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Twinkle cities: eight nice locations within the UK for a festive getaway | United Kingdom holidays



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Buxton, Derbyshire

This spa city within the Derbyshire hills – the joint highest market city in England (a title shared with Alston in Cumbria) – has lovely Georgian and Victorian structure and is surrounded by the Peak District on three sides.

Buildings such because the Crescent (modelled on the Royal Crescent in Tub), the Devonshire Dome and the Buxton Opera Home look notably atmospheric lit up for Christmas – and at greater than 1,000ft (305 metres) above sea degree, there’s a comparatively good likelihood of snow.


Buxton has a wealth of impartial boutiques for Christmas buying. The Cavendish Arcade – transformed from the historic sizzling baths – has retailers promoting homewares, items, garments and meals; it has saved its authentic options equivalent to tiles and an vintage plunge pool, and added a barrel-vaulted stained glass window.

Different indies might be discovered elsewhere within the historic centre in Decrease Buxton; alongside the excessive avenue and Market Place in Greater Buxton; and in The Arches at Hogshaw Mill.

Buxton Opera House
Buxton Opera Home

Within the run-up to Christmas, these retailers are supplemented by markets and festivals. The Pavilion Gardens is internet hosting an antiques truthful (2-3 Dec) and a Christmas truthful (9-10 Dec), and there’s a Christmas market on the Market Place (9 Dec).

In winter, there are many reveals to get guests within the festive spirit. Buxton opera home all the time places on a panto – this yr it’s Cinderella (8 Dec to 1 Jan) – plus two new yr’s ballets (The Nutcracker, 7 Jan; Swan Lake, 8 Jan). The Pavilion Arts Centre has a musical play, Hare & Tortoise, for youthful kids (16-24 Dec), in addition to winter-themed folks and festive movies. On the Octagon, there’s a screening of The Snowman with Wallace & Gromit: The Fallacious Trousers accompanied by a stay orchestra (14 Dec). And there’s a Christmas live performance in St John’s Church, with a brass band and carol singing (22 Dec), titled Brass Christmas (I Gave You My Coronary heart) – what else?


For kids who need to meet Father Christmas, Poole’s Cavern is the recent ticket. This huge limestone cave on the sting of city turns into Santa’s grotto – it sells out quick, however on the time of writing there was nonetheless availability for the week earlier than Christmas.

There may additionally be some tickets left for the self-guided Christmas lights walk-through. Failing that, the Pavilion Tea Rooms is doing breakfast with Santa on the primary three weekends in December and the landmark Palace resort (inbuilt 1868) has two Santa Sunday lunches (though adults could want its Christmas occasion nights).

The Crescent buildings.
The Crescent buildings. {Photograph}: Barry Teutenberg/Alamy

Buxton is inside half an hour’s drive of heaps extra Peak District sights. Maybe the decide of the bunch is Chatsworth Home, which pulls out all of the stops at Christmas. This yr the theme is The Palace of Creation, with 24 adorned rooms and a lightweight present reworking the entrance of the home into a large Creation calendar. There may be additionally a lightweight and sound path across the backyard; story time with Father Christmas within the farmyard, plus guinea pig cuddling; and Christmas craft periods (till 7 January).

The place to remain The blowout choice is the Crescent, which reopened as a five-star spa resort in 2020 (doubles from £190 B&B). Extra reasonably priced and much more historic is the Outdated Corridor resort, inbuilt 1670 round a 14th-century tower the place Mary Queen of Scots was as soon as imprisoned (doubles from £89 B&B).
Rachel Dixon


Totnes, Devon

Train of lights, Totnes.
Practice of lights, Totnes. {Photograph}: Dartmouth Steam Railway & River Boat Firm

Legend has it that Brutus of Troy first landed in Britain on the banks of the River Dart, striding up what’s now Totnes Excessive Avenue to declare “Right here I stand and right here I relaxation, and this good city shall be known as Totnes”. Right this moment, Totnes could be very a lot a good city, the poster little one for eco-minded, community-centric residing with initiatives that run from help-yourself edible gardens to a Mend Meeting for clothes repairs.

