There’s something really special about visiting a National Trust property near Christmas time. Each property is so unique that the teams at each estate are able to install truly creative and magical displays, with no two the same! We travel all year round with our pet sitting business, but we especially love covering as much of the UK as we can at this time of year, in order to squeeze in multiple festive NT experiences! Read on for our top picks to celebrate Christmas in style at the National Trust.

Decorated houses

National Trust properties all across the UK have a festive makeover for the season. We loved our December visit to Kingston Lacey, Dorset, where there’s an elegantly decorated Christmas tree in every room! The house completely transforms in Winter, with decorations in each room giving a nod to a different magical story as you move through the property. The twinkling lights on the trees and classy installations are simply breath-taking.

Another must-visit is Cotehele, Cornwall, where each year the estate gardeners build a 60-foot-long garland with thousands of flowers. The construction of the garland begins in January each year, when seeds are sown in Cotehele’s cut flower garden to bloom into flowers that will eventually create the garland. This has been a tradition at Cotehele since 1956, and the handmade garland has adorned the Great Hall each year since.

At Ickworth, Suffolk, the Rotunda inside the Italianate garden transports guests back to the Georgian period with immersive theatrical staging and lavish dining sets. Think cut crystal glasses, flickering candlelight and paper crowns – all very Bridgerton-esque! We loved finishing off our visit here with a wander through the Ickworth Light Night display – more on those below.

For another immersive experience, head to Mottisfont, Hampshire, to discover the ‘Christmas Journey to the North Pole’. The festive season at Mottisfont is always spectacular – towering Christmas trees bursting with colourful ornaments, staged Christmas scenes in the bedrooms, and perfectly-wrapped presents decorating rooms all throughout the property. This year you’ll find Father Christmas’ study, his desk piled high with letters from children, and his coat adorning the back of his chair. A magical experience for all the family!

See all National Trust properties decorated for Christmas here.

Lights and illuminations

As light trails and Winter illuminations grow in popularity, we’re so happy to see more of these festive events popping up at National Trust places! Luminate at Shugborough, Staffordshire is a spectacular mile-long trail through the historic grounds of the Shugborough Estate, with an array of lights and illuminations accompanied by light music for a fabulous Winter experience. There’s festive games for little ones, and a fire pit for toasting marshmallows as well as food and hot drinks available to keep you warm as you wander the trail.

Dunham Massey, Cheshire, brings visitors from miles around each year as its phenomenal light trail is not to be missed! The incredible variety of illuminations and unusual displays are what makes this event so special – from the ginormous, illuminated deer to the Wintery projections on the side of the house, and the various light tunnels bringing delight to visitors of all ages. Chandeliers adorn parts of the trail, while projections dance across the lawn and colour-changing batons beam light into the Winter skies. There are fairground rides for children and refreshments available at various points along the route.

At Blickling, Norfolk, the ‘Wild Winter After Dark’ event is a gentler way to enjoy Christmas lights. The trail begins at the walled garden before heading into the main garden, illuminated with bright colours and lights. Where other trails wind through woodland and can feel more crowded, the open space at Blickling makes for a soothing journey through the installations, as nature sounds play and the scent of the trees in the colourfully-lit arboretum fill your nostrils. When you need to warm your cockles, head to the plane tree ground where you’ll find a warming cup of mulled wine or spiced apple juice, and a mince pie or gingerbread man!

See all National Trust properties with light displays here.

Visit Father Christmas

For little ones, and those who still want to believe(!), Father Christmas visits a handful of National Trust properties each year. At Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire, families will have the chance to meet the man himself in his festive grotto, where he’ll check his naughty or nice list and give each child a special gift, plus you’ll be able to take a photo together for the perfect festive souvenir!

At Tatton Park, Cheshire, visitors will find roaming entertainers, live music, choirs and brass bands creating a jolly atmosphere by the Christmas Cafe. There’s another photo opportunity as families are permitted to join Father Christmas in his sleigh, and for another Christmas souvenir there’s a ‘make-your-own reindeer food’ station in the Mill!

Nostell, Yorkshire, offer a more relaxed event with no booking needed to meet the big man in red. Head inside the decorated Georgian house to spot Father Christmas as he wanders between rooms. When you do find him, he’ll be more than happy to stop for a chat and a Christmas selfie while you warm yourselves by the roaring open fire. A fantastic option for those that haven’t managed to grab tickets for the bookable events.

For a more traditional Christmas activity, head to the common room at Lyveden, Leicestershire, to gather round Father Christmas as he regales a Christmas story. The room is decorated in a historically-accurate festive Tudor style, providing the perfect backdrop for a Winter tale.

See all National Trust properties hosting Father Christmas here.

Special events

While festive cheer touches all National Trust properties and grounds, some events are unique to certain places. At Knole, Kent, a sculpture trail inspired by The Snowman story takes place throughout the parkland. 12 Snowman sculptures are waiting to be found, each painted with a different Christmassy design. A fabulous way to entertain little ones, or simply get out and enjoy a walk through the grounds!

Fell Foot, Lake District, is perfectly set up for a dog-friendly, Christmassy day out. While taking your four-legged friend on walkies this Winter, head to one of the historic boathouses which has been transformed into the Santa Paws festive photo studio! You can either bring a festive costume from home for your dog to wear, or rummage through the dressing up box provided to find the perfect accessory for your pooch. A great op-paw-tunity to get Instagram-worthy snaps or a photo for your Christmas card this year!

For those who are more artistically-inclined, Brimham Rocks, Yorkshire, are offering a spectacular backdrop for a Christmas wreath making workshop. Each guest will be able to create their own unique, compostable wreath to use as a festive decoration for their home, using locally sourced flowers and foliage with an easy-to-follow, step-by-step process.

If you’re into edible gifting, guests at Speke Hall, Liverpool, have the opportunity to create your own Christmas cookies! With a dedicated head chef on hand, have fun decorating and coming up with creative designs to gift to friends and family this holiday season.

Additional events throughout the UK

Christmas markets and Winter fairs
All across the country, National Trust properties are playing host to an array of Christmas markets that are great for finding one-of-a-kind, handcrafted gifts for all the family. From hand-knitted scarves to hand-painted cards, there’s something for everyone! Find your nearest market event here.

Christmas tree sales
Picking out your Christmas tree for the season is always a special occasion, and conjures up a lot of nostalgic feelings of childhood! This year, why not head to one of the many National Trust properties offering Christmas tree sales, where the funds from your purchase will go directly to supporting and conserving National Trust properties. At select locations, there are Christmas decorations and gifts available to purchase as well!

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