Its time to plan Christmas!

To get you in the mood, we’ve got a cracker of Christmas fairs, feasts and festivals to help inspire your group’s festive season.

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Ideal Home Show at Christmas is now in two cities – London and Manchester. The shows promise shoppers everything they need to prepare their home for the festive season! There are decorations, handcrafted gifts, Christmas puddings and festive fizz, plus furniture and inspiration for New Year home improvements Shop from hundreds of exhibitors across seven sections, including interiors and home accessories, food and drink, home improvements and outdoor living, fashion and beauty, technology and gadgets, and of course a Christmas Arcade – a showcase of the best toys and gifts currently on the market.

Ideal Home Show at Christmas is held in London and Manchester

Ideal Home Show at Christmas is held in London and Manchester

Visitors can enjoy cooking demonstrations and expert It’s time to plan To get you in the mood, we’ve got a cracker of Christmas fairs, feasts and festivals to help inspire your group’s festive season. talks, restaurants and bars. EventCity Manchester – November 10- 13, 2016 Olympia London – November 23-27, 2016 Groups can save up to 40 per cent off advance tickets and receive additional FREE tickets (one per 20 booked). For the Manchester Show early bird tickets are £7 for groups of 10 plus or £6 for groups of £35 plus, going up to £9 and £8 respectively after September 30. For London, tickets vary according to whether weekday or weekend, but start at just £7. To book 10+ tickets, call the Groups Hotline on 0844 412 4650.

www.idealhomeshowchristmas.co.uk COUNTRY LIVING CHRISTMAS FAIRS From decorations and gifts, food and frivolities, to pampering and party wear, Country Living’s Christmas Fairs have it all. You’ll find unusual and individual items not available on the high street, British companies and small producers. Plus, you can take a break from shopping to make your own table decorations or learn how to wrap beautiful parcels and presents at one of the expert masterclasses. These are the three venues: London at the Business Design Centre, Islington – November 9-13 Glasgow at the SECC, Glasgow – November 17-20 Harrogate at the Harrogate International Centre – December 1-4 Call 0844 848 0150 or book online www.countrylivingfair.com OSBORNE HOUSE English Heritage gives groups a flavour of how Queen Victoria and her family celebrated Christmas at their home Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. The house will be decorated in the style favoured by Prince Albert and visitors will be able to see some of the gifts and cards given to Queen Victoria.

Enjoy guided tours of the ground floor state apartments in this stunning Italianate house which is filled with original furnishings, priceless artworks and the personal mementos of the royal couple and their nine children. These festive hour-long tours give a glimpse into Queen Victoria’s private life at one of her most favourite times of year and are available from November 16 to December 22. These tours can be combined with a pre-booked two-course Christmas lunch in the Terrace Restaurant. New for winter 2016, groups can take a tour looking at how the true story of Queen Victoria contrasts with the way she has been portrayed on film and TV. It will be in response to the new ITV series, Victoria, due for broadcast in September, and will be held on selected weekends in November, January and February.

Osborne House has a Victorian fl avour at Christmas.

Osborne House has a Victorian fl avour at Christmas.

The annual Victorian Christmas event is held on December 3 and 4 with sideshows and traditional entertainment, a host of costumed characters, plus a musical carousel, Father Christmas and the chance to meet Queen Victorian herself! For more information and to book, call 01983 200 022 or email osborne.house@ english-heritage.org.uk www.english-heritage.org.uk/osborne VICTORIAN-STYLE AT PICTON Picton Castle near Haverfordwest is adorned with traditional Christmas decorations throughout its programme of festive events, which include daytime and evening tours of the stateroom, accompanied by a lively talk by the Castle and Gardens Director, Dai Evans, who entertains with stories of Victorian yuletide traditions. After enjoying a warming glass of mulled wine in front of a roaring log fire in the Great Hall, guests can explore the magnificent staterooms and discover the elegant Regency Dining Room with a table laid for a sumptuous Victorian Christmas Feast. The theme this year is ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’. Picton’s exclusive Christmas Tours for Groups are available from November 21 to December 16, 2016. Booking ahead is essential. Call 01437 751 326 or email info@pictoncastle.co.uk www.pictoncastle.co.uk

DURHAM CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL

Durham’s award-winning Traditional Christmas Festival is to run for three days from Friday December 2, 2016, with a wide range of festive entertainment in and around the World Heritage Site of the Cathedral and the Castle, and throughout the City Centre. Download the coach registration form on the website www. durhamchristmasfestival.com While you are in the city, why not plan a visit to Durham Cathedral’s Open Treasure exhibition. Open Treasure (which opens on July 23) tells the history of the Cathedral and the story of Christianity in the North East. The visitor route takes in the 14th Century Monks’ Dormitory with its oak-beamed ceiling, the largest of its kind outside of Westminster, newly created gallery spaces, and the vaulted, octagonal Great Kitchen, one of only two surviving monastic kitchens in the UK.