Its fiercely impartial excessive avenue – residents as soon as fought off plans to open a Costa Espresso – runs from the Norman motte-and-bailey citadel all the way down to the river. Like the encircling fairly streets and squares, it’s lined with retailers for extra considerate Christmas presents: nature books on the East Gate Bookshop, cult vinyl at file retailer Drift, sweet cane candles at Me and East and handmade garments at sustainable division retailer Butterwalk. Fill up for a inexperienced Christmas feast at zero waste retailer Earth.Meals.Love or Ben’s Farm Store (of veg-box-famous Riverford Farm).

The Tuesday Totnes Christmas Markets (5, 12, 19 Dec, 3-9pm) fill the city with much more stalls and festive enjoyable and video games, together with a classic carousel, gnome path and Father Christmas for the children, in addition to mulled cider, morris dancing and a merry ukulele singalong.


Elsewhere, new occasion house The Albatross is operating a festive willow garland workshop (6 Dec) – cease by different days (Tuesday to Saturday) to catch the Almond Thief Bakery pop-up and their moreish mince pies. Or cosy up within the deep sofas at dinky, retro Totnes Cinema for its Christmas basic screenings; head even additional again in time with Weird Rituals’ Deep and Crisp and Even medieval-themed rave at The Barrel Home Ballroom on 23 December.

The Bull Inn, Totnes, Devon
The Bull Inn presents ‘moral’ lodging. {Photograph}: Rachel Hoile

Simply outdoors of city, arty studying hub the Dartington Belief has been a catalyst in shaping Totnes’s progressive outlook, based in 1925 by Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst as a sort of rural incubator for revolutionary thinkers. The general public are welcome to roam the sculpture-dotted Grade II-listed gardens (discover the 1,500-year-old yew tree within the churchyard), strolling trails across the property and this winter, the Nice Corridor Craft Honest (2-3 Dec) stocked by native makers.

Santa switches his sleigh for a steam engine onboard The Polar Specific (till 23 Dec) which pulls out from close by Buckfastleigh, whereas the dazzling Practice of Lights (till 30 Dec) chugs the road from coastal Paignton to Kingswear. On the way in which again into Totnes, decide up a Christmas Eve tipple to depart out for the principle man at Sandridge Barton vineyard – attempt the spritzy Figgie Daniel Col Fondo which donates a portion of gross sales to the Dartmoor Preservation Affiliation.

The place to remain Proceed the inexperienced theme by bedding down on an natural Dartmoor wool mattress at moral pub with rooms The Bull Inn (doubles from £120 B&B, with 10% low cost when you arrive in Totnes by practice).
Fiona Kerr



Hereford’s Wye Bridge and cathedral.
Hereford’s Wye Bridge and cathedral. {Photograph}: Joe Daniel Value/Getty Photographs

When Santa arrives in Hereford this Christmas he might be using on a tractor, not a sleigh. The annual Christmas tractor run is among the highlights of Hereford’s festive calendar. Locals end up to line the route as a convoy of illuminated farm autos weaves by the streets of the city and out into the encircling villages to lift cash for We Are Farming Minds, a charity supporting psychological well being consciousness within the rural neighborhood (9 Dec).

Hereford could also be a cathedral metropolis however its coronary heart is firmly rooted in its agricultural environment. That is mirrored within the nice alternative of native produce on provide within the city’s many impartial retailers and cafes. Whether or not it’s a hamper of native cheeses from the Mousetrap Cheese Store or a bottle of Black Mountain gin from the family-run Secret Bottle Store, that is the proper place to top off the Christmas larder or to purchase a present for the foodie in your life.

Cheese on display at the Mousetrap.
Cheese on show on the Mousetrap. {Photograph}: PR

With its impartial retailers, cafes and one-off boutiques decked out in twinkling lights, Church Avenue is the proper antidote to soulless buying malls. On 16 December, 40 stallholders will arrange store inside Hereford Cathedral for its annual Christmas truthful, that includes do-it-yourself produce, handcrafted gadgets and, in fact, carol-singing. The cathedral may even be the venue for an atmospheric Christmas Music by Candlelight live performance by the Ex Cathedra choir (6 Dec, reserving important, tickets from £5).

Festive overload? Head to the Black & White Home Museum in an attractive Jacobean timber-framed home, which might be bringing to life the story of the Christmas Ban, when parliament tried to place a cease to Christmas festivities within the mid-Seventeenth century (18 Dec).
The place to remain The Fort Home Resort (doubles from £170 B&B) is a cosseting boutique resort with 24 rooms, near the cathedral.
Joanne O’Connor


The River Cam, Clare and Kings Colleges.
The River Cam, Clare and King’s Faculties. {Photograph}: Kumar Sriskandan/Alamy

Carols From King’s, broadcast by the BBC from King’s School Chapel each Christmas Eve is, for many people, the soundtrack to last-minute present-wrapping and turkey stuffing, so it’s no shock to be taught Cambridge takes its Christmas festivities severely.

