The best gourmet Christmas breaks for 2020
This year is looking somewhat different to the norm, so make the most of it and be pampered at a Scottish castle, cosy country pub or seaside b&b
Read our guide to the best gourmet Christmas holidays for 2020. If you're looking for a Christmas getaway for foodies, we've found the best breaks, from Scottish castles to country pubs in Oxfordshire. Whether you fancy a relaxed Christmas dinner, afternoon tea or Boxing Day buffets, we've found something to cater for everyone during these strange times.
The Forest Side, the Lake District
Christmas in the Lake District, you say? Where do we sign up? Check out our favourite Lake District hotels here.
At The Forest Side, is where. You'll find this 170-year-old hotel in Grasmere, it's Gothic splendour framed by the jagged hills and mountains of this Cumbrian national park. Elegant but relaxed and with a cosy, country feel, it's a great shout for those looking to hunker down and put their feet up in between winter walks in one of England's most scenic regions.
The hotel's special festive three-night stay will take care of you from Christmas Eve, when you'll be welcomed with a glass of local sparkling mead and mince pie. Another glass of something bubbly comes alongside entertainment in the lounge at dinnertime, after which you'll be ushered into the restaurant for a four-course tasting menu.
Elasticated waistbands will be key for the big day here, so dig your favourites out before tucking into a laid-back breakfast at your leisure. Lunch involves eight courses and may well require a post-meal nap. Then there'll be homemade gingerbread and a festive quiz in the lounge, before a supper of a hog roast buffet with cheeses and a selection of cakes.
Boxing Day brings with it more of the same food and festivities, including a glass of farewell fizz followed by an indulgent four-course dinner on your last evening.
The Dunstane Houses, Edinburgh
The overall impression of The Dunstane Houses is the antithesis of an anonymous boutique hotel. Dunstane House has bags of personality and personal touches. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly, returning guests are greeted like old friends. It feels like the perfect hybrid: a cosy family-run guesthouse and a sumptuous small hotel.
The hotel’s Ba’ Bar takes its name from the traditional Orcadian street football game. The dark paintwork and mustard velvet chairs and backlit whisky cabinet give it a cosy vibe.
Experience Christmas in Edinburgh with a two-night stay at the hotel including a festive afternoon tea and a candlelit welcome supper come Christmas Eve. Christmas Day is a grand affair starting with a champagne breakfast before a five-course Christmas Day lunch (expect ham hock terrine, roast turkey with all the trimmings followed by chocolate and frangipane tart). Make sure you leave room for a Boxing Day brunch, and then maybe a stroll around the city.
The two-night Edinburgh Christmas Experience costs from £395 per night, including Christmas Eve buffet, champagne breakfast on Christmas Day and five-course Christmas lunch, thedunstane.com. Check availability at booking.com.
Titchwell Manor, Norfolk
Just past Burnham Deepdale, on the Norfolk Coast, you come to Titchwell Manor, a stylish and colourful hotel that puts a contemporary spin on a grand Victorian house. Book in for Christmas and pampering is guaranteed. Arrive on Christmas Eve and you can trot off to the service at nearby St Mary’s Church or just sit back with a cream tea and sherry in front of the hotel’s log fire before listening to carol singers with cocktails, champagne and canapes – and a dinner of modern English dishes (fish caught locally by fisherman Simon Letzer is a must) in the candlelit Conservatory.
Christmas Day begins with a champagne breakfast. Then there’s time for a windswept coastal stroll before Christmas lunch. Take your pick from the informal Eating Rooms or the fine-dining Conservatory; either way you’ll enjoy the likes of chestnut mushroom soup or hand dived scallops, roast Norfolk black leg turkey with all the trimmings or chalk stream trout and grilled bone cream with whole roast carrots. Walk or snooze it off afterwards and then graze on a cold cuts supper in the evening.
After a hearty breakfast on Boxing Day, visit the Rose and Crown at Snettisham – a 700-year-old treasure with log fires and a good range of real ales (pick the zesty, Norfolk-brewed Woodforde’s Wherry to go with some Brancaster oysters and mussels) and head back for your final dinner and night at the manor.
