Chris Rea may have recorded one of the most beloved British Christmas tracks of all time when he lent his deep, gravelly voice to Driving Home for Christmas, but here’s a question for you: is being at home during the festive period actually overrated?
You cook, you clean, you fight, you play weirdly emotionally loaded games of charades; you cook, you clean, you set the table, you fight again.
What if you could have a Christmas with no cooking or cleaning, the absence of any familial drama, replaced instead with pampering, extravagance, and maybe even a turndown service thrown in for good measure?
To live this rather specific dream, you can simply book in to one of Britain’s cosiest luxury hotels this festive season and see out a Yuletide fantasy like no other. No offence to your lovely mum, but Christmas dinner cooked in a Tom Kerridge kitchen does sound awfully tempting and winter walks through the Cotswolds instead of your hometown might make for significantly fewer awkward run-ins with school-year exes.
Here are all the best places to get away this Christmas — they all have availability from December 24 - 26 (as of time of writing), and you have just enough time to break it to your family, so they can process the rejection before Christmas Day.
Babington House, Somerset
Soho Farmhouse may dominate your friends’ Instagram stories every weekend, but this is the original country outpost of Soho House. Set in a grade II listed manor built in 1755, Babington house is nestled in the Somerset countryside, just 30 minutes drive from Bath. The house will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year, and just underwent a series of refurbishments over lockdown, so it’s good as new for your Xmas frolicking.
Babington’s Christmas package promises bauble marbling workshops, Christmas carols in the chapel, a Farm Flowers wreath making workshop, house quiz, and even archery and clay pigeon shooting as part of its Boxing Day games. A proper country Christmas, fit for a royal. Plus, if you want a bit of rest and relaxation after your busy day of clay pigeon shooting, Babington House is home to the original Cowshed spa, “a retreat within a retreat,” as they call it.
Babington has 33 bedrooms set across its Main House, Coach House, Stable Block and Walled Garden, as well as a two-bedroom cabin by the lake. All of the rooms are decorated in a “modern take on classic Georgian interiors”, which feels pretty festive if you ask me. Oh, and there’s an indoor swimming pool, in case you want to take a little Christmas dip.
Stays at Babington House over this period start at £625 a night, sohohouse.com
The Langham, Central London
If you want to experience some well-deserved luxury this Christmas, without scarpering out of the capital, The Langham is one of your best bets. This five-star hotel is a merry place come Christmastime, with festive afternoon-tea experiences based around Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol and live music from the Royal Academy of Music. They even offer a private carol-singing experience.
The iconic hotel is known for award-winning bar Artesian and its creative cocktails, which look far more like potions than booze. It also has a pub-style bar for lighter bites and craft beers, as well as a fine-dining restaurant and private dining option. Expect dishes like whisky-smoked salmon, roast turkey and truffle ‘blanquettes’, and exotic fruit ravioli — just to name a few.
And, if you have forgotten to do any last-minute Christmas shopping for the person you’re staying with — you can just nip out to Oxford Street, right next door.
The Pig at Harlyn Bay, Cornwall
For something a little further afield, consider The Pig at Harlyn Bay. The 15th century house is a short stroll from two beautiful Cornish beaches and a 10-minute drive from the port of Padstow, home to restaurateur Rick Stein (hence the local nickname ‘Padstein’). The Pig has a range of rooms — all straight out of a British farmhouse fantasy — starting with “Extremely Small Room” all the way up to the “Even Bigger Comfy Luxe Room”, as well as romantic rooms set in wagons within the peaceful gardens.
The Pig has become so popular that there is no room at the inn for their other locations, but Harlyn Bay remains available during the festive period — and it’s putting on quite the spread. They promise mulled wine on arrival, a roaring fire, the “ultimate” Christmas Day leftovers grazing supper, and even a present left at the end of your bed come Christmas morning. Plus, because Cornwall is a bit of a schlep for Londoners, The Pig at Harlyn Bay is offering one night’s stay for free (stay for three, get four) to make up for your travel time, as a little Christmas treat.
Corinthia, Central London
This luxury London hotel is just steps from Trafalgar Square and Whitehall, in case you can’t bear to part ways with London for the festive period. Its useful central location is thanks to its previous life as an official government building. Nowadays, the Corinthia boasts an award-winning spa and multiple restaurants, including the first London outpost of Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge.
Kerridge’s Bar and Grill has a special festive menu this season, featuring duck-liver parfait with fig and cherry chutney, a full Christmas dinner with a sage- and apricot-stuffed turkey, and Kerridge’s own special Christmas pudding. There’s a vegetarian set menu, too, which looks equally delicious.
Guests staying over Christmas Day can expect crackers and baubles, a bottle of Laurent-Perrier La Cuvée Brut Champagne, breakfast for two at The Northall restaurant, and access to the spa. And at said spa, there are even personal trainers offering “Christmas-themed workouts” to help you shed the pounds Tom Kerridge will be responsible for you putting on.