The buildup begins in earnest with the arrival of the Christmas market at Metropolis Corridor, the place you’ll discover about 60 stalls promoting items, crafts and meals, accompanied by carol singers, bell ringers and a brass band (9-10 Dec). The slim metropolis centre streets are house to dozens of impartial retailers. Reverse Trinity School you’ll discover Cambridge establishment Heffer’s, a one-stop store for books, stationery, music and an excellent number of board video games. Podarok in Bene’t Avenue is the place to go for charming felt tree decorations and stocking fillers, whereas the present store at Kettle’s Yard deserves particular point out for its number of inspiring artwork books and craft kits for adults and kids. Fill up on Christmas cheese, charcuterie and chutneys on the Cambridge Cheese Firm in All Saints Passage or decide up an genuine Italian panettone at Limoncello deli.


When the sunshine fades, head for Cambridge College Botanic Backyard which has illuminated its fountain, lakes, glasshouses and historic timber for its first ever lights path this winter (chosen dates till 22 Dec, grownup £20.35, little one £13.20, under-3s free).

King’s College Choir rehearses for a Christmas Eve service.
King’s School Choir rehearses for a Christmas Eve service. {Photograph}: Oli Scarff/Getty Photographs

Comparable after-dark occasions may even be going down at two close by Nationwide Belief-owned properties: Anglesey Abbey Gardens will conjure up a winter wonderland with sculptures, songs and projections (weekends till 10 Dec, adults £20, little one £15.50, under-5s free), whereas Wimpole Corridor might be wearing its Christmas finery with festive fare within the cafe, carols within the steady, paper-chain making and an illuminated path by the grounds (till 31 Dec, grownup £19, little one £14.50).

Until you’ve got a connection to the faculty, tickets for the Christmas Eve carol service within the gothic splendour of King’s School Chapel are tougher to come back by than a room on the proverbial inn (you could enter a poll or be ready to start out queueing early for a standby on the day). For an atmospheric different, the Twelfth-century Leper Chapel, often known as the Chapel of St Mary Magdalene, presents an intimate candlelit service in one of many oldest surviving buildings in Cambridge, with the added bonus of mulled wine and mince pies (10 Dec, 4pm and 5pm. Free, however reserving important).


Alternatively, for the final word Cambridge Christmas expertise, you may be part of the Choir from St John the Evangelist on a chauffeured punt as they glide alongside the School backs singing carols (9 Dec, 2.15pm). Tickets for the floating carol service, which is run by Let’s Go Punting and the Conventional Punting Firm and which raises funds for a distinct charity annually, are sure to promote out rapidly, however when you’re close to the river on the afternoon of 9 December, you might be fortunate sufficient to catch a glimpse as they punt by.
The place to remain Jesus School’s West Court docket has doubles with shared bogs from £137 B&B. JO’C


Conwy High Street Conwy Winterfest
A medieval procession throughout Conwy’s Winterfest. {Photograph}: Hollie Harmsworth/Conwy County Borough Council (Observe Movies)

Conwy rivals Chester and York for the title of Britain’s best-preserved medieval city, and it’s magical at Christmas. Guests can stroll the city partitions for the most effective views of the streets, backdropped by Conwy Fort and within the shadow of Eryri (Snowdonia). The unbroken fortifications stretch for three-quarters of a mile, with 21 towers and three authentic gateways (free entry). It’s also potential to stroll an entire circuit across the Unesco-listed citadel’s battlements (grownup £11.70, little one £8.20, under-fives free, open day by day in winter besides 24-26 Dec and 1 Jan).

On 9 December, Conwy returns to its medieval roots with Winterfest. A jester leads a parade by city, adopted by armoured knights carrying blazing torches. Leisure comes from sword fighters, hearth performers, morris dancers, drummers and singers; there’s avenue meals equivalent to roast chestnuts, and late-night buying. Talking of buying, 92.5% of Conwy’s retailers are independents with nice Christmas current potential, together with the Yesteryears toy emporium, Vinomondo high-quality wines and the Knight Store – a historic present store with 40 sorts of sword.

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