The UK’s best socially distanced Christmas events and attractions

Helen Coffey
·6-min read
Try an illuminated Christmas trail at Blenheim Palace (Blenheim Palace)
Try an illuminated Christmas trail at Blenheim Palace (Blenheim Palace)

In a normal December, Christmas-themed events, markets, dinners, attractions and more would be taking place up and down the country to get even the most cynical of Grinches in the festive spirit.

This year, the pandemic and accompanying restrictions have disrupted plenty of plans – particularly those that would normally take place indoors.

Despite this, there are still plenty of wintery activities going ahead, with adjustments made to comply with the new rules.

Here are some of the best socially distanced events taking place this month to get you in the mood.

England is currently operating a three-tier system. Click here to find out what the rules are for your tier.

Ashridge House, Hertfordshire

Want to dine out with loved ones but don’t fancy risking it jammed in a restaurant with a load of strangers? The Enchanted Garden Globes at Ashridge House in Hertfordshire offers the ideal socially distanced experience. Set outside the majestic stately home, once a royal residence for Henry VIII, the transparent domes come with heaters and blankets to keep guests warm, and are given the fully festive treatment with décor that marries Scandi chic with Christmas foliage. Diners receive a four or five-course meal, prosecco and wine, plus have access to an illuminated woodland walk after their meal.

The globes seat six and cost £90pp for lunch or £155pp for dinner (based on full occupancy) and are available to book throughout December and January.

ashridgehouse.org.uk/christmas

Ashridge House Christmas globesAshridge House
Ashridge House Christmas globesAshridge House

Nordic Spirit Experience, Vauxhall, London

It may not be possible to fly off to Norway this winter for a gander at the Northern Lights, but you can make-believe at Vauxhall Food and Beer Garden, which this year is hosting a new Covid-secure event inspired by all things Nordic. Fir trees covered in “snow”, projections of the aurora, fire pits for toasting marshmallows and a whole load of wintery street food options await. Cocktails and drinks are also available, to a backdrop of live bands. To reduce contact, guests can order food and drink and pay for it via an app.

Bottomless tickets cost £40pp, which includes a sharing platter per table and one hour of bottomless Steins or Christmas cocktails. Open daily throughout December.

designmynight.com

Expect live music at the Nordic Spirit ExperienceNordic Spirit Experience
Expect live music at the Nordic Spirit ExperienceNordic Spirit Experience

Brighton Open Air Theatre, Brighton

Instead of piling into a theatre for a Panto, Brighton Open Air Theatre does what it says on the tin and allows audiences to enjoy a spot of Covid-safe culture in the great outdoors. There are two Christmas productions on offer – choose between Hansel and Gretel? (A Postmodern Pantomime) or The Snow Queen, both running from 8-24 December. Seating is socially distanced and attendees are advised to wrap up warm and take blankets, umbrellas and something dry to sit on.

Full-price tickets cost £15pp.

brightonopenairtheatre.co.uk

Hampton Court ice rink, Richmond-Upon-Thames

Combine a skate with top-notch views of Henry VIII's former residence at Hampton Court Palace’s open-air ice rink. Open from 5 December to 17 January, the rink has festive refreshments and skating aids can be booked for kids, with a choice of penguin or dolphin. Sessions last for 45 minutes; adult tickets cost £16.

hamptoncourtpalaceicerink.co.uk

Go skating at Hampton CourtHampton Court
Go skating at Hampton CourtHampton Court

Film Bath, Bath

Catch one of nine art-house films in Bath without entering a cinema. Film Bath is screening Supernova, Nomadland and Farewell Amor, among others, at Green Park Station, an outdoor space that’s under cover (no one’s going to rain on this particular parade). They’ll provide a 26-foot screen, cinema-quality projector, heaters, personal broadcast receivers that you plug into for the audio, plus chairs. All viewers need to bring is a mask, headphones and blankets and winter clothes to wrap up warm.

Films are being screened from 11 to 16 December; full-price tickets cost £12.

filmbath.org.uk

Carols on the doorstep, UK-wide

On 16 December, Brits are being encouraged to stand on their doorstep – much like they did during the weekly Clap for Carers event – and join in with an hour of lusty carol singing. The idea for the event started in Shropshire, but it’s now gone nationwide. The aim is to get as many radio stations as possible to broadcast the backing tracks so that people can sing along from 6-7pm, and participants are also invited to donate a minimum of £2 to mental health charity Mind to take part.

Find out if your local area is involved on the doorstepcarols.co.uk website. You can also access words and sheet music for the carols.

Winter Illuminations at Stockeld Park, North Yorkshire

Stockeld Park is lit up for winterStockeld Park
Stockeld Park is lit up for winterStockeld Park

Set in the grounds of the historic Stockeld Park Estate, located just outside of the spa town of Harrogate in North Yorkshire, this illumination show combines light effects, soundscape and animated installations over almost a mile of ancient woodland. The all-age event takes place from dusk and runs from 21 November to 3 January. There’s also a Santa’s Grotto, a light show over the lake, and a silver band performing on weekends throughout December.

An illuminations-only ticket costs £16.

stockeldpark.co.uk

Virtual Christmas markets, England-wide

December would normally be rife with Christmas markets. This year, for those that don’t have access to one but fancy buying presents from local businesses rather than Amazon, VisitEngland is recommending checking out virtual shopping opportunities, including the Peak District & Derbyshire virtual market; the Bath Christmas market; the 1066 Country Christmas Shop; Wiltshire’s Vale of Pewsey Christmas market; the gourmet online shopping experience from Blenheim Palace; festive treats from Chawton House; and the Big West Sussex Festive Shopping Spree. For more ideas on how to support and shop local, visit visitengland.com.

Christmas at Stourhead, Wiltshire

They’ve pulled out all the stops at Stourhead, a National Trust property set in extensive grounds. Giant luminescent sculptures await, as does a Crocus Lawn of larger than life glowing flora, a Heart Walk lined with lit-up trees, a “scented fire garden” (whatever that may be) and a 50m tunnel of 100,000 lights. Mulled wine and hot chocolate are also available (for an extra charge) to warm up chilly strollers.

Running 4 December to 3 January; adult tickets £19, child tickets £13.

christmasatstourhead.co.uk

Illuminated Light Trail at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire

Blenheim Palace Christmas illuminationsBlenheim Palace
Blenheim Palace Christmas illuminationsBlenheim Palace

This illuminated winter walk features lasers and light projections, plus a new installation, Heart of Stars, that scatters light beams over the lawns. There are colour-changing neon tunnels, too, all set to a festive soundtrack – and a backdrop of Blenheim Palace, a World Heritage Site. Those who want to venture inside the palace, decked out in its Christmas finery, may do so but this requires a separate ticket.

Light trail runs from 4 December to 3 January; adult tickets from £19.

blenheimpalace.com

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