A sprawling country house nestled in the heart of the Surrey Hills, Beaverbrook is extravagance incarnate. The English country house estate promises to put on an absolute showstopper of a Christmas this year, with its own ice-skating rink, live screening of The King’s Speech in the hotel cinema, and Bloody Caesars (move over Mary!) at the hotel bar.
Beaverbrook has two separate restaurants, the Garden House and the Dining Room, as well as the glamorous Sir Frank’s Bar, where festive food can be enjoyed. The Coach House Spa is also open over the Christmas period, offering guests a dip in the pool, steam, or sauna visit during their stay. The historical grounds also make for perfect strolling territory, stretching out for more than 470 acres.
The hotel is offering a stay, dine, and skate package, which encompasses overnight accommodation for two, breakfast, unlimited ice-skating, and a one-time beverage and sweet treat per person, served by the ice-rink.
The stay, dine, and skate package starts at £710 a night over the Christmas period. beaverbrook.co.uk
The Rectory, Wiltshire
This manor house hotel is tucked away in peaceful Malmesbury and comes with its very own pub, the Potting Shed, just across the road — perfect for a midday pint and sandwich roll. The Rectory is the perfect place for those Christmas and Boxing Day strolls — except this time you’ll be moseying through the picturesque Cotswolds instead of a busy London park, flanked by roughly 1,000 dogs and overexcited children.
The Rectory’s Christmas package includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner created by new head chef Rob Weston, formerly of Michelin-starred La Trompette in Chiswick.
The classic rooms with a modern twist feature four-poster beds and free-standing baths, making the ultimate Christmas retreat. Its large sitting rooms, cocktail bar, restaurant, and “hide and seek” English gardens make for a cosy home-from-home feeling. If you’ve always wanted a country home kind of Christmas and never had the opportunity, then The Rectory is your chance.
The Grand, York
For a stay in perhaps the most Christmassy city of all, head to The Grand in York — the city’s only five star hotel. Set in a Grade II listed former railway headquarters, it’s just a stone’s throw York’s station, to make your trip up from London that little bit easier (York is now less than two hours from the capital on typical trains). The Grand has a luxury vaulted spa with a 20-yard swimming pool, hot tub, sauna and steam room and its rooms and suites are spacious, classic and refined, looking out over the rooftops of York.
As well as being in one of the best English cities for Christmas markets, The Grand has its very own little Christmas going on inside. There are festive-themed cookery classes at The Grand’s own cookery school, hot chocolates and Christmas cocktails in their courtyard, which has been decked out with seasonal decor, and a Yuletide twist has been put on The Grand’s award-winning afternoon tea.
And while you may have to do a little travelling, you get the benefit of non-London prices, with stays at The Grand over Christmastime, starting at £484 for two nights.
Staying at The Grand over this period starts at £484, with their festive afternoon tea starting at £39.95 per person, thegrandyork.co.uk
One Aldwych, London
A luxury hotel is right next to some of the best things London has to offer at Christmas: Covent Garden’s Christmas market and Somerset House with its iconic ice rink. Conjured up by the same architects that designed The Ritz, this Edwardian building is home to 105 rooms and suites, a fine dining restaurant, cinema screening room, lobby bar and spa.
It’s known for its Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-themed afternoon tea, which makes One Aldwych a great destination for little ones, and we don’t just mean kids — dogs are welcome to stay at the hotel too, so you don’t have part ways with your pets over Christmas.
The One Aldwych “Most wonderful time of the year” package includes a bottle of champagne on arrival, festive afternoon tea on Christmas eve, Christmas day lunch in Indigo (their fine dining eatery), a full English breakfast each morning and, most importantly, milk, cookies and carrots left out for Father Christmas.
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year festive two-night stay at One Aldwych starts from £3,532, based on two guests sharing a Superior Bedroom, onealdwych.com
Kimpton Fitzroy, London
For your chance to stay at a landmark London hotel (the type you walk past and think, ‘God, what I would give to sleep in one of those rooms’), consider Kimpton Fitzroy in Russell Square. Staying at Kimpton Fitzroy over Christmas isn’t a huge leap from staying at Hogwarts and the place looks like a palace, with 334 rooms and a Grade II listed ballroom. It’s Christmas packages promise to treat guests like royalty.
The Winter Indulgence package includes an overnight stay with breakfast and a festive dinner at Galvin Bar & Grill, the Kimpton’s hotel restaurant featuring menus curated by Michelin starred chefs (and brothers) Chris and Jeff Galvin, as well as a seasonal Boxing Day brunch. And the “All You Can Suite” package allows for a meal at the Galvin Bar and Grill as well as a night in one of the signature suites, plus a £75 food and beverage credit to be used in all outlets and room service. Christmas morning room service, anyone?
Stays at the Kimpton Fitzroy start at £378 a night over the Christmas period, kimptonfitzroylondon.com