The Green House Hotel, Dorset
If you’re looking for a Christmas by the coast, make a beeline for Dorset’s The Green House, one of the UK’s most decadent eco hotels. Set in a listed Victorian villa, this Bournemouth boutique hotel is a stroll away from the beach.
From the building itself (beds are made using wood from UK trees felled by storms and electricity is generated on site) to the food they serve, everything about this hotel has a sustainable focus.
Visit for a seven-course Christmas lunch using fresh, local food. Start with roast chestnut and apple soup before moving onto Lyme Bay scallops with pig cheek terrine, turkey with creamed sprouts and bacon, sticky ginger cake, mince pies and a locally inspired cheese board. Wines come from Lyme Bay and Haltingley Valley while gin and tonics are made using Dorset’s Conker spirit.
Airds Hotel, Caledonia
If you’re looking for tradition with a Caledonian twist look no further than Airds Hotel. This small luxury hotel in the wilds of Scotland (Port Appin, on the west coast, to be precise) wouldn’t know a third-wave burger, or a plate of cauliflower rice, if it hit them in the face. And is all the better for it.
The hotel is a member of the select Relais & Chateaux group and attractions here are of the timeless kind: log fires, discreet service, floral curtains and views that make you want to set off for a leisurely post-lunch stroll – before returning for a slap-up afternoon tea. The other great plus point is the sense of escapism. If you’re looking for tranquility, this former ferry inn, standing sentry over lochs, castles and lighthouses certainly promises a sense of solitude.
Food, of course, is a major pull. Not least at Christmas when the hotel’s festive packages get booked up early by repeat guests keen to indulge in chef Chris Stanley’s 3-AA rosette cooking.
This year’s festivities begin on Christmas Eve with afternoon tea and cake before a champagne reception with canapés and a candlelit dinner in the evening. Christmas Day starts with a full Scottish breakfast and follows on with a lunchtime snack of mince pies, Christmas cake and mulled wine – and, at 4pm, a full Christmas dinner (expect local seafood, meat and game to feature heavily). If you still have space on Boxing Day begin, again, with a full Scottish breakfast before striding out around the adjacent loch to work up an appetite for another fine dinner.
Lympstone Manor, Devon
If it's a Michelin-star kind of Christmas you're after, get yourself booked into Michael Cains' restored Georgian manor house. Sandwiched between the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Exe Estuary, Lympstone manor is also just a short drive to Dartmoor – making strolling off all that festive fare an attractive proposition. (Dogs are welcome in some rooms too, so there's no need for them to miss out on those next-level walks.)
With this year's three-night Christmas At the Manor package, everything will be taken care of for you, from Christmas Eve right through Boxing Day.
On 24 December there will be mulled wine, mince pies and a live brass band to really get the festive party started, and a wine tasting experience will precede Michael Caines’ signature eight-course tasting menu. Later that evening, there'll be a chauffeured service to Midnight Mass at Exeter Cathedral for those wanting to partake.
Christmas Day will involve a champagne breakfast and a Christmas meal at your preferred time – expect five courses, including Michael’s Mum's famous Christmas pud – while Boxing Day brings with it a relaxed a la carte dinner.
This three-night stay is priced from £869 per night, lympstonemanor.co.uk
Artist Residence, Oxfordshire
In a sleepy village in rural Oxfordshire Justin and Charlie Salisbury, the duo behind quirky Artist Residence hotel group, have restored a 16th century Cotswold-stone farmhouse and opened it as their fourth property, Mr Hanbury’s Masons Arms.
A community-focused pub, with five perfectly put-together bedrooms upstairs, Mr Hanbury’s (the name is a fictional nod to colourful characters associated with the pub historically) is split into two areas – a cosy bar area with a classic pub menu (the heart of South Leigh village life) and a more sophisticated dining room where guests can enjoy a fine dining menu beneath up-cycled crystal decanter lamp shades.
