christmas Carol Concerts at Raymond Blanc’s Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saison are an annual event not to be missed. “I cherish warm childhood memories of wholesome family Christmases back at home in Besancon” reminisces M. Blanc, OBE. “Now, having grown up at Belmond Le Manoir, I have shared this magical time with many friends and am continually thrilled at the wonderful opportunity to give so much pleasure.” This year sees the welcome return of the Christ Church Cathedral Choir, Voces8, Armonico Consort and Tenebrae along with the welcome addition of the talented Choir of Royal Holloway.
The Festive Express
Anticipation and excitement stave off the crisp air as you gather your family together at London’s Victoria station. Fun-filled carols and festive hits from a local choir set the scene, and in pride of place are the gleaming vintage carriages of the Belmond British Pullman. It’s all aboard the Festive Express, where the atmosphere is rich with magic and wonder.
This exclusive one-off children’s trip promises memories that will last a lifetime. Warm interiors sparkle with wreaths and baubles, while strolling musicians and magicians promise to delight and entertain. A world-class festive lunch is served by liveried stewards as the picturesque Kent countryside glides by. Special games and a very special guest are sure to inspire sparkling smiles from your little ones.
Departing 5 December, the Festive Express journey is just part of the Belmond British Pullman’s stunning line-up of seasonal departures. Whether travelling to England’s most charming Christmas markets or attending nostalgic carol concerts, there’s something for all tastes to be found on the rail this December.
An English Tradition
As the days grow shorter, bring together your family and friends and lift your spirits with a fun-filled journey on the Belmond Northern Belle. Special Christmas departures see the charming antique carriages bedecked with holly and ivy, mingling beautifully with the polished brass and rich wooden marquetry. From the smiling stewards to the enchanting British countryside rolling by, a sense of joy is tangible in the atmosphere as the iconic train makes its round-trip.
Dining on board is a cause for celebration. While the experience on the train brims with an air of nostalgia, the cuisine is thoroughly forward-thinking. Anticipate a festive lunch with all the trimmings presented with a unique, elegant twist that will make it truly unforgettable. Raise a glass to good health and savour the fine wines and champagne.
The Christmas Lunch journey departs from regional stations across England throughout December. Reserve your seats and make this the year to start a new tradition.
by Daniel Hayden