Top 10 traditional Christmas events

31 October 2017

From beautiful Christmas lights to winter markets full of gifts to enchanted forests, here are some of Britain’s best festive activities.

1. The Reindeer Centre

Near Ashford, Kent

See farm animals, reptiles, Father Christmas in an animated grotto and more than 100 reindeer. You can even hire one, complete with handler, if you want. 

Santa’s grotto open from 11 Nov – 24 Dec

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2. Longleat Festival of Light

Near Warminster, Wiltshire

It may be more a Far East custom that British, but Longleat celebrates Christmas with an enormous display of Chinese lanterns in the safari-park grounds, along with terracotta army warriors, and a huge dragon boat floating on the lake. More traditionally, there’s also a Santa train, a giant musical Christmas tree, real-life fairy-tale characters and an outdoor ice skating rink. This year, Longleat has taken a selection of well-loved children's stories as its inspiration, and there will be lanterns based on Little Red Riding Hood, The Snow Queen and more.

5 Nov - 7 Jan

The best Christmas West End shows for children

3. Christmas outdoor swims


Great if you want to burn off that extra helping of Christmas pudding. There are numerous events, many on Christmas Day – from a dip in the Serpentine boating lake, London, to braving the waters of the Firth of Forth in Scotland. Dozens of hardy participants take the plunge at each event, often in festive costume.

4. Mousehole Christmas Lights


Some 7,000 lights adorn the small Cornish fishing village. In the past, there’s been a sea serpent, a whale and a giant Christmas stocking. After seeing the lights, it’s traditional to eat a Stargazy Pie in a local pub. Fishes heads poke through the pastry in honour of an old fisherman, who, legend has it, braved a huge storm to bring in his catch and save the starving village.

16 Dec – 6 Jan

5. Chester Christmas Market

You don’t have to go to Germany to find a decent festive fair. The UK has plenty and Chester is one of the best. Last year, 70 stalls situated by the city’s historical town hall and cathedral sold numerous gifts and traditional Christmas food and wine.

16 November - 20 December

More of the UK's best Christmas markets

6. Sail with Santa, River Exe, Devon

An hour-long boat trip in the company of Father Christmas, with face painting, balloon modelling, boat-driving lesson, mulled wine and mince pies. The boat is covered, just in case it snows.

9 December - 22 December

7. Christmas Past, 400 years of Seasonal Traditions in English Houses exhibition  

The Geffrye Museum of the Home, London

A series of rooms will recreate what English homes looked like at Christmas down the ages. Find out why we put up stockings, send cards and kiss under the mistletoe.

21 November – 7 January

8. Illuminated Enchanted Forest

Stockfield Park, North Yorkshire

Walk a trail almost a mile long and see a variety of illuminated animals, magical creatures and mysterious characters. There is also a spectacularly lit lake in the middle of the forest and an ice rink.

Open now until 8 January

9. Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

Hyde Park, London

As well as one of the capital's most stunning open-air ice rinks, Hyde Park Winter Wonderland offers ice ballets, circus performances, thrilling rides and, of course, fantastic food from around the world.

17 November - 1 January

Christmas ice rinks across the UK

10. Christmas Tree Festival

St John’s Church, Stamford

Thirty Christmas trees, decorated by local businesses and charity groups, adorn this charming 15th -century church, which has a roof carved with green men and painted angels.

1 December  - 10 December or visit the Christmas Tree Festival's Facebook page

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