If you’re looking for a countryside Christmas, snuggle up by the roaring fire over a festive break and enjoy a three-course menu, starting with venison carpaccio, pickled radicchio, rocket and parmesan followed by a traditional feast of roast free-range turkey with stuffing and all the trimmings. Finish off with a rich hot chocolate fondant or a classic Christmas pudding with brandy anglaise.
Christmas lunch is £75 per person, artistresidenceoxford.co.uk. Check availability at mrandmrssmith.com.
The Swan, Southwold
The Swan hotel in Southwold dates back to the 1600s. Now owned by Adnams, the family-run brewery and distillery, it reopened in 2017 after an extensive renovation bringing a breath of fresh sea air into the building. There are 35 cheerful bedrooms, a relaxed yet refined restaurant and separate cosy bar area (the Tap Room).
If you’re looking for a seaside getaway this Christmas, head to Suffolk and spend three-nights by the coast feasting on mince pies and mulled wine.
Arrive on Christmas Eve for an afternoon tea in the luxurious Drawing Room before a three-course meal in the evening. If you want to get into the real festive spirit, cosy up the Reading Room where a family-friendly film will be showing (while Christmas elves sprinkle some festive magic over your bedroom).
Christmas Day starts with presents and breakfast (in bed, should you wish) before a four-course lunch – expect turkey plus all the trimmings. Follow this with a brisk beach walk (or a post-lunch nap) before fizz in the evening. End your stay with a Boxing Day Full English breakfast plus a £40 credit to spend in either of the restaurants (choose the Tap Room if you’re after burgers, chips and hearty pub nosh, or the Still Room for more a refined, fish focused menu) before an evening of live jazz.
The Ham Yard Hotel, London
Christmas in London is a special time. As many residents leave, and others are holed up at home, a stillness descends on the city’s historic streets and it’s a beautiful time to amble from restaurant to bar, cinema to gallery. If you’ve got the means, stay in the heart of things at the Ham Yard Hotel and you can enjoy all that traditional magic with a twist of hip urban glamour.
If you have family in tow, it’s a surprisingly family-friendly retreat with large interconnecting suites, children's gifts on arrival designer travel cots and wet wipes thrown in for babies, milk and cookies for younger children and DVDs, popcorn and an hour’s play in the hotel’s bowling alley for older kids. Being a new-build, everything works (no creaky floors or drippy showers), but there’s character, too, thanks to co-owner Kit Kemp’s trademark interiors: colourful, patterned textiles, quirky finds and original artwork. Rooms are as stylish and vivid as the rest of the hotel, with big windows, decadent bathrooms and blissful beds.
And adults are well looked-after too. The softly lit dining room is an atmospheric place to enjoy Christmas lunch; think celeriac soup with truffled cream or Dorset crab with avocado and citrus salad, followed by a traditional Roast Rhug estate organic turkey with caramelised onion stuffing, cranberry and chipolatas. Desserts use seasonal ingredients – try the gingerbread cheesecake with poached apples and tonka bean ice cream.
Glenapp Castle, Ballantrae
As well as ivy-clad turrets and excellent food, there’s one thing Glenapp Castle has plenty of: fresh air. It sits in 36 acres of grounds, all detailed for guests in a beautifully illustrated map. We spent hours watching birds in the Victorian walled garden, admiring views of volcanic island Ailsa Craig, sniffing the candy floss scent of Katsura trees – and chasing the path of a gurgling stream through a wooded glen, rich with deer and the tallest fir trees in Britain.
Glenapp Castle felt like home to us. Despite the grand exterior (it was originally built in 1870 as an imposing family residence for James Hunter, Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Ayrshire), there’s no intimidating reception hall – just a welcoming parlour, with neat piles of wellington boots for guests to borrow, panelled wash rooms, chesterfield sofas and a vintage telephone to use if you need assistance. Up a carpeted staircase and to the left is the drawing room, with stone fireplace and ceiling-high windows that frame a spectacular view of Ailsa Craig (you’ll find granite curling stones from that island propping doors open around the castle).
