The historic and scenic city of Winchester has much to offer the Christmas shopper looking for something a little different. The variety of shops on Winchester’s high street will ensure you get all those presents for your friends who already have everything. And the Christmas Markets held from 17 November to 12 December, are an unmissable chance to treat yourself and your loved ones. There are over 80 exhibits and delicious food from all over Europe, and this year for the first time, there will be a crafts village selling unusual and imaginative gifts. And with live music from choirs and bands, the markets are a brilliant day out.
There are plenty of fine hotels to rest your exhausted body; the Hotel du Vin offers luxury food and a spa in an original setting. There are seemingly endless treatments available, from skin care and body therapies, to hair removal and henna tattooing. The champagne bar and bistro serves fresh and local european cuisine, and you’ll love the stylish and bright bedrooms that provide the perfect base for your Winchester weekend break.
For a rustic escape, why not book a rural self-catering cottage in the Welsh countryside. There are cottages and villas all over Wales, from Pembrokeshire to Snowdonia. Try Quality Cottages for a tranquil retreat that will be a home away from home. They carefully evaluate the cottages to ensure they meet their high standards of location, beauty and overall ambience. Your weekend could see you waking up to fantastic views of magnificant snow-capped mountains, and watching the wildlife out the window as you prepare a full English breakfast of tasty local eggs and bacon.
Wales is a land of contrasts and also has the only coastal National Park in the United Kingdom influenced by the Gulf Stream, making a mild Atlantic climate for year round holidays. The infinite landscape, seascapes and skyscapes have inpired many great artists and photographers.
If mountain hikes sound a little too energetic, you can choose to spend the day roaming around the old churches and ancient castles. There are many in Wales offering guided tours and the Christmas decorations are sure to get you in the spirit. Or, if you just want to relax and refresh yourself away from the stress of city life, you could take a walk through a lush river valley
If you want some pampering, a weekend stay at a health spa will get you into the right headspace. Leicester’s luxury spa resort Ragdale Hall, is an excellent choice. Set in breathtaking surroundings, they offer a wide selection of fabulous treatments. You can spend the morning indulging in one of the many treatments or activities, before settling down for a scrumptious lunch.
If you want some exercise, the tennis courts offer some active relief from the Christmas excess. Or if you don’t fancy braving the frosty outdoors, the fitness suite will get your legs pumping and heart thumping. Alternatively, you can opt to snuggle up with afternoon tea and mince pies inside next to the open fire.
Big city break
The enchantment of Christmas is always amplified by the thrill of the capital city. Combine a visit to the Oxford Street and Regent Street shops with an evening visit to the Christmas lights. The darkness makes everything more magical, so even window shopping in Hamleys, Harrods and Selfridges will envelope you in the festive spirit.
For fairytale magic at its peak the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park offers the biggest ice rink in the city, late-night German markets, a 55m observation wheel, a toboggan slide, choir singing, and many more attractions to entice and excite visitors of all ages.
For a centrally located hotel try The Darlington in Hyde Park, a former stately Victorian terraced townhouse conversion, offering a high standard of accommodation with modern facilities including flat-screen televisions and wi-fi.