You might have already written your list to Santa and made a start on the shopping, but have you decided where you’re going to spend Christmas this year? If the idea of hours in the company of overindulgent in-laws leaves you a bit hot under the collar, we might have the perfect solution.
These 15 UK destinations have experienced a momentous rise in the number of rental bookings through Holiday Lettings—the UK’s leading holiday rental website—for the festive season. They may not be household names yet, but travellers are becoming more and more interested in taking Christmas getaways to these great destinations. Why not check them out for yourself?
Right in the heart of Northumberland you’ll find the historic market town of Alnwick. It’s widely known as the ‘Windsor of the North’, due to the medieval magnificence of Alnwick Castle and its glorious gardens. For some real Christmas magic, browse the stalls and handmade gifts at the Alnwick Garden Christmas Market. It’s open to the public every weekend from 29 November until 21 December.
Christmas wouldn’t be the same without a naughty tipple or two. The Royal Burgh of Elgin is located in the world-famous whiskey region of Scotland and if you’re in town over Christmas you can visit one of (or all of) the three local whiskey distilleries. As well as being a whiskey drinker’s dream, the town is home to one of Scotland’s most beautiful and Elgin’s ruined cathedral attracts visitors from all over the world. Celebrate Christmas with the Scots, surrounded by Moray’s breath-taking scenery.
A visit to the “city of dreaming spires” will enchant you all year round but in December, the glow from Oxford’s honey-coloured buildings meld beautifully with the warming Christmas lights to create something truly special. For a genuinely illuminating experience, get involved with the free events and activities across the city to celebrate the Christmas Light Festival on Friday 20 November. Shining spectacles include the Lantern Parade procession, which will wind through the streets at 6.30pm.
One of the Cotswolds’ most loved towns, Stow-on-the-Wold wows its visitors with its delightful collection of antique stores and bohemian bistros. In the festive build-up, the quaint streets and ancient market square look like a scene from Christmas card. Get in the spirit on 2 December when the Christmas lights will be switched on in town. The same night you’ll be able to see the opening of the Christmas Tree Festival, where 40 uniquely decorated spruces will be on display in the grand St Edward’s church.
Wales’ capital city has rich cultural heritage as well as some of the best shops for retail therapy. Learn about a thousand years of Welsh history at Cardiff Castle, take a tour around the Millennium Stadium (one of sport’s most futuristic arenas) or take a turn around Bute Park’s 130 acres of landscaped gardens.
During December visitors to Cardiff should descend on City Hall. Outside this Baroque building you can skate around the city’s open ice rink or get into the Christmas spirit at the Family Funfair in the Winter Wonderland.
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Once the spa town of choice for wealthy visitors from the north, Harrogate is still known for its sublime Victorian elegance. Indulge in a luxurious Turkish bath or treat yourself to a spot of afternoon tea. Whatever your weakness, Harrogate has somewhere you can feel spoilt. Between 27 and 30 of November, Harrogate Christmas market returns and promises to be bigger and better than ever. The little ones can let off some steam on one of the Christmas-themed fairground rides while you sample some mulled wine or stock up on your seasonal cheeses and Yorkshire chutney.
With world-famous buildings and tonnes of characterful medieval architecture, there’s little wonder that Canterbury is one of the most visited destinations in the United Kingdom. Find out about the city’s unique heritage with a tour along the River Stour, visit Canterbury Cathedral and retrace the footsteps of Thomas Becket or discover its ruined castle, which is amongst the most ancient in Britain. As well as hosting a prestigious Christmas market, Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre will be showing performances of Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs throughout the whole of December; the kids will love it.
Norwich in East Anglia is the UK’s most easterly city and has a unique character all of its own. After a stroll around its ancient buildings and cobbled streets, you wouldn’t be surprised that Norwich used to be England’s largest city behind London in the 11th century. Today it’s a lively and cosmopolitan city, ideal for a short stay or a base to explore the nearby Norfolk Broads. Get that tingly feeling only Christmas carols can give you by taking in a performance by the angelic choir at Norwich’s imposing cathedral. Their procession on Christmas Eve draws crowds from far and wide every year.
Originally a safe haven for seafarers escaping the wiles of the North Atlantic, Belfast has developed into one of the world’s leading cities during the industrial revolution. Now a friendly and welcoming city, Belfast is packed with historic attractions, must-see museums and hundreds of fantastic places to eat and drink. From 14 November right through until 20 December, the grounds of City Hall will be transformed to host Belfast’s annual Christmas market. On offer will be handmade gifts, Belgian chocolates and even freshly cooked wild boar burgers.
Sitting at the tip of the spectacular Brecon Beacons National Park is the small market town of Hay-on-Wye. ‘Hay’ (as it’s colloquially known) is a bibliophile’s paradise, with almost 40 quirky book shops scattered across the official ‘National Book Town of Wales’. On the last weekend of November, literary enthusiasts will descend on Hay-on-Wye for the 16th annual Hay Festival Winter Weekend to listen to readings of stellar stories, drink mulled wine and enjoy live music at the wonderfully atmospheric Hay Castle.
Often described as ‘the capital of the Cotswolds’, Cirencester was Britain’s largest town during Roman times. The Gloucestershire market town contains an eclectic mix of buildings spanning several centuries, with the magnificent Parish Church of St John Baptist emerging out of the market square like an ecclesiastical jewel. Experience that cosy Yuletide feeling on Thursday 10 December at the Corinium Museum Cinema. They’ll be showing the 1954 classic White Christmas starring Bing Crosby.
The historic city of Chichester is nestled between the unblemished South Downs National Park and the rugged coastline around Chichester Harbour. Lose whole days exploring the city’s stunning 12th-century cathedral, or learning about Roman Britain at the nearby Fishbourne Roman Palace and Gardens. If you love retail therapy, a stroll through Chichester’s elegant Georgian shopping centre will certainly hit the spot. It’s the perfect place to pick up some last-minute Christmas trinkets ahead of the big day.
Peebles is a petite royal burgh along the banks of the River Tweed in the scenic Scottish Borders with handsome golf courses, plenty of sweeping valleys and pretty streams for mountain biking and rural rambling. Peebles is also the ideal place for salmon fishing and the town’s motto is “Against the stream they multiply”, so enthusiastic anglers are likely to land a decent catch. For a real spectacle, make sure you’re on Peebles High Street on Thursday 3 December for the big Christmas lights switch on.
Just a few miles south of Hadrian’s Wall you’ll find one of Northern England’s true hidden gems. The handsome market town of Hexham has been impressing visitors for decades. Explore the winding streets to find some of the area’s finest independent boutiques or, if you’re really lucky, stumble upon the superb farmer’s market in full swing. If you’re in Hexham on Christmas Eve, we highly recommend a trip to Hexham Abbey for a traditional Christmas Carol service.
Portstewart is one of Northern Ireland most-loved holiday hangouts. Travellers come to these shores searching for a bracing sea breeze and idyllic golden sands. Delight in a stroll along Portstewart Strand (protected by the National Trust), enjoying spectacular views of the rugged north coast. Take the little ones along to Portstewart children’s Christmas workshops on Saturday 28 November and 5 December. They’ll adore crafting their own gifts and decorations whilst singing a few well-known Christmas ditties.
Are you more interested in a popular, tried-and-true Christmas getaway? Check out our post “10 Most Popular UK Holiday Spots To Cosy Up For Christmas.”