Whether you want winter sun, turkey and all the trimmings or a romantic escape, these Christmas breaks will have you saying ho-ho-ho over the holidays
Traditional British Christmas
Christmas tree by the bed, carols by a roaring fire, midnight mass, Santa dishing out gifts, board games, festive films and black-tie gala dinners. Enjoy the perfect British Christmas in the dreamiest country-house hotel setting, and there’s even a chance of snow this far north. Three nights, 24-27 December, from £640pp, full board, including afternoon tea on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day gift, gala dinners on Christmas and Boxing Day, and some drinks. Child’s rates available. Decorated Christmas trees in your room from £60.
Swinton Park, 01765 680900, www.swintonpark.com
Shop ‘til you drop holidays
If you’re a last-minute Christmas shopper, or want to be first in the queue for the sales, the five-star Hyatt Churchill is for you. Mere seconds from M&S Marble Arch and Selfridges, along with the rest of the Oxford Street offerings, you’ll not have far to stumble after your Christmas shopping. Back at the Hyatt Churchill, luxuriate in the grand Montagu Restaurant or the cosy wood-panelled Churchill Bar. Or pop over to Hyde Park, just a five-minute walk away, for ice skating and the Winter Wonderland market and fair. Three nights, 24-27 December, from £497pp, half board with Christmas meals.
Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill, +44 20 7486 5800, www.london.churchill.hyatt.com
Bond-style Boxing Day
Glam it up over the holidays at stately home Hartwell House. Start with a black-tie Champagne reception in the elegant Georgian and Gothic drawing rooms on Christmas Eve. Then recover on Christmas Day, gliding down the carved Jacobean staircase to open presents by the Christmas tree and roaring fire. Spend Boxing Day being pampered in the spa before donning your most elegant attire for a thrilling Boxing Day casino evening. Doubles over Christmas from £180pp, B&B, including use of spa. Other meals extra. Boxing Day dinner and casino evening, £65pp.
Hartwell House, +44 (0)1296 747444, www.hartwell-house.com
Festive Highland fling
Take the extended family and even the dog to this six-bedroom Victorian house in the Scottish Highlands. Glenbardie house in Aberdeenshire has a large well-equipped kitchen and spacious lounge with open fire. After opening presents, send the kids on a treasure hunt through the walled garden and small tower room, or to play pool in the games room. If the snow hits, you’re not far from the Scottish ski resorts, and the Cairngorns, Balmoral Castle and the Whisky and Heritage Trails are nearby, too. Seven nights from 21 December, £2,000, sleeps 12 (£166pp), self-catering.
Hoseasons, 0844 847 1100, www.hoseasons.co.uk, have more than 12,000 self-catering properties in Britain, Ireland and Europe.
Stylish seasons greetings
Leave the Christmas twee behind for an eco-break for luxury lovers. The new Scarlet Hotel in Cornwall is the UK’s most stylish eco-hotel, with as many design credentials as environmental ones. Grey-water harvesting, biomass heating, natural saltwater pool and more make this place a hit with style-conscious greenies. But forget trad Christmas chintz over the holidays. Instead, expect Michelin-quality modern cooking with a seasonal spin, log-fired outdoor hot-tub pods overlooking the sea and Ibiza-esque chill-out areas. Four-night Christmas break from £730pp, half board.
Scarlet Hotel, 01637 861800, www.scarlethotel.co.uk
Romantic winter-sun retreat
Bid festive farewell to the kids, chaos and Queen’s speech, and head south to one of the world’s most romantic resorts. Ponta Dos Ganchos in stunning Florianopolis is the place to get your seasonal dose of sun, sea and Santa – without the saccharine. Lounge in your rainforest-cloaked villa with private plunge pool, or go for a swim at the resort’s private sandy beach. Visit the local markets and Santa House in the nearby villages, then head back to the resort for a traditional Brazilian Christmas Eve meal. You’ll be served festive cocktails on Ponta Dos Ganchos’ small private island before feasting at its beachside restaurant. Four nights, 23-27 December, from R$4,470pp, full board.
Ponta dos Ganchos, near Florianopolis, Brazil, +44 (0)20 7580 2663, www.pontadosganchos.com.br
Experience an Italian Christmas in a beautiful 16th-century country-house hotel. Take Masseria Torre Coccaro’s Vespa to the nearby villages, where you’ll find live nativities and Christmas markets selling artisanal goods, or visit the hotel’s own nativity scene, set in its a cave. Christmas Eve is the most important day in Italian celebrations, and you’ll be served a traditional Italian Christmas meal, including fresh seafood, pasta and pannetone, by the fireside before midnight mass in a local village. With temperatures in the mid-teens, on Boxing Day, you can soak up the sun by the hotel’s beautiful heated pools or on the nearby beaches. Three nights from €262pp, B&B.
Masseria Torre Coccaro, +39 080.482.93.10, www.masseriatorrecoccaro.com
Bright white Christmas
Be dazzled by the world’s largest live Christmas tree, a 20-metre-tall sequoia twinkling with 70,000 fairy lights. Better still, it’s in a stunning, snowy mountain setting in front of Grand Resort Bad Ragaz in the eastern Swiss Alps. Overindulged at the Christmas Eve feast? The huge 5,500 square-metre wellness centre should sort you out. Then take in a Christmas concert in the village – or hit the slopes for a 7km Boxing Day sleigh ride. Doubles from €138pp, room only.
Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, Bad Ragaz, Switzerland, +41(0)81 303 3030, www.resortragaz.ch
Young families will be in Christmas heaven in Savalen, Norway. With guaranteed snow, private visits with Santa, a morning spent in his workshop, meeting Rudolph and Santa’s other helpers, kid-friendly winter Olympics (kick sledding, festive obstacle course, etc), snowmobile ride, husky safari and horse-drawn sleigh ride, this is every tot’s Christmas fantasy come true. Four nights from £995 per adult, £795 per child, full board, including flights from London Heathrow and some activities.
Activities Abroad, 01670 789991, www.activitiesabroad.co.uk
Christmas bargain holiday
All over the world
You want to spend Christmas in the country? Someone else wants your flat in the city. Or maybe your two-up, two-down in the suburbs is just around the corner from someone else’s in-laws. Plenty of people do home exchanges over the holidays, saving everyone a bundle. It’s a simple idea that’s hugely popular in Credit Crunch Britain – and you could end up staying in some wonderful places, from a three-bedroom house in Rugby, to a ski chalet in Switzerland [link: http://www.homebase-hols.com/ihea/houseinfo.cfm?id=21168], or even a four-bedroom house in Dubai. Membership costs £29 for one year.
Homebase Holidays has 2,300 members with homes in 68 countries around the world. www.homebase-hols.com
Tips for Christmas getaways
1 Book as far in advance as possible – most places get booked up quickly for Christmas
2 Ask the hotel if you can have your shopping delivered to them, then do your shopping online, and it’ll be waiting for you on arrival.
3 Don’t forget to pack tape, scissors and gift wrap – better to wrap on arrival to avoid mushed packages.
4 You can get some real bargains at Christmas at luxury city hotels that cater to business people, so try these if you need to stay near family or if you want a city Christmas.
5 If you’re going abroad at Christmas, make sure to check what the opening hours are for shops, etc, or you could be stranded with nothing to do for days on end.