Spend Christmas there this year and experience a true Scottish feast. On Christmas Eve you’ll be welcomed with afternoon tea in the drawing room while a pianist plays. If you fancy exploring, stroll around the castle’s Italian garden before cosying up by the drawing room’s log fire. A six-course dinner will be served in the evening before a piper sends you off to bed.
Wake up to a Scottish breakfast before a visit to church, or hang back and wait for Santa to deliver home-made mince pies. A four-course lunch will be served in the afternoon with a champagne reception to start, followed by a walk along the coast for those who fancy it. In the evening, a ceilidh band will be playing, and don’t forget your night-cap before heading to bed. Boxing Day starts with another Scottish breakfast, then a chance to try archery and clay pigeon shooting, or just head off to explore the estate. The next morning you’ll have your final breakfast before heading off.
The Scarlet, Cornwall
Every corner of The Scarlet has been designed with its location in mind. Floor-to-ceiling windows frame the views – meadow gardens, cliffs, sand, sea, the most dramatic skies, and sunsets of every shade.
Rooms, which are spread over five levels, come with their own outdoor space and open-plan bathrooms to ensure the connection with the view is never broken. The goosebump-inducing outdoor pool is naturally filtered with reeds, while the indoor pool is heated by solar panels.
If you want a child-free Christmas break, book a four-night stay at the hotel which includes Christmas lunch, afternoon tea, three-course dinners and entertainment (which included a bracing swim in the Cornish sea). Festive afternoon tea is served everyday with homemade cakes, but if you fancy something stronger, join a wine tasting.
Llangoed Hall, Wales
A ‘white palace’ allegedly home to the first Welsh parliament. A Jacobean mansion won in a card game. A family home restored to its former glory by designer Laura Ashley’s family. The site that Llangoed Hall sits on certainly vaunts a colourful history. Now it’s home to a country house hotel with acclaimed restaurant, extensive gardens (walled, rose and fruit among them) and stunning bedrooms.
The dining room at Llangoed Hall is, as expected, a beautifully polished space with more views of the gardens, formal china crockery and fresh flowers in crystal vases on every table. It’s a fine-dining restaurant (water comes with a curl of cucumber, orange, lemon or lime), but the service, though professional, was friendly and welcoming – we never felt rushed, despite taking the last sitting.
Arrive on Christmas Eve and start the celebrations early with a cream tea and Christmas carols. There’ll be a trip to midnight mass if you fancy it, with mince pies and mulled wine to enjoy when you get back. Christmas Day will start with a glass of Bucks Fizz before a six-course lunch followed by coffee and petit fours. If you’re still hungry, you can enjoy a buffet dinner in the evening.
Make sure you leave room for Boxing Day festivities which include a river walk before Christmas cake in the afternoon.
The Torridon Hotel and Inn, Scotland
Sweeping, glacially carved mountains tower behind Loch Torridon. Their golden ridges cut a constantly changing sky and dwarf the tiny strip of white houses that run along the loch’s south-eastern shore. “This place makes the Lake District look like nothing,” says one fellow hotel guest that evening.
The scale, the colours and the wild setting combine to form a powerful panorama that every Brit should witness at least once. Preferably from the cosy comfort of The Torridon, a conical-turreted Victorian hotel where you can perch in the Drawing Room’s bay-window sofa, the fire burning behind you, and gaze out at the loch.
The hotel makes for a peaceful Christmas retreat, with log fires roaring and long walks through the woods post lunch. Arrive on Christmas Eve for a dram of whisky, an afternoon tea including mince pies and scones before a decadent dinner in the evening. Wake up on Christmas Day to a classic breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs or kedgeree, fueling yourself for a walk around the lake shore (or up a mountain if you’re feeling sprightly).
Get back in time for champagne and canapes before a late lunch and games in front of the fire. If you’re still peckish, there’ll be a supper of cheese, nibbles and cake to see you through till the morning.
Boxing Day is just as big an affair, with a full Scottish breakfast (including handmade haggis and a shot of whisky) before a treasure hunt. Finish off with another afternoon tea by the fire, and a traditional buffet of carved meats.
The three-night Christmas stays are fully booked, but rooms across the festive season start at £535 per night, thetorridon.com/hotel