To make a group booking call 0191 374 4050 or email visits@durhamcathedral. co.uk www.durhamcathedral.co.uk YORK’S CHOCOLATE STORY Visitors to York’s Chocolate Story will be in for more than just chocolate treats this Christmas as guided tours throughout December take them to the York of Christmas past. Learn about the festive seasons in the factories where hundreds of production line workers sang carols as they packed selection boxes. Move through the ages to the birth of the Rowntree’s Christmas Club through to modern day York, where enough Terry’s Chocolate Oranges are still produced to fill one in every ten Christmas stockings. You’ll be able to make your very own delicious chocolate creation before watching master chocolatiers produce handmade chocolates. You can finish your tour with a hot chocolate and mince pie in the café, before choosing a gift or two in the shop. Call 01904 261 262 or email groups@ continuumattractions.com for details on group tours, offers and discounts. www.yorkschocolatestory.com ROCKINGHAM CASTLE Head to Rockingham Castle in Northamptonshire and go back in time to Christmas Eve, 1849 where staff are preparing the castle for the family’s Christmas celebrations. Under the butler’s direction the Great Hall table is laid, the silver is polished, candles and fires are lit; the decorations are in place and the kitchen is a hive of activity.

A view of the fortified entrance to the 12th century Rockingham Castle. Rockingham Castle stands on the edge of an escarpment giving dramatic views over five counties and the Welland Valley below. Built by William the Conqueror, the Castle was a royal residence for 450 years and for 450 years it has been a family home. The predominantly Tudor building has architecture, furniture and works of art, including a remarkable collection of 20th century pictures. Charles Dickens was a regular visitor to the Castle and based Chesney Wolds in Bleak House on Rockingham.

A view of the fortified entrance to the 12th century Rockingham Castle.

The Victorian Christmas Eve event runs from Nov 21 to Nov 25, 11am to 8pm and there are a limited number of places each day for groups (20-plus) to visit, so it is advisable to book as soon as possible. Enjoy a festive cream tea or Victorian high tea in Walker’s House Restaurant which offers a selection of delicious festive dishes created from locally sourced produce. The award-winning Castle Gift Shop is set in the courtyard with illuminated trees, and offers a wide selection of gifts for family and friends. Call 01536 770 240 or email estateoffice@rockinghamcastle.com www.rockinghamcastle.com BOOK A JERSEY BREAK The Mayfair Hotel on Jersey is offering packages for a Christmas, New Year Break or ‘Twixmas’ break.

For example, in December visitors can shop at La Fête de Noué Christmas Festival enjoying Christmas markets, festive entertainment, before blowing the winter blues away on a Christmas themed In December The Royal Yacht Britannia will be decked out with festive touches, with garlands and ornaments adorning the State Apartments and a sparkling 20ft Christmas tree on the quayside! The Royal Deck Tea Room will be offering a festive menu, with views across to the Firth of Forth. On the weekend of December 3 and 4 there will be a tour of the Christmas decorations, including complimentary mulled wine and hand-made shortbread in the Chief Petty Offi cers’ Mess. Britannia is 15 minutes from Edinburgh city centre.

There is a coach drop off/pick up area next to Ocean Terminal and free parking is available nearby. For more information call 0131 555 8800 or email groups@tryb.co.uk. www.royalyachtbritannia.co.uk The Royal Yacht Britannia celebrates Christmas in style.

Go back in time to Christmas Eve 1849 at Rockingham Castle.

Go back in time to Christmas Eve 1849 at Rockingham Castle.

ROYAL YACHT BRITANNIA MARC MILLAR walk in a mild climate! A three-night stay at the hotel with transport is priced at £149 if travelling by sea from Poole, or £265 by air from selected regional airports. Turkey & Tinsel four night half-board breaks begin on November 14 priced from £225 by sea, and from £299 by air. Highlights include live music, cabaret, dancing and quizzes, along with festive food including turkey and mince pies. At Christmas four nights’ full board costs £549 by air and £475 by sea. New Year (half board including Gala dinner celebrations) cost £359 by air and £299 by sea. The three-star Mayfair Hotel is located a few minutes’ walk from the centre of St Helier and a 10-minute stroll from the beach. It has an indoor pool, Jacuzzi and gym, and offers evening entertainment, restaurant, bar and coffee shop. Choose from twin/double, family bedroom and junior suites. For more information call reservations on 01534 735 511. www.themayfairjersey.com ■ ●