Do you leave it all to the last minute? The Christmas shopping, I mean? I do. Don’t worry, you still have plenty of time to catch lots of Christmas Fairs in historic settings where you will get original gifts and sometimes a glass of hot wine and carols thrown in. Here are my top 10 tips:
The Bauble Barn is a fantastica of Christmas decorations, everything you need to make your celebrations sparkle. Next door is the Toy Box, offering traditional toys and games. You’ll be unable to resist popping in to Doddington’s other shops for gifts for the home, outdoors, cycle accessories and lots of seasonal food and drink. All right next to the tall Tudor house where there are special booked tours on December weekends.
Apart from the fabulous light show in the frosty winter at Alnwick Garden, there is also a regular Christmas Fair throughout December with late shopping on Wednesdays till 8pm. It’s free to enter (unless you go to the Garden as well) and your shopping angst will be lightened with live seasonal music and singing. Gifts are locally sourced from the bounty of Northumberland so you’ll find local preserves, tweeds, crafts and the famous Lindisfarne Mead and liqueurs. 3 & 4 Dec, 17 to 22 Dec 10.30-5pm, Wed till 8pm.
The Alnwick Garden
The castle courtyard will be filled with 155 stalls selling a huge range of gifts and stocking fillers from 1 to 4 December. You’ll need plenty of time to browse so you’ll be able to make the most of the restaurants or celebrate your success in the champagne bar. Park in the village for free and catch the shuttle bus to the castle any time after 10.30.
The Leeds Castle Christmas Market is a much anticipated annual event covering the Cedar Lawn overlooking the Castle. Go here not just for shopping but for a great family day out, there are fairground rides and reindeer, birds of prey and music to keep you cheery. You can’t fail to find all your Christmas presents here but don’t miss the view of the castle in the winter twilight from the top of the big wheel. Open 3 & 4, 10 & 11, 17 & 18, 22 & 23 December, 10 – 5pm.
The annual Christmas Fayre is held in the Great Hall at Stirling Castle on Tuesday 6 December at 6pm. There will be stalls for local crafts, food and drink, perfect for bringing a truly Scottish flavour to your Christmas. There is an entrance fee of £6 per adult but that gives you access to probably the greatest Renaissance interior in Scotland, a fine setting for your shopping with Christmas music as well.
The dedicated Christmas Shop opens all month until 20 December in the Old Brewhouse, Wednesday to Sunday, so you have plenty of time to do your shopping. There will be an exciting range of gifts and decorations and parking and entrance is free. You can lunch in the Orangery café or revive yourself with strong coffee or tea.
The new shop in the courtyard at Holkham in Norfolk is definitely worth a visit for its Christmas range this year. There is a selection of works by local artists and artisans as well as gifts for dogs and dog lovers, so finding something unique will not be a problem. Many of the Christmas decorations and candles available will also feature in this year’s decoration of Holkham Hall.
Over 100 stallholders gather at Aberglasney on 2, 3 & 4 December offering crafts, homeware, toiletries and clothing. Warm up with mulled wine or spiced apple juice and a mince pie, included in your £8.50 adult entrance fee. There are events for kids and I hear that Santa may be hiding out in the exotic Ninfarium glasshouse at weekends.
Aberglasney Winter Fair
Now in its fourth year, the Sandon Hall Christmas Fair is generating a buzz. It’s a great day out with stalls selling gifts, food and toys, carol singers and a live band playing Christmas hits all in this lovely Jacobean mansion with its 50 acre gardens. There is mulled wine and mince pies and a licenced bar. Head for Sandon for the weekend of 3 & 4 December between 10 and 5pm.
A weekend food and craft Fair for Christmas at the Home Farm at Tyntesfield is a good way to make sure your gifts are truly local. You’ll find everything from fine cheeses to jewellery and ceramics to tempt you. Turn up between 10 and 3pm on 3 & 4 December, free entrance.
Tyntesfield House, A Victorian Christmas