If you’re looking for somewhere special to escape the high street crowds this Christmas, look no further than the National Trust.
See historic houses decked out for the season in the style of centuries gone by, or stroll through frosty winter gardens covered in sparkling lights.
For or something a bit different this year, check out the Regency-inspired celebrations at Lyme, or head to Dunham Massey’s amazing illuminated garden. After that, warm yourself with the knowledge that each magical day out supports the National Trust’s work as a charity looking after special places for future generations to enjoy.
Here are the National Trust’s pick of the best places to feel festive in the North West this year:
Christmas illuminations at Dunham Massey ©National Trust Images/Mike King
Festive lights in the night
Until 30 December, see website for times.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at Dunham Massey, and the gardens are all aglow with light. This is the second year of Dunham’s biggest and brightest festive event, and there are plenty of new surprises in store. Follow the sparkling path as it winds through the woods to see the canopy illuminated with shards of light and hung with snowflakes and sparkling baubles – not to mention the spectacular water feature finale. Afterwards warm up with your favourite winter tipple, or enjoy some toasted marshmallows around one of the fire pits while the aroma of roasted chestnuts fills the air.
Price: Adult £16.50, child aged 5–16 £10 (under 5s free), family (2 adults & 2 children) £50. Additional charge for refreshments. Booking essential via the website.
The house illuminated for Christmas at Dunham Massey ©National Trust Images/Mike King
A Regency Christmas
Friday–Monday until 24 December, 11am–3pm
If you think a month of festivities at Christmas is a modern phenomenon, think again.
During the Regency, the season was celebrated over six weeks of revelry and parties. Experience a Regency style Christmas, with each room of the house setting the scene for a different celebration. From Stir Up Sunday and St. Nicholas Day all the way through to Twelfth Night, get in the festive spirit with dancing, singing and decorations.
Family visitors at Speke Hall, Liverpool, at Christmas ©National Trust Images/Mike King
Decking the hall – Victorian style
Until 9 December, see website for times and dates
Step back in time to experience the sights, sounds and smells of a Victorian Christmas with carols, sugar mice making, Christmas trails and traditional decorations. Head to the weekend market and pick up the perfect gift with a chance to join the tinsel toddle or bring your four-legged friend for the rudog dash.
Little Moreton Hall
Start your visit with a warm spiced drink and ginger biscuit while you explore the dazzling Yuletide decorations. At the weekends, the Great Hall will come to life with live music, choir singing, storytelling and jesters, a fitting way to honour the grandeur of a Tudor Christmas.
Visitors exploring the garden in winter at Quarry Bank Mill ©National Trust Images/Mike King
Once upon a winter’s day…
Until 6 January
Get lost in traditional stories at Quarry Bank this Christmas. Explore the mill, gardens and houses to re-discover festive classics such as A Christmas Carol, The Nutcracker and The Snow Queen, or head to the Apprentice House for a special Christmas tour. Afterwards, cosy up in the mill and garden cafés with a hearty stew or warming hot chocolate or indulge in all your festive favourites, from mince pies to gingerbread men.
Rufford Old Hall
Start a new festive tradition
Until 16 December, see website for times and dates
Soak up the atmosphere in the Tudor Great Hall and listen to live music, join in with carol singing or put on your dancing shoes and join Regency Rejigged for lively Victorian dances. You can also learn how Rufford’s decorations are made at a special workshop, with a guided tour of the house and festive lunch to get inspiration before making your own wreath to take home.
Food, glorious food
Until 23 December, see website for times and dates
Enter the magical Christmas Mansion, decorated with fresh foliage and colourful decorations inspired by the theme 'Food Glorious Food'. Special lighting and seasonal music adds to the festive atmosphere as you work your way through enchanting rooms - from the grandeur of the state rooms through to the servants' quarters. There's even a special festive treat awaiting you at the end.
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without presents for loved ones and National Trust gifts are packed with feel-good appeal. Pick up the perfect gift for foodies such as Bucks Fizz marmalade, exclusive to the National Trust, or the Book of Scones for the bakers in your life. Give a gift for nature too with a nesting pocket, made from natural fibres so each one is as unique as the person it’s for. 100% of the profits from every sale in the shops help the Trust look after the special places in its care, for ever, for everyone and for many more Christmases to come.